Andrej Rublev, a Russian saint also celebrated in Rome
by Stefano Caprio

A concert held in St John Lateran in honor of the iconographer monk. The celebration during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The churches of the West have always been devoted to Russian saints. Russian Ambassador: A sign of good relations between the Russian Federation and the Holy See.

Rome (AsiaNews) - For the first time in Christian history, an Orthodox saint was solemnly celebrated in a Roman Catholic basilica. This is the great iconographer Andrej Rublev, who died January 29, 1430, to whom a concert was dedicated on January 20 in the Cathedral of St John Lateran, the oldest Roman church: an oratory by Monsignor Marco Frisina, composed in honor of the holy monk, joining the voices of the Synodal choir in Moscow, the diocesan choir of Rome and the symphonic orchestra "Fideles et Amati".

Andrej Rublev is the symbol of the rebirth of Holy Russia after two centuries of Tatar-Mongol domination, when at the beginning of the 15th century, thanks to the splendor of the icons, the Russian people rediscovered their Christian identity and national mission, in defense of the faith on the edge of the civilized world. The iconographer was a disciple of St. Sergius of Radonezh, the saint who blessed the armies of prince Dmitri Donskoj, the first to defeat the Tatars in the battle of Kulikovo in 1380. His monks spread through the endless Russian plains to proclaim the Gospel , and the schools of icons accompanied this work with great effectiveness.

The canonization of Rublev, which has remained dormant for centuries, was finally declared at the 1988 Moscow Synod during the celebration of the Millennium of the Baptism of Rus'. It was the first event of the Russian "religious renaissance" after another "yoke", the Soviet atheist one; the name of the author of the famous icon of the Holy Trinity has thus returned to accompany a new beginning of the Christian history of Russia.

His icons, almost all kept at the Tretjakov Gallery in Moscow, are so precious that they cannot be displayed "a broad". This is why the great exhibition of Russian painting, open at the Vatican’s Charlemagne wing until next month, presents works "From Dionisij to Malevich", and offers beautiful icons of the first disciples of Rublev himself, but not his. The concert at St. John is somehow filling this "gap" in the great cultural exchange taking place between Russia and the Holy See in recent times.

However, the master iconographer is very revered also in the Catholic world both east and west. Moreover, the popes had officially admitted all the Russian saints prior to 1439 when the Orthodox accepted the Union with Rome at the Council of Florence, to Catholic devotion. Later the Muscovite princes and tsars rejected the communion with Rome, and proclaimed the ideology of the "Third Rome" of Moscow, the last salvation of the Christian world, especially after the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

The history of sanctity in Russia has continued to arouse the respect and spiritual participation of the rest of the Christian world until modern times, recalling among others the nineteenth-century startsy (elders)  like Saint Seraphim of Sarov (and the ascetics of Optina Pustyn ', and the many martyrs of atheistic communism in the twentieth century. Precisely during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the memory of Andrej Rublev encourages us to live a deeper dimension of the historical divisions among Christians, including the recent ones among the Orthodox Churches themselves.

Commenting on the event in the Lateran Cathedral, Aleksandr Avdeev, Russian ambassador to the Holy See, underlined its importance: "A great demonstration of the good relations between the Russian Federation and the Roman Catholic Church ... It is not just a matter of cultural exchang , but of an important event for the whole history of Christianity, and especially for our times ".