August 29, 2016, Monday — Rome-Moscow Exchange Intensifies

“May the Holy Mother of God, our common heavenly Mother, keep all of us and cover us from all evil.'” —Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, head of the Department of External Relations of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow, speaking to a dozen visitors from Rome, his guests for two weeks in Moscow, in his church in Moscow during an all-night vigil prior to the Feast of the Assumption in the Orthodox calendar on August 27, two days ago. (The Urbi et Orbi Foundation made a grant to the Russians to support a portion of the cost for this two-week visit from Rome)

“As long as the dark foundation of our nature, grim in its all-encompassing egoism, mad in its drive to make that egoism into reality, to devour everything and to define everything by itself, as long as that foundation is visible, as long as this truly original sin exists within us, we have no sensible reason to be in this world and there is no logical answer to our existence. Imagine a group of people who are all blind, deaf and slightly demented and suddenly someone in the crowd asks, “What are we to do?”… The only possible answer is “Look for a cure.” Until you are cured, there is nothing you can do. And since you don’t believe you are sick, there can be no cure. “But if the faith communicated by the Church to Christian humanity is a living faith, and if the grace of the sacraments is an effectual grace, the resultant union of the divine and the human cannot be limited to the special domain of religion, but must extend to all Man’s common relationships and must regenerate and transform his social and political life.” —Vladimir Soloviev, 1853-1900), a Russian philosopher, theologian and poet who played a significant role in the development of Russian philosophy and poetry at the end of the 19th century. Soloviev became a friend and confidant of Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881). It is widely held that Soloviev was one of the sources for Dostoyevsky’s characters Alyosha Karamazov and Ivan Karamazov in The Brothers Karamazov. In opposition to his friend, Soloviev was sympathetic to the Roman Catholic Church. He favored the healing of the schism (ecumenism, sobornost) between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches. He influenced the religious philosophy of Nicolas Berdyaev, Sergey Bulgakov, Pavel Florensky and Nikolai Lossky. The Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar explored his work as one example of seven lay styles, which reveal the glory of God’s revelation, in volume III of The Glory of the Lord (pp. 279–352).

Rome-Moscow Exchange

A dozen young Catholic theologians and scholars from Rome, Italy, are now in Moscow, Russia, for two weeks as part of a Catholic-Orthodox exchange program which aims to improve relations between the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches.

Already in May, in the first part of this exchange program, a dozen young Russian Orthodox scholars were hosted in Rome for 10 days, and met with Pope Francis. One young Russian said the experience was “one of the most powerful and profound of my whole life.”

Now, in the second part of this exchange, these Catholic scholars are staying in Moscow for two weeks.

jpeg-2(Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch is on the right in the photo to the left, which shows the meeting on February 12 of Pope Francis with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill; the monsignor next to the Pope is a tall Lithuanian priest who is translating for the Pope, and the man on the far left is a Russian Orthodox layman from Colombia in Latin America who is translating for Patriarch Kirill from Spanish to Russian and vice versa; this same layman can be seen in blue jeans on the far left of the Moscow group photo below)

The exchange project has been developed by Cardinal Kurt Koch, head of the Vatican’s Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity and Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the External Relations office of the Moscow Patriarchate. Father Hyacinthe Destivelle, a French Dominican priest who works for Cardinal Koch in the Council for Christian Unity, has been the driving spirit behind this exchange program. Father Destivelle spend six years in St. Petersburg a decade ago, and speaks Russian fluently.

The project is just one of a number of initiatives taking place to “implement” the content of the “Common Declaration” signed by Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, after their historic first meeting on February 12 in Havana, Cuba.

The goal of this effort is to improve mutual understanding between the separated Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches through personal encounters.

The project has been supported financially by the Urbi et Orbi Foundation, founded four years ago by the editors and publishers of Inside the Vatican magazine for the purpose of helping to “build bridges” between the East and West. The ultimate goal is, of course, spiritual and religious — the healing of hearts and the salvation of souls.

A corollary goal is better relations between Russia and the West, despite all tensions and difficulties, and between the Orthodox world in general and the Roman Catholic world, between the Latin and Byzantine traditions, the West and the East.

jpeg-1(Here, a photo of a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Pope Francis)

This is similar to the vision Soloviev expresses in the citation above: “If the faith communicated by the Church to Christian humanity is a living faith, and if the grace of the sacraments is an effectual grace, the resultant union of the divine and the human cannot be limited to the special domain of religion, but must extend to all Man’s common relationships and must regenerate and transform his social and political life.”

Some of you are already founding members and supporters of our Urbi et Orbi Foundation, and we wish to extend our thanks to you for all the help you have given us. Without you, we would have been unable to support these efforts, and it is possible that they would not have taken place.

If anyone reading this would like to help support the Urbi et Orbi Foundation financially, or in any other way, your help would be appreciated and gratefully received. We will do all that we can to try to use all funds donated to make our own modest contribution to the overcoming of the Great Schism of 1054, and to help those the many efforts of charity, peace and justice which are, and would be, corollaries of a closer union between our Churches. (To donate, click here: donation)

The article below is from the official website of the Moscow Patriarchate. It announces the start of this second part of the exchange. (There has been some concern about programs of this type within both Churches, both in Russia and in the West, so there has been limited publicity up until now about what is occurring.)

The article was written in Russian, and what I offer here is merely an automatic Google translation which I have edited slightly for comprehension, so there are some phrases which remain a bit awkward. For the original Russian, here is the link.

If you would like to participate in this program in the future, please write to me by return email with your name and brief curriculum vitae, and our staff will be back in touch with you.

Part Two of the Rome-Moscow Exchange

29.08.2016 16:12

(In the photo below, taken on August 26 in Moscow, Father Hyacinth Destivelle, wearing his Dominican robes, stands next to Metropolitan Hilarion in from of Hilarion’s church on the Bolshaya Ordynka street not far from the Kremlin in the center of Moscow. Behind them, the participants in the exchange, from Rome. On the far left and far right are two Russian Orthodox laymen who work with Hilarion)


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On August 26, 2016 in Moscow started the Summer Institute for the representatives of the Roman Catholic Church organized by the Church-wide graduate school and doctoral program named after Saints Cyril and Methodius, with the assistance of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Among the participants of the Institute were Catholic priests and lay people from Italy, France, Spain and Romania, studying at the Pontifical Universities of Rome, staff members of Vatican departments and representatives of the academic community of the Roman Catholic Church.

August 27 on the eve of the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the institute, participants attended a night vigil in Moscow Church of the Mother of God “Joy of All Who Sorrow” on Bolshaya Ordynka. After the service, they were greeted by the pastor of the church, the chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate and the rector of the Church-wide graduate school and doctoral program, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk. In his welcoming remarks, the Bishop said:

“I would like today to welcome members of the Summer Institute, which is organized every year in these August days by the Churchwide postgraduate and doctoral program named after Saints Cyril and Methodius. You, dear brothers, will have the opportunity for a few days to visit churches and to participate in worship, in contact with the shrines of our Church, as well as to learn Russian. I want to wish you success and God’s help, and let the Holy Mother of God, our common heavenly Mother, keep all of us and cover us from all evil honest its cover. “

As part of a two-week program, participants will visit the Institute of synodal institutions and theological schools of the Moscow Patriarchate, holy places, historical and cultural attractions of Moscow and St. Petersburg. Famous scholars and Church experts will introduce participants to the Institute’s spiritual and cultural life of Russia, to discuss issues of relations between the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches. Daily classes in the Russian language will also be organized for the students of the Summer Institute.
The Summer Institute project is implemented with the financial support of the “Russian world” and the Catholic fund «Urbi et orbi» and aims to strengthen academic and cultural cooperation between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Holy See, which has a special significance in the light of the meeting of Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill with Pope Francis in Havana February 12, 2016.

The Summer Institute will run until 4 September.

Press service of the Church-wide graduate school /
DECR Communication Service

(to be continued)

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What is the glory of God?

“The glory of God is man alive; but the life of man is the vision of God.” —St. Irenaeus of Lyons, in the territory of France, in his great work Against All Heresies, written c. 180 A.D.

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