MOSCOW, FEB. 18, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The re-establishment of Christian unity is urgent, including for Europe, a Vatican official said in Moscow’s Catholic Cathedral of Mary Immaculate.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, delivered that message today in the Russian capital. He arrived Tuesday at the invitation of the Catholic bishops of the Russian Federation. He plans to stay until Sunday.
Also motivating the visit are “sentiments of esteem toward the Russian Orthodox Church,” the Vatican press office said in a note last month.
Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of the Moscow diocese of the Mother of God, president of the Russian Catholic episcopate, said the visit is “a sign of hope” for Catholics and a new stimulus for relations with the Orthodox.
Addressing the Catholic bishops and about 100 other people, Cardinal Kasper said: “In our time, the Holy Spirit has inspired repentance and shame” for the disunity between the Church of the East and the West “and has started the ecumenical movement.”
Ecumenism “tends to the re-establishment of a unity that is neither absorption nor fusion, but unity in the mutual respect of a plurality of rites and cultures,” the president of the pontifical council said.
“Catholics and Orthodox pray the same ‘Our Father” and yet, they have been separated for many centuries,” a separation that is “contrary to the will of Jesus” and “a scandal to the eyes of the world,” he said.
The rapprochement between separated Christians “is one of the priorities of the Pope, who prays and works tirelessly for Christian unity,” and the reason “why he has sent me here, to Moscow,” Cardinal Kasper explained.
“I have no illusions; I know that this task is not easy,” he said. “I know the reservations and prejudices of one and the other” and “that the road toward the full communion of all Christians will probably still be long. … Yet, even small steps allow for progress.”
The cardinal stressed that “the re-establishment of unity today is urgent also for the unity of Europe,” because “Europe is not only an economic unity of well-being, it is a cultural unity.”
Therefore, “the unity of Europe cannot be built only with the economy,” he continued. “Europe needs a soul, a Christian soul, which was implanted in your country by Sts. Cyril and Methodius. So, the unity of Europe also makes urgent the unity of the Church.”
Cardinal Kasper is scheduled to meet Thursday with Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, president of the Department for External Ecclesiastical Relations of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow, in regard to ecumenical dialogue between the two Churches.