Russia: Benedict XVI Addressed Russians in Television Program

Source: FSSPX News

The Russian National information television channel Vesti, broadcasted a documentary about Benedict XVI on the Pope’s birthday, April 16. The film was produced by the Christian interdenominational agency Blagovest Media from Saint Petersburg and directed by Nikolaj Goryachkin in cooperation with Catholic Radio and Television Network (CRTN), a producing company financed by Help to the Church in Need. The Vatican TV center placed several video archives at the disposal of the project. Nikolaj Goryachkin stressed that Fr. Federico Lombardi, sj, director of the Holy See Press Office had been most obliging. The film was produced together with the Patriarchate of Moscow and Archbishop Antonio Mennini, apostolic nuncio in Moscow. Vsevolod Chaplin, head of the representation of the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Orthodox Church, supervised the project.

During the documentary, the pope addressed the Russian people for the first time on television, and “expressed all his esteem for them.” The address was recorded at the Vatican some months ago. In addition, the program provided significant elements about the life and work of Joseph Ratzinger and of Pope Benedict XVI, whose biography is hardly known by Russians. Close relatives and advisers of the pope, among them Mgr Georg Ratzinger, his elder brother, were also presented. Igor Vyzhanov, secretary for inter-Christian dialogue for the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Patriarchate of Moscow, introduced the documentary.

In Russian, Benedict XVI addressed “the people and government of this great Russia” which “is so dear to him.” The pope greeted “our Orthodox brothers,” especially Alexis II, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, “Catholic bishops together with their parishes.” Mentioning the “past hundred years of war, devastation, and totalitarianism” which had as “their root the violent denial of God,” the Holy Father explained that “love for Christ to the point of martyrdom reminds us of the urgency of rebuilding Christian unity, and that the Catholic Church feels irrevocably bound to this duty. The Catholic Church as well as the Russian Orthodox Church are progressing in this direction.”

It is a question “of seeking the most suitable ways of eliminating the existing tensions” between Christians and of intensifying prayer for unity. For, once united between them, the Eastern and Western Churches could speak “a new message” efficiently, especially to Europe, so that faithful to its identity, it build its future without denying its own Christian roots. Moved by the Holy Ghost, “we desire to build a society where values such as life, human dignity, and the family will be defended and protected,” Benedict XVI continued. He then addressed Catholic bishops and their communities on Russian territory, and wished that they may “always be filled with the fire of the faith.” “The pursuit of happiness can only find its full and final answer in God.”

Recalling “that a delegation from the Patriarchate of Moscow was present at the second Vatican Council,” the pope added that “afterward” he “remained in contact with Russian Orthodoxy.” “During these past years, these contacts have been more intense, especially between faithful, priests, and bishops. And what, should I say, about interreligious and intercultural dialogue which is also among the priorities of the Catholic Church, and, I think, of the Russian Orthodox Church as well.”

Benedict XVI emphasized the importance of dialogue between the Churches: “Aware of the spiritual gift of which they are the trustees, and keeping their own identity strongly, Christians are called to meet the disciples of other religions and to initiate a fruitful dialogue with them in truth and in charity. For this reason, I ask and wish that the millenary experience of the Russian Church continue to enrich the Christian panorama in a spirit of sincere service to the Gospel and to today’s men.”

“The film and the papal message are a beautiful symbol of the process of rapprochement between the two Churches,” declared Peter Humeniuk, a member of Aid to the Church in Need specialized in Russia, who was in charge of the project of the film. “During my journeys throughout Russia I come across many people who express a desire for objective information about the Pope and the Catholic Church. I hope that the film about Benedict XVI will help to meet this need,” he said. He added it is "an occasion of great joy and a historic event" to have the Holy Father personally address the Russian people. It was a particularly nice gesture to have broadcasted the film on his birthday. According to Peter Humeniuk, it would seem that dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is making progress. Aid to the Church in Need considers itself as a “catalyst,” because this charity organization, even if it is not a direct partner negotiating in the interdenominational dialogue, nevertheless supports the initiatives which help to reach this objective. Since the beginning of the 90’s, at the express request of John Paul II, Aid to the Church in Need has been working for a strengthening of the dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church. (Sources: aed-France/Apic/Imedia)

Our Comment

This media-staged event, which passed under silence all that separates Orthodoxy from Catholicism, is based on the principle underlying conciliar ecumenism: “What unites Catholics with dissidents is much greater than what separates them. Yet, the conflicting points are not trivial, as Louis Jugnet reminded us: the Filioque, and the Immaculate Conception, ambiguities concerning transsubstantiation, silence about purgatory, the indulgences, the number of sacraments, an “apophaticism” which ignores the knowledge we may acquire concerning divine realities…, and last but not least a fierce opposition to Rome. This caused him to give the following advice to Catholics: “Let us be very wary when we face a way of thought which exaggeratedly diminishes our knowledge of God, which refuses dogmatic progress, which errs very truly on important doctrinal issues, and shows much ill-will towards Romanity.” (L. Jugnet, Orthodoxy gréco-russe et théologie occidentale, 1946)

This great Thomistic philosopher showed quite well that when they affirm that they are right, “Catholic theologians do not at all mean to deny that truths can be found in the opposite doctrine, but that the question raised is quite different: it is a matter of knowing whether these truths are at ease, at liberty, and at home in those doctrines. Now, we observe that these truths only have there a partial, fragmentary and incomplete part to play. They are wrapped up in blatant errors which warp them and falsify their true meaning. Thus, what predominates in a false doctrine, and what causes it to run the risk of being quite disastrous, is the spirit of this doctrine, a spirit of error and denial.” (See L. Jugnet, Note sur la possession de la vérité, in L’Ordre français, sept.-oct. 1973, p. 98)

In any case, we can be sure that Leo XIII would never have countenanced such a seduction campaign. In Satis Cognitum, he did not hesitate to quote St. Augustine: “In many things, they are with me, in some only they are not with me; but because of the few issues on which they are divided from me, they do not benefit from being in agreement with me on everything else.” (In Ps. 54, § 19)