02/13/2021, 11.21
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Five years on from Havana. Moscow and the Vatican face atheism of a pandemic

by Vladimir Rozanskij

An online gathering on "The Church and the pandemic" to commemorate the historic meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill. The sufferings experienced by people and countless deaths "raise the question of the existence of God more dramatically than any Enlightenment theory". Ilarion on need to open up “to new missionary possibilities ". The Civiltà Cattolica magazine no available in Russian.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Yesterday February 12, marked five years since the historic meeting between Pope Francis and the patriarch of Moscow Kirill (Gundjaev), at the Havana airport in Cuba.

To mark the anniversary representatives of the two Churches met in an on-line conference on the theme "The Church and the pandemic". In recent years, the meeting was commemorated with similar conferences in Rome and Moscow and in other locations.

Patriarch Kirill observed how the stereotypes of atheistic propaganda, well known in the former Soviet Union, have been revived among society due to the pandemic. Many people have been "pushed to doubt the existence of God in the face of the tragedy of Covid-19".

Cardinal Kurt Koch, prefect of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, confirmed this by saying that "the tragic suffering and death of such a large number of people raise the question of the existence of God more dramatically than any Enlightenment philosophy."

Koch compared the catastrophe of the pandemic with the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, when 100,000 people died, which "made one doubt God's goodness and omnipotence". He invited us to see the time of the pandemic as "the forty-year exodus of the Jewish people into the desert, when Israel expressed its dissatisfaction with God, wishing to return to previous paganism".

Metropolitan Ilarion (Alfeev), head of the Department for External Ecclesiastical Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, noted in turn that "this global tragedy has exposed a whole series of acute international and social inequalities. A shared witness is needed now more than ever to overcome this, and also the common actions of Christians ... Today we are called to become aware of the challenges that lie before us, and to be able to show the ways of overcoming these difficulties, shared by the major Churches Christian ".

Over the past year, the massive use of new technologies has also forced the "virtual participation in liturgical celebrations". For Ilarion, all this must not limit the pastoral action of the Church, but "open up to new missionary possibilities", allowing huge masses of people to participate in initiatives that could not physically be present even in pre-pandemic times. In this context, "preaching in a much broader sense takes on a particular meaning, using media spaces to proclaim the word of God", making participation in the life of the Church in all its dimensions more conscious.

In Russia, another initiative linked to the fifth anniversary of Havana was also welcomed, namely the launch of the Russian edition of La Civiltà Cattolica. Its director, Father Antonio Spadaro SJ, gave a long interview to the correspondent of the Tass newsagency Vera Sherbakova, explaining that the date was chosen on purpose, for "the incredible ecumenical significance" of the meeting between the pope and the patriarch, and that the title of this editition ìe in Russian means "the continuation of the path started then".

According to Father Spadaro, in that meeting "even more than theological reasons, the tension to respond to the challenges of history is worth it". The historic Jesuit publication will now be able to "participate in the enormous cultural space" of Russia, not only to "share our ideas, but also to listen to those of others".

Spadaro explained that La Civiltà Cattolica, founded in 1850 by the will of Pius IX and entrusted to the Jesuits, since 2017 has been transformed into an international publication with 15 correspondents who write from all continents; since last April it has also been published in Chinese, and since November in Japanese, one year after Pope Francis' visit to Japan.

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