Aleteia logoAleteia logoAleteia
Sunday 14 April |
Aleteia logo
separateurCreated with Sketch.

Pope greets Russian Orthodox Church’s ‘foreign minister’


Photo by Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP

Pope Francis meets with Chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk on the sidelines of the VII Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions at the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation in Nur-Sultan on September 14, 2022.

I.Media - published on 05/03/23

During the general audience Pope Francis greeted Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk.

At the end of the general audience in St. Peter’s Square on May 3, 2023, Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Department for External Church Relations, publicly greeted Pope Francis.

Last week the Pontiff met Metropolitan Hilarion, Anthony’s predecessor as “Minister of Foreign Affairs” of the Moscow Patriarchate, in Hungary.


A friendly exchange

The meeting is unusual and shows the Moscow Patriarchate’s willingness to highlight its good intentions towards Rome. Every week, at the end of his Wednesday morning catechesis, Pope Francis usually greets important figures who have come to attend the public audience. In most cases, these are Catholic Cardinals and Bishops who are in Rome for a few days.

This morning, the first to openly greet the Pope was none other than Metropolitan Anthony, head of diplomacy of the Moscow Patriarchate. Pope Francis kissed his pectoral cross, as he does when he meets an Orthodox representative, as a sign of friendship.

The two men shook hands for a long time and their exchange lasted a minute – which is rare in this context. Before parting, the Metropolitan presented Pope Francis with a gift, which appears to be an Orthodox encolpion, the traditional medallion with an icon in the middle worn by Eastern bishops. Then Anthony left with a smile.

Relations between the Catholic and Orthodox Church

The Russian Metropolitan had arrived in Rome on Monday. On Tuesday he met the new Prefect of the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches, Bishop Claudio Gugerotti. “With the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus’ Kirill, the Department President arrived in Italy on May 1 for a brief work visit,” the Moscow Patriarchate said in a statement on May 2.

Although the war in Ukraine had tensed relations between Moscow and Rome, this meeting shows the willingness from both sides for a rapprochement. Relations had been especially damaged in the spring of 2022, after it was reported that Pope Francis criticized Patriarch Kirill’s attitude to the war and said that he should not become President Putin’s “altar boy.”

Surprise meetings in Hungary

On Saturday, April 29, in Budapest, Pope Francis met with the Russian Orthodox Metropolitan of Hungary, Hilarion. This meeting with the former ‘foreign minister’ of the Moscow Patriarchate, who was demoted to Budapest in June 2022, was not on the official schedule of the trip.

On Sunday, on the return flight to Rome, Pope Francis said he deemed it “necessary” to maintain relations with the Russian Orthodox Church, while many criticize the Patriarchate of Moscow’s justification of the invasion of Ukraine. “We must have an outstretched hand towards everyone,” the Pontiff said. 

Regarding Patriarch Kirill, during the press conference Francis confided that he had only spoken to him once since the beginning of the war. The Pontiff recalled that a meeting with him in Jerusalem was scheduled for last summer but had to be suspended. However, Francis said that it “will have to happen.” 

OrthodoxyPope FrancisRussia
Support Aleteia!

Enjoying your time on Aleteia?

Articles like these are sponsored free for every Catholic through the support of generous readers just like you.

Thanks to their partnership in our mission, we reach more than 20 million unique users per month!

Help us continue to bring the Gospel to people everywhere through uplifting and transformative Catholic news, stories, spirituality, and more.

Support Aleteia with a gift today!

Top 10
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.