Catholics are a minority in Russia. So it is all the more gratifying that the voice of the Catholic Church is increasingly gaining awareness in society. Not least because of the historic meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill in 2016, which gave new momentum to the exchange between Catholic and Orthodox believers in Russia. 2019 was once again a good year for the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue. ACN has been actively committed to this dialogue for nearly 30 years.
Our foundation is the initiator of an ecumenical working group that takes up important topics from the joint statement of the Church leaders and translates them into concrete projects. One of the goals of the ecumenical working group, in which ACN is also a member, is to intensify aid for Christians in the Middle East. Other working group projects are dedicated to improving pastoral care for the mentally ill, helping mothers in crisis situations and supporting addicts. The deepening of dialogue also includes ecumenical media projects that provide objective information about the two religious communities.
Despite the positive development of this interdenominational dialogue, the Catholic Church in Russia continues to depend on foreign aid due to its minority status. There are only about 200 Catholic parishes in the country and the faithful are scattered over large areas. The diocese of St. Joseph alone, with its base in Irkutsk, is larger than the USA with an area spread over 10 million square kilometres. ACN helps finance vehicles in order to maintain the mobility of priests and religious in these vast areas. Other funding priorities include aid for construction and renovations, training of priests, sisters and the laity, as well as material aid and Mass stipends.
We are not just partners, but friends!Hieromonk Stefan Igumnov, Secretary of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations
A strong alliance for suffering Christians in the Middle East
The fruitful cooperation between the Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches is currently reflected in joint aid to the Middle East. In July 2019, a delegation from the Moscow Patriarchate visited ACN’s international headquarters in Königstein in the Taunus Mountains, Germany, to discuss joint aid projects for Christians in Syria and Iraq. The goal of the project is to give young people of all denominations in the Middle East better prospects for the future. The cooperation is to be further intensified in the coming years.