06/03/2020, 10.28
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Archbishop D’Aniello, new nuncio in Russia, hope of rebirth

by Vladimir Rozanskij

He will take over from Msgr. Celestino Migliore. In recent years, Russian Catholics have experienced a period of relative flowering, thanks to good relations with the state, the Orthodox Church and other religions. After tense relations between Moscow and Constantinople, the Vatican can offer a role of "ecumenical bridge" between the divergent poles of Orthodoxy. Controversy continues over the security measures for the pandemic in the Orthodox Church

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Msgr. Giovanni D’Aniello, a 65-year-old Neapolitan, former nuncio to Brazil, was appointed new apostolic nuncio to Russia by Pope Francis on 1 June.

The news was welcomed in Russian press: Nezavisimaja Gazeta writes that the new Vatican representative is "specialized in developing countries", and is therefore particularly suitable for Russia in post-Covid reconstruction.

Born in 1955 in Aversa (CE), Msgr. D'’Aniello (photo 1) succeeds Mgr. Celestino Migliore, destined for the nunciature of Paris at the beginning of the year. In his diplomatic service he has served in Congo, Thailand, Cambodia and Brazil; he speaks five languages, but not Russian, which he will be forced to learn on the field. D'Aniello is the sixth representative of the Holy See in Russia since 1990, and the successor of the first full-fledged nuncio.

In recent years, Russian Catholics have experienced a period of relative flowering, thanks to good relations with the state, the Orthodox Church and other religions. The four Russian dioceses are run by well-experienced bishops, and perhaps in view of some replacement: the veteran is Msgr. Josif Werth in Novosibirsk, in office in 1991, followed by Msgr. Clemens Pickel in Saratov (1999), Msgr. Cyryl Klimowicz in Irkutsk (2003) and Msgr. Paolo Pezzi in Moscow (2007). The approximately 300 parishes, opened in the 1990s, are now celebrating the jubilees of the 20 or 25 years since their opening, with a new generation of Catholics now well formed. The nuncio will have to ensure the accreditations of the foreign missionaries, which are still numerous, but he will be able to count on many native priests.

Relations with the Patriarchate of Russia have significantly improved in recent years, after the meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill (Gundjaev) in Havana in 2016. In recent years, the conflict that has led the Russian Church to stop relations with the ecumenical patriarchate of Constantinople has made ecclesial relations between Moscow and Rome even more significant, especially in cultural and humanitarian collaboration, together with the role of "ecumenical bridge" that the Vatican can offer between the divergent poles of global Orthodoxy.

The Russian Church has particularly suffered from the acute phase of the coronavirus pandemic, suffering significant and numerous losses. Still in these days, the number of positive cases in Russia remains very high, above 8 thousand per day, with over 100 daily deaths.

The latest clergyman to have died of the virus is one of the oldest bishops in service since Soviet times, the 89-year-old metropolitan of Chuvashja Varnava (Kedrov, photo 2), a great protagonist of the rebirth of the Church in a very delicate area of ​​European Russia, close to the Volga River, the Urals and the concentration camps.

Controversy over the suspension of liturgical celebrations during the quarantine also continues apace. By patriarchal decree, these measures will end on June 8 (from June 2 in the Muscovite cathedrals of the Holy Savior and the Epiphany in Elokhovo). The metropolitan of Saratov Longin (Korchagin) had to intervene in the press, with an interview with the Pravmir agency, to reassure everyone that he was not a "Covid-dissident", but that he had only "some objections to everything that happened in this period, and to be against all forms of psychological hysteria and terrorism ”.

In his view, there was an "excess of measures, the effectiveness of which was rather little demonstrated". In the Saratov metropolis the churches remained open, but the faithful "most at risk of infection" were advised not to come, while observing hygiene protection measures.  The civil authorities of Saratov have openly disagreed with Metropolitan Longin, but the patriarchate has not launched any investigation into him.

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