Recently named head of the newly formed Diocese of the Mother of God in Moscow, Russia, and also metropolitan of the Catholic Church in Russia, His Excellency Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz spent last week in the States seeking assistance for his flock—and he received it in a major way on March 6, 2002. During a benefit dinner that evening at the St. Regis Hotel, Washington, D. C., Aid to the Church in Russia (A. C. R.), the archbishop’s sponsor for the week and the host of the dinner, awarded the archbishop an unprecedented $300,0000. “I have never received a single gift of this size,” he said. “I am extremely grateful, as are all the faithful in Russia.”
Reverend Monsignor R. George Sarauskas, the head of the Office to Aid the Church in Central and Eastern Europe of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and A. C. R. advisory board member, introduced the archbishop to a packed banquet hall. Sarauskas praised the archbishop for the work he did in the past decade of freedom and continues to do today. Archbishop Kondrusiewicz “is a builder; he is a doer; he is a practical man; he is a holy man,” said Sarauskas. Sarauskas also called on those listening to give their support to the archbishop and stated that the “ultimate support we can give is our prayers, our faith, our commitment, and our love.”
Following the Sarauskas’s speech, Archbishop Kondrusiewicz moved the audience with poignant stories illustrating the perseverance of the faithful in Russia during the Communist regime. Catholics in Perm, for instance, had no church after the Bolsheviks closed the parish soon after the 1917 revolution. But on Sundays and Holy Days the faithful continued to go to the grave of the city’s first Catholic priest to pray and even to confess their sins at the graveside. “That,” said Kondrusiewicz, “is what kept their faith alive, allowed them to pass it on to their children and grandchildren.”
The archbishop also addressed the rocky relations with the Russian Orthodox Church stemming from the Vatican’s recent decision on February 11, 2002, to create dioceses in Russia to replace the apostolic administrations the Church has used since the fall of Russian communism in 1991. The archbishop acknowledged the objections of the Orthodox Church, which has claimed that the Catholic Church has engaged in proselytism and has infringed on canonical territory of the Moscow Patriarchate. Archbishop Kondrusiewicz strongly disagreed with both charges. The Catholic Church has never and will never proselytize in Russia, he said. He echoed the Vatican’s statements that dioceses are the normal structures of the Catholic Church and that they were established in Russia to provide much-needed support to the Catholic faithful there. The archbishop also pointed out that Catholic dioceses existed within Russia prior to the 1917 communist revolution.
Regarding the issue of “canonical territories,” Kondrusiewicz simply stated that “Jesus Christ did not divide the world—didn’t say ‘This part of the world is for Catholics, this other one for Protestants, this other one for Orthodox.’ No. Jesus Christ said ‘Go and preach.’” The archbishop explained that these words mean everyone has the right to worship and believe as he chooses, a right that cannot be taken away.
Archbishop Kondrusiewicz thanked Aid to the Church in Russia and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for all each had done for the bishops in Russia, including aiding the restoration of the cathedral in Moscow and the building of the cathedral in Irkutsk, Siberia, and. “This solidarity is very, very important,” he said. “Not only in the term of financial help, but also in the term of human solidarity and human support.”
The archbishop concluded his remarks by thanking the benefactors of A. C. R. for their financial assistance but most especially for their prayers—and for prayers of all of America’s parents and grandparents. Without those prayers, he said, today the world would not be witnessing “this resurrection, … this spiritual revival of Russia.”
Reverend Marcel Guarnizo, founder and president of A. C. R., then presented the archbishop with a check for $300,000 to help his work in Russia, specifically to further the progress on the Moscow curia (operations center) which the Church’s gains of the past decade cannot be solidified and without which further progress will not possible. Reverend Guarnizo then thanked invited guests His Excellency Gabriel Montalvo, and His Excellency Paul S. Loverde, bishop of the Diocese of Arlington, for their generous support of Archbishop Kondrusiewicz and Aid to the Church in Russia. Neither the nuncio nor Bishop Loverde could be in attendance, but both have sought to assist the Church in Russia throughout the past decade and, Rev. Guarnizo said, should therefore be recognized.
Aid to the Church in Russia is a non-profit organization incorporated in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It exists to mobilize financial, cultural, humanitarian, and spiritual resources to meet the enormous and pressing needs of the people of Russia. A. C. R. operates with the approval of the Roman Catholic bishops in Russia and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.