The heads of the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches will meet only after there is agreement on the inter-confessional situation in western Ukraine, a senior Russian Orthodox cleric said on Wednesday.
"It is too early to speak about such a meeting. There are certain problems, stemming from the recent past. First of all, the inter-religious situation in western Ukraine," Metropolitan Hilarion said at a meeting with Russian Foreign Ministry officials.
Ties between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Vatican have long been strained over accusations the Catholic Church has sought to spread its influence and convert believers in traditionally Orthodox former Soviet states. Tensions between Catholic and Russian Orthodox believers in western Ukraine are also quite acute.
Hopes for a meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia have recently grown, but the Russian Orthodox Church's head of external church relations said although a meeting may be possible in the future, it was still difficult to discuss details.
"We are interested in a result. When the parties are ready to come to a conclusion that would mean a significant breakthrough in our relations, then as soon as such an understanding is reached, such a meeting will be held," Hilarion said.
As a result of the Great Schism of 1054, Christianity split into the eastern and western branches. They have a number of theological and political differences and the heads of the Catholic and Russian Orthodox Church have never met.
MOSCOW, June 9 (RIA Novosti)