Metroplitan Hilarion is in charge of 'external relations' for the Russian Orthodox Church. A recent talk gives a good summary of his thinking on relations with both Protestants and Catholics. This passage is particularly relevant to the Catholic Church.
I would like to say that today the Orthodox and Catholics encounter the same challenges which the modern age has thrown down to the traditional way of life. In this instance we are dealing not with theological issues but with the present and future of the human community. This is precisely the area in which we can interact without harm to our ecclesiastical identity. In other words, in not being one Church, in remaining divided by various theological and ecclesiological issues, it is possible for us to find ways of interaction which allow us to answer jointly the challenges of the modern-day world.
I would call this form of interaction a ‘strategic alliance’ between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, although the word ‘alliance’ may appear to some to be too strong as it is reminiscent of military rhetoric. I am concerned not by the term but by the content. We are not speaking of some form of structural unification which is impossible at the present time but of how, in preserving independent and self-sufficient administrative structures, we can learn how to act as allies in relation to the external world. I believe deeply that this relationship as allies is essential for us both.
It is essential in particular for joint actions in the defense of Christians from discrimination, oppression and violence, to which they are subjected throughout many countries, primarily in the Middle East and North Africa. The events of the so called ‘Arab Spring’ have led to a sharp escalation of violence towards Christians. Militants belonging to radical groups have initiated against Christians a full-scale, deliberately intentioned genocide. In the territories that they hold, extremists are aiming to wipe out totally all traces of a Christian presence. Christians are being killed simply for being Christians, no matter what their confessional allegiance. Christian women are being raped, children are being kidnapped, and ancient Christian churches and monasteries are being destroyed.
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