Today it’s Trinity Sunday, also known as the Feast of the Holy Trinity, which belongs among the great annual festivals of Christianity the Fest of the Holy Trinity. “The faith of all Christians rests on the Trinity,” as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches. “Christians are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: not in their names, for there is only one God, the almighty Father, his only Son and the Holy Spirit: the Most Holy Trinity.”
In 1982 the Joint Commission of Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches for Theological Dialogue published the official agreements between the two Churches on The Mystery of the Church and of the Eucharist in Light of the Mystery of the Holy Trinity. This was the first step to start with what both Churches have in common and, by developing it, to touch upon from inside and progressively all the points on which they are not in agreement.
Following the wish of Pope John Paul II, Fr Werenfried van Straaten, the founder of Aid to the Church in Need, made special endeavours to establish a dialogue with the Orthodox Church in Russia. With more than 100 million members, the Russian Orthodox Church is the largest and most influential of the Orthodox Churches. Father Werenfried travelled twice to Russia at an advanced age in 1992 and 1994 and met Patriarch Alexy II and numerous Orthodox bishops, to whom he promised his prayers and active assistance.
The Orthodox Church in Russia, like the Catholic Church, had to start from scratch after 70 years of persecution. After the end of the Soviet Union it was important to remind Catholic Christians that the “dialogue of love” between the two Churches which the Second Vatican Council had described years beforehand as “Sister Churches” does not take place primarily on a theological and academic level, but that there is also an “ecumenism of solidarity,” as Fr Werenfried called it. The principle was clear: “After 1000 years full of misunderstandings and mutual enmity, we must all now be aware of our unity and be willing to restore it. The unity of faith and the sacraments, which was never lost. And the unity of prayer and love which we now have to achieve.” The Pope asked for detailed reports after Fr Werenfried’s two Russian trips and laid great store by being kept personally informed of all developments. Pope Benedict XVI repeated this request to Aid to the Church in Need.
In recent years the concept of a “strategic alliance” has formed steadily in the collaboration between the two Churches. This notion is based on the fact that both Churches see themselves confronted in the modern world with numerous challenges which they must face together. These include the plight and persecution suffered by Christians in countries where they are a minority, the need to deal with the matter of Islam, a growing hostility towards Christianity even in Europe, the spread of secularism, relativism and materialism, and the dwindling respect, also in the political domain, for human life and the Christian family. These and numerous other ethical questions render it essential for Christians of different denominations to raise a common voice. Last February 12th Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia met in Havana, Cuba – the first time in in nearly 1,000 years that the leaders of Roman Catholicism and Russian Eastern Orthodoxy sat down together.