Rome - An invitation to bear witness with concrete actions to
values expressed in Church social teaching in Russia, where a "new and long
stage in the shared journey" with the Orthodox is now under way: this was
the gist of an interview given by the president of the Pontifical Council
for Justice and Peace, Card. Renato Martino, to the Russian, Catholic weekly
paper, Svet Evangelia, before leaving for Rome.
The Cardinal ended his first
visit to Russia today, describing the outcome as "very positive". Martino
went to Russia on 27 November at the invitation of the Archbishop of the
Mother of God Diocese in Moscow, Mgr Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz. The aim of the
visit was the presentation of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the
Church, published last year and already available in Russian version.
Talking about the meaning of the social doctrine as a tool and inspiration
to confront the problems and challenges of modern society, Cardinal Martino
drew attention to the importance that principles should correspond with
daily witness made relevant to one's specific context. "Today, there is an
urgent need for bearing Christian witness through one's own life, not only
through sensational words and gestures," he said. "In this regard, I would
like to say that the Church doctrine, even about the social sector, is much
more vibrant when embodied in the life of individual local Churches, of
parish communities and of charitable organizations. it has always been so,
right from the beginnings of the Church, and our age is no different."
The Vatican envoy said he was optimistic about an eventual shared witness
with the Orthodox Church. Whoever is striving fully towards ideals of
charity and brotherly love, whoever exercises the virtues of patience and
humility, will sooner or later "be understood by his brother". The Cardinal
recalled the "Saviour's promise": "Where two or three are gathered in my
name, I am there with them".
On 30 November, Cardinal Martino had talks with the Metropolitan Kirill,
chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow
Patriarchate. The Cardinal said the meeting was "quite fruitful" as regards
prospects of proactive collaboration with the Orthodox Church. "We discussed
various problems about European integration, the need to rediscover shared
Christian roots, and current secularization trends," he said, "discovering a
deep sympathy and planning concrete initiatives to implement together".
The Cardinal said there was the "need to think of forms of shared work which
would be not only acceptable but also desirable for both parties. Here one
may make a dynamic choice from among many possibilities, which are
applicable to the Russian situation and which therefore could be evaluated
right here, in loco, in the majority of cases." And he added: "There is also
another facet to the problem, the shared witness we could give, for example,
in the European context. Although these levels are rather closely linked
between them, they should not be confused if we want to attain real and
concrete results and not limit ourselves only to pious statements".
According to the Cardinal, we are at the beginning of a "new and long stage
of the shared journey", but one should not expect too much: "After a long
period of regrettable misunderstandings (in which cases it is generally
always wrong to accuse only and exclusively one party), we find ourselves at
the dawn of a phase of more fruitful collaboration in the sphere of social
activities. As we proceed step by step, the road ahead will become clearer".
"It seems to me," continued Cardinal Martino, "that the first and most
important result consists in the fact that there was mutually expressed
interest to go down the same road together. Even now, it is becoming
increasingly clear that we are in movement, and that together we are able to
reach better results than if we remained in isolation".
There are however already examples of good collaboration among Christians in
Russian land. The Cardinal cited the Interfaith Charity Council in St
Petersburg, which for more than 10 years has brought together
representatives of Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant communities of the
The President for the Council of Justice and Peace ended with a greeting for
the Russian Catholic community, that this time of preparation for the
"stupendous and joyful event" of Christmas may "bring much spiritual fruit"
and he reiterated that the Pope "reserves primary attention for topics of
reconciliation and Christian cooperation in his ministry as Primate of the