Moscow patriarchate brushes off pope's wish to go to Moscow


RIA Novosti, 1 August 2019


The Moscow patriarchate called the words of Roman Pope Francis to the effect that he would be pleased to come to Russia merely "polite words" in reply to an invitation he received from a private individual, which do not obligate him to do anything.


Earlier, the Catholic website Asianews reported that Russian opera singer Svetlana Kasian, who is on tour in Italy, met along with her family with the Roman pope, who gave her birthday wishes. In reply, Kasian invited him to visit Russia and to stay as her houseguest on Taganka Square, where the church of St. Martin the Confessor, a former Roman pope, is located. In his turn, the pontiff replied to the invitation of the Russian opera singer that he would "be happy to come to Russia" and "in such an event of course," make a visit there.


"His (the pope's—ed.) words to the effect that he would like to visit Russia are words that do not obligate him to do anything, since it is known that he cannot himself visit Russia without being invited officially by the government of Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church. And therefore these are not promises but simply wishes he expressed. They are simply polite words in response to an invitation," said a representative of the secretariat of the Department for External Church Relations (OVTsS) of the Moscow patriarchate for inter-Christian relations, priest Aleksei Dikarev.


He noted that "this whole incident is simply the personal initiative of Svetlana Kasian and her husband, Leonid Sevastianov, who simply met with the Roman pope in the St. Martha guest house where they were staying and had a personal conversation with him." "And everyone who stays in this guest house may meet with the Roman pope without difficulty when he passes through there. This personal conversation does not have any churchwide significance and no significance for inter-church relations," the representative of the OVTsS noted.


Commenting also on Kasian's statement that the Roman pope gave her, for her 35th birthday, a fragment of the Shroud of Turin, as a result of which the singer intends now "to build a chapel in Moscow" for housing the sacred object, the clergyman noted that this information "does not deserve trust."


"The Shroud of Turin is a Christian sacred object that is enshrined in Turin. Although it belongs to the Roman pope, he nevertheless cannot dispose of it and distribute its pieces throughout the world. This is extremely implausible," the news agency's interlocutor concluded.


OVTsS Chairman, Metropolitan of Volokolamsk Ilarion, has often stated in the past that a visit by the Roman pope to Russia "is not on the agenda of bilateral relations" of the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. In particular, in October of last year in an interview with the Italian publication Il Messaggero, the representative of the RPTs recalled that "relations between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church have developed in the course of almost 1,000 years in a rather complicated context."


The head of the OVTsS acknowledged that "among the Orthodox people there exists a very great prejudice against Catholics, and we should not in any way risk the unity of our churches and peace in our churches." Metropolitan Ilarion then noted that "it is necessary to advance gradually and calmly, so as not to place a stumbling block in believers' hearts." (tr. by PDS, posted 2 August 2019)

Background article:

Pope tries to devise way to visit Russia
July 31, 2019

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