Russian Orthodox cleric says Catholics are allies

Moscow, Russia - A top Russian Orthodox cleric said on Sunday that the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church were allies in the face of hostile secularism.

Metropolitan Kirill, the head of external relations for the Moscow Patriarchate, has met Pope Benedict and is thought to be pushing for closer ties with the Catholic Church.

"In the Vatican and not only in the Vatican but all over the world, Catholics understand that Orthodox (people) are their allies," Kirill told the Rossiya television station.

"And Orthodox (people) are more and more coming to understand that Catholics are their allies in the face of hostile and non-religious secularism," Kirill said.

The Russian Orthodox Church, which split from Rome in the Great Schism of 1054, had chilly relations with the late John Paul II, a Pole who had campaigned against communism and sought in vain to visit post-communist Russia.

Senior Vatican officials have said they are working towards an eventual meeting between Benedict and Patriarch Alexiy II.

Kirill, one of the most senior clerics from the Russian Orthodox Church to meet Benedict since his 2005 election, slammed homosexuality.

"When the declaration of human rights was made no-one in their worst nightmare could imagine a gay parade in Jerusalem," Kirill said.

Gays and their supporters rallied in Jerusalem on Nov. 10 in a festival that has sparked religious protests.

Kirill said liberalism was simplistic to put too much stress on individual rights: "Yes it is your own affair if you want to be a sinner or a villain ... But you cannot say society does not care who you are."

When asked about the use in services of Church Slavonic, which is difficult to understand for speakers of modern Russian, Kirill said some Slavic texts could be edited to bring them up to date, a radical move in the conservative Orthodox Church.

"We should edit Slavic texts to bring them closer to contemporary people but at the same time not destroy the cultural traditions connected with the divine service," he said.