Moscow Patriarch, Catholic Pope Call For Preservation Of Europe’s Christian Roots


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 (

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” (

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 (

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” (

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.”

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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