Pope Praises Closer Orthodox Ties

ReutersCardinal Walter Kasper meeting Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II on Thursday. He delivered a papal letter.
VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI believes that relations between the Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church are increasingly close and has expressed his gratitude to the Russian Orthodox patriarch for pursuing dialogue.

Benedict made the remarks in a letter to Patriarch Alexy II. The Vatican released the text Friday.

The letter was delivered by Cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity. Kasper had been on a visit to Russia and met with the patriarch on Thursday.

The pope said the visit by Kasper gave him the opportunity "to restate my appreciation for your commitment to fostering relations between Catholics and Orthodox."

"It is with joy that I reflect on the experience of growing closeness between us, accompanied by the shared desire to promote authentic Christian values," Benedict said in the letter.

He expressed hope that two churches could be even closer.

Relations between the Catholic and Orthodox churches have improved in recent years. But tensions that began after the demise of the Soviet Union remain and have prevented a meeting between the patriarch and the pope. Benedict's predecessor, John Paul II, never fulfilled his desire to make a pilgrimage to Moscow.