In a public statement reacting to the Vatican decision, the Russian Orthodox leader said that the move was "unfriendly," and had the effect of "undermining the prospects for better relations between the two churches." He argued that if the Holy See looks upon the Moscow patriarchate as a rival, "any agreement between us is out of question."
Patriarch Alexei lamented that the Orthodox Church "has been presented with a fait accompli." He said that while Catholic priests have traditionally ministered to the Catholic people who come into Russia from other countries, the establishment of a Catholic hierarchy for Russia represents "a challenge to Orthodoxy which has been rooted in the country for centuries."
The Russian prelate said that whereas Orthodox dioceses in other lands generally "take care of the Russian-speaking Orthodox diaspora," the Catholic dioceses of Russia would be designed to advance "missionary work"-- presumably meaning the conversion of Orthodox believers. The Catholic hierarchy has invariably denied that charge, saying that the Catholic parishes of Russia minister to the many Catholics already living in that country, and the many more Russians who are not affiliated with any church.
The Vatican's action, Patriarch Alexei charged, constitutes "a serious threat" to the "fragile negotiation process" involved in ecumenical relations. He added: "The leadership of the Roman Catholic Church is now responsible before God and history for a sharp aggravation of our relations, for the frustration of the hope for their normalization that has just begun to shape."