From the Urals to the Atlantic
Pope John Paul ii has indeed made extending his influence from the Ural Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean a priority of his reign.
This reality is exemplified in a recent visit from President Vladimir Putin to the Holy See. On November 5, the pope said this about the visit: “I want to thank President Putin for everything he has done to bring the Russian Orthodox and Catholic churches closer together …” (Associated Press, Nov. 5, 2003). Putin too commented favorably on his meeting with the pope and declared that “he wanted to help end the dispute between the Vatican and the Orthodox Church” (ibid.).
Statements like these should not surprise us, considering the Vatican’s desire to bring its daughter churches back under its control.
In May, the European Union is to expand to 25 member states, most of the new members being located in Eastern Europe. Now, more than ever, the Vatican will increase its efforts to regain influence over the Russian Orthodox Church, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Anglican Church, and many of its Protestant daughters, as the mediator in political union between East and West.
Christianity has often provided these former Soviet bloc countries “with decisive assistance on the path to freedom,” according to the pontiff. But it is “always the same” when it comes to Rome’s gestures of building bridges with Orthodoxy. Its objective remains to rule from the Urals to the Atlantic.