Orthodox-Catholic dialogue imperiled by Ukraine war?

Even if the war in Ukraine ends in some tolerable outcome, the theological divisions it has generated and its effect on Orthodox-Catholic dialogue will persist for some time, writes Robert Royal in his blog The Catholic Thing (March 28). Since the Russian Orthodox Church has in large part supported Vladimir Putin’s call for a “holy war” in Ukraine, there will be a chill on the significant Catholic-Orthodox dialogue that has developed over the years. Royal writes that “we now see not only political corruption among compromised Russian religious leaders, but a deep spiritual divide that was somewhat covered over by professions of Christian brotherhood.” Several recent popes have made serious efforts to heal the schism between Rome and Orthodoxy—and have generally been rebuffed. While Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill had expressed a “deep desire” for unity before the war started, the fraternal spirit has not lasted. During a Zoom meeting in early March, Francis is said to have chided Kirill for claiming the Ukrainian “special military action” was a “holy war.” The pope turned up the heat when he made the consecration of Russia, Ukraine, and the whole world to Our Lady of Fatima. Royal writes that “Kirill and Putin know that Our Lady asked for that consecration to stop Russia’s errors from spreading and to bring about the nation’s conversion…Under the circumstances, it’s difficult to see how Moscow will be part of any future ecumenical dialogue—even how Russian Orthodoxy will hold together…The Eastern window is, for now, closed.”

Metropolitan Hilarion, Cardinal Schönborn and Cardinal Koch in Vienna, February 2018 (source: Aid to the Church in Need).