Catholic / Orthodox Relations
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Criticizes Catholic Presence
Catholic World Report, 2/15/2001
Moscow - Russian Orthodox Patriarch Aleksei said on Thursday that the Catholic Church should stop seeking converts in the former Soviet Union, repeating criticisms of the Church he's made frequently in recent months, making the changes a precondition of a papal visit to Russia.
"We have serious concerns about the fact that in post-Soviet times the Catholic Church has attempted to spread its faith in the territories of Russia, Ukraine, Belorussia and Kazakhstan," the patriarch told the Sevodnya daily newspaper. "At the same time in western Ukraine they have seized churches and deprived Orthodox believers of the chance to fulfil their religious needs," he said.

Ukrainian Catholics have insisted on the return of properties taken from them when the Church was suppressed by the Soviets in the 1940s and given to the Orthodox. Controversy, and even violence, results when the Orthodox refuse to vacate buildings they have owned for six decades. Pope John Paul plans to visit Ukraine in June, and has made clear his desire to visit Russia.

"In course of discussions about a visit we decided to sign a joint declaration ... and I would like an announcement of the rejection of proselytism and encroaching on our churches to be included in it," the patriarch said. "(But) the Pope does not agree that these two articles should come into the declaration. I hope that sooner or later we will overcome these discords," he added.
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