Session of the Holy Synod on 10th June 1997

At its session on 10th June1997, chaired by the PATRIARCH, the Holy Synod


The state of relationships with the Roman Catholic Church at the present stage in view of an opportunity for the primates of the two Churches – His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia and His Holiness John Paul II, the Pope of Rome – to meet in Austria.


Underlying the differences between the Orthodox and the Catholic Churches are issues of doctrinal nature. It is precisely these issues that constitute the subject of the Pan-Orthodox/Catholic dialogue.

A theological dialogue between Orthodox Churches and the Roman Catholic Church began in the early 60s, after Vatican II and the Pan-Orthodox Conferences in the Rhodes Island. Already the 1st Pan-Orthodox Conference in 1961 proposed to take up the theme on "Orthodoxy and the Roman Catholic Church" including the issues of Unia and proselytism preventing the establishment of relations characterized by the spirit of Christian love between the two Churches.

The 2nd Pan-Orthodox Conference in 1963 suggested that the dialogue between the Orthodox and the Catholic Churches should begin on equal terms. An agreement to start the theological dialogue between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches was reached during the visit by Pope John Paul II to Phanar in 1979. It was on 30 November 1979 that John Paul II and Patriarch Dimitrios I of Constantinople announced the creation of a Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Churches, which was done as announced, with the consent of all Local Orthodox Churches. The first meeting of the Commission took place in 1980 on the Pathmos and Rhodes Islands.

In the period between the late 80s and the early 90s the interconfessional relations between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches became complicated. This was caused primarily by the growing activity of Greek-Catholic communities which came out of the underground and began to restore their parishes and structures on the local level through force. This process was especially painful for the Orthodox in Western Ukraine (the regions of Lvov, Ternopol, Ivano-Frankovsk, Transcarphathia). There it came to mass disorders, clashes, forcible seizure of churches as Orthodox communities were simply driven out to the street, while the local press launched a campaign to discredit the Orthodox of the Moscow Patriarchate.

It took all possible efforts to change the situation. Unfortunately, a direct talk with the Uniates proved to be impossible because the Greek-Catholics withdrew from the so-called Quadripartite Commission which was set up in January 1990 and which was made up of representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate, the Roman Catholic Church, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Eastern rite Catholics in Western Ukraine.

The Uniates pulled out of the Commission under a strong pressure from radically-minded representatives of the Ukrainian political movement called "Rukh" who declared that in case of their coming to power all the churches would be taken away from the Orthodox and given to the Eastern rite Catholics. In view of this, in their opinion, there was no need whatsoever to conduct a dialogue with the Orthodox Church.

All attempts to come into contact with the local and central authorities and to urge them to observe the fundamental human rights and principles of religious freedom proved to be fruitless.

As a result of the forcible seizure of churches, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate was deprived of most of her parishes in the regions of Lvov and Ivano-Frankovsk where the situation remains very complicated to this day. Thus, the Orthodox in Ivano-Frankovsk has not a single church, and a threat still exists that the ruling bishop will be deprived of his residence. In Lvov there is one small Russian Orthodox church. Yet this church cannot accommodate all the faithful, and the Orthodox Ukrainians who belong to the canonical Church are deprived of an opportunity to worship in the way they have been accustomed to.

Beginning from 1991 the Roman Catholic Church has been also actively engaged in setting up her structures in the territory of Russia, Belarus and other CIS countries. Thus, two Apostolic Administrations, over 150 parishes and a number of educational institutions and charitable organizations have been established in Russia. Catholic monastic orders have also intensified their efforts, often accompanying them with missionary activity among those who belong to the Orthodox Church through baptism or tied to her by their historical spiritual and cultural roots. The Orthodox regard such an activity in a country with a thousand year-long Christian tradition as having a proselytizing overtone, for already St. Paul strove "to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation" (Rom. 15:20).

Conscious of the fact that Christians cannot act by other means than word and persuasion, seeking to follow "the things which make for peace and things wherewith one may edify another" (Rom. 14:19), the Russian Orthodox Church believed and continue to believe that dialogue is the only way of settling all problems existing in relations between the two Churches. It is precisely for this reason that the bilateral dialogue, aimed at resolving the existing contradictions, has not been stopped. Official delegations of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church have met every year.

An opportunity has also emerged to achieve a settlement of particular problems and to heal disagreements in the interchurch relations through a personal meeting between the primates of the two Churches. The Russian Orthodox Church believed that such a meeting could bring the difficult period in the relations darkened by contradictions to an end and could open up a new page in the bilateral dialogue based on mutual respect and cooperation. We are aware of the importance for the two Churches to interact in peacemaking activity which has become especially topical in the light of the tendencies which have marked the search for understanding and cooperation in European countries.

Recently the two sides have been engaged in intensive talks on the preparation of this meeting. It has turned out, however, that a final agreement on some issues which were prelimirily agreed upon has not been reached.


1. To state with regret that at present the meeting between the primates of the two Churches has not been adequately prepared and that quite a number of conditions are absent which, if present, could make such a meeting fruitful.

2. To express the readiness to continue the bilateral dialogue, so that relationships between the two Churches could be free from all that at present brings pain and causes frustration, misunderstanding and suspicion.

3. To approve the efforts taken by the Holy Authorities for healing the existing disagreements in relations between the Russian Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches though dialogue which is the only way acceptable for Christians in settling problems.


the report by Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations, on the 3d Theological Conversations with the Episcopal Church in the USA which took place on 26-28 May 1997 in Moscow under the theme "The Nature of the Church" and on the participation in it of the delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church headed by Archbishop Clement of Kaluga and Borovsk, vice-chairman of the Department for External Church Relations.


1. That the report be acknowledged.

2. That these theological conversations be considered useful and that its results be approved, especially as the discussions revealed a similarity in the positions of the two Churches on the document "Common Understanding and Vision of the WCC".


the information from Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, chairman of the Department for External Church Relations, about the forthcoming 4th Church People’s Council of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the invitation to send to it a representative of the Russian Orthodox Church to stay in Sofia from June 30 to July 5, 1997.


That Metropolitan Pitirim of Volokolamsk and Yuryev be sent as a guest to the 4th Church People’s Council at the invitation of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church

+ Alexy, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia

Members of the Holy Synod:

+ Vladimir Metropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine

+ Vladimir Metropolitan of St. Petersburg and Ladoga

+ Philaret Metropolitan of Minsk and Slutsk, Patriarchal Exarch of all Byelarus

+ Juvenaly Metropolitan of Krutitsy and Kolomna

+ Kirill Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations

+ Yevsevy Archbishop of Pskov and Velikiye Luki

+ Alexy Archbishop of Alma ata and Semipalatinsk

+ Mikhey Archbishop of Yaroslavl and Rostov

+ Sergy Bishop of Samara and Syzran

+ Iona Bishop of Astrakhan and Yenotayevsk

+ Nikon Bishop of Yekaterinburg and Verkhoturye

+ Sergy Archbishop of Solnechnogorsk, Chancellor of the Moscow Patriarchate