“Holy Places of Undivided Christianity“ Route Concept
Pertinence of the theme
The split of the Christian Church into the Eastern and Western branches, which occurred in 1054, became a turning point in the history of humanity. The issue of rapprochement and, in the long view, re-establishment of union between the Orthodox Christians and Catholics has been discussed for centuries. On the part of the Eastern Christianity (the Orthodox ecumene comprises 15 Local Churches which have different administrative centers, but share the same doctrine) the leading position is occupied by the Russian Orthodox Church – the largest and the most powerful among the “sisterly churches”. In contrast to a number of other Orthodox Churches, the Moscow Patriarchate approached the Roman-Catholic Church with great caution. Realistic conditions for the first meeting of the Primates of the largest Christian churches – the Pope and the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia – emerged only in the mid-1990s. Many believers, experts and mass media have been waiting for this meeting for more than 20 years.
The historic talks between the Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill which took place in Havana (Cuba) in February 2016 drew worldwide attention. After the meeting behind closed doors the leaders publicly signed a Joint declaration summarizing the issues which the Roman-Catholic and the Russian Orthodox Church are ready to agree upon. Section 16 says: “The process of European integration, which began after centuries of blood–soaked conflicts, was welcomed by many with hope, as a guarantee of peace and security. Nonetheless, we invite vigilance against an integration that is devoid of respect for religious identities. While remaining open to the contribution of other religions to our civilization, it is our conviction that Europe must remain faithful to its Christian roots. We call upon Christians of Eastern and Western Europe to unite in their shared witness to Christ and the Gospel, so that Europe may preserve its soul, shaped by two thousand years of Christian tradition.”
The meeting of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill has propelled the discussion of inter-Christian rapprochement to the new level. Given the complicated international environment (tensions in Russian-European relations, Brexit and other crisis phenomena in the EU, conflicts in the Middle East affecting Christians), religions factor and cooperation of Christians of different faiths become particularly important. It is obvious that Christianity in Europe has always been the basis for nurturing culture, forming concepts of social and civil structures and national mentality.
There are 1,25 billion of Catholics and 225 million of Orthodox today. The majority of them are living in Europe. There is a huge number of temples and monasteries there, that contain the Christian saints relics, which are common for all the Christians, who lived before the Great Schism in 1054. In addition numerous temples and monasteries are named after these saints. Today pilgrimage remains one of the largest touristic directions. It suffices to recall the excitement caused by the particles of the relics of Saint Nicholas, which were brought to Moscow and Saint Petersburg, as he is one of the most famous and revered Christian saint. For the first time in 930 years the relics left the Italian city of Bari. More than 2 million people came to bow to them in Russia.
It is important to mention that the Holy places in question not only are of religious but also of cultural, historical and aesthetic interest. They attract the attention of both Christians and the representatives of other religions and people who do not identify themselves with any religious tradition.
Stages of project execution
1) Scientific research. In order to determine the points of “The Holy places of Undivided Christianity” route and to gather information about them, it is necessary to refer to numerous sources and literature. The fact, that the project will be submitted to The Council of Europe for consideration and certification imposes particular responsibility. Due to that a serious and profound research needs to be conducted. The Library for Foreign Literature, the author and the developer of the route, requires assistance of 4-5 scientific partners.
2) Creation of a catalogue. The next step that needs to be taken will be the creation of a comprehensive and illustrated catalogue of the points with the description of their historical, cultural and spiritual significance.
3) Development of touristic routes. The final step is to develop a logically arranged destination visiting plan. The final version of “The Holy places of Undivided Christianity” route will present united spiritual and cultural space of Europe, a solid foundation for preservation of European unity and settlement of international and domestic conflicts.