Pope Praises Moscow's New Ecumenical Center

Cardinal Poupard Attends Inauguration and Meets with Patriarch Alexy II

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MOSCOW, NOV. 19, 2004 (Zenit.org).- On the eve of the inauguration of Moscow’s Cultural Center of the Library of the Spirit, John Paul II praised the ecumenical initiative “oriented to the spread of the Gospel.”

Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, attended the inauguration as a part of his weeklong visit to Moscow that ends Sunday.

The cardinal is touring Europe to promote the recognition of the Christian roots that provide the cultural heritage of the continent.

He and Father Bernard Ardura, secretary of the pontifical council, met today with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II at the headquarters of the Moscow patriarchate.

On Thursday, the cardinal and the priest met with Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk, chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate.

“At these meetings issues were discussed that create difficulties between the Russian Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches, as well as the prospects for collaboration between the Churches in the field of culture, especially in face of secularism, indifference to religion, and the activity of alternative new religious movements,” the Pontifical Council for Culture said in a statement.

Moreover, both sides “have manifested intense interest in a European meeting oriented to appraise the Christian roots of Europe, from the Atlantic to the Urals,” the Vatican dicastery said.

It was in this context that Cardinal Poupard and Metropolitan Philaret of Minsk presided this morning at the inauguration of the headquarters of the Library of the Spirit, a cultural center where Catholics and Orthodox work to spread Christian thought.

The cardinal delivered a telegram from the Pope in which he “expresses his heartfelt appreciation for the diligent initiative oriented to the diffusion of the Gospel and the teachings of the apostolic tradition through appropriate cultural initiatives dedicated to making conscious the high value of the Christian message.”

The Holy Father also expressed the hope that such a manifestation will contribute to “consolidate the common ecumenical commitment of the disciples of the divine teacher.”

Alexy II, in a letter to director Jean-François Thiery, also expressed his appreciation for the new center and his hope for development of the collaboration between the center and the Synodal Theological Commission of the Russian Orthodox Church, presided over by Metropolitan Philaret.

Also attending the inauguration were Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, president of the Catholic bishops’ conference of Russia; Alexander Sokolov, Russia’s minister of culture; and Mikhail Men, vice mayor of Moscow.

The Library of the Spirit, founded in 1993 with the collaboration of the Italian foundation Christian Russia, the Catholic diocese of Moscow, and the Sts. Cyril and Methodius Orthodox Foundation of Minsk, seeks to integrate Western and Eastern European culture and to rediscover its common Christian roots, in view of a new civilization of peace.

Its activity has an ecumenical dimension, and creates conditions for cultural and pastoral exchanges among different confessions.

The new center was funded by a number of Russian and foreign entities. The building is located on Pokrovka Street, a focal point for Christian publishers in Russia. It publishes and distributes books even in the most remote regions of the Russian territory, and promotes numerous cultural initiatives.

Cardinal Poupard met with the Catholic priests and community in Moscow on Thursday, and will celebrate this Sunday’s Mass, solemnity of Christ the King, in Moscow’s Cathedral of the Mother of God, together with Archbishop Kondrusiewicz and Archbishop Antonio Mennini, papal representative to Russia.

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