Thursday, January 24, 2008

Russia deliberately excluded from ecumenical talks, Patriarch charges

Moscow, Jan. 22, 2008 ( - The leader of the Russian Orthodox Church has complained that the meeting of a joint Orthodox-Catholic theological commission at Ravenna, Italy in October was "deliberately orchestrated to exclude the Moscow patriarchate."

Speaking to the Serbian newspaper Blic, Patriarch Alexei II said that the seating of an Estonian Orthodox delegation at the Ravenna meeting might have been intended to provoke a reaction from the Russian Orthodox participants. In fact, the Russian delegation walked out of the meeting to protest the Estonians' inclusion.

(The Russian Orthodox hierarchy does not recognize the independence of the Estonian Orthodox Church, which for years had been subject to the Moscow patriarchate. Estonian Orthodox leaders sought recognition as an autonomous body after the collapse of the Soviet empire. But Patriarch Alexei gave Blic a very different interpretation of that event, saying that the Estonian Curch was "created in 1996 by the patriarchate of Constantinople.")

With Russian delegates not involved in the discussions, the Ravenna meeting approved a statement indicating that after the schism of 1054 that divided East from West, the Orthodox churches continued to meet under the leadership of the Constantinople patriarchate. Patriarch Alexei charged that this formula "implies the existence of two equal centers of the Christian world: Rome and Constantinople." Moscow does not share that vision, he insisted.

The Russian Orthodox Church has been increasingly aggressive in contesting the leadership of Patriarch of Constantinople, who is traditionally recognized as the "first among equals" of the patriarchs in the Orthodox world. Patriarch Alexei said that the Russian Church reserves the right to dispute statements approved by other Orthodox leaders without Moscow's consent.



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