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Card Koch’s meeting with Kirill to focus on Middle East and Ecumenism

Moscow, 18 December 2013: Wednesday’s talks in Moscow between Card Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill as well as Russian Foreign Ministry officials are expected to focus on the ecumenical dialogue with the Patriarchate of Moscow, on preparations for the meeting between the primate of the Russian Orthodox Church and the pope, as well as on continued cooperation with Russia on international issues such as peace in the Middle East.

The cardinal talked about the issues at a conference held in the Russian capital where he arrived on Saturday. "We'll talk about relations between our two churches and how we can enhance joint work," he told reporters, noting that he would be interested in "how the Patriarch assesses the theological dialogue and our ecumenical future."

The situation of Christians in the Middle East will be part of the discussion, a topic that is "dear to the heart" of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Vatican. The two sides will also discuss the possibility of a meeting between the pope and the patriarch, "whose date cannot be decide now" because "The first meeting in history between the pope and the patriarch must be prepared so that it is really a step of hope for the future," he said.

Speaking about the longstanding issue of Ukrainian Uniates, which for the Moscow Patriarchate is the main obstacle to the meeting between the two religious leaders, Koch spoke an aspect hat is usually omitted by Moscow. "I agree that the situation in Ukraine is serious," he said, "but in addition to the problem between the two Churches, there is also a second aspect, namely the tripartite division of that country's Orthodox Church."

Presently, the Orthodox community in the Ukraine is divided between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Kiev Patriarchate, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate.

"For Catholics, not having a single point of contact for dialogue is a problem," he explained, adding that everything must be done "to reduce tensions among Orthodox in Ukraine", considering it "an important step" towards closer ties with the Catholic Church.

Koch arrived in Russia on Saturday at the invitation of the Archbishop of the Mother of God Catholic Church in Moscow, Mgr Paolo Pezzi. His visit comes at a time of lively contacts between the two sister Churches, whose relations, said the prelate, "are improving".
In November, Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the Department of External Church Relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow, met with Pope Francis. Three top Vatican officials - Card Paul Poupard, Card Angelo Scola, and Mgr Vincenzo Paglia - have also visited Moscow.

Meanwhile, the Holy See and the Kremlin are continuing their talks on international issues after President Vladimir Putin's visit to the Vatican on 25 November. For both sides, Syria and the Middle East are top priorities. In fact, Moscow remains interested in the Vatican's position on the developments in the region.
During his visit to the Russian capital, Cardinal Koch is scheduled to meet Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksey Meshkov, a former Russian ambassador to Italy.Source: AsiaNews