February 8, 2001
volume 12, no. 39

Moscow Prelate Looks to Pope's Ukraine Trip

    VATICAN, Feb. 7, 01 ( -- Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, the apostolic administrator of Moscow, has arrived in Rome for his ad limina visit. During his meeting with Pope John Paul II, Archbishop Kondrusiewicz-- along with the other two bishops who are apostolic administrators in Russia- - will discuss prospects for the Pope's June visit to Ukraine.

    The papal visit to Ukraine, where tensions between the Catholic and Orthodox churches are high, could have a significant impact on Russia. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church, has written to ask the Pope to postpone his visit indefinitely. Observers have suggested that the trip could pose new problems for the efforts to arrange a "summit meeting" between the Holy Father and Patriarch Aleksei II of Moscow, the leader of the world's largest Christian denomination outside the Catholic Church.

    However, in an interview with the Roman news agency I Media, Archbishop Kondrusiewicz said, "I don't think the Orthodox want to break off relations with the Catholic Church." He continued by saying that "personally I believe that despite the reservations they have expressed, the Pope's visit to Ukraine will prove positive" for the cause of ecumenical progress.

    The archbishop further observed that the state of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine is itself uncertain, because there are two different ecclesial communities struggling for control. The Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, generally acknowledged in the Orthodox world as the "first among equals" of Orthodox prelates, may visit Ukraine prior to the Pope's arrival, in an effort to promote unity among the Orthodox faithful. The success of any such effort would have important implications for the Pope's trip.

    Archbishop Kondrusiewicz pointed out that the Moscow Patriarchate has become embroiled in a similar dispute in the past, when two different Orthodox groups in Estonia claimed the right to govern Orthodox affairs in that country. Ultimately one group was recognized by Moscow, and another by Constantinople and most of the rest of the Orthodox world.

    "Some people have the impression that the Russian Orthodox Church is isolating herself by acting this way," the archbishop said. "I hope with all my heart that she will open herself up, to her own advantage. The way the world is today, we cannot live beside side by side, separately."

    Archbishop Kondrusiewicz expressed regret that the Ukrainian Orthodox synod had made a point of announcing that it had not issued an invitation to the Pope. But such an invitation is not necessary, he pointed out-- even when the Pope visits a predominantly Orthodox country. "When Aleksei II went to Lithuania or to Austria, he did not ask John Paul's permission," he noted.

February 8, 2001
volume 12, no. 39
News from ROME
Return to Today's Issue