Archbishop tells U.S. diplomat that Russian Orthodoxy poses a hindrance to Catholic communities in Eurasia

In a July 24, 2002 meeting with U.S. Acting Deputy Chief of Mission George Frowick, Archbishop Antonio Veglio, Secretary of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, shared the Vatican's frustration with the Russian Orthodox Church, according to a cable accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks.

According to Archbishop Veglio, Russian Orthodoxy posed a hindrance “to the vitality and survival of the disparate Eastern Rite Catholic communities in Eurasia,” which are those Christian Rites in “formerly communist Europe” which, “while not Roman Catholic,” “recognize the Roman Pope as leader of the faithful” (3387: confidential, dated July 26, 2002).

Archbishop Veglio shared with Mr. Frowick “the difficulties Catholics face with the Russian Orthodox Church,” and suggested that “Russian Orthodox objections to the presence of the Catholic Church in Russia derives from” what he described as “the Russian Orthodox clergy's ‘old fashioned world view, similar to the Vatican's way of thinking sixty years ago,” according to the cable.

It describes Archbishop Veglio as being “confident that as the Russian Orthodox modernized and became less isolated they would feel less threatened and would drop” what he felt were “their ‘irrational' objections to Catholics in Russia.”

However, Archbishop Veglio “implied that it would be decades, not years, before the Russian Orthodox would come around to this view.”

“In the meantime,” Archbishop Veglio told Mr. Frowick, “the Vatican would continue to minister to the faithful as best it could.”

According to the cable, Archbishop Veglio “believed that the Catholic Church may be more appealing to the average Russian or Ukrainian because, during the years of communist repression,” it “suffered and retained their ‘purity' while the Orthodox Church had too cozy a relationship with the communist powers.”

As a result of this relationship, “properties confiscated by Stalin” were “given, in many cases, to Russian Orthodox communities.” But “the Greek Rite Catholics,” located in Ukraine, “are successfully recovering” many of those holdings now, the cable says.

Archbishop Veglio “averred that the strong presence of this church in Ukraine before World War II, and the strong support of its faithful in the U.S. and elsewhere in the West, have given it an advantage” that the Russian branch does not have.

“Two measures of” the Greek Rite's “confidence,” the cable says, “are the intent by Archbishop Major Lubomyr to move his See from Lvov to Kiev and the Ukrainian Church's pressure on the Holy See to raise its status to that of a full patriarchate.”

Mr. Frowick notes in the cable that the latter would put the Ukrainian Greek Rite Church “on a par with the Russian and Ukrainian Patriarchates of the Orthodox Church in Kiev.”

(This article is a part of the series "The India Cables" based on the US diplomatic cables accessed by The Hindu via WikiLeaks.)