ROME, MAY 19, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The Pontifical Russicum College, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary, has always been a center of missionary and evangelizing action, according to the Benedict XVI’s secretary of state.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone affirmed this Thursday in a meeting with professors and students of the Russicum at the Church of Sant’Antonio Abate all’Esquilino, reported Vatican Radio.
The cardinal first conveyed “the expression of the Holy Father Benedict XVI’s grateful sentiments toward the Society of Jesus and the many professors and coworkers who […] have contributed to making the Russicum a true ‘cenacle of spirituality and cultural enrichment’”
Cardinal Bertone’s visit coincided with the anniversary celebrations marking the laying of the first stone of the college on Feb. 11, 1928, which Pope Pius XI placed under the protection of St. Thérèse of Lisieux.
Benedict XVI, said the cardinal, “follows your academic, pastoral and doctrinal activities with paternal benevolence and knows well the precious link that the college — although it does not have a large number of students from Russia — forms between Rome, the heart of the Catholic world, and the tradition of Christian Russian.”
The cardinal exhorted the students of the Russicum to fulfill the missionary vocation of St. Thérèse of Lisieux “in the specific context of contact with the Russian Orthodox Church.”
“With Vatican II, and more particularly with the decree ‘Unitatis Redintegratio’ of 1964, a new season began in this area, laden with hopes and fruits,” observed Cardinal Bertone. “It is the season of dialogue, of fraternal encounter that favors listening and reciprocal respect, laying in this way the foundations for a promising and fecund ecumenical journey.”
The college, he continued, is “a place where one lives and practices this fraternal encounter, and where one grows in this openness and reciprocal respect, the basis of every authentic ecumenical dialogue.”
The cardinal said the Russicum’s objective is “to help future pastors of souls, belonging to the various Churches of Central-Eastern Europe, to assume attitudes that favor effective pastoral, cultural and charitable collaboration constantly guided by the desire for unity.”
In this sense, said Cardinal Bertone, the college’s work could take on a “prophetic” value, but in order for this to happen “it is important to acquire a solid spirituality.”
He said the institute “has been from the very beginning a providential center of missionary and evangelizing action,” reported L’Osservatore Romano.
He continued: “The fundamental exigency that Thérèse intuited of bringing love into the heart of every reality is always relevant and a priority.
“Making communion with Jesus fruitful and effective, Christians patiently build that network of relationships that overcome and heal the lacerating divisions.”
Cardinal Bertone was welcomed by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, Archbishop Antonio Maria Vegliò, the congregation’s secretary, and Father Alojz Cvikl, rector of the college.
Cardinal Sandri exhorted the students of the Russicum never to forget the responsibility of knowing the treasures of the Eastern Churches and the Latin Church and to make the Eastern patrimony known to the whole Church.
“Passionate knowledge of the different components of the one ecclesial mystery,” he observed, is “the best guarantee that there develop the ecumenical sensibility” required “by the challenges that the Church meets in the world.”