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Anniversary of Francis-Kirill meeting in Havana: end of life conference in Moscow. Card. Koch, “a new chapter” has opened “in the relationship between our Churches”

(Foto: AFP/SIR)

“With the hindsight of three years, we see better how much the meeting we are celebrating today has opened a new chapter in the relationship between our Churches”. Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said this at the beginning of his address, focusing on the state of relations between Moscow and Rome. The cardinal spoke at the International Conference “Death and dying in a technological society: between biomedicine and spirituality” promoted in Moscow to mark the third anniversary of the meeting of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill in Havana (12 February 2016). The meeting on end of life is being held at Saints Cyril and Methodius Theological Institute of Post–Graduate Studies. The theme of euthanasia was suggested by the Pontifical Academy for Life, in particular by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, as “a privileged platform for the relations between our Churches in the academic field”. The president of the Pontifical Council retraced the exchanges between Moscow and Rome following the meeting between the Pope and the Patriarch in Cuba, recalling in particular the translation of the relics of St. Nicholas to Moscow and St. Petersburg, which was a “historic event that involved millions of faithful in the rapprochement between our Churches”. “Reciprocal visits have intensified, such as, for the first time, the official visit to Moscow in 2017 of a Secretary of State of the Holy See, but also, at a more modest level”, the cultural exchanges enabling young priests to gain greater “mutual understanding of our Churches”. One of the most important fruits of the meeting in Havana is the annual joint commemoration of this event, which “is an opportunity to publicly celebrate the rapprochement of our Churches and to reflect on the witness that we have committed to give together”. Hence this year’s decision to explore the theme of end of life, which “has always been a challenge for humanity”, Card. Koch remarked, “given that man is the only creature conscious of his mortal condition. This challenge presents itself in a new form today due to advances in medical knowledge and technology”. Having recalled the key principles on the matter clearly expounded in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (“an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator”), the cardinal concluded: “The principles and statements I have just mentioned are those of the Catholic Church, but the beliefs on which they rest seem to me to be absolutely common with those of the Russian Orthodox Church”.

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