Mar 22

The New Pope and Eastern Europe

For a certain amount of time, a new Pope becomes a kind of white screen on which we project our hopes and anxieties with great abundance. This phenomenon seems more vivid now, not the least because our newly elected Pope Francis’ personal track record is fairly unknown and limited to a specific geographical area. Moreover, a new Pope will be confronted with all kinds of wish lists, e.g. of a more political nature. What is being said in the Eastern parts of Europe? Continue reading

Mar 12

Church Fiction

The library of Communicantes contains a nice collection of books, many of which date back to the Cold War era. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, they became obsolete and started a new life as historical source. Recently, however, I came across an interesting 1983 publication by the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate: The Lvov Church Council. Although it deals with a church council in 1946, the book hadn’t lost much of its relevance. Back then, seventy-odd years ago, it was decided to unite the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which was loyal to the Pope of Rome since 1596, with the Russian Orthodox Church. In Greek Catholic circles this church meeting was dubbed ‘pseudo-council’, because it was not a spontaneous popular initiative at all, but a well-orchestrated KGB-secret service operation, instigated by the communist leadership in Moscow. Continue reading

Sep 26

Medvedev, Putin and Ecumenism

Last Saturday 24 September, President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia announced that he will be stepping down from office next year to allow his Prime Minister Vladimir Putin a third presidential term. Russia watchers see in this Putin’s desire to prevent substantial reform, and, for that reason, predict the end of the Putin era as well. On the short-term, the Putin-Medvedev shuffle will also affect ecumenical relations, at least, this would not come as a surprise. Continue reading

May 05

Friends and Foes

In March 2011, Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, visited Moscow. There, he met Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill and the chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk. The visit was heralded in the media as a breakthrough in Russian Orthodox-Roman Catholic relations, but it remains to be seen, as to whether we will witness a new ecumenical era soon. With Pope biographer George Weigel, for example, one can ask if this really was a defining moment. Recently, Weigel harshly criticised the Russian Orthodox Church, and, to be honest, rightly so. It is obvious that the “the Russian Orthodox leadership is functioning as an arm of Russian state power” (Weigel) and, as a matter of fact, quite willingly (see a December 2010 Wikileak with Metropolitan Hilarion).
This post, however, does not aim at the Russian Orthodox Church as such. It rather wants to look at what might lay behind this desire for cooperation with the Roman Catholic Church on various moral and ethical issues, which was proposed by Metropolitan Hilarion, last March. Continue reading