The First Russian Orthodox Church in Rome

Source: FSSPX News


On May 18, Benedict XVI received in a private audience Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, President of the Department of Exterior Affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate. The Metropolitan was staying in Rome to preside, on May 19, over the benediction of the first Russian Orthodox church – dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria – built in the Holy City.

Before meeting the Holy Father, the Russian metropolitan went to the basilica of St. Clement over the tomb of St. Cyril for a prayer in the presence of Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity. “There exists a desire to meet on both sides, nevertheless we are waiting”, declared Msgr. Brian Farrell, Secretary of the Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.

On May 19, the metropolitan blessed St. Catherine of Alexandria Orthodox church, built on the grounds of the Russian embassy in Rome, on the Janiculum. Among the people who attended the private ceremony figured the donors, the official members of the State of the Russian Federation and Cardinal Kasper.

During the press conference which followed, Metropolitan Kirill declared that Benedict XVI “ had made some very profound and important statements concerning perspectives of common initiatives between our two churches”. “The position of the pope on everything concerning this dialogue is exactly the same as that of the Patriarch of Moscow”, he added. One of the concrete themes “on which we are in agreement is the theme of human morality”. “The time has come when the two churches must work together” in order to ensure that “the Christian roots of Europe” prevail, the metropolitan affirmed. For when “Europe decides not to recognize its Christian roots, this is the time when the Catholic and Orthodox churches must work together in order to be able once again to defend the values of the Christian life in Europe”.

“Certain people believe that Christian values are cultural values. This is true, but it’s not the whole truth. The greatest Christian values are moral values”, he explained. Indeed, “if liberty is conceived outside of a moral system”, this leads “to horrible effects”, like terrorism. There is equally, the Orthodox metropolitan continued, “another important question: that of the family, which must be maintained, that of the defense of human life”. “Bioethical questions are also very important” and the Catholic and Orthodox churches must proclaim “a unique common message to the entire world and to all of Europe” to respond to the expectations and questions of their contemporaries.

"Very pleased to have been in agreement with Benedict XVI on all these points”, the metropolitan, impressed by “his mastery of thought and word”, called the pope a “great theologian”. On the question of an encounter between the Holy Father and the Patriarch of Moscow, he recalled that “the possibility of such an encounter has never been refused either by Pope John-Paul II or by Benedict XVI or by Patriarch Alexis II”. “However on both sides, it has been specified that if there were to be a meeting, it should be well prepared with regard to its content”. That is to say that it is first necessary to “resolve concrete points” brought up during the audience…

The Archimandrite Kliment was that first to have had the idea of constructing a Russian Orthodox church in Rome at the end of the 19th century. But it was at the beginning of the 90s that the question was again taken up. In 2001, Alexis II, Patriarch of Moscow, designated part of the grounds of the villa Abamelek, the residence of the Embassy of Russia, for the construction of this church.