The Russian Orthodox Patriarch, Alexy II, died early today at the age of 79.
Can we expect a thaw in relations between Moscow and Rome, I suspect until there is Czar, it is unlikely.
It is not me being nostalgic for Imperial Russia but simply stating that Patriarch and Emperor are together leaders of the Orthodox Church, the former governing the inner and the latter the outer mysteries. Ecumenical dialogue touches the inner mysteries because it is about theology but reunion or even co-operation is about the outer mysteries, structures and organisation which was always the Emperor's concern, in the case of Constantinople, even a Muslim Emperor. In the west these two functions were subsumed in the office of the Pope but as my Orthodox friends remind me, the Patriarch is not a Pope.