DAILY CATHOLIC FRI-SAT-SUN March 26-28, 1999 vol. 10, no. 60
NEWS & VIEWS
RUSSIAN ORTHODOX GROUP POSTPONES VATICAN TALKS, RUSSIAN PATRIARCH WARNS OF WIDER DANGER FROM SERBIA ATTACKS
VATICAN (CWNews.com) --At the Vatican, one concrete result of the NATO action against Serbian targets has been the postponement of a scheduled visit by a delegation from the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow.
The Orthodox visitors, led by Metropolitan Kiril of Smolensk, were to be in Rome on March 26 and 27 for meetings at the Vatican. But their trip was postponed by the Moscow Patriarchate, which noted in a public statement that it would be inappropriate to visit Italian soil at a time when air strikes against Yugoslavia are being launched from Italy. The Russian Orthodox leadership has upheld the Yugoslavian cause in Kosovo, citing ties with the Serbian Orthodox Church.
While observing that the Holy See cannot be held responsible for the Italian role in NATO, the Vatican issued a statement indicating that it had agreed to reschedule the planned meetings with the Orthodox delegation. While Vatican sources unofficially indicated that they were surprised by the Orthodox decision to put off the meetings, official spokesman emphasized that the meetings had merely been postponed, and that a new date would soon be set.
The note of uncertainty among Vatican insiders reflects the fact that relations between the Holy See and the Moscow Patriarchate have been marred by tensions and sudden reversals-- most notably in 1997, when a planned summit meeting between Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Alexei II was abruptly cancelled, just days before it was scheduled to occur.
Metropolitan Kiril is the chief spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchate on international affairs. His recent meetings with Vatican officials have been carefully orchestrated, and scheduled well in advance.
In Moscow Russian Orthodox Patriarch Aleksei II on Thursday condemned the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia that began on Wednesday, saying there had been many civilians casualties and warning that the attack could result in the destabilization of Europe.
The patriarch said that despite NATO claims the action is designed to achieve peace in the breakaway region of Kosovo, the real aim is "to force other's will on a nation, to assert double standards, to replace the legitimate aspirations of humanity with the interests of a small group of people." He added, "It should be firmly said: not all that is good for particular circles in the West is good for the world."
He appealed to Christians in the NATO countries to push their leaders to end, what he called, "a sin before God and a crime from the point of view of international law." He also urged Serbians and Kosovo Albanians to end their mutual attacks and seek a compromise that will satisfy all sides.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Russians protested outside the US
embassy in Moscow on Wednesday and Thursday, burning the
American flag, and calling Americans "fascists." Many in
the crowd, as well as some nationalist and Communist
leaders, have also begun urging Russia to take up arms
against NATO to defend Serbia which they maintain is a
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NEWS & VIEWS