Your Eminences and Graces, Dear Participants of the conference,
I would like to cordially greet everybody who has arrived at this forum on the invitation of the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate.
It is remarkable that representatives of the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches have gathered in Vienna at the beginning of May, when the experience of Easter is still alive in our hearts. The radiant feast of the Resurrection of Christ reminds us of the unshakeable foundation of our faith, of our common roots, of that which should unite Christians of the East and West. For, as the Holy Apostle Peter wrote of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, God “resurrected Him from the dead and granted Him glory, so that you might have faith and hope in God” (1 Pet. 1, 21).
The topic of our meeting is “Giving a soul to Europe. The Mission and Responsibility of the Churches”. It is an incontestable fact that European civilization is founded upon Christian values, regardless of whether secular political and social activists acknowledge this or not. It is necessary for us, people of faith, to remind our contemporaries once again that the true source of the noble ideals for which Europe is famous such as concern for our neighbour, respect for human freedom and tolerance of differing opinions, is the Christian message of love toward God and the person as the bearer of His image. Already in the nineteenth century one of the most authoritative bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church, St. Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, said the following about this: “Do people really think that God’s and Christ’s truth is something apart from the natural truth that is beneficial for people and human society, and that the latter may be just as alive without the former as it is with it?”
Without contact with their original source any values and ideals, however radiant and inspiring they may seem, can lose their meaning and lock themselves into the rigid framework of self-sufficient theories, to which people sometimes attempt to subject the rich variety of the world created by God. Unfortunately, European history is full of such sorrowful examples. Today we, Christians of the West and East, can and must show another way of European thought. Let it not repeat the mistakes of the past when Europeans, attempting to adopt aspects of the Christian legacy while forgetting about Christ, brought about tragedies unheard of in history. May the footsteps of our fellow citizens be directed toward the knowledge of God and His holy will, to that which modern Europeans so frantically seek despite all attempts to relegate religion to the outskirts of society.
I am convinced that our Churches, which are faithful to apostolic tradition in questions concerning the foundations of the Christian world-view, should today come forward together for the defence of the fundamental values of Christianity. I believe that this will inspire hope into the hearts of millions of people who sincerely seek the “Kingdom of God and its righteousness” (Mt. 6,33) and are not willing to content themselves with the earthly goals of “consumer society”. It is in our common message to those for whom Christ and the Gospel are the supreme value and to those who are still only striving to know the truth, that I see the main task of this meeting of hierarchs, clergymen, theologians, thinkers and leaders of the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches.
I would like to wish everybody a blessed success and God’s help in achieving the goals set by this representative gathering.
With love in Christ,
Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia
May 3, 2006