01/29/2009, 00.00
VATICAN - RUSSIA
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Pope: continuing dialogue with Russian Orthodox essential

Receiving the bishops of Russia, Benedict XVI renews his good wishes for Kirill. In spite of the difficulties, the encounters must move forward, because it is important for Christians to face together the serious cultural and ethical challenges of the present time, like the dignity of the person and defense of life and of the family.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The presence of Catholics in Russia "should be a reminder and an encouragement for dialogue, including on the personal level," and even if "it is not always possible to address fundamental questions, these contacts nonetheless contribute to better mutual understanding, thanks to which it is possible to work together in areas of common interest for the education of the new generations." On the other hand, "it is essential to keep in mind the necessity of a renewed effort in dialogue with our Orthodox brothers and sisters; we know that this dialogue, in spite of the progress already made, still faces some difficulties." This is the mandate that Benedict XVI gave today to the bishops of Russia, received for their five-year "ad limina" visit.

The encounter provided the pope with an opportunity to renew his good wishes to newly elected patriarch Kirill, and reiterate his joy over the election. "In these days," he said, "I feel spiritually close to our dear brothers and sisters of the Russian Orthodox Church, who are rejoicing in the election of Metropolitan Kirill as the new patriarch of Moscow and all Russia: I extend to him my most cordial best wishes for the delicate ecclesial task that has been entrusted to him. I ask the Lord to confirm all of us in our commitment to walk together on the path of reconciliation and fraternal love." "It is important for Christians to face together the serious cultural and ethical challenges of the present time, concerning the dignity of the human person and his inalienable rights, the defense of life at every stage, the safeguarding of the family, and other urgent economic and social questions."

Benedict XVI expressed his good wishes to Kirill as part of a reflection centered on the "specific ecclesial context" in which the Catholic bishops in Russia work, which is "a country marked in the majority of its population by an age-old Orthodox tradition with a rich religious and cultural heritage."

On the other hand, the pope emphasized what the bishops said "about your communities, which are experiencing a process of maturation and are together discovering their 'face' as a local Catholic Church. Your efforts for the inculturation of the faith tends in this direction as well." Benedict XVI urged the bishops, in addition to particular care and dedication to priests and religious, to the preparation of a laity "mature and responsible, a leaven of the Gospel in families and in civil society. Unfortunately," he added, "in Russia as well, like in other parts of the world, there is a crisis of the family and a resulting demographic decline, together with the other problems that assail contemporary society. As is well known, these problems are also a concern for the state authorities, so it is opportune to work together with them for the good of all. In this context," he concluded, "it is appropriate that you are directing your attention especially to the young people, to whom the Russian Catholic community, faithful to the memory of its witnesses and martyrs, and utilizing the appropriate instruments and language, is called to transmit unaltered the heritage of sanctity and of fidelity to Christ, and the human and spiritual values that are the basis of an effective human and evangelical promotion."

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