Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday released a message to Russia by way of a documentary that aired on a government-run television station in Moscow. The Pope lauded Russia’s “magnificent spirituality,” saying that the martyrdoms of both Catholic and Orthodox Christians in Russia during the last century showed the need to restore Christian unity.
The documentary film about the life of the Pope was sponsored and promoted by the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need. The film was produced in close collaboration with the Moscow Patriarchate.
“I am grateful,” Pope Benedict said in the film, “for the invitation offered me to extend to you my cordial greetings and I gladly take this opportunity to express the esteem, affection and high regard in which the successor of Peter and the Catholic Church have always held your people and the Russian Orthodox Church. Russia is truly great, in a variety of different ways -- in her sheer geographical scale, in her long history, in her magnificent spirituality, in her multiplicity of artistic expression.”
The Pope said that Russia’s nobility had been obscured by “shadows of suffering and violence, shadows that were however opposed and overcome by the splendid light of so many martyrs.” Among the martyrs, he counted Orthodox, Catholic, and other believers.
This unity in martyrdom reveals the “urgent need” to restore Christian unity, he said. The Pope said both Catholic and Orthodox Churches were moving towards unity, noting that a delegation from the Russian Patriarchate had even been present at the Second Vatican Council.
“Christians are called to meet with the followers of other religions and to establish with them a fruitful dialogue in truth and charity,” Pope Benedict said. “To this end I pray and hope that the millennial ecclesial experience of Russia may continue to enrich the Christian horizon in a spirit of sincere service to the Gospel and to the men of today.”
The Pope then delivered a message in Russian, saying he was “delighted” to address the people and government of Russia in their own language.
“I extend my warmest greetings to our beloved Orthodox brothers and sisters, especially to his Holiness, the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, and also to the Catholic bishops and their communities. To all of you I wish peace and well-being and a spirit of mutual love, and I invoke the blessing of God upon you all,” Pope Benedict said.