September 24, 2009

address of abp. hilarion to the community of s. egidio

The day before yesterday, the Department of External Church Relations for the MP posted two speeches given by Abp. Hilarion while in Rome. Unfortunately, they are in Italian. Fortunately, my wife is conversant in the language. (She does the living tongues, and I the dead. It is a fruitful division of labor.) Here is a (fairly literal) translation of the first address, given to The Community of Sant'Egidio (Saint Giles). If you have any severe issues with the following, blame me: I was editing.

My dear friends, brothers and sisters in the community of S. Egidio!

It is with great joy that I have come this evening to be with you.  I am happy to find myself again among you all, and in particular to see my friends, professor Andrea Riccardi and Bishop Mons. Vincenzo Paglia.

Thank you for the invitation to attend at your prayers.

I happily salute the bishops present, and all of you, who have come tonight to this church, and through you I greet the community of S. Egidio across all the world.

Before anything else, I would like to bring you the greetings and blessings of His Holiness the the Patriarch of Moscow.  Both in his name and in my own, and on behalf of these others present here, I wish to tell you of the esteem and love which we have for your community.

First of all, we have great esteem for your commitment to tradition, for your aid to the poor and needy, for your actions in this and in other cities to feed the homeless, for your aid to the disabled, the sick, the orphans, and the elderly, of the attention which the community of S. Egidio has for those who are at the margin of society: prisoners, refugees, immigrants.  With your commitment to this social work, your Christian diakonia towards the disadvantaged, you put the Gospel into practice.  In the face of a suffering man, you see the image of your Savior, for as you serve the poor, you serve him; as he said, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."  (Matt 25:40).

And so, we have a great consideration for your contribution towards the dialogue between Christians, and also with the faithful of many other religions. But in particular, we are very satisfied and happy with the relationship of mutual understanding and esteem that has been established for years between your community and the Russian Orthodox Church.

We live in a de-Christianized world, in an era which some would call "post-Christian."  Contemporary society, with its consumerism, hedonism, practical materialism, and moral relativism, poses towards we Christians a serious and difficult challenge.  The future of humanity, and perhaps also the future of all life on the Earth, depend on our Christian response.  It is a challenge to all of us, and so we must also respond together.

Only together can we bring to the world the spiritual values and morals of the Christian faith.  Together, we can offer our Christian vision of the family, of procreation, of human love formed on more than pleasure; we can affirm our commitment to social justice, of a fairer distribution of resources, of a commitment to safeguarding our environment, for the defense of human life and human dignity.  These moral values are traditional, affirmed by Christians for twenty centuries, and have formed our European civilization and culture.  But at the same time, they are new and modern, because the Gospel of Jesus Christ is eternally new and modern, eternally young.

Before this communal challenge which the contemporary world has launched, today more than ever, we Christians must work [“be”] together.  It is the hour to pass beyond conflict and competition, to solidarity, mutual respect, mutual esteem.  Or in other words, I will say without hesitation that we must pass to reciprocal love.   When he gave us his new commandment to love one another, Christ said: "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."  (Jn 13:35).  Here is the way that our Christian preaching can be effective and convincing to the modern world: They must see, in life, the love that we share as Christians.

With these sentiments, I thank you again for having invited me and I repeat to you my happiness at being here with you.  And to express, concretely, our brotherly love for the Community of S. Egidio, I would like to give you this Russian icon of the Madonna.

And with this I pray to the Mother of God to bless you, protect you, and sustain you  always as you seek to love the Savior, serving him in all others, particularly the disadvantaged.

I would also like to give this pectoral cross to Bishop Paglia, our dear friend, and with it, wish him every blessing of the Lord.

Hopefully we'll have the other done later today, which was given after his meeting with the Pope.

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