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RUSSIA / BELGOROD-ORT 15/00036 Education grant for 111 students at the seminary in Belgorod for the akad. year 2015/2016: Unction of Seminarian at the Orthodox Seminary Belgorod
Seminarian at the Orthodox Seminary Belgorod

 Russia

Help for the training of 111 Orthodox seminarians in Belgorod

 

The historic meeting between Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in Cuba was an occasion of great joy for ACN for our charity has been committed for almost 25 years now to promoting dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church.

 

It was Pope John Paul II’s most cherished wish following the collapse of communist rule in Russia, to help the Russian Orthodox Church and to promote dialogue with her. We should not forget that, after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Russian Orthodox Church literally had to start over and rebuild itself from scratch, a process which demanded unparalleled effort.

 

Pope John Paul II was happy to entrust Father Werenfried van Straaten, the founder of ACN, with the task of supporting the Orthodox in Russia with deeds of active charity and through seeking ways to dialogue with her.

 

RUSSIA / BELGOROD-ORT 15/00036 Education grant for 111 students at the seminary in Belgorod for the akad. year 2015/2016: Formation of seminarians at the Orthodox Seminary Belgorod, two seminarians and one of their formators

Building constructive, healthy relations

Peter Humeniuk, ACN’s Russia specialist commented recently: “We may be thankful for the fact that we have been able to help both Churches to work together at many different levels, in mutual trust. Again and again we have had confirmation, both from the Holy See and from our partners in Russia, that this path was the right one. On the 100th birthday – and 10th anniversary of the death – of our founder, Metropolitan Hilarion wrote to us to say: ‘The charity ACN was to all intents the first Catholic organization to take the step of building constructive, friendly relations with the Russian Church.’

 

A few years ago the present Patriarch Kirill said our charity had often been the only bond, even in difficult times, uniting our Churches. And from the Holy See there has been repeated confirmation of ACN’s work in this field. The last three pontiffs have all expressly supported this commitment, and Cardinal Bertone, during his time as Vatican Secretary of State, once described it as a “point of contact with the Orthodox Church.”

 

As for the meeting of our two Church leaders in Cuba, for us this is of course further confirmation and encouragement to continue along this path,” concluded Peter Humeniuk.

 

ACN is above all delighted that so many projects have borne such good fruits. It has never been merely about giving money, but about improving the climate and building trust and friendship between our two Churches, which were described as “sister Churches” by the Second Vatican Council.

 

A good example of this is the help provided by ACN for the training of Orthodox priests. There is now a new generation of priests, and even of young Orthodox bishops, whose training was supported by ACN and for whom it is quite normal to have good relations with the Catholic Church.

 

We should not forget that Catholics represent only a small minority in Russia. And as a result many Orthodox believers for many years – including many priests – never even had an opportunity to get to know and respect Catholic believers. Therefore, sound training for these priests and positive personal contact with Catholics are major to overcoming prejudices.

 

One Orthodox seminary that ACN has been supporting since it was first established in 1996, is the seminary in Belgorod, where 111 young men are presently training for ordination to the priesthood. A particular feature of the seminary is the fact that the priests who are trained here will go out into some of the most remote and most inhospitable areas of Russia – places where over the winter they will have to travel by sled and in summer by foot, through muddy tracks, to reach remote outlying villages where they will preach the Gospel.

 

Last year, ACN helped for the formation of these seminarians, with a contribution of $47,850 – or $435 per student, per year. The director and his seminarians are most grateful for this support and Metropolitan Loan of Belgorod and Starooskolsk has also expressed his gratitude to all our benefactors, along with the hope that this friendly collaboration will continue in the future.

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