The Orthodox Patriarch of Russia has been named an honorary citizen of Bari in Italy to mark the repatriation of the relics of Saint Nicholas, which more than 2.5 million people in Russia have seen during a three-month exhibition.
The move came as the Russian Church released a new collection of its doctrine on faith and moral issues, which strongly supports continued ecumenical ties.
“Handing over the keys to our city has great significance in our culture – it signifies sincere affections to a loved one,” Bishop Francesco Cacucci of Bari-Bitonto said in a speech posted on the archdiocese’s website. “We could not imagine the intensity with which this event was experienced, in Moscow and St. Petersburg, but also through positive reactions in Bari.”
The Archbishop spoke last Friday at a meeting in St. Petersburg with Patriarch Kirill, before returning home with the relics of the early 4th-century saint, which President Vladimir Putin and other members of the Russian government also revered.
Meanwhile, Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, hailed the loan of the relics as a “great ecumenical event”. He said he thought it would strengthen the commitment of Catholic and Orthodox Christians to dialogue. “It is good that the heads of our Churches are meeting,” the Swiss cardinal told the Vatican’s L’Osservatore Romano. “It’s also very important that church members do the same.”
The return of the relics, whose tour to Russia was organized during the Pope’s historic talks in February 2016 with Patriarch Cyril in Cuba, coincided with the release of the Russian Orthodox Catechism. Commissioned from a team of theologians in 2008, the document – believed to be the first to codify all areas of church teaching since the 1820s – was completed in January. It must be presented for approval by the Holy Synod of the Church and by the Orthodox hierarchies linked to the Patriarchate of Moscow abroad.
In addition to setting out official doctrine on faith, liturgy, canonical order, and moral and social teachings, including freedom and human rights, the document supports ecumenical ties with Catholic and non-Catholic communities. orthodox. He defends the past participation of the Russian Church in the dialogue against the opposition of Greece, Bulgaria and other harsher hierarchies. “The Church condemns those who deliberately pervert the duty of the Orthodox Church to witness to the non-Orthodox world,” says the Catechism.
Catholic-Orthodox relations will be discussed by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, during a visit to Moscow from August 21-23. Cardinal Parolin told Italian daily Sole24Ore that he hoped to explore a possible papal visit to Russia with Patriarch Kirill and President Putin.