06/27/2017, 11.19
RUSSIA - VATICAN
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Card. Parolin to meet Putin. The Ostpolitik of the third millennium

by Stefano Caprio

The new season of the Russian-Vatican dialogue opened after the meeting of Francis and Kirill in Cuba. The mission of Moscow as the "third Rome" and as a bulwark against the enemies of the faith. Papal attempts to have relations with Russia even during the Soviet era. The theological school of M. Arranz. The Catholic Church agrees all pastoral initiatives with the Patriarchate. The problem of the uniates and the crisis of Ukraine. Ecumenical humanitarian aid to Aleppo.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, has recently told the press that he will soon meet with President Putin and the leaders of the Patriarchate of Moscow on an official visit: "the meeting has been in preparation for a long time and now all the conditions have been met," the cardinal said. Since February 2016, when Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill met in Cuba, a new season of the Russian-Vatican dialogue, a kind of Ostpolitik 2.0, has opened.

A Moscow summit between Russian and Vatican historians last week discussed the very meaning of Ostpolitik at length, a term that indicates the “eastward" opening of inter-faith politics and dialogue. Some have rightly recalled that the term refers to different phases of German politics, from Bismarck to Willy Brandt, and only journalistic simplifications have applied it to Vatican diplomacy.

In reality, apart from the necessary divisions, the relationship between Rome and Moscow has always been built on the basis of "opening to the East", since Russia, in the second millennium of Christianity, is the true heir to Byzantium, the Eastern soul of the Universal Church. It is no coincidence that in Moscow, at the end of the Middle Ages, the ideal of the "Third Rome", the universal mission of world salvation from the rule of the Antichrist, was created in Moscow, which is now of great relevance. After the Mongols, the Turks, the Poles, Napoleon and Hitler, even today Russia faces the moral degradation of the West and the threat of Islamist terrorism, contemporary embodiments of the assault of the evil one.

For its part, the papacy has always sought support for its primacy in the East, and equally union with Moscow would be the definitive universal ecclesiological seal, and for this reason it has always been sought out by all means. Various attempts have been made to penetrate Russia with the missions of Franciscans, Jesuits, even clandestine priests in the Stalinist years. Politicial and diplomatic accords have been attempted many times: In the 1400s the Pope sent a Byzantine wife converted to Catholicism to the Tsar. In the sixteenth century, the schools of Latin learning spread to Russia, under Peter the Great the best architects and artists came to Russia. Jesuits created the Strumica state colleges for girls. The philosopher Vladimir Solovev, at the dawn of the twentieth century, imagined the union of Christians under the leadership of the pope of Rome and the Tsar's authority in Moscow.

In the 1960s, the period analyzed by the Moscow conference of historians, the Holy See became the protagonist of lively initiatives, especially in the person of then Secretary of State Agostino Casaroli, Parolin’s Predecessor. The Vatican was the first state to sign, almost paradoxically, the non-proliferation treaty of nuclear weapons with the USSR, and made efforts to facilitate the Soviet signing of the Helsinki Accords in 1975 to defend human rights, just as the regime filled its lagers with dissidents. In the discussion that was held at the Academy of Sciences, these contradictions were developed in detail, recalling both the heroism of martyrs and witnesses and the good faith of officials trying to find ways to overcome the seemingly impenetrable walls.

The great figures of John XXIII and Paul VI on the one hand, as well as of the metropolitan Nikodim (Rotov), ​​the "spiritual father" of the current Patriarch Kirill, and of Polish Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, are proponents of large openings alternating with obligatory entrencments. In those years there were bold and clandestine missions like that of the intrepid Slovak bishop Pavol Hnilica, but also officially and culturally refined, such as that of the Jesuit liturgist Miguel Arranz, who also succeeded in creating a "theological school" for reform of the church in Russia. The writer has had the honor of referring to the activity of Fr. Arranz, being a student and a disciple in turn. This participation has taken on a particular significance, linked precisely to the new phase of relations between Russia and the Vatican, after being forced in 2002 to leave Russia following accusations of Catholic interference and proselytizing of the Orthodox "canonical territory".

The "terms of reference" mentioned by Card. Parolin certainly include the willingness of the Russian Catholics to patiently agree on every pastoral initiative with the Orthodox Patriarchate. This line of conduct was agreed to by the Italian bishop in Moscow Msgr. Paolo Pezzi, also present at the conference. Archbishop Pezzi, who has led the Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow for ten years now, is one of the four Catholic bishops of Russia; the others are Msgr. Klemens Pickel in Saratov, southern European Russia, and the two Siberian bishops, Msgr. Josif Werth in Novosibirsk (in office since 1992) and Msgr. Cyryl Klimowicz in Irkutsk, who in 2003 replaced Bishop Jerzy Mazur, who in turn had been expelled the previous year following tensions with the Patriarchate.

The question of the situation in Ukraine, however, is still open, where Greek-Catholic and Orthodox are often at the center of discussions and conflicts. Even if not officially, Parolin will try to find solutions that unlock this aspect of dialogue, in which the first and third Rome seek new ways for the salvation of the world. The meeting also includes the recent humanitarian mission in Syria, in favor of the population and particularly of persecuted Christians: on June 23, 20 tons of food and medicines arrived at Khmeimim airport, collected by Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims, and will be distributed to the people of Latakia and Aleppo by members of the Russian Center for Reconciliation. It is hoped that this aid, as well as providing comfort to the war-battered Syrians, can always provide new energies to the apostles of ecumenical dialogue.

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