Many Russians warmly received Pope Benedict XVI’s message to the Russian people, which was delivered in an April 16 broadcast of a documentary about his life sponsored by Aid to the Church in Need.
Father Joaquin Alliende, president-elect of ACN, said the message was well received not only among Catholics, but also among Orthodox believers and those not belonging to a church. He said the address should be seen as “an important step along the road towards a deeper sense of closeness between Catholic and Orthodox Christians.”
Father Alliende said the Pope’s greeting had “sprung from the heartfelt desire of the Holy Father to promote the growth of mutual love between the Catholic and the Orthodox Church.” As ACN’s spiritual director, Father Alliende had been received by the Pope in a private audience on the day the message was filmed.
Peter Humeniuk, ACN's Russia specialist, said the documentary film and papal message had brought the Pope closer to many of the Russian people. Many viewers had been surprised the Pope was “so human and kind”. Other Russians said the Pope appeared as “a person of great dignity and at the same time kind and warm-hearted personality.” Many found it especially beautiful that the Pope delivered part of his message in Russian, he said.
A Catholic priest working in Eastern Siberia told ACN that he thought the film had been “a real breakthrough” that would undoubtedly “bear fruit for the Church of God in East and West.” He said Catholics were pleased to know the film project had also been approved by the Russian Orthodox Church. The joint project, the priest said, showed what could be achieved when “our Churches draw closer together."
The film was sponsored and promoted by Aid to the Church in Need, an international Catholic pastoral charity under the direct jurisdiction of the Holy See. The film’s April 16 broadcast on the Russian State news channel Vesti coincided with the Pope’s 81st birthday.