Pope-Putin visit: Is church détente in the works?

President Vladimir Putin’s Nov. 25 meeting with Pope Francis was the third  to the Holy See by a Russian leader since the two sides established full diplomatic relations in 2009. 

5. Ukraine

Bordering both Catholic Poland and Orthodox Russia, Ukraine has long had a split identity, as well as having the largest population of Catholic adherents in the former Soviet Union: around 3.7 million. Known also as Eastern Rite or Latin Rite Catholics, many live in western Ukraine, which at one point was known as Galicia and fell under the control of Poland and the Austro-Hungarian Empire over the years, both of which were predominantly Catholic. In Lviv, western Ukraine’s largest city, Catholics predominate. John Paul II’s visit in 2001 to Ukraine was in fact the closest he ever got to visiting Russia. During that visit, he received a rapturous welcome throughout the country. For both the Kremlin and the Russian church, that was worrisome since Ukraine, in addition to being the birthplace of Russian Christianity, is viewed as being a historic appendage to Russia, politically, economically, socially. Having a sizable number of Ukrainians looking to the Vatican for guidance and authority, and not Moscow, undermines that unity.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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