MOSCOW (CNS/Zenit): The Russian Orthodox Church has described the Vatican’s creation of an archdiocese in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan as a “serious blow” to Catholic-Orthodox relations.
“The Russian Orthodox Church categorically rejects the decision to establish new Catholic dioceses in Kazakhstan and considers this step to be another serious blow on the entire complex of Orthodox-Catholic relations,” read a statement released May 19 by the department of external Church relations.
The statement said the Vatican move was “ruinous for the relations between the two Churches”.
The creation of a new archdiocese for the capital of Astana and a diocese for Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, was announced by Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, during a mid-May visit to the country.
Also on May 19, the Russian Orthodox Church released a separate statement on a potential papal visit to Russia this year. The Vatican had floated the idea of the Pope going to Kazan, Russia, to return a Kazan Mother of God icon that currently hangs in his apartment.
The Orthodox statement called the icon an ’18th century copy made by a provincial icon painter’ and said it was a poor excuse for a papal visit.