Saturday, August 30, 2008

Pope Sends Blessing to New Church in Russia

Cardinal Angelo Sodano is bearing the blessing of Benedict XVI to a new church constructed in Kazan, where authorities of the Muslim-majority city have made the worship site possible.

Kazan, the capital city of the Republic of Tatarstan, will be home for the Church of the Exaltation of the Cross.

Cardinal Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals and formerly the Pope's secretary of state, will preside over the celebration.

Archbishop Antonio Mennini, apostolic nuncio to Russia, will also attend.

In statements on Vatican Radio, Cardinal Sodano stressed the importance of this new church, both for the city's small Catholic community as well as for interreligious dialogue.

The 300 or so Catholics in Kazan had been celebrating Mass in a cemetery chapel.

This is "a moment of celebration" for the whole city, said the cardinal.

The inauguration will be attended by the mayor of Kazan and the president of Tatarstan, who tomorrow will hand the keys of the new church to the papal envoy.

Kazan is also an important site for the Orthodox, as it was the site of a 1579 apparition of the Virgin. The apparition is connected to the icon of the "Mother of God" of Kazan, which disappeared during the Russian Revolution.


Venerated in its place in the Orthodox cathedral is a 17th-century reproduction of the icon, which belonged to the Holy See, and which Pope John Paul II gave to the Russian Orthodox Church in 2004. In a solemn ceremony in 2005, Patriarch Alexy II brought the icon to the city.

Cardinal Sodano said he is happy to attend the inauguration: "I have always been awaiting the rebirth of the Church in Russia. At the beginning of my work in the [Vatican] Secretariat of State, I was also president of the Pontifical Commission for Russia, and I have seen all this progress first hand; that's why I wanted to come."

On Wednesday, the cardinal visited the Orthodox Shrine of Our Lady of Kazan. Afterward he visited the Orthodox monastery of the Archangel Raphael.

"We embraced in the name of Mary," he said. "The best ecumenism is in Mary's name, the spiritual ecumenism that unites us all."

With reference to Russia's conflict with Georgia, Cardinal Sodano said there has been ongoing prayer in Kazan for the peaceful resolution of the situation.

"John Paul II's banner, Benedict XVI's banner, is the banner of mutual dialogue, the banner of peace," the cardinal said, "because we are members of the same family and we must understand and collaborate with one another."

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(Source: Zenit)

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