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Religion and Politics to Meet in Russia

Interview With Metropolitan Kirill

MOSCOW, JULY 3, 2006 (Zenit) - Religious leaders have important decision-making roles in world affairs, says an organizer of an upcoming summit of key figures from various faiths.

Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, president of the Department of External Affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate, spoke to Interfax-Religion days before the July 3-5 summit that will precede the G-8 summit of industrial leaders in St. Petersburg, July 15-17.

In this interview, Metropolitan Kirill speaks of the role religions can play in global events, as well as the status of Orthodox-Catholic relations.

Q: Why is the Roman Catholic Church sending so large and representative a delegation to the summit? Does it suggest a thaw in Orthodox-Catholic relations?

Metropolitan Kirill: The coming of so representative a Roman Catholic delegation can be accounted for by the attractiveness of the very idea of a summit to take place in Moscow. Preparations for it have shown that it has met with a lively response among various religions, and the Catholic Church is no exception.

The idea of interreligious dialogue on burning issues of the global development today has proved to be very much called for. Annually a great deal of meetings on this subject takes place in various countries and on various levels.

The novelty is that the initiator is the Interreligious Council in Russia and that many religious communities have taken an interest in it.

This initiative will give to representatives of religious communities an opportunity not only to discuss important problems of the global development but also to inform the political leaders of the world leading countries about the results of this discussion.

In other words, leaders of religious communities in the world, who are to assemble in Moscow for the summit, will actually propose to begin a serious dialogue between political power and religious communities on a global scale. There has been nothing like this so far.

Q: Recently there has been much talk about Orthodox-Catholic dialogue coming out of a standstill. What changes have been most evident to you?

Metropolitan Kirill: This dialogue has never been at a standstill. Moscow and the Vatican have always kept contact and discussed existing problems.

But you are right in pointing out some positive changes which have taken place recently in our bilateral relations. They have been brought about not only by negotiation efforts, but also the internal work carried out by each Church to understand the developments in the modern world.

In the countries of Catholic and Orthodox tradition, various negative tendencies have grown. There is also growing aggression and intolerance, the continued low birthrate, growing drug addiction and alcoholism, serious epidemics, the increasingly polluted environment and depleting natural resources.

At the same time, society has overlooked the fact that all this happens because of the lack of a system of people's moral education. Religion has been confined to the private sphere, while the social sphere often supports norms contradicting traditional morality.

In the process of our contacts and monitoring the developments, we have discovered that the Orthodox and Catholic Churches have the same vision of the problems facing the world today.

Moreover, our two Churches advocate the same ethical norms. Therefore, we cannot but unite our efforts.

All these ideas were systematized at the major Orthodox-Catholic conference "To Give a Soul to Europe," which took place last May in Vienna.

I would stress that the Russian and Catholic Churches held an event on such a high level for the first time in the last 15 years. Among the important achievements of this conference is the statement adopted by the two sides on the result of its work. It registers the willingness of the two Churches to work together in the modern world in asserting moral values.

It is especially important for the Russian Church that this approach should be systematically realized in countries where the Moscow Patriarchate has pastoral responsibilities. It is also positive that the Catholic side has already begun to adhere to this policy in its work in Russia.

Thus, the head of the Russian episcopal conference, Bishop Joseph Werth, has recently supported the initiative to establish the institution of military clergy in the army, while Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of the Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow has changed to positive his view on teaching rudiments of traditional religions in school.

Though Catholics are a small flock in Russia, their attitude toward the Russian Orthodox Church is decisive in many ways in assessing the position of the entire Roman Catholic ...

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