An all-round cooperation between Orthodox and Catholics to be "peacekeepers" and "moral reference points" in a world marked by armed conflicts, terrorism, persecution, consumerism, materialism.
is what it hieromonk Stefan (Igumnov), secretary for relations between
Christians from the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church
In an interview with AsiaNews, he explains the value of
the agreement signed in Chieti on primacy and collegiality. He also speaks of the difficulties among Orthodox churches.
Pope Francis’ meeting with Patriarch Kirill in Cuba catalyzed the growth of fraternal relations between Moscow and Rome. Here is the full interview.
What is the significance, for the Russian Orthodox Church,
of the adoption of the document on the primacy and synodality, in the
last plenary session of the Joint Commission in Chieti?
The adoption of the document is the result of many years of discussions
of the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Roman
Catholic and Orthodox Churches, on the issues that concern the
principles of collegiality and primacy at the time of the first
Christian millennium of our era . It shows that, at that time, the
attitude towards this issue, in the West and in the East, was different,
but this difference did not abolish the fundamental unity of
In this way, the experience of the first millennium is our
common heritage and the signed document lays a solid foundation for the
further development of Orthodox-Catholic dialogue. The Russian Orthodox
Church is one of the most active participants in this dialogue and has
always been the force that has promoted this process, despite the
challenges presented in it, and that at times seemed insurmountable.
Why has been possible to reach agreement on the document now?
The adoption of the document, in previous years, had been hampered
because in the past it did not reflect the general location of the
Churches, but only one of the positions held within the theological
debate. The current text is based on tradition, for us ordinary, of the
undivided Church and on sources that are recognized by both parties. In
this way, the document cannot be the subject of a further division and
endless theological disputes, but the basis from which to pursue our
As this can help to develop relations with the Catholic Church?
Relations between Orthodox and Catholics are moving forward thanks to
the fact that we were able to strengthen our theological dialogue. But
relations also affect many other aspects of life. For example,
cooperation between the Russian Orthodox Church with the Roman Catholic
is developing in directions such as cooperation in the academic,
cultural and humanitarian spheres, in the question of the defense of
traditional values in society and support for our brothers and sisters
who live situations danger in different regions of the world. These
last two issues were at the center of the historic meeting of Patriarch
Kirill with Pope Francis, in Havana in February this year.
of the two largest Christian communities signed a document, which
provides an answer to the question about the causes of the global crisis
in the world and launches an appeal to join the fight against this,
which threatens the very existence of human civilization.
In my opinion,
this document is a reference framework for broader cooperation between
religious leaders from around the world. The Cuba meeting of was a sign
of hope for the leaders of the Churches in the Middle East and has
already given impetus to the activation of enhanced cooperation between
After the pan-Orthodox Synod of Crete how are relations between the Orthodox Churches?
The Orthodox world is currently experiencing a very interesting period
in its history. The mechanism to enact the principle of conciliarity is
entering a new phase, compared to the past centuries when the last
Pan-Orthodox Synods were summoned. It is a multifaceted process and
certainly it will encounter difficulties in its path.
Crete we did not have a pan-Orthodox Synod. However, the pre-conciliar
process has not stopped and will continue so that the Orthodox Churches
can solve the existing disputes between them and give a united response
to the challenges currently facing humanity.
What are the challenges that Christians today must face
in their mission in the modern world? Can you perhaps indicate an area
where further cooperation with the Catholics in can be developed?
Today the world is going through a deep crisis, which affects many
aspects of our lives. The armed conflict, which threatens to escalate
into a global confrontation between the great powers have multiplied.
The phenomenon of terrorism has spread. Social divisions are
exacerbated. The problem of hunger and disease remains as does the
threat of environmental catastrophe. One of the main reasons for these
problems is the cult of consumerism in society the, the opposition
between spiritual and material well-being .
In these circumstances,
Christians are called to be witness to the true values to the world, to
fulfill the role of peacekeepers and to be the 'salt of the earth'. The
Churches must respond to this high calling. Unfortunately, we often see
that the same Christians lose their spiritual compass, are influenced by
the pernicious spirit of the times, which is the case with the
doctrines of some Protestant churches, which have eroded the concept of
The Orthodox and Catholic Church remain a bastion of traditional
morality and feel their responsibility for the future of civilization.
They have maintained their potential for peacekeepers and represent a
point of reference for those who do not want to stifle the voice of
their conscience in their hearts and who want to change our world for
In this sense, cooperation between Orthodox and Catholics on
the most pressing contemporary issues is more important than ever.