Ecumenism: Catholics and Russian Orthodox collaborate to help Christians in the Middle East

Ecumenism: Catholics and Russian Orthodox collaborate to help Christians in the Middle East

A delegation from the Moscow Patriarchate visited the international headquarters of the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need over the last few days to discuss further joint aid campaigns in the Middle East.

 On 16 and 17 July, a delegation from the Moscow Patriarchate visited the international headquarters of the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). The subject under discussion was the development of further joint projects in Syria and Iraq in response to the appeal made by Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill to their Churches in February 2016 during their historic meeting in Havana. At the heart of their message was, among other things, the collaboration between the two Churches to help Christians in need and particularly those in the Middle East.

On 16 and 17 July, a delegation from the Moscow Patriarchate visited the international headquarters of the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

On 16 and 17 July, a delegation from the Moscow Patriarchate visited the international headquarters of the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

The delegation from Moscow was made up of Hieromonk Stefan (Igumnov), secretary of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, Hieromonk Ioann (Kopeikin), pro-rector of Saints Cyril and Methodius Institute of Post-Graduate Studies in Moscow and Ekaterina Myazdrikova, director of the Moscow Patriarchate’s relief fund “Poznanie”, which helps Syrian children seriously injured during explosions.

The pontifical foundation ACN, which has been working to further the dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church for more than 25 years, launched the first initiatives for Christians in the Middle East together with the Moscow Patriarchate immediately after the meeting of the two Church leaders. The collaboration in this area is to be developed even further now. In this context, Regina Lynch, director of projects at ACN, emphasised that the Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches had “many joint concerns, the most painful of these being the concern for the Christians in the Middle East and in other countries where Christians are persecuted or oppressed.”

Hieromonk Stefan (Igumnov) emphasised that this collaboration is possible because of the “good and productive relationship with ACN, which has existed for many years” and is based on “genuine trust”. He said, “We are not only partners, but friends.” He furthermore pointed out that ACN supported the Moscow Patriarchate in “various stages of its history” but that the possibility of “carrying out joint projects also in other parts of the world was never discussed before.”

Cuba, Havanna: 12. February 2016: Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia signing their Joint declaration.

Cuba, Havanna: 12. February 2016: Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia signing their Joint declaration.

He believes that, after the historic meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill in Havana, the collaboration “reached a new phase”. According to Hieromonk Igumnov, it was “a God-given miracle that we were already in a position to answer the call of our Church leaders two months after their meeting in Havana and take action in Syria.”

Discussions of joint projects will continue. Plans are in place for joint initiatives that serve to give young people in Syria and Iraq a future irrespective of their religious denomination. These joint projects are to be “the direct fruit of the meeting between pope and patriarch”, as the representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate and the ACN foundation declared.

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ABOUT US

Founded in 1947 as a Catholic aid organization for war refugees and recognized as a papal foundation since 2011, ACN is dedicated to the service of Christians around the world, through information, prayer and action, wherever they are persecuted or oppressed or suffering material need. ACN supports every year an average of 5000 projects in close to 150 countries, thanks to private donations, as the foundation receives no public funding.