Cardinal Parolin visits Russia, focuses on ecumenism and peace

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Although he said planning a papal trip
to Russia was not on the agenda, the Vatican secretary of state said his visit
to Moscow was designed to build on the meeting Pope Francis and Russian
Orthodox Patriarch Kirill had in Cuba in 2016.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the secretary of state, was
visiting Moscow Aug. 21-24 and was scheduled to meet with the patriarch and
Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as with leaders of Russia’s Catholic

The list of topics for the meetings ranged from ecumenical
dialogue and interreligious cooperation to current world affairs and climate
change, he said in a series of interviews before leaving Rome.

After a long morning meeting Aug. 22, the cardinal and Russian
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held a brief news conference, telling reporters
they had discussed ongoing conflicts in Ukraine, Syria, Yemen, the Holy Land
and Venezuela.

Cardinal Parolin said his meetings with government officials
were designed to share “Pope Francis’ interest in bilateral relations
between the Holy See and the Russian Federation as well as his concerns in the
sphere of international affairs.”

“Obviously,” the cardinal said, “the meeting
offered an occasion to discuss some concrete questions regarding the life of
the Catholic Church in the Russian Federation, including the difficulties that
remain in obtaining work permits for non-Russian religious personnel and the
restitution of some churches, which are needed for the pastoral care of
Catholics in the country.” Many church buildings were confiscated by the
former Soviet government and never returned.

Regarding international affairs, Cardinal Parolin said he and
Lavrov discussed several ongoing conflicts, including the war in Eastern
Ukraine and the war in Syria.

In situations of war, he said, the Catholic Church often is
directly involved in promoting humanitarian aid for the victims, but it also
works on a diplomatic level to promote a negotiated peace with guarantees of
“justice, legality, truth” and the safety of civilians.

The Russian foreign ministry posted online the first minutes
of the working meeting between Cardinal Parolin and Lavrov.

The foreign minister told the cardinal, “We see that
our positions are close on a number of current issues, including the peaceful
settlement of crises, fighting terrorism and extremism, promoting the dialogue
among religions and civilizations and strengthening social justice and the role
of the family.”

And, he said, it is important that the strengthening of Vatican-Russian
relations is “complemented by the dialogue between religions, which was
launched during the historical meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope
Francis in Cuba.”

Cardinal Parolin began his visit to Russia with a meeting
with Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of external relations for the
Russian Orthodox Church.

After the meeting, he told reporters their time together was
very constructive, and that even though there are “thorny issues,”
there also is a great desire to overcome them. As an example of an ongoing
difficulty, Cardinal Parolin said the existence of the Ukrainian Catholic
Church “remains for the Russian Orthodox Church an obstacle.”

In the evening Aug. 21, Cardinal Parolin presided over a
Mass for Moscow’s Catholics in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
Before Mass, he had met with the country’s Catholic bishops.

– – –

Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at

Original Article