Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Moscow led the delegation of Russian bishops. He was accompanied by the three other bishops who serve as apostolic administrators in the Russian Federation: Bishops Clemens Pickel of Saratov, Joseph Werth of Novosibersk, and Jerzy Masur of Irkutsk, who are responsible for central Russia, western Siberia, and eastern Siberia respectively. (Archbishop Kondrusiewicz is charged with the pastoral care of Catholics in European Russia.)
Archbishop Kondrusiewicz, speaking for the Russian Catholic hierarchy, asked "pardon for our errors," and issued an invitation for the Pontiff to visit Russia. The primary focus of his remarks, however, was the effort to promote better relations with the Russian Orthodox Church. Despite the efforts of the Catholic hierarchy, the archbishop lamented, ecumenical progress is hampered by "the continual, unjustified accusations, on the part of the Russian Orthodox Church, for proselytism and penetration of their 'canonical territory.'" The Orthodox Church has consistently argued that Catholics should not attempt to win converts in a land that is historically affiliated with the Orthodox faith-- even if the practice of that faith has waned.
In his own remarks to the Russian bishops, Pope John Paul also concentrated on ecumenical affairs. He encouraged them to persevere in "patient" and "respectful" dialogue with their Orthodox neighbors. "Try to contribute to mutual understanding, and where possible to collaboration," he urged them. "We cannot be discouraged by difficulties and even roadblocks on the ecumenical path," he insisted. "We must continue to make every possible effort to build full unity among the disciples of Christ."
The Holy Father also asked the Russian bishops to promote efforts at evangelization, to counteract the "spiritual desolation and moral lassitude" left by nearly a century of Communist rule. He suggested that the faith could be spread by the translation of liturgical texts into the Russian language, the recruitment of lay catechists, and the identification of Russian-born candidates for priestly and religious life.