By Miriam Díez i Bosch
MOSCOW, JULY 24, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The Opus Dei prelature has completed a year of service in Russia, a year in which its members say they have learned the great richness that the Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches can contribute to one another.
Opus Dei opened houses in Russia one year ago. The archbishop of the Mother of God Archdiocese in Moscow gave two parishes to priests of the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, which is an association of clergy intrinsically united to Opus Dei. It is made up of the clergy of the prelature, who are automatically members, and other diocesan priests and (transitional) deacons. The Prelate of Opus Dei is its president.
To mark the first anniversary of Opus Dei’s work in Russia, Masses were celebrated on or near the June 26 feast of the prelature’s founder, St. Josemaría Escrivá
Father Alejandro Burgos, one of the priests who took a Russian parish, told ZENIT that “Russia has always been a Christian country, with great love for Mary, who has especially protected her. The imprint of Communism has been very deep, but at present there are quite a few positive elements: a good percentage of Russians are already baptized. The asphyxiating laicism, which so undermined religious life in the West, does not exist.”
“Moreover, to speak of faith in Russia is to speak of ecumenism,” he said. “Personal relations between Catholics and Orthodox in general are not bad. We enjoy plurality in unity, as we feel great unity in the faith and the great richness that each confession can contribute to the other.”
Among the things which have most impressed the Opus Dei faithful is “the great faith and devotion of many Russian faithful who were able to sacrifice themselves for Christ for so many years,” Father Burgos added.
Gabriela Santa Maria, one of the faithful who is in Russia to take part in this new apostolic endeavor, explained to ZENIT that “although for the time being it is on a small scale, we come with the hope of being able to support these Russian brothers of ours and the Church in this country, and to learn much from them. We know that our work here is just beginning, and that for years many men and women sacrificed much to live their faith with integrity.”
“The Christian spirit is essential, as is that of the Opus Dei, to pursue what unites, to try to work and collaborate sincerely with all men of good will in the many fields of common interest,” she added. “This way of working is what a pluralist world urgently needs, and what is expected of Christians, who must be salt and light.
“With joy we can say that in Russia we can count on the affection of many people belonging to the Orthodox Church, and also non-Christians who feel attracted to the profound and relevant message of St. Josemaría.”
In this year dedicated to St. Paul, celebrated both by the Catholic and Orthodox Church, “we are praying especially for Christian unity,” explained Santa Maria.
“Since our arrival in Moscow,” she continued, “we have counted on the affection of the [Orthodox] patriarchate, as expressed, for example, by the vice-president of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department of Foreign Ecclesial Affairs, archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, who welcomed Opus Dei’s personal prelature and pointed out that its energy and fidelity “to Christian ideals merit great respect.”
For his part, Father José Antonio Senovilla García, Opus Dei’s vicar in Moscow, said that the prelature has gone to Russia to “help the people encounter Jesus Christ and thus find God in daily life. We have come to learn from the Russian people.”