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Russian Orthodox and Catholic church may end 950-year rift
Relations between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church have been tense   for centuries, but in a sign that relations are finally thawing, Archbishop   Ilarion, who heads the Russian Orthodox Church’s foreign relations   department, said that both sides wanted a meeting, although he emphasised   that problems remained.
Ilarion spoke of a rapprochement under Pope Benedict XVI that would allow for   a meeting with the new Russian Orthodox Patriarch, Kiril, who took up his   office in February after the death of the previous patriarch.
        “There have been visits at a high level,” said Illarion. “We are moving   towards the moment when it will become possible to prepare a meeting between   the Pope and the Moscow patriarch.”
He added that in recent years there had been “noticeable improvements” in   relations between the two churches.
“The progress in relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the   Catholic Church began after Benedict XVI became pope. He is…a person who   does not aim to grow the Catholic Church in traditional Orthodox regions.”
Some observers had hinted a meeting between the two Church leaders was   forthcoming, but many issues still stand in the way of bridging the split,   which dates from 1054 when Patriarch of Constantinople was excommunicated   from the Catholic Church.
The breach heralded the Great Schism that finally divided the Christian   churches of East and West – which had long had political and theological   differences, including the wording of the Nicene Creed – and led to the   creation of the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church.
Relations have been tense ever since, and were strained again in recent years   by Orthodox accusations of Catholics proselytising in Russia - although   historians have cast doubt on such claims.
Mark Nash of the Agency for Evangelisation, who has studied the relationship   between the Russian Orthodox and Catholic Church, said a "a lot of the   instances of 'proselytising' were in orphanages and children's programmes.
"The chancellor of the Russian Bishops' Conference, Father Igor   Kovalevsky, who was on the joint committee tasked with investigating the   allegations, said they were 'misunderstandings'."
Dr Jeremy Smith, senior lecturer in Russian history at the University of   Birmingham, added that his impression was that the Catholic Church "had   not really engaged in proselytising".
"Consequently, [the Catholic church] has remained on relatively good   terms with the Orthodox clergy, especially at a local level," he said.
He added that the Russian authorities aimed anti-proselytising laws "more   strongly against organisations like the Moonies".
Such legislation, he added, marked an attempt by the government to establish   the Russian Orthodox Church as "a centrepiece of Russian identity,   albeit as a pillar of the state, after the fall of Communism".
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/expat/6553583/Russian-Orthodox-and-Catholic-church-may-end-950-year-rift.html
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