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Russian Church Foreign Minister Warns of Religious Conflict

Russian Orthodox Church Foreign Minister warns of religious conflict over Ukraine

• Russian Orthodox Church accuses Kiev Catholics of collaborating with US
• Warns of genocide of Christians in the Middle East
• Events in Ukraine make meeting between Pope and Patriarch very unlikely

Doha, April 8 –

In an exclusive interview airing this Saturday, Metropolitan Hilarion, Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department for External Church Relations, tells Al Jazeera that the situation in Ukraine is leading to a conflict within the Russian Orthodox Church as well as escalating tensions between Moscow and the Vatican.

For many years, top officials from the Orthodox and the Catholic Church have been trying to set up a meeting between their two leaders, Patriarch Kirill and the Pope, in an attempt to bridge the gaps between the two Christian communities.

But now, according to Hilarion, this will not happen, at least in the immediate future, as Catholics in Ukraine are pushing for Western interference in the country, causing a major rift between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Vatican. “The problem with the Kiev Patriarchate as well as unfortunately the Greek Catholics is that they do not want to stand together, on the contrary, they take one position in the political battle, they support only one side of this battle and this is not the way the Church is supposed to do."

In reaction to this, Hilarion has been asking the Vatican to control the Catholics in Ukraine. “My colleagues in the Vatican they always say that the Greek Catholic Church is an autonomous Church ‘we are not controlling them and we cannot help.’ Well I say… If you don't control them or disagree with these actions then perhaps you can make a statement saying you disagree with these actions? But this statement is not coming from the Vatican."

Commenting on the situation of Christians in the Middle East, Hilarion warned of the systematic targeting of Christians: “We see that 10 years ago there were 1.5 million Christians in Iraq, there is now maybe 1/10 of this population left, there are practically no Christians left in Libya, we see constant flight of Christians from Egypt and we see what is happening with Christian population in Syria where rebels come to power. So it is not simply a coincidence it is a series of event which results in the Genocide of the Christian population of the Middle East.”

Talk to Al Jazeera with Metropolitan Hilarion will be airing this Saturday at 4.30 GMT and will be available online directly afterwards.

END

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