NEWS:  March 8, 2004

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Bird’s Eye View of the News

Atila Sinke Guimarães

KASPER’S CURIOUS “CODE OF BEHAVIOR” – Cardinal Walter Kasper, chief of Vatican ecumenism, recently flew to Moscow (February 16-22) to meet Alexis II, the schismatic Russian patriarch and ex-KGB agent. According to Vatican sources, Alexis had invited Kasper to a cordial meeting. Many news reports were claiming that this trip would reveal a new opening of the Russian “Orthodox” toward the Catholic Church. I didn’t believe it. I suspected the opposite, that is, that new concessions from the Vatican were being prepared. Finally, the data about what really happened surfaced.

Tucked in his briefcase Kasper had a proposal for a new “code of behavior” for the Catholics and schismatics in Russia to agree upon. Speaking to the press before his trip, he evaded revealing precise details about the “code.” He simply stated that it aimed at avoiding any situation that took advantage of the other community’s weakness or that boasted about gains (The Tablet, January 31, 2004).

What these encrypted words mean is simple. After 1989, the Ukrainian Catholics converted a considerable number of schismatics, a fact they proclaimed loudly, which upset the Russian religious authorities. This anger is understandable since the so-called Russian Orthodox Church is struggling to control its own grassroots. It could well disappear altogether if Catholics would set off a broad scale missionary effort to convert the schismatic people, demoralized and disillusioned with the State “religion” after decades of Communism. The Ukrainian initiative has been very successful, and is giving not only the conversion of individuals, but of entire parishes. With schismatic parish-priests at their heads, parishes are turning toward the Catholic Faith en masse, and then converting their worship buildings as well into Catholic churches.. In brief, a serious hemorrhaging process has started, and unless it is stopped, it endangers the very existence of the Russian schismatic church.

Facing this situation, the Vatican has taken every possible measure to try to curb the valorous Ukrainians from going ahead with such conversions, since this is the main reason why the Russian schismatics allege to remain hostile toward any contact with the Vatican. So now, the Vatican again had the hope of putting a stop to Ukrainian proselytizing in order to satisfy the “Orthodox.” This was/is the key problem, and was what Kasper was talking about.

But it seems that the proposal of a mutual “code of behavior” didn’t work very well. This appears evident from the sequence of events that unfolded during Kasper’s trip.

Walter Kasper

Spotlighted by failure, Kasper pressures Russian Catholic Bishops 
First, Kasper ordered the Russian Catholic Bishops to be present in Moscow, and at a meeting at the Cathedral of Mary Immaculate he severely lectured them, instructing them to stop proselytizing. These were some of his main points:
  • “In our time, the Holy Spirit has inspired repentance and shame” for the disunity between the Church of the East and the West “and has launched the ecumenical movement” to restore a unity.

  • Ecumenism aims to re-establish “a unity that is neither absorption nor fusion, but unity in the mutual respect of a plurality of rites and cultures.”

  • “Catholics and Orthodox pray the same 'Our Father” and yet, they have been separated for many centuries,” a separation that is “contrary to the will of Jesus” and “a scandal to the eyes of the world.”

  • Rapprochement between the separated religions “is one of the priorities of the Pope, who prays and works tirelessly for Christian unity,” and was the reason “why he has sent me here, to Moscow.”

  • The Cardinal also stressed that “the re-establishment of unity today is urgent also for the unity of Europe,” because “Europe is not only an economic unity of well-being, it is a cultural unity.”

  • Therefore, he continued, “the unity of Europe cannot be built only with the economy.” “Europe needs a soul, a Christian soul, which was implanted in your country by Sts. Cyril and Methodius. So, the unity of Europe also makes the unity of the Church an urgent matter.” (Zenit dispatch February 21)
In short, it was an order for the Bishops to cease working for conversions and fighting for the true Faith. He used an imperative tone – I am speaking in the name of the Pope – and accompanied it with a threat – Cease and desist immediately since all Europe awaits this.

Second, in a characteristic Vatican twist, after the order and the threat, he left a door open in case the Bishops ignored his interference. “I have no illusions; I know that this task is not easy,” he said. “I know the reservations and prejudices of one and the other,” and “that the road toward the full communion of all Christians will probably still be long. …. Yet, even small steps allow for progress.” (ibid.) That is, be the measures large or small, strong or mild, the Vatican will continue inexorably and unceasingly in its efforts to swerve the Ukrainians from their good position.

Third, it is not unwarranted to consider that, prior to Kasper’s visit, the Vatican waved a trophy before the Ukrainians, suggesting a possible Patriarch could be in the offing. This is a just and long-held aspiration of the Ukrainian Catholics since they are, in fact, the most numerous Eastern Catholic rite and can rightly claim a Patriarch like most of the other rites have. The only reason why the Vatican doesn’t appoint a Patriarch for the Catholic Ukrainian rite is, again, not to further inflame the resentments of the Russian schismatics. Waving this possibility before their eyes – a very good bribe – looked like an attempt to corrupt the valorous Ukrainians.

Alexis of Moscow and Kirill of Smolensk

Alexis II, left, and Kiril of Smolensk were KGB agents
Fourth, it seems that all the maneuvers – the bribe, visit, meeting, orders and threats – didn’t pan out as expected. Instead, at his meeting with Kasper, Alexis seemed to only add insult to the prior injuries he is in the habit of inflicting on the Vatican. You can be the judge.

From January 22 until the day of his trip, the Vatican was announcing that Kasper had received a personal invitation from Alexis II for a meeting to initiate cordial relations (Zenit, February 16). But after his arrival in Moscow, the story changed. The news reports began to stress that Kasper had been invited by the Catholic Russian Bishops, no longer by the Russian schismatic leader. Furthermore, Alexis snubbed Kasper, obliging him to postpone his planned return to Rome for two days. He received the Cardinal only on Sunday, February 22 (Zenit, February 23). The subject of the meeting was also quite different from what had been announced, that is, an opening of cordial relations. Alexis presented to Kasper a list of complaints, things that had to cease before any normal relationship could officially begin. Namely his complaints were these:
  • The Vatican should not grant a Patriarchate for the Catholic Ukrainians.
  • The mentioned conversions the Ukrainians are promoting among schismatics must cease.
  • He disagreed with the establishing of the four Dioceses the Vatican in Russia in 2002.
  • The proselytism by Catholics in various Russian orphanages should stop (Zenit, Feb. 23, 2004).
Considering these facts, Kasper’s “code of behavior” could be summarized as follows:
  • The Vatican will continue its general policy of conceding whatsoever to please the schismatics. In particular, it will try to curb the Catholic Ukrainians in their anti-ecumenical approach.
  • The Russian schismatics will persist in its policy of inflicting continuous humiliations on the Vatican, without conceding a single point in their demands.
Such is the shameless reality we have been witnessing since the opening of Vatican Council II.

I take this opportunity to record yet one more spectacular failure of the Vatican’s ecumenism. At the same time, I can’t find words enough to emphatically congratulate our Ukrainian brothers and encourage them to maintain their splendid position of bringing as many unfortunate schismatics they can to the Catholic Faith.


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