Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow greets Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz of Warsaw, Poland, at St. Mary Magdalene Orthodox Cathedral in Warsaw on August 16. Kirill made a historic visit to Poland with a message of reconciliation (CNS photo/Kacper Pempel, Reuters).

Bishop Tikhon (photo) of Yegorevsk, Russia, told the Russian news service Tass at the end of October 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 in Rome where he was presenting a book he authored, Everyday Saints, went on to say, “It is very likely that something concrete will come in the near future.”

In the last 20-30 years, “relations between the two Churches have been varied, sometimes tense, but now times have changed,” he explained. “It is time for mutual benevolent attention.”

Indicated by many as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spiritual guide, Tikhon was recently appointed bishop, and is touted as a possible successor to the current Russian Orthodox primate.

Archimandrite Tikhon

The new Russian Orthodox bishop, Tikhon, rumored to be the “spiritual father” of Putin.

In Moscow, Hieromonk Stefan (Igumnov), secretary for Inter-Christian Relations at the Department for External Church Relations, was quick to tell Russia’s Interfax that while such a meeting is on the agenda, it would be premature go into details.

Tikhon’s remarks follow his recent episcopal appointment, which officially marks his rise within the Russian Orthodox Church after an already influential career of many years.

The archimandrite (senior abbot) had captured the attention of the international media with an article in the Financial Times, which in January 2013 presented him as Putin’s “dukhovnik, or godfather.”

Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion, the Church’s “foreign minister,” said in a June interview that a meeting between the Catholic Pope and the Russian Orthodox Patriarch “has been in preparation for 20 years. It was to occur in 1997 between Alexi II and Pope John Paul II, but the meeting was canceled at the last minute. Now we are growing closer to a meeting every day, but it must be prepared.”

He continued, “A trip by the Pope to Moscow is not on the agenda. Rather, what is on the agenda is a meeting. But again, it must be prepared, perhaps preceded by a joint statement. It must be in a neutral location.”

“Many nations have offered to host such a meeting,” he said, citing two: Austria and Hungary.

When asked if the meeting would take place in 2015, however, he replied, “I will not set a date. I will say that there is a good dynamic, and I see it as a near-term prospect. My hope is that it will not be a future Pope and a future Patriarch, but these two, who will meet.”


Archbishop Georg Gaenswein Makes Private Visit to the Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello

by Antonio Bini

Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, Prefect of the Papal Household of Pope Francis and personal secretary to Pope Benedict XVI, made a private visit October 27 to the Shrine of the Holy Face, accompanied by two religious. “It was an unannounced visit — which took us by surprise,” relates Fr. Carmine Cucinelli, rector of the Shrine. “The Archbishop’s visit made us especially happy because it was actually a return visit.”

manoppello george

In fact, Msgr. Georg, as he is commonly known in Italy due to the complexities of his surname, came to Manoppello, accompanying Benedict XVI on the occasion of the historic papal pilgrimage of September 1, 2006. Msgr. Georg’s visit fuels the hypothesis of a possible future visit to the Shrine by Pope Francis during the upcoming special Jubilee Year of Mercy. Advance notice of an invitation of this kind had been shared with the Capuchin friars of Manoppello by the Capuchin Minister General, Fr. Mauro Johry, during his visit to Manoppello in June of this year, accompanied by the Capuchin Provincial of Abruzzo, Fr. Carmine Ranieri.

In fact, Pope Francis’ Bull of Indiction announcing the special Jubilee, Misericordiae Vultus, begins by calling to mind the face of Christ: “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s Mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith.”

Msgr. Georg, after pausing in prayer before the Holy Face, visited the exhibit hall of the Shrine guided by  Fr. Paolo Palombarini and Sr. Petra-Maria Steiner, who described for him the recently reorganized exhibit which illustrates the relationship of the Holy Face in continuity with the images of Veronica and the Shroud of Turin. An actual-size reproduction of the Shroud has recently been included in the exhibition.

Before leaving Manoppello, Msgr. Georg signed the Shrine’s guest book.

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