Cooperation Without Forgetting our Differences
European Russia has a new Catholic Archbishop
M o s c o w -- “Jointly with Catholics, we Protestants want to serve the Russian nation and people to the glory of God. But we will do so without forgetting our differences.” That was the statement of Vitaly Vlasenko (Moscow), Director or the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists´ (RUECB) Department for External Church Relations, following the installation of the Italian Paolo Pezzi as Roman-Catholic Archbishop of Moscow Diocese on October 27. Orthodox, Lutheran, Pentecostal and Baptist church representatives were among the throngs of - mostly Italian - well-wishers, who attended a reception following the celebratory mass. The service had attracted over 1.000 worshipers to Moscow´s massive Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of Mary,
A congratulatory letter from RUECB-President Yuri Sipko (Moscow) presented to the 47-year-old Archbishop at the reception states: “By accepting this responsible position, we believe you are revealing yourself as a person committed to the creation and development of positive relationships between the Christian confessions of Russia. Your firm position on questions of moral values and morality instils us with optimism and hope.” The letter concludes with a proposal that the two leaders meet shortly for the sake of becoming acquainted.
Conversations at the reception made clear the Protestant desire for the creation of mutual Catholic-Protestant social projects. Though no Catholic-Baptist projects were mentioned, Pastor Konstantin Bendas (Moscow) representing the “Associated Russian Union of Christians of Evangelical-Pentecostal Faith” reported on a joint Catholic-Pentecostal feeding programme and aid for children`s homes in Novosibirsk. Pentecostals also cooperate with the Catholic Caritas mission on a centre for the rehabilitation of drug addicts in Leningrad district near St. Petersburg.
Paolo Pezzi, who most recently served as a seminary director in St. Petersburg, replaces the popular, 61-year-old Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, who will be returning to his native Belarus as Archbishop for the Diocese of Minsk and Mogilev. In his farewell visit to Yuri Sipko on 10 October, the outgoing Archbishop had expressed a strong desire for the creation of joint social projects. Yet Protestant circles also hope that the installation of a new Moscow Archbishop will lead to an improvement in the nearly-stalled Catholic-Orthodox relationship.
The Moscow Diocese stretches from Kaliningrad in the West to Nizhni Novgorod in the East, including St. Petersburg and the north of Russia. The RUECB, Russia’s largest unified Protestant church, represents approximately 80.000 adult members meeting in 1.750 local congregations and groups.
Dr. William Yoder
Department for External Church Relations, RUECB
Moscow, 29 October 2007
A press release of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. May be published freely. Release #07-42, 385 words.