Moscow, September 21 — Head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations Archbishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk, who is visiting Rome, has celebrated the Divine Liturgy in Catacombs of St. Callixtus.
Speaking to believers after the service, the Archbishop urged to overcome a thousand-year-old dispute between Christians of East and West and reminded about heroism of first Christians who prayed in catacombs and preserved unity in spite of persecutions from outside.
“Denied by the world, far from human eyes, deep under ground in caves, first Roman Christians performed the feat of prayer. Their life brought fruit of holiness and martyr heroism. The Holy Church was built on their blood shed for Christ,” the DECR press service has cited Archbishop Hilarion as saying.
Then Church came out of the catacombs, but Christian unity was lost, the Archbishop further said. Today, when the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church don’t have Eucharist communication and many Protestants gave up fundamental Christian principles, “we should clearly understand, that division is sin, tearing apart body of Church and weakening the power of Christian witness in secular world,” Archbishop Hilarion stressed.
He reminded that human sin was the cause of all divisions, while Christian unity could be restored only in the way of sanctity.
“Each of us, conscientiously fulfilling a task the Church has given him or her, is called to personally contribute in treasury of Christian sanctity and work to achieve God-commanded Christian unity,” the Archbishop said in his sermon.
And he meets with Pope Benedict:
Archbishop Hilarion highlighted the importance of mutual testimony by Orthodox and Catholic believers of traditional Christian values before the secular world. He noted the identiсal views of the Orthodox and the Catholic Churches on such matters as family, maternity, demographic crisis, euthanasia and many other ethical problems.
Archbishop stated that there were certain significant differences on these matters between the Orthodox and the Catholics, on the one hand, as well as with different Protestant communities which had pursued the liberalization of the Christian teaching.
In this context, the cooperation between the Orthodox and the Catholic Churches to develop a mutual position on the above matters gains specific meaning, Archbishop Hilarion believes.
Also see “Archbishop Hilarion’s speech at Sant’Egidio” on the National Catholic Register blog. Edward Pentin has translated part of the the archbishop’s speech from the “flawless Italian.” Excerpt:
We live in a de-Christianized world, in a time that some define—mistakenly—as post-Christian. Contemporary society, with its practical materialism and moral relativism, is a challenge to us all. The future of humanity depends on our response, as Christians, to this challenge, and maybe even whether life continues on our planet. It is a common challenge and also our answer must be common. Only together can we put forward all the spiritual and moral value of the Christian faith; only together can we offer our Christian vision for the family, only together can we affirm our concept of social justice, of a more equal distribution of goods.
These moral values are traditional because they have been affirmed by Christians for 20 centuries and have formed our cultural and European civilization. They are, at the same time, very new and modern, because the Gospel of Jesus is eternally new and modern. With this common challenge, the contemporary world challenges us, and we Christians must be together. It’s time to pass from confrontation to solidarity, mutual respect, and esteem. I would say without hesitating that we must pass to mutual love, living out Jesus’s commandment to love one another. As Jesus said, all will know you are disciples of mine if you have love for the other. This is what our preaching demands and it can be effective, it can be convincing, also in our contemporary world, if we are able to live this mutual love among us as Christians.