Russia - Cardinal Phillip Barbaren, Archbishop of Lyons, primate of the Catholic Church in France, is to arrive in Moscow on October 15, at the invitation of the Russian Orthodox Church.
In the evening of the same day, the cardinal will celebrate the mass in French at St. Louis’s, Interfax was told on Monday by the information center of the Conference of Catholic Bishops in Russia.
On Sunday the cardinal will go to Smolensk for several meetings he planned at the initiative of Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad.
The primate of France is known as an advocate of broader ecumenical dialogue in general and closer Orthodox-Catholic relations in particular. In mid-September 2005, a meeting on Peoples and Religions was held by St. Egidio Community in Lyons, Cardinal Barbaren’s archbishopric, under the motto ‘The Courage of the Humanism of Peace’.
‘The visit of such a high-ranking hierarch to Moscow points clearly to the good will of the Catholic Church and her desire to improve relations between the Catholics and the Orthodox’, Victor Hrul, press secretary of the Conference of Catholic Bishops in Russia, noted in a talk with an Interfax correspondent.
‘The primate of France’, he added, ‘is one of the youngest cardinals; his is a good theologian and an experienced pastor, and we hope therefore that he will find a common language with Orthodox hierarchs’.
Victor Hrul also made a special mention of the fact that the cardinal would begin his stay with a visit to a Catholic church. ‘For us it is a very important and encouraging step that gives us hope that the interests and needs of the local Catholics will be taken into account during the talks’, he added. He also expressed confidence that when in Smolensk the cardinal will find time to meet the local Catholic community.
A detailed program of the visit by the primate of France to Russia has not been publicized yet.