September 24, 2009

the second translated address

This is a translation of the address that Abp. Hilarion gave to the press and the community of the Russian Orthodox Church of S. Caterina, which is (as far as I can tell) on the outskirts of Rome. This one is a bit more interesting, though it does have some repeated material.

Sirs and Madams, Brothers and Sisters:

This morning I met with Pope Benedict XVI.  Many times in passing I have had the occasion to meet him, but this was the first time that I  met with him in my new position as Chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Patriarch of Moscow. In fact, it was only a few months ago that I succeeded Patriarch Kirill in this post, which he had occupied for twenty years before his election to the Patriarchate.

The visit of our delegation from the Patriarch of Moscow to the Catholic Church began on Wednesday the 16th.  In these past few days we have met with Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Chrisitan Unity, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, and with other authoritative representatives of the Catholic Church.  Today, finally, I had the opportunity to meet the Pope.

The scope of this visit is to continue, strengthen, and develop the dialogue with the Catholic Church which was undertaken by my predecessor, who is now Patriarch Kirill.

The Orthodox Church of Russia bears great esteem for His Holiness Benedict XVI.  We fully support the Pope in his commitment to the defense of Christian values.  We support him even when his courageous declarations elicit negative reactions from politicians and public figures, and when they are opposed–and sometimes misinterpreted–by the media.

We believe that the head of the largest Christian church does not need to care for being "politically correct"; he does not need to conform himself to the present, dominant mentality, or seek to be liked.  We believe that he has a duty to bear witness to the truth, and we are with him even when his words meet with opposition.

Today I told the Pope that we must develop our collaboration in all fields, collect and bring to fruition the enormously vast possibilities for cooperation which are open to us at the present time.  It is evident to us that today, the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church can no longer be competitors, as we have been in the past, but on the contrary, we must be allies, open to cooperation.  Before us stretches a vast field, in which the Lord has called us to work: Today's de-Christianized world.  Moral relativism, practical materialism, militant secularism, hedonism, unbridled consumerism, and secularism are all coming to a climax; all these characteristics of thought, and even more of contemporary ethos, are challenges which society is sending against all Christians.

To these challenges all Christians, and particularly we Orthodox and Catholics, can and must respond together. Together we can bring to the world the spiritual and moral values 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. 

We are convinced that many of the ills and problems of the contemporary world are nothing other than the direct result of the abandonment of Christian values.  The current demographic crisis of of all the First World countries can be linked to this: The loss of Christian family values, of fatherhood and motherhood as gifts of God.

Today, the Church finds herself caught in a dialogue with the secular world which has become more anthropological than theological.  We believe that the outcome of this controversy will determine the future of the human race, and perhaps even the continuation of life on Earth.

The Church is not a spiritual supermarket; we are not occupied simply, as some claim, with "satisfying the spiritual needs of the people."  Helping man to find meaning in his own existence, the Church inevitably makes a man's life both more fully human, and more fully divine.

This is the common task of Orthodox and Catholics today.  In all these questions, our Church has nearly the same positions.  We strongly hope that soon, the Catholic-Orthodox relationship will develop to the point where the problems that still exist between the two traditions will be overcome.

Personally, I hope that sooner or later we will realize the long-awaited meeting between the Pope and the Patriarch of Moscow.  Presently, I cannot predict the date or place of this meeting; but, I can say that on both sides there is commitment to it, and a desire to prepare carefully for the meeting, for it marks a leap forward in our relations.

There is a lot to digest, here. Perhaps more cooperation than seemed evident to skeptics, but obviously no overnight union is in the works here (pace, y'all). I imagine just agreeing on a spot for Pope and Patriarch to meet will take some time longer.

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