Pope tries to devise way to visit Russia


Head of Roman Catholic Church responds to private invitation to visit Moscow

by Alexander Soldatov

Novaia Gazeta, 31 July 2019


Two sensations in the world of great church politics were jointly brought about by the celebration of the 35th anniversary of the Russian opera singer Svetlana Kasian, a soloist of the Bolshoy who performs primarily in Italy and other European countries. The fact is that the singer celebrated her birthday on 24 July in the company of Roman Pope Francis in the House of St. Martha in the Vatican, where the pontiff still lives modestly, not wishing to transfer into his official palace.


The pope presented his Russian guest—no more and no less—fragments of the Shroud of Turin, attested by a corresponding certificate. Svetlana Kasian, on her part, invited him to visit her apartment on Taganka, with a view of the church of St. Martin the Confessor, pope of Rome. Francis, who did not wait for official invitations to visit Russia from either Putin or from Patriarch Kirill, expressed the hope that he will be able to visit Taganka as a private individual (as he tries to be whenever possible).


"I would very much like to visit Russia. I am sure that this will work out. And then I promise to come to visit you in your home. And I also will say that I must attend your performance of an opera," the pontiff promised.


The pope especially esteems her voice and her public activity in the struggle against abortion. In February of this year he even awarded Kasian the order of St. Silvester, which presupposes her joining the official papal knightly order of the same name. She becomes not only the first Russian but also the first woman in this order. Francis loves to break stereotypes and Catholic traditions that have been established for centuries.


After opening the papal gift, the opera prima declared that she is "aware" of the mission imposed upon her and she promised to build in Moscow a chapel for the sacred objects. However, as was learned, the chapel will not be within the jurisdiction of either the Moscow patriarchate or of any other church and it will be open and accessible for Christians of any confessions.


As is known, Roman popes still have never been in Russia, although they have traveled around most of the states of the Commonwealth of Independent States, including such "Muslim" countries as Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. In general, the "minister of foreign affairs" of the Russian Orthodox Church (RPTs), Metropolitan Ilarion, who is extremely sympathetic to Catholicism, says that a visit by a pontiff is prevented by the anti-Catholic attitude "of many bishops, priests, and believers." Meanwhile, Pope Francis considers Orthodox countries to be priority destinations of his foreign policy, constantly "closing the ring" around Russia. In early May of this year he visited Bulgaria and Northern Macedonia, and in late May, Romania, whose Orthodox church is the second most numerous in the world after the RPTs. John Paul II visited Ukraine, but President Petro Poroshenko has often invited Francis also to visit. A "green street" for the pope also is open to Belarus, to which Alexander Lukashenko has often invited him. Moreover, the "Batka" wants to arrange a new meeting of Francis and Kirill in Minsk, because their first meeting in Havana in 2016 turned out to "lack results."


Before Svetlana Kasian, nobody has yet brought genuine fragments of the Shroud of Turin for permanent enshrinement in Russia. Orthodox faithful have been forced to venerate photocopies of it, like the one that was placed in the ancient cathedral of the Sretenie monastery on Lubianka by Metropolitan Tikhon.


The original shroud, which evokes disputes among scholars and believers, is made of flax linen, with large damages and is more than four meters long and one meter wide. It has a bloody body imprinted on the front and back. The Gospel describes how Joseph of Arimathea—an influential Jew who was a secret disciple of Jesus—wrapped his body, taken down from the cross, in a clean shroud and place it in his new grave, carved out of a rock. The fate of the Shroud of Turin before the 14th century cannot be traced in sources. It was then that it began to be exhibited in France, and then was transferred to Italy, where it is still preserved in the closed treasury of the cathedral of Turin.


Examinations using spectral radio-carbon analysis conducted in 1988 dated the shroud to the middle ages, but modern examinations have explained these results by the fact that the images for analysis were taken from patches added to the shroud in the 14th century. Using different forms of chemical spectroscopy, the Italian professor Julio Fanti managed in 2013 to date the Shroud of Turin to approximately the beginning of our era. But a scientific consensus on these results is still far off so that the remarkable sacred objects evidently will remain an object of faith for a long time. (tr. by PDS, posted 31 July 2019)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Editorial disclaimer: RRN does not intend to certify the accuracy of information presented in articles. RRN simply intends to certify the accuracy of the English translation of the contents of the articles as they appeared in news media of countries of the former USSR.

If material is quoted, please give credit to the publication from which it came. It is not necessary to credit this Web page. If material is transmitted electronically, please include reference to the URL,