foto Ol'ga Dubjagina
Moscow (Agenzia Fides) - "Unity is not given by power, but by mutual service; not by blood ties, but by the bond of God made man, who makes us His, His children, part of His family", said Cardinal Matteo Zuppi in his homily during the Eucharistic celebration he presided in the Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Moscow. On Thursday, June 29, for his second and last day in the Russian capital, on the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul according to the Latin liturgical calendar, the Cardinal presided over the evening Mass concelebrated also by Archbishop Giovanni d'Aniello, Apostolic Nuncio to the Russian Federation and Uzbekistan, and by the ordinary Catholic bishops present in Russia.
Cardinal Zuppi, whose homily was translated into Russian by Bishop Nikolaj Dubinin, continued: "Like a mother, the Church can never give herself peace for the divisions between her children, she is a mother and always seeks peace with patience and strength, to reunite what has been divided by evil. Like a mother, the Church ceaselessly invokes the gift of peace: she seeks it ceaselessly, because the pain of every human being is her pain. She is not naive, she remembers and does not confuse areas of responsibility. She faces adversity as a possibility of love, she sows good to fight evil and restore justice, she supports hope lit in the darkness of darkness". In front of some 500 people present (diplomatic representatives, Catholics from the capital and journalists), the envoy of Pope Francis recalled the objective of the mission entrusted to him by the Pontiff: The Church - he said - "creates bonds of peace and brotherhood, destroyed by violence, hatred and distrust". This is the only reason for the mission of these days, a mission wanted by the Successor of Peter, who is not discouraged and tries to do everything possible so that the expectation of peace which rises from the Earth is soon fulfilled. Yesterday, I entrusted this mission to the Mother of God of Vladimir, so that her tenderness towards wounded and suffering humanity will help us to find the paths of peace with intelligence and courage, with creativity and confidence". Recalling the suffering of the defenseless and innocent, the Cardinal invited everyone not to forget this pain and to commit themselves to finding ways to overcome it: "It is not a naive dream, but a human and Christian duty necessary for there to be a future. Peace and justice feed on each other and need each other". Metropolitan Nifon of Philippopolis, representative of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch to the Russian Orthodox Church, was also present at the celebration. On the afternoon of Thursday June 29, Cardinal Zuppi met with the Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Kirill. On June 28, Archbishop Pezzi, head of the Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow, called on the Catholics of the Federation to accompany the second stage of Cardinal Zuppi's mission with prayer, asking the faithful of the capital to go to the cathedral for today's evening celebration and to all parish priests outside Moscow to celebrate a mass in support of the ongoing mission of peace, in spiritual union with Pope Francis.
The Catholic Cathedral of Moscow, dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of Mary, is an early 20th century building in the neo-Gothic style. Like almost all places of worship located on Soviet soil, the Cathedral too has gone through ups and downs: closed in 1938, at the time of the "great Stalinist purges", it was desecrated and used by the communist regime as a warehouse and market square, before being returned to the Catholic Church after the collapse of the USSR and was reconsecrated in 2005. The Archdiocese of the Mother of God, led by Archbishop Pezzi since 2007, covers a territory of 2,629,000 km² and includes a hundred communities. The ecclesiastical province of the Catholic Church in Russia includes, besides the Archdiocese, three other suffragan dioceses: the Diocese of St. Clement in Saratov, the Diocese of St. Joseph in Irkutsk and the Diocese of the Transfiguration in Novosibirsk. As the Catholics of the Russian Federation represent less than 1% of the total population, these are mainly small, even very small communities, which sometimes see the presence of a priest only very rarely during the year. There are no precise data on the number of Catholics present in the Federation, given the presence of various communities (religious institutes, ecclesial movements, groups that meet by nationality, etc.), often made up of foreigners who remain in Russia for a more or less brief period. According to Archbishop Pezzi's recent statement to the RIA Novosti news agency, the number of baptized Catholics in the country is expected to be less than one million. Furthermore, due to the difficulties linked to the recent conflict, a not inconsiderable reduction in the presence of foreign Catholics has recently been noted. (CD) (Agenzia Fides, 29/6/2023)