Pope plans second meeting with Russian Orthodox Church


ON THE PAPAL PLANE – Pope Francis said on Monday that plans were underway for a possible second meeting with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church and that he would be ready to travel to Moscow for the meeting.

The pope made his remarks at a press conference on the pontifical plane returning from a five-day visit to Cyprus and Greece in which he tried to shine the spotlight on the plight of the migrants. On the flight, he also spoke for the first time about the resignation of Archbishop Michel Aupetit of Paris last week, saying unfair gossip had forced him to accept it.

Francis became the first pope to meet a patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church since the schism that divided Christianity in 1054 when he met Kirill at a Cuban airport in 2016. Another meeting would go a long way in restoring the broken ties – and to promote unity and cooperation – between the eastern and western branches of Christianity.

Responding to a question from a Russian journalist, Francis said he would meet next week with the Russian Church’s foreign envoy “to agree on a possible meeting” with Patriarch Kirill, who heads the Russian Orthodox Church, which has been divided with Rome for centuries.

Francis stressed that Patriarch Kirill was due to leave Russia soon and that the Pope himself was “ready to go to Moscow” even though diplomatic protocols were not yet in place.

“Because speaking with a brother, there are no protocols,” Francis said. “We are brothers. We face it like brothers.

In response to a question from a French journalist, François also referred to the resignation of Bishop Aupetit who had admitted an “ambiguous” relationship with a woman in 2012. The archbishop declared that he was withdrawing “to preserve the diocese of the division that suspected and the loss of confidence continue to provoke.

On the flight to Rome, Francis said the Archbishop had committed no serious sins, but had no choice but to accept the resignation. Rather, the Archbishop, he said, had lost the ability to rule because of what amounted to hypocritical gossip from people who were themselves sinners.

François declared that Bishop Aupetit had been accused of having violated the sixth commandment against adultery, “but not totally, but small caresses and massages”.

The Pope said that “the sins of the flesh are not the most serious,” and everyone has sinned in one way or another, including himself anyway.

But, he added, “when the gossip grows and grows and grows and takes away a person’s good reputation, that man can no longer rule because he has lost his good reputation.” “

Francois suggested that he had no choice then.

“It is an injustice,” he said. “For that I accepted Aupetit’s resignation, not on the altar of truth but on the altar of hypocrisy.”

Francis was also questioned during the press conference about the anti-migration positions of governments in Eastern Europe, in particular with the situation on the Polish-Belarusian border.

Belarus has driven migrants to the border as part of an effort to destabilize the European Union, and the Polish government has responded by refusing to let them cross, sometimes resorting to severe measures, including spraying the migrants with water pipes in freezing cold.

“The first thing I would say if I had a leader in front of me would be, ‘Think back to when you were an immigrant and they didn’t let you in,’ he said. By building walls, he said, one loses the memory of a time “when he was a slave to another country”, apparently a reference to the time when countries were behind the Iron Curtain and when their citizens desperately sought to reach the West. He added that many of the leaders of countries that favored building walls came from this experience.

Francis said when governments thought they were getting more migrants than they could handle, they had to say, “I can get that many,” then turn to the European Union, which should help by distributing the money. migrants between the 27 Member States.

Francis also reiterated his warnings against the slippage of democracy and the threat posed by populism, weighing in on an internal European Commission document suggesting that bloc officials use more inclusive language by using the term ‘holiday season’ instead. than Christmas.

Some Tories turned the guidelines, sent in October by Equality Commissioner Helena Dalli, into ammunition and claimed the European Union was trying to cancel Christmas, reflecting a long-standing dispute in the United States.

The Vatican has also interpreted the draft guidelines as an attack on Christmas.

Francis said on Monday that the commissioner’s effort was “an anachronism,” adding: “In history a lot of dictatorships have tried to do it, think of Napoleon. Think of the Nazi dictatorships. The Communists.

History has shown that diminishing the importance of Christianity does not work, he said, warning that it “could lead to the division of countries and the failure of the European Union.”

In Cyprus, Francis spoke angrily about how the world, and in particular the European Union, had both become accustomed to and turned a blind eye to migrants dying at sea, imprisoned and tortured in obscure detention centers. , and left to wither for years in desperate conditions. encampments. He called his “responsibility” to open his eyes and force the world to face the problem.

The Vatican organized the transfer of 12 asylum seekers to Cyprus, an island itself divided between southern Greek Cypriot and northern Turkish Cypriot, in Italy. As part of the deal, the Cypriot government said a total of 50 migrants would be transferred.

Francis’ remarks came after he ended his five-day trip to Cyprus and Greece on Monday with a visit to a Catholic school, where he sat on a throne on a basketball court, watched traditional Greek dances and spoke about the importance of keeping a sense of wonder in life.

He said it was crucial to hang up the phone and avoid social media platforms and fitness follies that he compared to the mermaids of Greek mythology, which charmed sailors and brought them to life. crash into the shoals.

“Do you want to do something new with your life? Do you want to stay young? So don’t just post a few tweets, ”he said. Young people should not be “trapped with cell phones in their hands”, he said, adding that they should not “be looking for visibility, but those who are invisible among us”.

He also compared the poignant story read to him by a young Syrian refugee who fled the bombings in his country and then a perilous sea voyage to the Odyssey, describing the boy’s story as an adventure marked by “facing the afraid of the unknown, emerging from the chaos of uniformity, deciding to take charge of your life.

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