Muscovite Catholics were not allowed to leave the area around the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception during the Via Crucis. Bishop Paolo Pezzi: “Our journey is inscribed in communion with Christ”. The “foreign” roots of the Catholic community in the capital. “Christ did not choose the cross, it was given to him”
Moscow () – This year the Catholics of the capital managed to gather to carry out the Stations of the Cross in the open air on April 1, but they did not obtain permission to leave the surroundings of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The local Polish community built the Gothic church just before the revolution and had to close it immediately, only to reconsecrate it in 1990, after the fall of the communist regime.
The Archbishop of the Church of the Mother of God in Moscow, Monsignor Paolo Pezzi, opened the procession, recalling that “our path is inscribed in communion with Christ, it is the entry of Christ and his salvation into our lives, which is accomplished on the cross”.
This year is the centenary of the Petrograd trial, which sentenced Russian Catholic martyrs to death. Today, more than ever, the Way of the Cross is truly an expression of shared pain, due to the dramatic circumstance of the ongoing war against Ukraine, which leaves everyone with the desire for redemption and reconciliation.
Thus, the archbishop recalls that “the way of the cross is our way, to grow in friendship with Christ. It brings us closer to Him in an even more intense way: if we have encountered Christ, if we live in his memory, if we stop before his bloodied face, then, friendship and fraternity is the only way of relationship between men”.
Precisely the history of Catholicism in Russia recalls the many tragedies in history in the confrontation between the Eastern Slavs on both sides of the rivers, and the need to rediscover the meaning of coexistence and the exchange of gifts between peoples and Churches.
The Catholic community in Moscow, and in all of Russia, constitutes a minority. Historically it has been made up of citizens with old Polish and Ukrainian roots, but also Lithuanian, German and many “friendly” countries of the Soviet era. And among these are Africans and South Americans, Armenian Catholics who fled the civil wars in the Caucasus, and many Russians who have recognized in the traditions of Catholicism a part of their Russian tradition, which has always been open to the encounter between East and West.
The four dioceses of Moscow, Saratov on the Volga, Novosibirsk in central Siberia, and Irkutsk near Lake Bajkal are witnesses of these stories, of dispersal and deportation. But also, of the rebirth of the faith, in a country where it had been persecuted for a long time.
On March 19, in Murmansk, beyond the Arctic Circle, the ethnic Russian Auxiliary Bishop of St. Petersburg, Msgr. Nikolai Dubinin, had the joy of consecrating another Russian Catholic as a deacon. This is Denis Malov, a Claretian missionary who will become a priest to continue the great mission of evangelization and charity of his congregation in Russia.
Now, the Muscovite Catholics follow their pastor from both sides of the great courtyard of the cathedral, which the Soviets had turned into a four-story building of workshops and offices, and under the vault was the auditorium for lectures on the ” scientific atheism”, which characterized all the institutions of the communist regime. In the early 1990s, the Polish community in Moscow celebrated Holy Mass with Salesian priests in front of the closed gate, even when the winter cold froze even the consecrated wine in the chalice. Finally they managed to get the building back to them, which was renovated thanks to the charity of the brothers from all over the world.
There are currently two official Catholic churches in the capital: that of the Immaculate Conception and the historic French church of Saint Louis, the only one that remained open during the years of communism, along with the church of Our Lady of Lourdes of Leningrad, also historically linked to the presence of French diplomats. However, there are other registered parishes, which meet in the two churches or in private establishments. For the past two years, they have also been using the recently restored facilities around the historic building of the Church of Saints Peter and Paul, a church of Moscow Catholics since the 19th century.
After a long and troubled judicial process, the Catholics managed to recover at least part of the complex, where the educational and charitable institutions of the lively Moscow community were located. Now they are waiting for Casación to definitively restore the entire “Catholic neighborhood” in the center of the city.
During the Via Crucis, meditations by authors such as Charles Peguy, Boris Pasternak, Anna Akhmatova and the holy Pope John Paul II, who would have loved to consecrate the rebuilt cathedral in person, later sending his Secretary of State, card. Angelo Sodano.
At the close of the celebration, from the altar, Mons. Pezzi recalled that “the Church has spread throughout the world thanks to the preaching of apostles and doctors, priests and laity, and each one of us, thanks to Baptism, has become the cornerstone of the spiritual edifice in which Christ the Lord places us. united in one Body.” The archbishop stressed that “Christ did not choose the cross, it was given to him, and it is not up to us to choose what our cross should be, we must carry it, even when it seems too heavy.”