October 31, 2014

A Holy Alliance between Rome and Moscow Is Born

Again, almost incomprehensible just a few short years ago. Highlight: “The common objective: the “new evangelization” of Europe. A delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church visits the Vatican, which publishes an anthology of the patriarch’s writings. A meeting between Kirill and Benedict XVI keeps getting closer.”

by Sandro Magister Chiesa Espresso

ROME, May 24, 2010 – Benedict XVI will soon create a new “pontifical council” expressly dedicated to the “new evangelization.” Not for mission countries where the congregation “de propaganda fide” is already at work. But for the countries of ancient Christian tradition that are today in danger of losing the faith.

Pope Benedict meets Metropolitan Hilarion in Rome

Pope Joseph Ratzinger wants to link his pontificate to this initiative. And this was the main topic that he discussed one morning in the spring of 2009, at Castel Gandolfo, with four prominent cardinals he had called for consultation: Camillo Ruini, Angelo Bagnasco, Christoph Schönborn, and Angelo Scola, the last being the most resolute in promoting the institution of the new office.

Meanwhile, one great ally has already united with the pope from outside of the Catholic Church, in this enterprise of a new evangelization.

This great ally is the Russian Orthodox Church.

On the afternoon of Thursday, May 20, immediately before the concert given for Benedict XVI by the patriarchate of Moscow began in the audience hall, the president of the department of external relations for the patriarchate, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk (in the photo), said exactly this to the pope: that the Catholic Church will not be alone in the new evangelization of dechristianized Europe, because it will have at its side the Russian Orthodox Church, “no longer a competitor, but an ally.”

The positive relationship that has been established between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Church of Rome is one of the most stunning achievements of Benedict XVI’s pontificate. It is also stunning for its rapidity. In fact, it’s enough to look back just one decade to note the chill that dominated between the two Churches.

To a question from www.chiesa on the factors that led to this extraordinary change, Metropolitan Hilarion responded by indicating three of these.

The first factor, he said, is the person of the new pope. A pope who receives “the positive regard of the whole of the Russian Orthodox world,” even though this is pervaded by age-old anti-Roman sentiments.

The second factor is the common view of the challenge posed to both Churches by the dechristianization of countries that in the past were the heart of Christendom.

And the third reason is their mutual embrace of the grand Christian tradition, as the great highway of the new evangelization.

To the question about a meeting – the first in history – between the heads of the two Churches of Rome and Moscow, Hilarion replied that “this is a desire, a hope, and we must work to make it happen.” He added that a few obstacles will have to be smoothed over first, above all the disagreements between the two Churches in Ukraine, but he said that he is confident that the meeting will take place soon: “not between just any patriarch and pope, but between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Benedict.”

One proof of how much closer the positions of the heads of the two Churches have become is given by two books published just a few months apart, and without precedent in history.

The first was published last December by the patriarchate of Moscow, and presents in Russian and Italian the main writings by Ratzinger on Europe, before and after his election as pope, with an extensive introduction written by Metropolitan Hilarion.

The second, released a few days ago, is published by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana and collects writings by Kirill before and after his nomination as patriarch, on the dignity of man and the rights of the person, with an introduction by Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the pontifical council for culture.

A selection from Hilarion’s introduction to the first volume was presented by www.chiesa back when it was published. And an extract of a text by Kirill from the second volume is reproduced below.

Both the publications were promoted by an international association based in Rome: “Sofia: Idea Russa, Idea d’Europa.” The association has produced an Italian-Russian academy, “Sapientia et Scientia,” inaugurated last May 20 in the context of the “Days of Russian culture and spirituality” held in Rome by a delegation of the patriarchate of Moscow guided by Metropolitan Hilarion.

The Days had two culminating moments. The first on May 19, on the premises of the new Russian Orthodox church of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, built a few years ago in Rome, a short distance from the Vatican. There Metropolitan Hilarion, Archbishop Ravasi, and Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the pontifical council for Christian unity, discussed the issue “Orthodox and Catholics in Europe today. The Christian roots and common cultural patrimony of East and West.”

The second important moment was the concert given for the pope on May 20 by Patriarch Kirill I. Compositions by great Russian musicians of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, like Mussorgskij and Rimski-Korsakov, ?ajkovskij andRachmaninov, were performed. Commenting on them at the end of the concert, Benedict XVI emphasized “the close, original connection between Russian music and liturgical singing.” A connection that is also fully visible in the evocative “Canto dell’Ascensione,” a symphony for choir and orchestra in five parts composed by Metropolitan Hilarion, performed at the same concert and highly appreciated by the public and the pope.

In his message, Patriarch Kirill recalled that in Russia, “during the years of persecution, when the majority of the population had no access to sacred music, these works, together with the masterpieces of Russian literature and the figurative arts, contributed to bringing the proclamation of the Gospel, proposing to the secular world ideals of the highest moral and spiritual caliber.”

And Benedict XVI, in his final speech, remarked on how in the musical compositions performed, “there is already realized the encounter, the dialogue, the synergy between East and West, as also between tradition and modernity.” A dialogue that is all the more urgent in order to let Europe breathe again with “two lungs” and restore to it the awareness of its Christian roots.

Both Benedict XVI and Metropolitan Hilarion are utterly convinced that Christian art is also a vehicle of evangelization and a leaven of unity between the Churches.

Before arriving in Rome to meet with the pope, Hilarion stopped in Ravenna, Milan, Turin, and Bologna. The first of these cities was the capital of the Eastern Christian empire in Italy, and its basilicas are a marvelous testimony to this. In his conference on May 19, Hilarion said that he had admired in the mosaics of Ravenna “the splendor of a Church in harmony, not yet wounded by the division between East and West.” And he added: “If this harmony was real for our ancestors, it can be real for us as well. If we are not able to recreate the harmony evoked by the mosaics of Ravenna, the blame will be ours alone.”

The following is an extract from the first of the texts by Patriarch Kirill collected in the volume published in recent days by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Another part of this text was published in the May 17-18, 2010 issue of “L’Osservatore Romano.”

The original, in Russian, was published in the February 16-17, 2000 issue of the “Nezavisimaja Gazeta”

Comments

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    Father,

    This is very good news. Thanks for passing it along.

    In Christ,

    FrG

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    Michael Bauman says:

    Does not evangelization require a witness to a particular vision?

    1. Despite many commonalities, we don’t share the same vision as the RCC without using a reductionist model of Jesus Christ, the Church and salvation. Is that what we want? Would that do any good, since such a model has already been rejected?

    2. Is this simply a political settlement to divide up the sphere of influence, agreeing not to get into each other’s way?

    3. OR is it really a commitment to work in unison and speak with one voice on the secular/Islamist assult?

    4. The latter is not evangelization in my understanding, it is, we hope, speaking prophetically. That is a good thing but still far short of actual evangelization.

    5. I hope it really is a holy alliance, but I have my doubts. I’m not from Missouri, but my father was.

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      Peter O'F. says:

      Or put another way, “re-evangelization” in Western Europe in league with the Vatican presupposes that the Vatican (also) has and teaches the Evangel to begin with, which we as o/Orthodox believe it does not. For the same reason I’m leery of the MP publishing works of the pope of Old Rome, unless Metropolitan HILARION’s preface warns readers of the errors in what follows, and in Latinism in general, and how they are corrected by Holy Orthodoxy. The Vatican can publish the Fathers of the Church, let alone Patriarch KYRILL, but without teaching them aright, it is “a clanging gong, signifiying nothing” (Holy Apostle Paul and Shakespeare, now there’s a holy alliance, in this English major’s eyes!!).

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        Richard W. says:

        >> Despite many commonalities, we don’t share the same vision as the RCC without using a reductionist model of Jesus Christ,
        >> the Church and salvation. Is that what we want? Would that do any good, since such a model has already been rejected?
        What we share is Christ Himself, who can neither be divided, nor reduced to any single manner of human expression.

        >> Is this simply a political settlement to divide up the sphere of influence, agreeing not to get into each other’s way?
        >> OR is it really a commitment to work in unison and speak with one voice on the secular/Islamist assult?
        First of all, I think “not getting in each other’s way” is already a good thing. Let us not forget that to outsiders–secularists, Muslims and others–our disagreements seem petty, but our willingness to let them get in the way of our unity in Christ looks to them as if the Gospel we preach were no more powerful than their own beliefs.

        Working in unison will take some time to achieve, but limited cooperation, with the help of God’s grace, will lead to that unison.

        >> [a commitment to work in unison] is not evangelization in my understanding, it is, we hope, speaking prophetically.
        >> That is a good thing but still far short of actual evangelization.
        I’m not sure why speaking prophetically would be *far* short of actual evangelization.

        >> I hope it really is a holy alliance, but I have my doubts. I’m not from Missouri, but my father was.
        Nothing wrong with that! As St. Paul said, “test all spirits.”

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    Eliot Ryan says:

    http://sceptik.wordpress.com/2009/04/06/interview-with-father-andrew-philips-2009/

    “Europe’s collapse is a spiritual collapse. All the other disasters in Europe come from this spiritual collapse – the total loss of faith. If Europe had faith, it would still believe in itself. It would say to Arabs: we are not racist, come and work here and live here, if you wish. But there is one condition. You must first be baptized, But because Europe no longer has any faith, it is ‘tolerant’ to Islam. What does ‘tolerant’ mean? It means indifferent, unbelieving. This is dangerous. This is what makes people tolerant of the devil too. What does it matter what you believe – we must be ‘tolerant’ – satanist or Christian, it’s all the same to dead souls. The demographic collapse of Europe is of the same order. Europe does not believe in life, because it has lost faith in God, the source of all Life, the Maker of Life. Therefore, it believes in death – abortion, euthanasia, all of this is the industry of death and Europe is in love with this industry of death. If Europe believed in the Resurrection, it would never abort its future. The origin of this is in the Roman Catholic and Protestant obsession with the crucifixion of Christ, not with the Resurrection.”

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      Richard W. says:

      >> Europe’s collapse is a spiritual collapse. All the other disasters in Europe come from this spiritual collapse – the total loss of faith.
      >> If Europe had faith, it would still believe in itself.
      I agree. Isn’t it odd that when people reject faith in God, claiming to believe in themselves, they inevitably end up believing in nothing – least of all themselves.

      >> It would say to Arabs: we are not racist, come and work here and live here, if you wish. But there is one condition. You must first be baptized …
      Frankly, I think that following this paradigm is what got us where we are today, as it requires the use of man’s devices (i.e. coercion) to achieve God’s ends. Contrast this with Pope John Paul’s words from “Ut Unum Sint:”

      Taught by the events of her history, the Church is committed to freeing herself from every purely human support, in order to live in depth the Gospel law of the Beatitudes. Conscious that the truth does not impose itself except “by virtue of its own truth, as it makes its entrance into the mind at once quietly and with power”

      I think that if the Church had been doing this back in the 7th Century, Islam would have never become as powerful as it did. Instead, by “enforcing” the Gospel, we turned it into something that needed to be enforced, rather than a force in its own right. It was this very enforcement that led to the divisions that so weakened the Church, whereas the authentic Gospel is in itself a force for unity.

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    Jerry says:

    Those who are sleeping in faith and pretending to be sleeping…”Awake”. It is the time for re evangilisation. If not now then never.

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    Lance says:

    I am not European, but let me say I agree that Europe needs to protect herself (Christian Europe) from ‘tolerance’. Islam and Judaism are in direct conflict and contradiction of Christendom. It will get to the point where the militant post-Enlightment pseudo Darwinists will tolerate the tolerance of the wholesale destruction of Christianity before their vain materialistic eyes. Europe did not receive her glories based on racial cohesion, but from Christianity and Christianity alone. If Europeans are done with God, then God will eventually be done with Europe, once and for all. The butchering of Christian monarchs, Darwinism, Communism, Fascism, World Wars I-II and Totalitarian Democracy have taught Europeans nothing about propping up false idols in the place that properly belongs to God. If this is what it has come to, then so be it…

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    Luc le Gascon says:

    Christ est parmi nous ! (Christ is among us!)

    “Merci” for another interesting text, Fr.

    A few questions for you (they could be answered by a full text in your web site):

    How was the Christian social doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church ( http://orthodoxeurope.org/page/3/14.aspx ) received by the other orthodox juridictions? And in the West? Is there some significant differences with the one Roman Catholicism produced in the 20th Century (notably John Paul II’s modernized version called “Laborem Exercens” in 1981)? What is your own take on it?

    -In XC
    Luc
    Canada

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