Time for “mutual benevolent attention”?

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A view of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square in Moscow. Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill are said to be planning a meeting

 

By Peter Anderson

At its last meeting on October 22, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church elected several individuals as bishops. One of these, Archimandrite Anthony (Sevruk), is rector of St. Catherine of Alexandria Church in Rome.  Another, quite interesting choice, is Archimandrite Tikhon (Shevkunov), who was made bishop of Yegorevsk, vicar of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.

Archimandrite Tikhon, who received his episcopal ordination two days later on October 24, is the superior (“namestnik” ) of the Sretensky Stauropegial Monastery — the monastery constructed on the site where the people of Moscow prayed before the Vladimir icon of the Mother of God for deliverance from Tamerlane. At the time of the prayers, Tamerlane had a terrifying dream of a radiant woman who told him to abandon his plans to conquer Moscow — which he did.

According to AsiaNews, “Tikhon (Shevkunov), Bishop of Yegorevsk, told Tass that the Russian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church ‘are engaged in talks’ on a possible meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Mos­cow. The prelate, who spoke October 28 in Rome where he was pre­senting a book he authored, went on to say that ‘It is very likely that something concrete will come in the near future.’ In the last 20-30 years, he said, ‘relations between the two Churches have been varied, sometimes tense, but now times have changed,’ he explained. ‘It is time for mutual benevolent attention.’”

The Tass article also states that Bishop Tikhon, who is the Executive Secretary of the Patriarchal Council for Culture, would be meeting in Rome with the President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi.

A statement by a newly-ordained bishop in the Russian Orthodox Church might ordinarily not be given much weight.  However, there have been many comments about Bishop Tikhon in the Russian media after his election. Tikhon is reputed to be the personal confessor of President Putin, and there is speculation, which may be totally unfounded, that Tikhon was made a bishop so that he would be eligible to be the next patriarch.

An English-language review of Tikhon’s best-selling book, Everyday Saints, is at pravoslavie.ru/english/56393.htm.

In Rome, Tikhon expressed the hope that his book, now published in Italian, will help bring the Churches closer together. According to the website portal-credo.ru, Tikhon was asked by journalists in Rome whether he was in fact the confessor to Putin. Tikhon responded that he “could answer, but does not want to take away from journalists an exciting opportunity to conduct an investigation into this matter.”

Ecumenical Patriarch Bar­thol­omew was also in Italy the last week in October, receiving an honorary doctorate in the “Culture of Unity” from the Sophia University Institute in Loppiano, Italy, closely connected with the Catholic Focolare Movement.

The Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) has expressed concern over “the situation developing around the preparations for the Pan-Orthodox Council.”

The Russian news agency RIA Novesti posted an article which reports that Metropolitan Hilarion has stated that the Pan-Orthodox Council may not in fact be held in 2016. The Metropolitan stated: “The date will be determined depending on the degree of preparedness of the necessary documents.”

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