Roman Catholic Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill said their joint meeting marks “a new stage” in relations between their churches. Parolin was in Russia for talks with Kirill August 21-24.
This “new stage,” they said, rises out of Pope Francis’ meeting with Patriarch Kirill in Havana in February 2016, and is also due to the loaning of the relics of St. Nicholas to Russia over the summer, drawing 2.3 million Orthodox faithful for veneration.
The meeting was possible due to “the development of relations between the Russian Federation and the Holy See,” said Kirill. “But it is with still greater satisfaction that I see the development of relations between our Churches,” noting that his meeting with Pope Francis provided new impetus for cooperation. “This fact testifies that a new stage has indeed begun in our relations with events of great importance, which have been possible because in Havana we agreed our positions on many current issues.”
Cardinal Parolin echoed the sentiment, offering Pope Francis’ greeting to “my brother Kirill,” and affirming the patriarch’s observation that the Havana encounter “has laid the foundation for a new stage in the relationship between our Churches…”
A key highlight of the conversation between the two was the transfer of the relics of St. Nicholas of Bari, one of the most revered saints in the Russian Orthodox Church, to Moscow earlier this summer. Consisting of several fragments of his ribs, the idolatrous relics marked the first time in nearly 1,000 years that the relics of the 4th century “saint” had been moved from their resting place in Bari. For the two churches, this was an “exceptional event” said Parolin and is an example of “the ecumenism of sanctity, it’s true, it exists.”
“The saints unite us because they are close to God and so it is they who help us to overcome the difficulties of past relations due to previous situations, and to always walk more rapidly toward fraternal embrace and Eucharistic communion,” he said.
Kirill told his faithful that “neither ecclesiastical diplomacy nor government diplomacy could do as much for the development of relations between the Catholic world and the Orthodox world as what St. Nicholas did.” St Nicholas, he said, “has entered into the history of relations between our Churches as a particularly brilliant and luminous page. It is a spiritual consequence of our meeting in Havana.”
The suffering of Catholic and Orthodox Christians in the Middle East that Pope Francis called “an ecumenism of blood, is part of the foundation of “the collaboration between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church in providing humanitarian assistance” to the region and “can be an important factor of unity,” Kirill said, adding that cooperation in providing aid can provide a basis for common projects in the Middle East in the future.
Cardinal Parolin also visited Vladimir Putin at the presidential residence in Sochi to discuss bilateral relations and other matters.
The Catholic Church uses every avenue it can to promote ecumenical unity, including the idolatry of relics, political meetings and violence and conflict.
“All the world wondered.” Revelation 13:3.