Bishop of Moscow: without faith Russia is meaningless in the world
by Marta Allevato
Msgr. Pezzi speaks of the meaning of Christmas in the Russian community in a time of great social change, of ecumenical dialogue with the Orthodox Church and sends his best wishes to Orthodox brethren.
Moscow (AsiaNews) - At a time of great social change, "the Christian faith lived must return to represent the main element of Russian society, if it wants to be a point of reference for the whole world”, says the Archbishop of Mother of God in Moscow, Mgr. Paolo Pezzi, who in an interview with AsiaNews, commented on the meaning of Christmas for the Catholic community in Russia today and finds in the "common gift of martyrdom," the sign and the call intensify the journey of communion with the Orthodox Church.
Your Excellency, what is the value of Christmas this year?
First of all, Christmas is an occasion to remember that God became man and he did so in a moment of time that has given meaning to time and the whole history. Christmas is always a new opportunity to stop and contemplate this mystery and thank God who not only created man, but became and remained over time a stable companion for man through the Church.
And what meaning can this have today for the Russian community?
Picking up on something that the Pope has recently said and which is highly applicable to our situation, the Russian one: the need that the question of God returns to being present, this concerns mainly the Church, and that this question once again be a criterion to inform the social, political and economic integration of countries in which we live.
But is this still possible in Russia, a country that is emerging from 70 years of state atheism?
I think that the Christian faith must return to being the main element of this society if this society wants to return to being a point of reference for the whole world. In this sense, the pilgrimage of the Sacred Belt of the Virgin in Moscow was a sign of great devotion and also a sign that certain events are able to move people. What is needed, in my opinion, is that along with this there is an awareness of the value of faith that even a pilgrimage has.
What were the most significant moments in the life of the Russian Catholic community in 2011?
Certainly those related to certain occasions, in particular the centenary of the consecration of the cathedral in Moscow, and then some other similar anniversaries in other cities. This was first of all an occasion to raise a greater awareness of the history of the Catholic Church in this country and fostered a greater awareness among the faithful to bring our contribution to this society today. The World Youth Day with the Pope in Spain has had great significance: the meeting with Benedict XVI provoked a really big reaction among young people in Russia to the point that several thousand were physically present in Madrid. The event was accompanied by a series of meetings we had with the young people about witness, very significant in the direction of an awareness of the value of humanity before the mystery of the present God and their lives as a vocation, as well as the possibility of spending it for the good of the world, for the construction of a new world.
At the end of 2011 can you take stock of the ecumenical dialogue with the Orthodox Church and trace the development prospects for next year?
With the Orthodox, at least locally in Russia, we have not formulated an agenda of special events for next year. In my opinion a series of conferences the last held in Moscow organized by the Patriarchate on the persecution of Christians worldwide was very significant from the point of view of relations between the Churches. This last conference was also important operationally speaking, given some elements that have since emerged, such as the need and opportunity for a coordinated monitoring of the situation between the Churches, which means seeing the persecution of Christians as an opportunity to make sensitive joint actions with those governments and those states that can at least do something to reduce if not eliminate the persecution. This also makes us aware of how witness to Christ can lead to the gift of life by the shedding of blood. And it is an awareness that concerns all Christians and not just a community or Church. And this is also the sign and the call to intensify our journey of communion.
In a few days time, Jan. 7, the Russian Orthodox Church also celebrates Christmas. What wishes would you like to send?
I would send the same wishes to our Orthodox Christian brothers that I make and hope for myself and our local church: to live this event with increasing intensity, which is the best thing that ever happened in history, that is God became man.