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Moscow Patriarchate Delegation visiting Pope Francis: Hilarion, “do not underestimate the peacemaking and humanitarian role of Churches”

“In a world marked by tragic divisions, the peacemaking and humanitarian role of the Churches cannot be underestimated”. Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, said this as he greeted Pope Francis this morning. Indeed, the Metropolitan was received by the Holy Father together with a delegation from the Russian Orthodox Church at 9am, in a room adjacent to the Paul VI Hall, before the start of the Wednesday Audience. The “fraternal work meeting”, which began on 28 May at the premises of the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI), ends today. Held in the context of dialogue between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church in Italy, it was launched a year ago and has focused on “the great heritage of Christian culture created by the peoples of Russia and Italy, under the pastoral leadership of the Church”.
“The field of culture – Metropolitan Hilarion underlined -, with its universal language, has an enormous potential for the common witness of our Churches when it comes to the universal values of peace, love, mercy and forgiveness that find their highest expression in the proclamation of the Gospel”. Hilarion recalled that the Joint Declaration signed by Pope Francis and by Patriarch Kirill in Havana stressed the common spiritual tradition of the Churches of the East and of the West, and evoked the agreement reached on that occasion for the temporary translation of part of St Nicholas’ relics from Bari to Russia. Then Hilarion announced to the Holy Father that one of the most important relics of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Icon of the Crucifixion, painted by Dionisij, a disciple of St. Andrei Rublev, will be travelling to Rome in autumn. “It will leave Russia for the first time to be presented to thousands of pilgrims in the Eternal City”, Hilarion said, also adding that the rooms of the Charlemagne Wing in St Peter’s Square will host an exhibition of twenty icons from the Tretyakov Gallery collection. “Pilgrimages to the relics, which are preserved and venerated by both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches – the Russian Metropolitan concluded – allow us to appreciate the traditions, history and artistic heritage of the Church and of the peoples of our respective countries. This cannot but foster mutual understanding and dialogue between Orthodox and Catholics as well as international and interreligious peace”.

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