CWN - Members of the Russian Catholic Church—one of the smaller Byzantine-rite churches in communion with Rome—fear that they may be forgotten by Vatican officials anxious to improve relations with the Russian Orthodox Church, reports Francis X. Rocca of the Wall Street Journal: Leaders of the Russian Byzantine Catholic Church, with fewer than 30,000 members world-wide, are meeting in Italy this week in their first such synod in a century.
The Russian Catholics have asked Pope Francis for reassurances, and appealed to the Vatican for help in strengthening their community—which has only about 30,000 members. To date they have not received a reply, and an official of the Vatican’s Congregation for Eastern Churches declined to comment for the Wall Street Journal story.
The Orthodox Church dominates religious life in Russia, and the Catholic minority is composed mainly of Latin-rite Catholics. But the Orthodox Church has been extremely sensitive about the existence of Eastern churches in union with Rome, and Vatican support for the Russian Catholic Church would undoubtedly provoke a negative reaction from the Moscow Patriarchate.
The Russian Orthodox Church has frequently complained about the activities of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, which is by far the largest of the Eastern Catholic churches. The Moscow patriarchate argues that the Ukrainian Catholic Church is interfering in the “canonical territory” of the Russian Orthodox.