The World Council of Churches' General Secretary, the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia have met in Moscow to discuss, among other things, the place of the Orthodox within the ecumenical movement.
"The Russian Orthodox Church can play an inspiring role in the fellowship of WCC member churches", said Tveit after what was his first meeting with the Patriarch since becoming WCC General Secretary.
"Bringing the younger generations to the faith is a common concern for all of our member churches", Tveit said. "We have learnt about some of the initiatives taken in this regard under Kirill's leadership and I think all WCC member churches could benefit from them."
The meeting between the WCC General Secretary and the Russian Patriarch on 28 June was warm, positive and frank, Tveit declared afterwards.
"His Holiness has expressed a deep commitment to, and strong interest in the WCC which I really appreciated", Tveit said. "He also shared how much the WCC has meant for him personally", he added.
In that context, Kirill expressed a serious concern about some difficulties faced by ecumenical dialogue in view of what he labelled as the new positions of some Protestant churches on important moral issues, including the understanding of homosexuality.
"[He] challenged the council to articulate how it can contribute to building bridges in this situation", Tveit explained.
The meeting with the patriarch was part of a 27-29 June 2010 visit to the Russian Orthodox Church. The church joined the WCC in 1961 and became its largest member. Five of its representatives currently sit on the council's 150-member Central Committee.
The programme continues tomorrow with a meeting with the Very Rev Arkady Shatov, chair of the Department for Church Charity and Social Services, a visit to the St Dimitry School of Sisters of Charity, and encounters with Russian government officials.
Tveit is accompanied by the WCC deputy General Secretary Georges Lemopoulos, as well as WCC staff members the Rev Dr Dagmar Heller (Ecumenical Institute Bossey/Faith and Order) and Fr Dr Daniel Buda (Church and Ecumenical Relations).
Following the visit, the Russian Orthodox Church will host the annual meeting of the Permanent Committee on Consensus and Collaboration, which has the responsibility for continuing the dynamic of the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC.