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  • » 04/20/2011, 00.00

    RUSSIA

    Archbishop in Moscow: I dream of a common calendar and Easter with our Orthodox brothers

    Marta Allevato

    Archbishop Paolo Pezzi speaks of the successes and difficulties of collaboration with the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate. Fruitful work in the field of culture, yet sensitive to the issue of education, although he does "not rule out" the possibility that one day Catholicism may be taught in schools.

    Moscow (AsiaNews) - A moment of "reflection with our Orthodox brethren on the common heritage of faith to witness together" in the contemporary world and an opportunity to start a "new evangelization" of the community, in need of "new impulse" and "roots" in society. The archbishop of the Mother of God in Moscow, Mgr. Paolo Pezzi tells AsiaNews about the Easter of the small minority of Catholics in Russia, outlining the goals of ecumenical dialogue and the difficulties and successes of collaboration with the Moscow Patriarchate. For the second consecutive year, the holiday for the two churches – who have different calendars - coincides and the Catholic community (one million according to the most generous estimates, ndr) will celebrate Easter with the new Apostolic Nuncio to the Russian Federation, Mgr . Ivan Jurkovic, expected to arrive in the coming days, says the prelate.

    Although often the different Easter celebrations allows more contact and meetings between the spiritual leaders of the two communities in the period of Holy Week, the opportunity to celebrate in the same period also offers great advantages. "First of all - says Mgr. Pezzi - it is easier, even in our diversity, to understand and live the same witness. It favours the knowledge that we have a treasure of common faith and that the differences we have between us are not necessarily barriers, but a possible mutual enrichment. " For this, the archbishop hopes that one day we may arrive at a "common calendar" or at least at fixing a date that is more or less in line with to the major religious holidays in Russia: "The Catholic community could adapt to the Orthodox calendar and celebrate Easter and Christmas on the same day. " The issue - under discussion for some time and also proposed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople - "should be discussed in the next pan-Orthodox Synod, which they are trying to organize to take place in a few years," says the archbishop of Moscow.

    The Easter season brings with it, by definition, the concept of rebirth, even if we talk about a new climate in relations between the two churches for the Catholics of Russia "change does not reside so much in the new conditions of life of the community", as in a renewal of faith linked to the Resurrection itself, "not just a memory of someone who was alive only to die again, but of the One who has risen to enter into such a dimension where you can meet him and have a relationship with Him that is life-changing. "

    The imminent arrival of the new Nuncio is also an opportunity to reflect on the future - "I do not want to talk about challenges, I do not like that term" – regarding the Catholic Church in the country. Archbishop Pezzi identifies three areas in which they must continue to work, picking up the legacy of the past 'Vatican ambassadors': "The care and organization, in terms of structures, of the Catholic Church throughout the territory; the essential relationship with the Orthodox in first place and then with other denominations and religions and finally relations with civil society and the state. " "The Catholic community – says the archbishop – on the one hand needs to be re-evangelised and on the other rooted in a faith with a constructive presence of men of faith in society in which we live". The new Nuncio will be of real help in this direction, particularly in relations with the Moscow Patriarchate and the need to "increase a common witness in society. In this, paradoxically, "Catholics can make a bigger contribution" because they are a small minority, so it is " more obvious that what moves us is not merely the witness of an event." In a Russia still recovering from decades of state atheism, and which is only experiencing a spiritual rebirth since the 90's, the actions of the Orthodox Church in the social sphere are denounced as "interference" and regarded with suspicion by those who consider it a mere propaganda tool of political power. "For now there is a general tolerance of public opinion, but when and if the Orthodox Church becomes a real presence, and not just a superficial one in society, the attacks will increase in vigour," warns Mgr. Pezzi.

    Even so, a common witness meets the needs of both Churches. The archbishop confirms an increasingly collaborative climate with the Orthodox, which "is most fruitful in the cultural field and increasingly in that of charity and the family." "There are exchanges of students between the Catholic University of Milan and the San Tikon of Moscow - says the archbishop - collaboration between the Catholic seminary and the Orthodox Academy of St. Petersburg." The pastoral care of the family is also another area where joint efforts are well coordinated between the Orthodox and Catholic parishes: "We discuss how to help families with problems of drugs or alcohol, and carries on a material support through family centres, such as those in Moscow and Kaliningrad. " "Charitable initiatives that benefit a more just society, street children, AIDS patients or the homeless are another area in which we can boost joint projects."

    Children’s’ education however remains a delicate subject: "Here - says Mgr. Pieces – we are still experiencing difficulties due to misunderstandings and a mutual understanding that needs to be deepened. " But the time of the accusations of proselytism "is now behind us and in Russia there are examples of popular Catholic primary schools and kindergartens, such as in Novosibirsk and Tomsk," says Mgr. Pieces. What is more, not excluding even the possibility that one day Russian schools may also teach Catholicism. "Given our small presence in the area - he explains - the Catholic religion was not included directly in the projects (still experimental) of teaching the basics of religious culture, but if you present a reasonable number of pupils who like the idea of a alternative education to that provided today, then it is a question we will have to ask. "

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