Papal envoy comments on his visit to Russia

 Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, secretary for Relations with States, has travelled to Russia in response to an invitation from Sergej Lavrov, foreign minister of the Russian Federation made in June this year. On this his first visit to Russia, Archbishop Laojolo gave an interview to the Catholic newspaper "Svet Evangelja, " the text of which was published by the Vatican Information Service on Friday. Extracts of the interview are given below: The archbishop told the newspaper: "The principle aim of my visit, is to gain a more profound understanding of the position and views of the Russian government on various international problems, as well as to make the Holy See's own viewpoint known. To this primary objective, ... must be added the desire to visit Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Mother of God in Moscow, and the lively Catholic community of the city, bringing them the affectionate greetings and a special blessing of the Holy Father." In reply to a question concerning the role of the local Russian Catholic community, and the fact that Catholics are not represented on the Russian Inter-religious Council, or in the 'Public Chamber' which is currently being formed, he said: "The Catholic community of Russian faithful is a 'small flock,' but it is a 'small flock' that is Russian in every sense of the word, with a centuries-old history marked by painful trials that were borne with exemplary courage of faith. Without wishing in any way to alter the weight of numbers, and with clear recognition for the role of the Orthodox Church in the history of the Russian nation, there can be no compromise on the principle of 'equal dignity,' and of 'equal freedom.' This does not mean in any way diminishing the predominant position of the Orthodox Church in Russia, but it does mean that the Russian Catholic community must be able to live and bear witness to their own religious faith, specifically characterised by union with the Bishop of Rome and with the Universal Church, within the framework of those fundamental rights recognised by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, and by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966." "For this reason, I hope that (Russian Catholics) may soon be represented both in the Public Chamber, in order for them to be fully able to carry out their mission and contribute to the growth of Russian society, of which they are an integral part, and on the Russian Inter-religious Council, in order to develop both ecumenical dialogue among Christians, and inter-religious dialogue with the faithful from other religions." In a second interview, given to the "Blagovest-Info" news agency, Archbishop Lajolo referred to the question of relations between the Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church, which is the largest in the Orthodox world. These relations, he said, are marked by "reciprocal difficulties" which seem to be rooted in "a painful inability to create a common language for the examination and resolution of divergences." In any case, he went on, "the Catholic Church in Russia, together with the pontifical representative in Moscow, is always ready to join the Orthodox Church in examining the reasons and causes of differences - and at times of misunderstandings - in order to try and solve them in a supernatural spirit. And I am happy to recall that, even in moments of difficulty, the channel of communication between the Holy See and the Patriarchate of Moscow has never been closed." Finally, speaking of the possibility of a visit to Russia by the Holy Father, the secretary for Relations with States said: "it would constitute an ecumenical event of great significance and importance," an that "it would have to be prepared with the greatest care." He concluded: "As Cardinal Angelo Sodano revealed some months ago, such a visit, having a mainly spiritual nature, should provide a reason for joy and hope, not only for Catholics but for all Russia, including other Christian faithful and the followers of other religions. I do not believe that the Holy Father Benedict XVI would make a visit which, rather than contributing to greater harmony and understanding especially among Christians, could prove to be a reason for tension and discontent." Source: VIS

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