One of the smallest Eastern Catholic churches in the world, the Russian Catholic Church, faces some big issues, including its survival.
That’s the issue that will dominate at a Congress of Russian Catholic delegates from around the world meeting in northern Italy in June. It has been organised by an Australian-based Russian Catholic priest, Fr Lawrence Cross, a retired lecturer in theology at Australian Catholic University.
The congress, the first in Russian Catholic history, follows last year’s historic meeting in Havana between Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. It was the first time a pope had met with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. Both churches drifted into schism in the two centuries after the so-called Great Schism of 1054.
Fr Cross explained that the tiny Russian Byzantine Catholic Church was formed by Russian Orthodox who saw the pope, the Bishop of Rome, as an essential element for the fullness of orthodoxy.
These Russian Catholics, Fr Cross says, should be the poster-child for ecumenical relations, living proof that reconciliation is possible. Instead, he is worried they are in danger of being lost to history.
I would have liked the article to clarify that Russian Byzantine Catholics are not the same thing as Roman Catholics in Russia. There are still plenty of Latin-rite Catholics in Russia. Their community is small, but is not dying out.