Russian Catholic Bishops Appeal for Prayer, Dialogue, and Active Love in the Face of Global Crises

Main image: The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Holy Virgin Mary credit. (Photo: NVO. Licence: CC BY-SA 2.5. Source: Wikipedia)

Joaquim Magalhães de Castro

In a communiqué issued at the end of the 57th Plenary Assembly of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Russia held at the Betlemme House of Spiritual Exercises near the city of Novosibirsk from February 28 to March 2, the prelates once again drew attention of the faithful to the reality of today’s world, full of suffering “caused by war, generalized violence and natural disasters”.

A particular emphasis was placed on the crises in Ukraine, the Caucasus, Syria and Turkey, as well as all kinds of “wounds inflicted on people and society due to separations, divorces, domestic violence, abortions, the misery of the hungry, the homeless and the indigent”. For this reason, the bishops of the four dioceses of the Russian Federation – not only local Catholics but also “all people of goodwill” – have been asked to meditate on the content of Pope Francis’ Letter for Lent 2023, in which he invites us to “to go out to meet the Lord and our fellow man”.

The Episcopal Conference of Novosibirsk indicated three essential paths to be able to “walk and work together in the face of the peculiar historical conditions of the present time”. First of all is prayer, accompanied by fasting and contemplation “of the love that led Christ to give his life even to death on the cross and to the Resurrection”. Then dialogue follows. The faithful are invited to share their concerns with loved ones and friends. “There is no cure possible without listening and taking seriously what the other person has to say, even if it is difficult to understand or unpleasant or sometimes even painful,” stresses the document.

Finally, the bishops appeal to the practice of “active love”, following the example of Catholics in the southwest of the Russian Federation, who provide help to all who need it, regardless of their religious beliefs, origins or personal convictions. In Novosibirsk, the bishops called for continuous reflection, “both on a personal and community level”, on what it means to live today the pastoral and missionary conversion suggested by Pope Francis. Faced with the expulsion of some Catholic priests and lay people from the country, the Episcopal Conference invited the Government and all the faithful to be receptive “to the evangelical values of which the Catholic Church is the bearer” as an integral part of Russian society.

A Russian Orthodox woman lights a candle and prays in an Orthodox parish in St. Petersburg May 29, 2017. (CNS photo/Robert Duncan)

Conference of the Catholic Bishops of Russia – 57th Plenary Assembly

  • The Conference of Catholic Bishops of Russia held its 57th Plenary Assembly at the Betlemme House of Spiritual Exercises in Novosibirsk.
  • The bishops drew attention to the world’s suffering caused by war, violence, and natural disasters, particularly in Ukraine, the Caucasus, Syria, and Turkey, as well as societal wounds like domestic violence, divorce, and poverty.
  • The bishops asked the faithful to meditate on Pope Francis’ letter for Lent 2023, which calls for going out to meet the Lord and others.
  • The bishops also maintain hope that a group of Russian Catholics can participate at the World Youth Day in Lisbon to be held in August 2023.

It should be remembered that in September of last year Paolo Pezzi, Metropolitan Archbishop of the Mother of God in Moscow, on behalf of the Episcopal Conference of Catholic Bishops of Russia, signed a document giving guidelines to lay and religious Catholics of Russian nationality faced with the difficult choice that the recent decree of partial  mobilization in the Russian Federation required.

Quoting Pope Pius XII, “nothing is lost with peace, everything is lost with war”, and following the teaching of the Church, for which “war has never been and will never be a means of resolving problems between nations”, the text of the Episcopal Conference recalled that the Constitution of the Russian Federation protects “those who repudiate the use of weapons for reasons of conscience”. Upon confirming the impossibility of taking a different course, in order to avoid further bloodshed, the bishops asked, at the time, to take into account the words of Francis in Nur-Sultan, during the recent apostolic journey of the Holy Father to Kazakhstan: “We must never get accustomed to war (…) Let us help those who suffer and insist that peace be truly achieved. What else must happen, how many deaths must we expect before rivalries give way to dialogue for the good of peoples and humanity? The only way out is peace and the only way to achieve it is through dialogue”.

Among the many points discussed at the recent Episcopal Conference in Novosibirsk is the correct formation of the faithful on the contents of the faith and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, based on official sources of information, namely the channels of the Holy See, the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Russia and the Catholic dioceses. As for the World Youth Day, which will take place in Lisbon from the 2nd to the 6th of August, the bishops maintain the hope that a group of Russian Catholics can also participate, reminding all young Catholics between 16 and 30 years of age that a meeting will be dedicated to them in Saint Petersburg between the 23rd and the 27th of August.

The Eucharistic liturgy at the end of the work was presided over by Archbishop Geovanni D’Aniello, Apostolic Nuncio to the Russian Federation. His presence attracted Catholic faithful from various parishes of the Diocese of the Transfiguration which is, together with the Diocese of Saint Clement in Saratov and the Diocese of Saint Joseph in Irkutsk, a suffragan diocese of the Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow: all four constitute the ecclesiastical province of the Catholic Church in Russia.

As Catholics in the Russian Federation represent less than 1% of the total population, it is normal for them to gather in small communities, or even minuscule ones, some of which without the continuous presence of a priest throughout the year. The next plenary assembly of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Russia will be held in the city of Togliatti, from the 22nd to 24th November this year.