today, leaders from the Vatican and the patriarch of Moscow are meeting
together in for an historic joint conference in Vienna, Austria to
discuss the theme, "Returning a Soul to Europe".
The conference-- the first such cooperative venture by the Vatican and the Moscow patriarchate- will examine the role of Christian Church leadership in preserving the "soul" of Europe. In an April 29 preview, the Pontifical Council for Culture said that the effort is the fruit of meeting last November between Cardinal Paul Poupard and Patriarch Alexei II.
The Archdiocese of Vienna reported that during a November 2005 visit to Moscow, the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture spoke with the Russian prelate about their shared concern about "the loss of identity on the continent," and the necessity of reviving interest in Europe's Christian patrimony.
Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture will co-chair the sessions of the conference, along with Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk, the head of external relations for the Moscow patriarchate.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the two prelates plan to release a joint statement to the world leaders who will be participating in the G8 summit meeting at St. Petersburg in July.
Vienna was chosen as a site for the conference because, as the Vatican release observed, it is midway between Rome and Moscow.
Pope Benedict, through Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano, sent a message to participants, stressing that "the Church, an expert in humanity, cannot forget that only through fully preserving and appreciating the patrimony of the values transmitted from its ancestors can Europe, recognizing the diverse spiritual traditions that enrich it, write a new page in its history that respects the dignity of the human person…”
He further called for a new history which prohibits “violence and abuses against human rights, which seriously obstruct the integral development of nations and contaminate the heart of the human being, considerably grieving the heart of the Creator".