In an interview with the newspaper La Stampa on Sunday, Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, Chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, said the main condition for a meeting between Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexis II and the pope is a real improvement in Orthodox-Catholic relations. In particular, he called for an end to the "unhealthy missionary rivalry" on the part of representatives of the Roman Catholic Church in the CIS countries.
"In this sense, our position remains the same as it was during the pontificate of John Paul II," the Metropolitan said.
He also said the meeting between the primates of the two biggest Christian churches should not be a routine event. "It should attempt to resolve the problems that darken the relationship of the churches and cause suffering to our flock," the Metropolitan said.
"It is also necessary to find ways to alleviate the tension between Orthodox believers and Greek Catholics," he added. He also said that since the 1990s in Ukraine, Greek Catholics had been raiding dioceses and seizing Orthodox churches.
He expressed the hope that "the new epoch in the life of the Roman Catholic Church that started with the election of Pope Benedict XVI would be marked by the development of sincere and specific dialogue" and that "relations between [the] churches [would] improve."
"But [we need] time to understand what policy the new pope will take toward the Russian Orthodox Church," Metropolitan Kirill said.