EUROPE/RUSSIA - The Catholic Bishops in Moscow: the mission does not complain about "difficult times"

Saturday, 16 September 2023 mission   evangelization   local churches  

Foto: Studija 'Kana'

Moscow (Agenzia Fides) - "It is not our pastoral plans, not our personal projects that make the Church grow, but our humble but persistent witness to God. Let us remember the words of Pope Benedict XVI: The Church does not engage in proselytism. Instead, she grows by “attraction” : just as Christ “draws all to himself” (see Homily at the Shrine of Aparecida, May 13, 2007) ", says the Letter to the Catholics of the Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow for the pastoral year 2023-2024, signed by Archbishop Paolo Pezzi and Nikolaj Dubinin, his auxiliary bishop. The document, dated September 8, will be read in parishes on Sunday September 17th, the day of the beginning of the new pastoral year.
Based on an expression used by Pope Benedict XVI on September 26, 2009 on the flight from Rome to Prague, the two bishops called on the faithful not to be discouraged by the small number of small Catholic communities to which they belong, but to develop a “creative mission”. "At the beginning of Christianity and then many times throughout history," the Letter says, "Christians were such a minority: small communities who sanctified the world around them, not just with new doctrine, but with "a lifestyle that drew people to Christ. Even if they rejected Christian doctrine, many Jews and Gentiles could not help but admire the relationships of mutual love, of true mercy, of caritas that existed in these communities".
The path proposed by the two bishops is not to remain in a wait-and-see attitude towards the outside world, but to face reality, starting from what one is: "Sometimes when we visit parishes," the bishops continued , "we hear that we (Catholics, editor's note) are unable to do anything good because we live in difficult times. That's what many people think, and that's what's destroying us "A creative mission, however, does not wait for favorable circumstances: it simply spreads the witness of the community we live (or unfortunately do not live)".
Archbishop Pezzi and Bishop Dubinin therefore appeal to the baptized not to allow themselves to be overwhelmed by the feeling of helplessness and the loss of hope and to do good with the little they have: "We can complain that the conflict in in Ukraine is still ongoing, but in the end we hardly manage to calm our conscience. When we turn to Christ, new initiatives arise, perhaps even very simple ones, but deep and lasting. We cannot solve the 'refugee problem', we cannot create peace "but we can actually approach people and convey to them our inner peace if we have it".
Attention to the needs, not only material but also spiritual, of each person is indicated in the Document as an essential dimension of community life. Faced with a growing number of Catholics who are distancing themselves from the Church, the bishops invite us not to dwell on the numbers of the problem, but to look at each person in their uniqueness, as a person who is close to God and thus the closeness of brothers and sisters in faith. The starting point for being creative in the mission, even if we are few in number, is the relationship with Jesus present here and now, "through the people through whom each of us has encountered Christ, through the sacraments, through the Church in the concrete form of a particular parish, a particular community or a particular charism, to which each of us belongs".
In the Letter, Archbishop Pezzi announces his participation in the upcoming Synod of Bishops in Rome. He will be present in Rome together with Oksana Pimenova - a young lay woman from Moscow, who has long been involved in the youth ministry of the diocese. In addition, the establishment of a Commission for the Jubilee of 2025, which will will coordinate the various local initiatives for the Jubilee Year.
At the end of the Document, the bishops remind the Catholics of the diocese of the Marian prayer of the Italian Comboni Father Pietro Tiboni (1925-2017), in which he asks for the intercession of the Mother of God so that "Christ gives to all people that taste of new life that he gave us".

The Archdiocese of the Mother of God covers an area of 2,629,000 square kilometers and includes about a hundred small or very small Catholic communities. There is no exact information about the number of Catholics in the Russian Federation. In an interview with the RIA Novosti Agency last July, Archbishop Pezzi estimated the number of baptized Catholics was likely under a million. (CD) (Agenzia Fides, 16/9/2023)