Moscow (AsiaNews) A lamp was lit in Moscow's Immaculate Conception Cathedral in remembrance of John Paul II. The lamp is the symbol that "best embodies the character and work of the Great Pontiff," writes Antonio Mennini, Apostolic Nuncio in Russia, in a letter to Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz.
In the memorial mass on the anniversary of the Pope's death, Archbishop Kondrusiewicz stressed how the Pope "prayed for Russia and sincerely sought broader relations with Russian society and the Russian Orthodox Church." He quoted Aleksij II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, who said that "John Paul marked an epoch in the life of the Roman-Catholic Church and in contemporary history in general."
For Fr Alexander Vasyutin, head of the Inter-Christian Relations Secretariat of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, the "late Pope was not only the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, but also a politician, a man who changed the world. His role for Poland is inestimable."
During the service, attended by about 600 people, Archbishop Kondrusiewicz said "the Pope's charisma united believers and atheists".
"Our task today," said State Duma Deputy Speaker Alexander Torshin, "is to repeat his behests as often as possible. Pope John Paul II loved Russia and understood its problems as well as pitfalls in its work to build a civil society."
"John Paul II raised Poland from the ashes and inspired Eastern Europe to fight for freedom," said Zinovy Kogan, chairman of the Congress of Jewish Religious Organisations.
"The secret of Pope John Paul II's extraordinary human and spiritual appeal Il lies in the fact that he exercised his authority as a personal witness to Christ, 'centre of the cosmos and history' (Encyclical Redemptor hominis), showing to the world his indefatigable dedication and self-sacrifice," writes Mgr Mennini in his letter.
The nuncio adds the Pope's "precious teaching" for Russia, especially for "the community of the Catholic Church in Russia, was his longing for unity. Already in 1979 he said: 'Isn't it time to move faster towards a perfect fraternal reconciliation so that the eve of the third millennium might find us side by side, in full communion, to bear witness to salvation before the world?' I think that today each one of us feels in his heart the great significance of those words."