- Whilst the world media focused yesterday on Pussy Riot trial, the real news
of the day came from the Polish capital where Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill
and Archbishop Jozef Michalik, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of
Poland, signed an historic joint statement calling on their respective believers
to erase centuries of violence and prejudice and work together for a society informed
by Christian witness.
the message of reconciliation to the protection of the Mother God, the two
leaders exchanged gifts during the special ceremony. Patriarch Kirill gave the
bishops of Poland an icon of the Mother of God of Smolensk, whilst Archbishop Michalik
gave the patriarch an icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa.
In the statement,
the two leaders said that reconciliation is the product of "a sincere dialogue
in the hope that it will help us to heal the wounds of the past and overcoming
mutual prejudices," sadly noting the "hostility and even struggle" as well as
the "painful experience of atheism imposed on our nations".
past, Russia invaded Poland several times. At the start of the Second World
War, Poland was invaded by both Germany and Russia. After the war, it came
under the influence of the Soviet Union, which exerted stifling control over
the two religions with Stalinism even pitting Orthodox against Catholics.
noted that all Christians suffered under atheistic regimes (Nazism and
Communism) that "fought against all forms of religion and waged an especially
cruel war with Christianity and our Churches. Victimized were millions of
innocent people, the reminder of which is numerous places of executions and
graves both on Russian and Polish soil."
the patriarch and the archbishop called on their communities to forgive. At the
same time, "Forgiveness does not mean forgetfulness. Memory represents an important part of our identity. We also
have the duty of memory before the victims of the past who were tortured to
death and gave their lives for the faithfulness to God and their homeland on
earth. To forgive means to abandon revenge and hatred, to participate in
building harmony and fellowship among people, our peoples and countries, which
is the basis for a peaceful future."
communities must also work on evangelisation, seeking "today, in the era of
religious indifference and secularism, to make every effort so that the social
life and culture of our nations not be stripped of principal moral values, the
cornerstone of a viable peaceful future."
Churches, which must preach the Word of God, reassert the distinction between
State and Church, and support tolerance, face "new challenges. Under the
pretext of respect for the principle of secularism or the protection of the
freedom of choice, moral principles based on the commandments of God are
challenged. Advocating abortion, euthanasia and same-sex unions, which trying
to present it as a form of marriage, imposed by consumer lifestyles,
traditional values are denied and religious symbols are excluded from public
to Benedict XVI's teachings, the message goes on to say, "Often we are faced
with manifestations of hostility to Christ, his Gospel and the cross, as well
as attempts to remove the Church from public life. Falsely conceived secularism
takes the form of fundamentalism and in fact is a form of atheism."
believe not only terrorism and armed conflict, but also abortion and euthanasia
to be grave sins against life and a disgrace to contemporary civilization."
the value of the family as "the sound foundation of all societies," the
patriarch and the archbishop conclude entrusting the "rapprochement of our
Churches and reconciliation of our peoples" to the Mother of God.