Interview rounding up Cardinal Pietro Parolin's visit to Moscow

Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin

Interview rounding up Cardinal Pietro Parolin's visit to Moscow

By Alessandro Gisotti/

Following is the full text of the exclusive interview that Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin released to the Vatican media upon his return from his trip to Russia which took place on August 21-24:

Eminence, there was understandably a great expectation for this trip to Russia. With which feelings did you came back to the Vatican?

“I think the outcome of this trip is “substantially positive”, so obviously my feelings are of gratitude to the Lord for accompanying me these days. We were able to carry out the program that had been set, to hold the planned meetings, and I must say that these meetings - both with the civil authorities, President Putin, Foreign Minister Lavrov and then with the tops of the hierarchy of the Orthodox Church, namely Patriarch Kirill and the metropolitan Hilarion, were truly characterized by a cordial, listening, and respectful climate. I would define them as important and constructive encounters.” I think I have to put some emphasis on these words: “constructive encounters”. Obviously, then, there was also the meeting with the Catholic community. Above all, thanks to the conversation and the dialogue we had with the bishops in the nunciature, it was possible to get to know better the reality, the life, of the Catholic community in Russia, its joys and hopes, but also the challenges and the difficulties it is facing. We had the chance to present the latter to the authorities. Above all, the restitution of some churches that had been confiscated at the time of the communist regime and whose return to the Catholic community in need of adequate places of worship, has yet to be restored. So I would say that in the end that- it was a useful trip, an interesting trip, it was a constructive journey.”

Have you already had a chance to talk to the Holy Father about the journey? What can you share what you said?

“Yes, of course, as soon as I came back I talked to the Holy Father and gave him a brief, brief summary of both the content and the results of the trip. Of course, I also gave him also the greetings I was entrusted to from all the people I met, including the warmth and closeness of the Catholic community, and the deferred greetings of the authorities. I remember that President Putin - I think this was also recorded in the public part of the meeting - emphasized the living memory of his meetings with Pope Francis in 2013 and 2015, and the fraternal greetings of Patriarch Kirill. Obviously, the Pope was pleased with the impressions and positive results which I shared with him. The Pope, as we know - he has reiterated also in this circumstance - is very, very attentive to all potential opportunities for dialogue, he is very careful to highlight all these opportunities and he is very pleased when they are doing of the steps forward in this direction. “And as he repeated also in this instance – is very, very attentive to all possible occasions for dialogue. He is very attentive to evaluating all existing occasions for dialogue, and he is very happy when steps forward are made in this direction.

What were the main issues addressed in the meeting with Patriarch Kirill?

“I would say that we have basically focused on this new climate, this new atmosphere that reigns in the relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church. This new climate, this new atmosphere that has established in recent years and which, of course, had a particularly significant momentum and a strong acceleration also thanks to the encounter in Havana between the Patriarch and the Pope Patriarch to which this event has followed. Indeed, I have noticed from the Orthodox interlocutors how they were touched by the experience of visiting the relics of St Nicholas of Bari in Moscow and St. Petersburg, but in the sense that they were touched by the faith and the religiosity of the people.Many Russians belonging to the Orthodox tradition but who do not practice, have moved closer to the Church on this occasion. It has indeed been a great event both in terms of size - some 2.5 million people visited the relics - and with regard to the impact on faith and spirituality that this event has produced. We then went through some of the steps that we have taken and the ones we will be taken in the future. It seems to me that, from both sides, we do not want to exhaust the potential that this new phase has opened up, and of course collaboration can take place in various areas, at different levels: from cultural collaboration to academic, humanitarian ... we insisted for the two churches to carry out “incisive and efficacious humanitarian works” in the many situations of conflict around the world. Slightly thorny issues were also touched, respectfully and at the same time frankly, regarding relations between the two Churches. But, we tried to give them – at least in my opinion, what I was able to glean – a positive sense, that is, to explore common paths for dealing with and for seeking to give birth to a solution to these problems”.

The Ukrainian issue is one of the most delicate issues in the relations between the Holy See and Russia. You visited Ukraine one year ago. Is there any news, after your trip?

“For now, there is no news; perhaps, it is premature. If there are seeds of good, which we have sought to sow, we hope the Lord will make them sprout and bring them to fruition. However, as it is well known, the Ukrainian question is of great concern for the Holy See. The Pope has pronounced on this theme several times. It is obvious that it could not be ignored, this theme; it couldn’t be forgotten in that circumstance. Above all, I would [speak] of the need to try to see and to evaluate if there were some concrete steps that could be made towards a durable and just solution to the conflict, within the instruments currently available, which are practically the Agreement between the two Parties. It has been noted that the Holy See has insisted above all on the humanitarian aspects, beginning with the important initiative of the Pope for Ukraine. In this sense, for example, one theme is that of the liberation of prisoners. This is one humanitarian theme that could be truly important to giving a little impetus to the whole process, even the political one, in order to get out of this situation of stasis and to advance – for example –the theme of a truce or ceasefire, the theme of security conditions in the territory, and the theme of the political conditions necessary to make progress on a global solution. Hopefully, something can help to walk in the right direction, taking into account – that when we talk of situations, of humanitarian issues - we are talking about people and we are talking about suffering. I think that is what everyone should have in mind when trying to make an extra effort to go the right way.”

The press has paid much attention to your meeting in Sochi with Vladimir Putin. How did it go?

“I would also say that the talk with President Putin was a cordial encounter, it was a respectful meeting where we were able to tackle all the issues we cared of such the conflicts in the Middle East, especially in Syria, and the presence of Christians there. We know that one of the coincidences between Russia and the Holy See is this focus on the Christian situation, the persecution of Christians, which we tend to widen to all religious groups and - of course - to all minorities, also trying to involve Muslims, as was done for example at a seminar held in Geneva last year. So then the situation in Ukraine, we had already talked about a bit; the situation in Venezuela. In addition to the bilateral issues, I mentioned at the beginning, we have presented some situations of some difficulty for the Catholic community. I have tried above all to say this, this was the message I wanted to convey: that is, that Russia, for its geographical position, for its history, for its culture, for its past, for its present, plays a great role in the international community. A great role to play. It therefore holds a particular responsibility towards peace: both the country and its leaders have a great responsibility for building peace and must really strive to put the higher interests of peace above all other interests.”

In addition to the most significant encounters, is there any other moment or particular aspect that you want to emphasize?

“Yes, there was the beautiful moment of the Mass celebrated with the Catholic community. The Cathedral was packed full of people, and that was somewhat of a surprise since it was a weekday. Then, of course, I was struck by the faith and devotion of these people: the way they participate in the Mass, with such attention, with such reverence and silence. I think they came especially to express their attachment to the Pope and to be members of the universal Church. So that was a good moment. Another good moment was my brief visit to the sisters of Mother Teresa in Moscow. We were able to meet and greet all the people they assist, and even there the warmth they have for the Pope was evident. And then, the last thing I would like to remember: I was very impressed by the visit we did one evening to the Cathedral of Christ Savior, the Orthodox cathedral in Moscow; the cathedral had been blown up during the Communist regime. So it was also a moment to recall this painful history, during which some people wanted completely to uproot the faith from the heart of the people and eliminate any sign of the presence of God and the Church in that land. This attempt did not succeed, because God is greater than the projects of men.”

Fri, 08/25/2017 - 21:57
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