Pope's Russia TV triumph

JOHN PONTIFEX

A broadcast by Pope Benedict XVI on Russian state television has been hailed as a landmark in Orthodox-Catholic relations.

Patriarch Alexei II

There has been widespread praise for the programme which featured a biography of the Pope and ended with a short address by the Pope

Sources close to the Russian Orthodox Church expressed support for the broadcast and the text of the Pope's address has appeared on Sedmitza, an official website of the Church.

Meantime, the initiative's organisers described receiving “nothing but very positive feedback" from people who saw the programme on the Vesti news channel on Wednesday (16 th April) afternoon and again early the following morning.

Speaking a few days after the broadcast, Peter Humeniuk, Russia expert for Aid to the Church in Need, which funded the initiative, said he was “a little shocked" by the positive reaction to the programme.

Stressing that it was “still early days" since the broadcast, he said: “What we have heard so far is that viewers found Pope Benedict honest and warm. They thought he was a person of great dignity and also enormous sympathy."

Mr Humeniuk, who spearheaded the initiative, said: “Even the enemies of Catholicism were, I think, a bit surprised to see this presentation of the Pope and how sympathetic a person he is."

Timed for release on the Pope's birthday, the broadcast — part of which was in Russian — shows Pope Benedict XVI highlighting the importance of Church unity.

The Pope continues: “Both the Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church are moving in this direction."

He pays tribute to Christians in Russia — both Catholic and Orthodox — describing how over the past 100 years “the shadows of suffering and violence were opposed and overcome by the splendid light of so many martyrs, who perished under the oppression of ferocious persecutions."


Mr Humeniuk added: “The broadcast is the latest in a series of positive signs that suggest that the dialogue between Moscow and Rome is becoming more intensive."


Broadcast to about two-thirds of Russia on Wednesday (16 th April) afternoon, the 30-minute programme had huge exposure. Many viewers were from outside Russia with Vesti being described as equivalent to the BBC World Service.

 A second, longer version of the broadcast went out on Vesti a few hours later at 1am Moscow time on Thursday (17 th April).

Stressing the significance of the programme's success, the initiative's organisers described how for years the Catholic Church had been criticised in Russia, with particular criticism directed against the papacy.

Relations between Rome and Moscow have developed significantly since 2002, when the Russian Orthodox hierarchy expressed alarm after the creation of four Catholic dioceses in Russia.

Mr Humeniuk underlined the importance of Benedict XVI's personal contribution to the programme, describing how his brilliance as a theologian and a thinker is respected in Moscow and has roots dating back to his involvement in the Second Vatican Council.

Mr Humeniuk added: “The broadcast is the latest in a series of positive signs that suggest that the dialogue between Moscow and Rome is becoming more intensive."

The success of the broadcast is likely to increase speculation of a long-awaited meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and Alexei II, the Moscow-based Russian Orthodox Patriarch.

 


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

John Pontifex. “Pope's Russia TV triumph." ACN News (April 21, 2008).

Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need.  ACN is a Catholic charity — helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.

Founded in 1947 by Fr Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity", the organisation is now at work in about 145 countries throughout the world.

The charity — whose UK office is in Sutton, Surrey — undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative's launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child's Bibles have been distributed worldwide.

For more information about Aid to the Church in Need, contact John Pontifex on 020 8661 5161 or Terry Murphy on 020 8661 5165


A universal pastoral charity of the Catholic Church, with over 5,000 projects in Eastern Europe and throughout the world, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) was founded on Christmas Day 1947 to help those suffering or persecuted for their Faith.

Today Aid to the Church in Need is present wherever it is most needed, from the bleak villages of Siberia, to the underground Church in China: seminarians are trained, priests and religious supported, churches and chapels are built and restored, religious programmes are broadcast on radio and television, Bibles and religious literature are printed, refugees are helped the world over. ACN receives no government grants and relies only on the generosity of its supporters. Visit the Aid to the Church in Need (U.K.) web site here, Aid to the Church in Need (Canada here. Donate to ACN in the United States here. Donate to ACN in Canada here.

THE AUTHOR

John Pontifex is head of press and information for Aid to the Church in Need (U.K.).

Copyright © 2008 Aid to the Church in Need




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