A meeting between the Pope and the head of Russia’s Orthodox Christian church is not on the cards in the near future, Patriarch Kirill said.
“For such a meeting to succeed we need to solve, or at put some serious effort at solving, our issues,” Kirill told the Serbian Vecernje Novosti daily in an interview published on Sunday.
A meeting between Kirill and Benedict – the first in the history of both denominations – was last discussed in the media in February 2011, when Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited the Vatican and had an audience with the Pope. However, no such meeting followed.
The previous heads of two churches, Patriarch Alexy II and Pope John Paul II, had a meeting scheduled in 1997, but the plan fell through at the last minute over disputes concerning Catholic proselytism in Russia and a conflict over Greek Catholics in Ukraine.
“It’s a hot topic, but Kirill and the Patriarchy in Moscow just don’t need this meeting,” said Roman Lunkin, a religion analyst with the Institute of Europe at the Russian Academy of Science.
Both churches have been developing contacts after Kirill’s enthronement in 2009, united by their conservative anti-secular stance, Lunkin said by telephone on Monday.
But a personal meeting with Benedict XVI would get Kirill on the wrong side of powerful conservatives within his own church, who are already accusing him of an overly pro-Western stance, Lunkin said.
Among Catholics, a reconciliation meeting was the dream of John Paul II, but not of Benedict XVI, he added.
The Kremlin has been pushing for the meeting in order to highlight Russia’s “integration in the Christian world,” but the president “failed to overcome the patriarchy,” which also opposes his much-touted modernization agenda, Lunkin said.