10/08/2015, 00.00
RUSSIA - VATICAN

The Russian edition Laudato sì encyclical, opportunity for ecumenical dialogue in Moscow

by Marta Allevato
Translation presented at Spirit Library Cultural Centre, in the presence of the Vatican nuncio. The event focused on the dialogue between Father Igor Kovalevsky, secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference and the Russian Orthodox theologian Fr. Vladimir Shmalij.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Pope Francis’ recent encyclical, "Laudato sì”, is an opportunity for ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox in Russia, where the theme of the environment is still culturally unpopular in society.

With this aim, on October 6 in Moscow, the Russian edition of  the ' ecological encyclical ", was published by Franciscan Publishing House. The event was held at the Spirit Library, directed by Jean-Francois Thiry, with the participation of the Apostolic Nuncio in Russia, Msgr. Ivan Jurkovich, who stressed the importance of admitting the fact that ecology "cannot be treated seriously, when separated  from its spiritual dimension."

The event focused on the dialogue between Father Igor Kovalevsky, secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference and the Russian Orthodox theologian Father Vladimir Shmalij, who expressed appreciation but also concerns about the Papal document. Fr. Kovalevsky stated that with this encyclical Bergoglio confirms himself as the "Pope of dialogue".

"There is a universal message, addressed to all, beyond religion," he explained to the audience in the hall. This is why the document can become opportunity to reflect on what is the common task of Christians to meet the challenges of the modern world, which can be answered also by the rediscovery of the meaning of the smallest gesture.

Kovalevsky explained that with his message, "that is not intended as a scientific text," the Pope "does not give ready answers, instead he tries to awaken society to dialogue on how we want to build the future of our planet."

A clear understanding of the term "ecology" is central to this "from the frequent association with something extremely liberal or anti-human, which holds that all the harm results from man." "The Church very clearly shows us our responsibility: man is the master of Creation - Kovalevsky said, quoting the Bible - and this creation is his responsibility”.

But man’s place over other living beings is one aspect of Laudato sì that has less convinced the Orthodox theologian, who nevertheless acknowledged that "we cannot ignore the ecumenical aspect" of the document, he called "revolutionary" compared to previous encyclicals as it also quotes non -Catholic sources, such as Patriarch Bartholomew.

Shmalij appreciated the Russian translation of the document, but said he did not share the "critique of anthropocentrism 'and' 'contemporary humanism" which he said is contained within. "What will be the center of society if it is no longer the man?" He asked, turning to the public. While referring to the body of oriental theological works, which speaks of creation in terms of the brother / sister of the human being, Father Shmalij pointed out that "the main drama of faith is contained in the relationship of  'God-man' and 'man -man'. Nature is secondary. "

While the nuncio, opening the meeting, said he hoped that  with Francis’ appeal to politicians, scientists and men of good will, "something serious will begin", Father Shmalij said he was skeptical that international institutions follow the pontiff’s  'approach.

Either way,  he recognized the "courage" of the Pope and "the urgency of his moral appeal to politicians to go against the logic of the political process for meaningful change in the world." "Now we just have to read the encyclical and then figure out how and if it can change our relationship with the world," said Thiry.

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