By Paul Goble
In yet another sign of the growing rapprochement between the and the Roman Catholic church, both and Pope Benedict XVI simultaneously issued statements calling for the preservation of the Christian roots of Europe through the maintenance of Christianity-infused culture.
The two appeals were released last Thursday at a special concert of Russian spiritual music in Rome organized by the Russian Orthodox Church in honor of the fifth anniversary of the papacy of Benedict and attended by him and by a large number of members of the Curia (www.newsru.com/religy/21may2010/aufruf.html).
Kirill’s message was read out by Metropolitan Ilarion, the head of the Patriarchate’s foreign relations department. In it, Kirill noted that “for the first time in history, three outstanding musical collectives, the Russian national Orchestra, the Moscow Synod Choir, and the Rogov Capella of St. Petersburg had come together in the Vatican.”
“During the years of oppression against the Church and the domination of atheism in the state, when the majority of the population could not come into contact with spiritual music, these works, like Russian literature as well, made possible the dissemination of the Gospel message, bringing to the secular world high moral and spiritual ideals.”
In response, Benedict noted that “the coming together of peoples and the dialogue of cultures” is needed for the preservation of a European culture “inspired by the Christian faith” given that this culture now is being neglected. Christianity as reflected in art and culture, he said, can thus spread to the entire society.
“Today,” the pope added, “these roots in the West and in the East can and must inspire a new humanism and become a response to the challenges of contemporary society.” And he expressed gratitude to Kirill for “the moment of meeting with dear brothers from the Moscow Patriarchate” (www.russkiymir.ru/russkiymir/ru/news/common/news10108.html).
Moscow news sources took note of the fact that the Pope delivered his remarks in Russian, an indication they suggested of the Vatican’s desire to move toward closer relations with the Moscow Patriarchate and possibly another step toward a possible papal visit to the Russian Federation (www.blagovest-info.ru/index.php?ss=2&s=3&id=34431).
Before the concern, Metropolitan Ilarion delivered a broader even programmatic message to the Vatican. Arguing that “Russian culture is called upon to assist Europe” with its difficulties, the hierarch said that “cultural exchange must become the main line in the sphere of Orthodox-Catholic relations” (www.rusk.ru/newsdata.php?idar=41717).
At the present time “in the life of multi-national Europe,” Ilarion said, “Russian culture must play a unique role because all of its forms are infused with a Christian spirit. Russian culture possesses a powerful missionary potential and therefore is called to help Europe preserve its Christian heritage and identity.”