Pope Returns Church to Russian Orthodox with Message
Vatican Information Service
'How can we not recognize' said the Holy Father , 'that this beautiful church reawakens within us a nostalgia for full unity, and upholds our commitment to work for full union among all Christ's disciples?'
VATICAN CITY, (VIS) - The Russian Orthodox church of St. Nicholas in the Italian city of Bari was returned to the custody of the Patriarchate of Moscow during a ceremony held in Bari on March 1, 2009. During the celebration, Cardinal Salvatore De Giorgi, archbishop emeritus of Palermo, Italy, read out a Message from the Holy Father.
"The Russian people", says the Pope in his Message, "have never faltered in their love for this great saint who has always supported them through moments of joy and of difficulty. Evidence of this is also to be found in this Russian Orthodox church of St. Nicholas, built at the beginning of last century to house pilgrims who, often on their way to the Holy Land, stopped at Bari, a meeting point between East and West, to venerate the relics of the saint.
"And how can we not recognise", the Holy Father adds, "that this beautiful church reawakens within us a nostalgia for full unity, and upholds our commitment to work for full union among all Christ's disciples?"
In his Message, Benedict XVI also reiterates his best wishes to Kirill, recently-elected as Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, and calls upon the Holy Spirit to illuminate his ministry.
During the ceremony - which was originally due to have taken place on 6 December 2008, Feast of St. Nicholas of Bari, but was postponed due to the death of Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexis II - Giorgio Napolitano, president of the Italian Republic, consigned the keys of the Orthodox church of St. Nicholas to Dimitry Medvedev, president of the Russian Federation.