Thursday, February 9, 2017

A Catholic view of the Catholic - Russian "crossroads"

(National Review) - While I was preparing the memoir that will be published in September — Lessons in Hope: My Unexpected Life with St. John Paul II — I revisited several interviews I’d conducted in the late 1990s with two impressive personalities. And I was struck that my interlocutors, almost two decades ago, shed light on the meeting that will take place in Fribourg, Switzerland, on Sunday, February 12, between Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk, the head of external relations of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow. The cardinal and the metropolitan will celebrate the first anniversary of the “Havana Declaration” signed by Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill last year. (I analyzed the document for NRO at the time.) But that anniversary meeting will take place in a context set decades ago. And that context, which has its deeply problematic elements, is clarified by my 1997 and 1998 interviews with Cardinal Edward Cassidy, one of Cardinal Koch’s predecessors at the Vatican’s ecumenical office, and Mrs. Irina Ilovayskaya Alberti, Pope John Paul II’s informal adviser on Russian affairs.

Cardinal Cassidy was one of the few Australians in the papal diplomatic service, a man of robust good humor and candor (and therefore not always appreciated by his Italian colleagues in the Roman curia). He enjoyed running the Holy See’s ecumenical shop and worked hard to get John Paul II into Russia, a high priority on the papal agenda in the last decade and a half of the pontificate. As priest, bishop, and pope, Karol Wojtyła had developed a deep respect for Russian spirituality and for Russian thinkers like Vladimir Soloviev, a pyrotechnic intellectual and proto-ecumenist; and that understanding led the pope to the view that a rebirth of Russian Orthodoxy was both essential to the healing of the wounds caused in Russia by 70 years of Bolshevism and a potentially important factor in the post–Cold War spiritual renewal of the West. John Paul had also come into possession of one of the greatest of Russian icons, the Kazanskaya, which had been taken out of Russia in 1918 and, after a peregrination through Europe, eventually given to the pope. John Paul wanted to return this masterpiece of Russian iconography to its proper home personally, as a gesture of respect for the spiritual traditions of Russia and the opening gambit in a new conversation between Rome and Moscow. Cardinal Cassidy’s task was to try and make that happen...
Complete article here.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, it is a Catholic view with the gloves off. But does the article make for honest dialogue?