Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias, the First Hierarch of the MP, arrived in Smolensk for a two-day pastoral visit, which is of significance for both Orthodox and Catholic believers . This isn’t his first visit to Smolensk, for His Holiness was the ruling bishop of the Diocese of Smolensk before he became Patriarch, and he still frequently visits this ancient Old Russian town. During his stay in Smolensk, Patriarch Kirill will serve Divine Liturgy in local churches and consecrate the Orthodox Church of the Resurrection of Christ at the memorial complex at the infamous Katyń Forest site.
Deacon Aleksandr Volkov, the head of the patriarchal press service, said in a VOR interview, “The consecration of this memorial church has a prominent place in the reconciliation between the fraternal Russian and Polish peoples. Not once, but many times, Patriarch Kirill emphasised the importance of building such a church at the memorial complex commemorating what he called ‘the Golgotha of Smolensk’. Construction started in 2010, and the church is now complete, ready for consecration. The Church will host joint prayers at this spot, for both the Russians and Poles buried in the Katyń Forest, so that it’ll serve as an earnest of the reconciliation of our two peoples, despite all of the historical and contemporary political differences between us. This reconciliation will only occur if we come to an awareness of the pain and bloodshed that happened here”.
The Katyń memorial complex is located in the Katyń Forest, some 20 kilometres from the Smolensk city-centre, on the site of tragic events in the 1930s and 40s that engulfed both Soviet and Polish citizens. Today, the Katyń Forest has become a symbol of martyrdom, a mute witness to tragedy, and a sign of the monstrous power of totalitarianism. Today, the memorial complex holds about 150 mass graves, holding about 14,000 Soviet and Soviet victims of the repression. However, no one really knows the exact number of victims. For a long time, the “Katyń Affair” was a sticking point in diplomatic relations between Russia and Poland. In 2010, the RF Gosduma adopted an official statement, “About the Katyń Tragedy and its Victims”, which recognised this mass execution of Polish citizens in the time of the Stalinist repression.
Poles are watching Patriarch Kirill’s current trip to Smolensk with great interest, as it’s coming ahead of an historical event for both countries. For the first time in Polish history, a First Hierarch of the MP will visit this mostly-Catholic country, where His Holiness will sign a joint communiqué urging Russian Orthodox and Polish Catholic believers to reconcile. It’s taken three years to come up with a mutually-acceptable text, but its exact content remains unknown. We only know that the statement aims to bring together two different peoples, with different religious faiths, on the basis of the Gospel and common Christian values.
Bishop Jerzy Pańkowski of Siemiatycki, an official representative of the Polish Orthodox Church and Orthodox Field Bishop of the Polish Armed Forces, told our VOR correspondent, “For me, as a religious man and a Christian, it’s impossible to imagine that the gloomy shadows of the past can forever separate our two peoples. Of course, there were difficult times in both Russia and Poland, and in the relations between our countries and peoples, we know that. However, I don’t think that we should allow the past to ruin the prospects of mutually-rewarding ties between Russians and Poles, for they can change our lives for the better. In that sense, I believe that Patriarch Kirill’s upcoming visit to Poland is extremely important. Even though it’s not yet happened, it’s generated a great deal of buzz in Poland. Personally, I’d like to think that this official visit of the First Hierarch of the MP to Poland would have a most beneficial impact on Russo-Polish relations”.
Patriarch Kirill will visit Poland from 16 to 19 August.
14 July 2012
Voice of Russia World Service
There are major problems with the translation posted on the English-language side of VOR. For instance, it incorrectly identifies Bishop Jerzy as a Catholic cleric. In another, it talks about “Stalin’s secret police”, when such a term isn’t used or implied in the Russian text. I’ve taken the above directly from the Russian-language text, and I follow it faithfully. Shame on VOR… they’re usually much better than that.
Also note that there will be “joint prayers”, but not a shared service. If it were the latter, one would speak of a Molieben in Russian, and that usage wasn’t employed. It spoke of “prayers”, with no mention of a “service” of any sort. After the considerable upset that the Blunder caused with his ecumaniacal (not a typo) doings at the Dublin Eucharistic Congress, the fact that HH is allowing this is a major concession.