June 28, 2014, Saturday — Choirs in Rome

Tomorrow in Rome, for the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the choir of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow, directed by Alexey Puzakov, will sing alongside the Pope’s Sistine Chapel Boys Choir during Mass to celebrate the important feast, in the presence of Pope Francis.

(We will have a full report in the next issue of our magazine, the August-September issue, which we are preparing now.)

This is a small sign of a general truth: that Catholcis and Orthodox are looking toward one another to find collaborators in an increasingly secularized world.

At the same time, I would like to draw your attention to a recent address by a Russian Orthodox leader, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, and as such, a  sort of “Foreign Minister” of the Russian Orthodox Church.

In his June 26 talk, in Moscow, Russia, addressed to elected officials of Orthodox faith from around Europe, the key point Hilarion makes is that religion in recent years has come to be excluded increasingly from the “public square.”

The result is that a profoundly spiritual view of human dignity and human rights has increasingly been set aside, leading to an increasingly secular and “consumerist” vision of human rights, with many negative consequences for the rights of individuals.

In what Hilarion and other Orthodox leaders are saying, there is an echo of what Pope Francis, and Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II, have been saying with ever more urgency during the 22 years since the break-up of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.

Here are the two key phrases from Hilarion’s talk: “Unfortunately, secular norms of international cooperation continue to prevail in the European continent, seeking to exclude religion from the public sphere. It is my conviction that this state of affairs is imposed on most citizens in European countries and other regions of the world, who wish to see agents of values stemming from religion in the global space.”

This suggests that there may be a real basis for understanding and collaboration between Catholics and Orthodox, and, of course, others of good will, in Europe and around the world, as humanity must address the grave challenges it now faces.

In two weeks, a delegation from our “Urbi et Orbi Foundation” will be traveling to Moscow, Istanbul, Vienna and Rome to explore areas of possible collaboration with an eye toward future common support of important initiatives on behalf of the Christians of the Middle East, and human rights worldwide.



On June 26, the opening of the 21st Inter-parliamentary Assembly of Orthodoxy took place in the Russian State Duma under the theme “Parliamentary Democracy – Orthodoxy: Values and Meanings.” Below is the address to the Assembly by the Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’ department for external church relations, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk.

Esteemed Participants and Guests of the Assembly,

I am glad to greet the parliament members from various countries of the world and numerous guests united by participation in the 21st General Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of Orthodoxy.

For the years of its existence, the Assembly has turned into an authoritative body of international parliamentary cooperation, assembling under its aegis representatives of national parliaments bound up by common values of Orthodox Christianity. It has become possible thanks to the laborious efforts of those who stood at the foundation of the Assembly. I cannot but note the contribution made by Russian parliament members – Victor Zorkaltsev, who was IAO president at the dawn of its formation and later, Sergey Popov, present long-standing president of the organization, as well as their colleagues from Greece and other countries who took an active part in the work of the Assembly.

The Inter-parliamentary Assembly of Orthodoxy was established with the aim to unite parliament members from various parts of the world.

Unfortunately, secular norms of international cooperation continue to prevail in the European continent, seeking to exclude religion from the public sphere.

It is my conviction that this state of affairs is imposed on most citizens in European countries and other regions of the world, who wish to see agents of values stemming from religion in the global space.

The work of the Assembly has become a notable phenomenon in international life. However, there is still a long way to be covered in order that a real alternative to secularized international relations may be created. The voice of many millions of Orthodox believers living in various parts of the universe should be heard and taken into account in discussions on pressing problems on the international agenda. It is what the Assembly as a mouthpiece of values of the Orthodox world should contribute to.

This organization is also called to demonstrate to sceptics that there are factors of international relations other than stock market indexes and investment climate. The non-material dimension of human life is primary and therefore should be decisive in international relations.

I mean first of all moral ideals and meanings and the dignity of a human being, which is inseparable from his or her virtue and ability to love those around and to renounce egoism. The latter is viewed by the world of business as rather a brake on the way to successful economic development.

This attitude to matters of morality has become one of the principal causes of the world economic crisis, whose consequences have not been overcome to this day.

Global economy is built on the development of new markets through pressing out competitors and this even by force and military actions. Before our own eyes a considerable number of local and regional conflicts have grown into bloody wars, which have changed the face of the Middle East and North Africa. The so-called “Arab Spring” has led to the appearance of uncontrollable extremist forces and radical groups who are destroying the inter-ethnic and interreligious peace and harmony in the region.

This has become a real tragedy for the Christian population in the Middle East and North Africa countries. In Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, many Christian churches and monasteries have been destroyed. An enormous number of Christians have fled their native land in a search for asylum and attempt to save their lives.

The escalation of violence in Ukraine, where a considerable part of the Russian Orthodox Church’s flock lives, has become another political, economic and humanitarian challenge to the world community. The suffering of the people in east and south Ukraine cannot leave us indifferent.

With a blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, prayer is lifted up daily in our churches for the cessation of the bloodshed and restoration of peace. We pray to God that the division encouraged by interested forces may leave people’s hearts and minds and that they may come to forgiveness and reconciliation. The Church will never identify with those who are engaged in fratricide, on whatever side of the frontline or barricade they can be.

It is my conviction that the Inter-parliamentary Assembly of Orthodoxy with its reliance on the values of the Christian civilization can become an effective force capable of making its own contribution to the cause of peace settlement in hotbeds and to the solution of global problems of humanity. In this connection I call you to think over setting up in the Assembly a special mechanism for participation in peacemaking and humanitarian initiatives. I trust that the organization could become an agent of many peacemaking ideas, using the mandate of representative power in their countries.

The Russian Orthodox Church has consistently supported the work of the Assembly and I hope that our cooperation will bring forth good fruits.

I wish all the participants in the IAO Moscow meeting God’s help, fruitful work and success.

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