12/02/2005, 00.00
VATICAN - RUSSIA
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Card. Martino sums up Moscow visit optimistically

by Victor Khroul

The president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace highlights progress in ties with the Orthodox Church and expresses hope for "real and concrete" progress; we have drawn nearer to the Moscow Patriarchate as regards European integration and the need to rediscover shared Christian roots and to face current secularization trends. The Cardinal invited Catholics to "embody" Church social doctrine in daily life.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – An invitation to bear witness with concrete actions to values expressed in Church social teaching in Russia, where a "new and long stage in the shared journey" with the Orthodox is now under way: this was the gist of an interview given by the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Card. Renato Martino, to the Russian, Catholic weekly paper, Svet Evangelia, before leaving for Rome. The Cardinal ended his first visit to Russia today, describing the outcome as "very positive". Martino went to Russia on 27 November at the invitation of the Archbishop of the Mother of God Diocese in Moscow, Mgr Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz. The aim of the visit was the presentation of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, published last year and already available in Russian version.

Talking about the meaning of the social doctrine as a tool and inspiration to confront the problems and challenges of modern society, Cardinal Martino drew attention to the importance that principles should correspond with daily witness made relevant to one's specific context. "Today, there is an urgent need for bearing Christian witness through one's own life, not only through sensational words and gestures," he said. "In this regard, I would like to say that the Church doctrine, even about the social sector, is much more vibrant when embodied in the life of individual local Churches, of parish communities and of charitable organizations… it has always been so, right from the beginnings of the Church, and our age is no different."

The Vatican envoy said he was optimistic about an eventual shared witness with the Orthodox Church. Whoever is striving fully towards ideals of charity and brotherly love, whoever exercises the virtues of patience and humility, will sooner or later "be understood by his brother". The Cardinal recalled the "Saviour's promise": "Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there with them".

On 30 November, Cardinal Martino had talks with the Metropolitan Kirill, chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate. The Cardinal said the meeting was "quite fruitful" as regards prospects of proactive collaboration with the Orthodox Church. "We discussed various problems about European integration, the need to rediscover shared Christian roots, and current secularization trends," he said, "discovering a deep sympathy and planning concrete initiatives to implement together".

The Cardinal said there was the "need to think of forms of shared work which would be not only acceptable but also desirable for both parties. Here one may make a dynamic choice from among many possibilities, which are applicable to the Russian situation and which therefore could be evaluated right here, in loco, in the majority of cases." And he added: "There is also another facet to the problem, the shared witness we could give, for example, in the European context. Although these levels are rather closely linked between them, they should not be confused if we want to attain real and concrete results and not limit ourselves only to pious statements".

According to the Cardinal, we are at the beginning of a "new and long stage of the shared journey", but one should not expect too much: "After a long period of regrettable misunderstandings (in which cases it is generally always wrong to accuse only and exclusively one party), we find ourselves at the dawn of a phase of more fruitful collaboration in the sphere of social activities. As we proceed step by step, the road ahead will become clearer".

"It seems to me," continued Cardinal Martino, "that the first and most important result consists in the fact that there was mutually expressed interest to go down the same road together. Even now, it is becoming increasingly clear that we are in movement, and that together we are able to reach better results than if we remained in isolation".

There are however already examples of good collaboration among Christians in Russian land. The Cardinal cited the Interfaith Charity Council in St Petersburg, which for more than 10 years has brought together representatives of Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant communities of the city.

The President for the Council of Justice and Peace ended with a greeting for the Russian Catholic community, that this time of preparation for the "stupendous and joyful event" of Christmas may "bring much spiritual fruit" and he reiterated that the Pope "reserves primary attention for topics of reconciliation and Christian cooperation in his ministry as Primate of the Catholic Church".

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