From Rome to Moscow

One of the late Pope John Paul II’s unfulfilled dreams was to visit Moscow and forge a rapprochement with the Orthodox Church. But, although he was invited to Moscow by Russia’s three most recent presidents – Vladimir Putin, Boris Yeltsin, and Mikhail Gorbachev – opposition to the visit by Orthodox Patriarch Alexi prevented the Pope from making the journey before he died. Will Pope Benedict XVI achieve the breakthrough that his friend and predecessor failed to realize?

Despite the recent return to Russia of the icon of Our Lady of Kazan that once hung in John Paul’s bedroom, relations between the Vatican and the Patriarchate remain strained. So Putin, who usually seems omnipotent, remains wary of issuing an invitation to Pope Benedict. That wariness is reinforced by a new political factor: a defense of Orthodoxy has become a pillar of the national idea on which Putin seeks to base the legitimacy of his regime.

This is one reason why Putin was one of the few leading heads of state to miss attending Pope John Paul’s funeral. Although the Orthodox Church did send a delegation, immediately after the funeral Patriarch Alexi warned that the disagreements between the two branches of Christianity go much deeper than the former Pope’s Polish nationality, which was always a particular sore spot for Russian Orthodox Slavs.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

To read this article from our archive, please log in or register now. After entering your email, you'll have access to two free articles from our archive every month. For unlimited access to Project Syndicate, subscribe now.

required

By proceeding, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, which describes the personal data we collect and how we use it.

Log in

http://prosyn.org/5NTB4yZ;

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.