SAINT PETERSBURG, Russia, JUNE 22, 2011 (Zenit.org).- A longtime friend of leaders in the Russian Orthodox Church, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray visited Russia for Pentecost, inviting the faithful to “walk by the Spirit” in bettering relations between the two Churches.
Cardinal Etchegaray is vice dean of the College of Cardinals. He served as president of the Pontifical Councils Cor Unum and for Justice and Peace.
He was in St. Petersburg June 9-15, beginning his visit with prayer at the tomb of Metropolitan Nicodemus, whom he visited in St. Petersburg more than 30 years ago.
The 88-year-old cardinal has been a pioneer in Catholic-Russian Orthodox dialogue; his visit to what was then Leningrad was made at the invitation of Metropolitan Nicodemus.
The cardinal has also been a longtime friend of Vladimir, the present metropolitan of St. Petersburg. They met in the framework of the Second Vatican Council, in which the cardinal, then a priest of the French Diocese of Bayonne, took part as an expert, and the future metropolitan as an observer of the Moscow patriarchate.
Cardinal Etchegaray celebrated Pentecost with the Orthodox, as the feast was marked on the same date this year by both Churches.
The cardinal attended an Orthodox vigil for the feast, exchanging the kiss of peace with Metropolitan Vladimir.
The next morning, Cardinal Etchegaray gave Metropolitan Vladimir a letter from the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch. The letter recalled the importance of Vatican II in the development of relations between Catholics and Orthodox.
Bishop Ambrose, rector of the Academy of Orthodox Theology, invited the cardinal to stay at the academy during his time in St. Petersburg and organized a reception in his honor.
At the time of the cardinal’s first visit to that city, the rector of the academy was the present head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill.
Cardinal Etchegaray also celebrated Mass with the Catholic community of St. Petersburg in the Church of St. Catherine, as well as visiting the seminary.
He also met with representatives of Russian culture, including Boris Borisovich Piotrovski, former director of the Hermitage Museum, which houses numerous masterpieces of Western religious art.