Orthodox Leader Backs Moscow against Vatican
) - The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople has taken the side of Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexei II in his dispute with the Holy See. Patriarch Bartholomew I, the acknowledged "first among equals" in the Orthodox world, said that his fellow Orthodox prelate is "justified" in his complaints against the Catholic Church. He said that the Catholic Church has been guilty of "profiting from the weakness of a wounded Russian Church."
In an interview published by the Italian daily Il Foglio, Patriarch Bartholomew said that the establishment of four new Catholic dioceses in Russia was an unnecessary step, suggesting that it was done not to serve the pastoral needs of the Catholic population but to enhance the status of the Catholic Church in Russia at a time when the Russian 0rthodox Church is still recovering from the aftermath of the Communist era. Thus he lent his support to the complaints of the Moscow patriarchate that the Catholic Church is engaged in "proselytism," seeking to draw converts away from the Orthodox Church in Russia.
The Ecumenical Patriarch went on to say that the existence of Eastern churches in communion with Rome-- known to the Orthodox as "uniate" churches-- is "certainly one of the causes" of the current tensions between Rome and Moscow. He charged that "the Catholic Church has used methods and means suited to her own domination, in the past-- as history will witness-- as well as the present-- as shown by the uniate question." He criticized the Vatican for "welcoming the faithful who, although they do not accept the Catholic tradition, particularly on liturgical questions, are willing to recognize the Pope as the head of their Church."