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Meetings with heads of Greek, Czech Orthodox Churches

Catholic World News - February 27, 2009

Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, offered an uncharacteristically pessimistic assessment of ecumenical dialogue with the Greek Orthodox Church following a meeting with its new leader, Archbishop Ieronymos II. “There is still a strong resistance toward an ecumenical growing closer, and because of that our steps must be prudent,” Cardinal Kasper told Vatican Radio. “I did not have very high expectations: It would not be possible to resolve every problem in just one day, but it was important to establish personal contact.” Nonetheless, Cardinal Kasper called Archbishop Ieronymos “a truly humble and modest man. Our meeting has certainly been a beautiful one, and also those with his collaborators.”

Metropolitan Krystof (Christopher), head of the Orthodox Church in the Czech and Slovak Republics, began a three-day visit to the Vatican yesterday that will culminate in an audience with Pope Benedict tomorrow. The current presence of the Orthodox Church in the former Czechoslovakia dates to the 1920s, when groups of Roman and Eastern Catholics left the Catholic Church. However the Orthodox of the region, who trace their Christian lineage back to Sts. Cyril and Methodius, point out that the Orthodox churches were suppressed after the Union of Brest in 1596, and the Orthodox forced to submit to Rome. The history of relations between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church there has been a tortured one that includes the forced conversion of Eastern Catholics to Orthodoxy under Communist rule.

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