Orthodox church is consecrated in Rome
By Malcolm Moore in Rome
The first Orthodox church to be built in Rome since 1054 was consecrated yesterday in another sign of improved relations between the Vatican and the Patriarchate of Moscow.
The onion-shaped dome of the Church of Saint Catherine of Alexandria overlooks St Peter's from its site on the Janiculum hill.
The idea of building the church, which is in the grounds of the Russian embassy, was mooted at the end of the 19th century. However, permission from the Vatican and the mayor of Rome was granted only five years ago.
Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk, the second most senior figure in the Russian Orthodox Church after Patriarch Alexy II, performed the ceremony.
Pope Benedict received Metropolitan Kirill on Wednesday evening - a rare meeting between the two sides given that there had been a four-year freeze in communications until last December.
Although a papal visit to Moscow was not discussed, the Pope has decided to send a team of high-ranking cardinals to Russia in July.
The reunification of the two churches is gathering speed and Patriarch Alexy has said that Benedict XVI could be "the Pope of the revolution".
The Catholic and Orthodox Churches split in 1054 when Pope Leo IX and Patriarch Michael I excommunicated each other. The quarrel arose over who had greater authority, with Rome insisting that papal commands should be obeyed by the four eastern patriarchs. Both sides claim to be the one holy and apostolic church.
However, Patriarch Alexy said last week: "It is quite obvious we should not compete with each other. On the contrary, we should unite for the sake of fulfilling a great mission of proclaiming the word of God."
There are still several practical problems to overcome, such as the reluctance by Catholic churches in Russia to cease proselytising. However, many within the Vatican believe that a unified church could more easily fight the threats of modern society.
Archbishop Thaddeus Kondrusiewicz of Moscow said: "We need to collaborate to face challenges such as secularism, moral relativity and aggressive liberalism. The Catholic Church talks about this, as does the Orthodox Church, but together our voice will be louder."