Meeting between Russian Orthodox Patriarch and Pope Benedict suggested
Metropolitan Hilarion Afleyev.
Metropolitan Hilarion Afleyev.
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.- Wrapping up a two-day initiative for the promotion of Russian culture and spirituality at the Holy See, a concert featuring Russian and Italian music will be offered for the Pope. The event marks the culmination of events which have exhibited an increased warmth of relations between the Russian Orthodox and Catholic Churches and could lead to an encounter between their leaders.

The evening concert, which is a special gift from Kirill I, Patriarch of Moscow and of All Russia, to Pope Benedict XVI, will be held at the Paul VI Hall just beside St. Peter's Basilica. It is the final item on the schedule of "Days of Russian Culture and Spirituality in the Vatican."

Metropolitan Hilarion Afleyev of Volokolamsk will begin the event with a greeting, which will be followed by orchestral and choral music, and finally, an address from Pope Benedict.

Vatican and Orthodox Church participants in a May 19 press conference spoke of the Russia Days as a further step forward in the relations between the Churches, which have been separated since the "Great Schism" nearly a thousand years ago. Cardinal Walter Kasper of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity called the current climate "a new stage" in relations.

Speaking about the significance of the concert, Metropolitan Hilarion told reporters that "there are things which cannot be transmitted either through theology or through diplomacy but that can be transmitted through 'language of art.'"

He explained that "a very strong language is the language of music."

Art is valuable in bringing about dialogue between cultures: they can "liberate us from prejudices, from negative feelings toward each other that we might have inherited from the past.”

“I see many positive signs in the development of this particular type of dialogue,” the metropolitan said.

He also mentioned that a landmark meeting between Patriarch Kirill I and Pope Benedict XVI is "possible" in the future. He said that there is still much planning to be done, but "times have changed" and with it, people also change. His idea is that, considering the appreciation of the Orthodox Church for the current Pope, "a meeting should be held between Kirill and Benedict XVI in particular, rather than some patriarch and some pope."

Other events along the course of the two days have been a symposium on Eastern and Western Church history and relations, the inauguration of a photo exhibit and Mass at the local Russian parish of St. Catherine of Alexandria.

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