ASTANA, Kazakhstan, DEC. 3, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Upon presenting the Catholic Cathedral of Astana with relics of the Apostle St. Andrew, Benedict XVI’s secretary of state expressed the hope that the gesture would promote a “fervid commitment” to the quest for Christian unity.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said this today upon visiting the Catholic Cathedral of Our Mother of Perpetual Help as part of his six-day trip to the nation. The visit coincided with the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) summit.
On Tuesday, the feast of St. Andrew, Cardinal Bertone also delivered relics of St. Andrew to the Orthodox community. Since 1208, the relics of the apostle have rested in the crypt of the Cathedral of Amalfi.
“From this time onward, the two sister Churches of Astana will be joined in the veneration of these relics,” the cardinal said in his address, in the presence of Archbishop Tomasz Peta of Maria Santissima in Astana.
The cardinal noted that veneration of the relics of St. Andrew at both cathedrals “expresses, still better than words, the fervid commitment that must characterize Christians to advance on the way to the unity willed by the Lord.”
He added: “Unity is our common vocation. It is the condition for the light of Christ to spread more effectively to every corner of the world and for men to be converted and saved.
“The full reconstruction of unity of Christians will give greater effectiveness to evangelization. May God grant us to reach soon this hoped for goal!”
Cardinal Bertone then expressed his joy over the possibility of celebrating the Eucharist, “what we hold dearest,” with the bishops, priests, deacons, men and women religious and lay faithful of Kazakhstan.
He reflected that the Eucharist “unites us in charity and, as members of the same Body, renders us community and family of God.”
“Without today’s Eucharistic celebration, such an important and significant moment, my visit in your country would have been incomplete,” the cardinal said, adding that the Eucharist is, in fact, “the source from which springs ecclesial community and the foundation” of the Church.
He said it is also a visible sign of the “unity that is between us, the communion of the Church of Kazakhstan with the Successor of the Apostle Peter.”
Cardinal Bertone then embarked on a reflection of Advent, during which he said the faithful prepare “for the contemplation of the mystery of God who became man for our salvation.”
“Jesus became one of us to reveal to us the face of the Father, who is Love,” he continued. “Jesus then manifested this love giving himself for us, to the sacrifice of the Cross, to give us a life without end.”
“Let us profit from this time, which Divine Providence gives us, to dispose ourselves to welcome his coming,” the cardinal urged. “We ask him as the two blind men of which the evangelist Matthew speaks in the Gospel, to have pity on us also, to open our eyes, so that we will be able to recognize the signs of his coming, so that we will be able to see with what great love he has loved us.”
While in Kazakhstan, Cardinal Bertone also with the nation’s president, Nursultan A. Nazarbayev, as well as with the leaders of the Muslim and Orthodox communities of the country.
It is important to “encourage collaboration, in particular that between Christians and Muslims, so that, in reciprocal respect, we commit ourselves every day, side by side, to the humble search of the will of God,” the cardinal said.
The Catholic Church is a tiny minority in Kazakhstan, which is some 47% Muslim and 44% Russian Orthodox.