18 May 2020 Inostranka on the Pages of the Vatican’s Oldest Newspaper
On 18 May, 2020, the M.I. Rudomino All-Russia State Library for Foreign Literature (LFL), or Inostranka, held an online memorial event in honor of the 100th birthday of John Paul II (Karol Wojtyla), a prominent Church leader, Christian humanist, philosopher, poet and playwright. Established by the Vatican in 1861, the newspaper «L'Osservatore Romano» published a frontpage article about the Pope’s centennial written by Miguel Palacio, Head of the Association „Holy Places of Undivided Christianity” and Adviser to LFL General Director.
Below is the article’s translation from Italian
The initiative of the Library for Foreign Literature, which has had the monument to Pope John Paul II on display since 2011.
Moscow Remembers Pope Wojtyla
On Monday, 18 May, at the initiative of the Library for Foreign Literature a commemorative event took place in Moscow to celebrate the centennial of the birth of Saint John Paul II. It was held in the virtual format due to the danger of the coronavirus infection. The participants, including the Orthodox intellectuals, pointed to the relevance of the Pope’s legacy.
Probably, not many people are aware that there is a monument to John Paul II in the center of Moscow. It is located in the atrium of the Library for Foreign Literature (LFL), a very famous cultural institution in Russia. At the initiative of the LFL former director, Ekaterina Genieva, the Library for Foreign Literature has been seeking to promote Christian culture and inter-Christian dialogue over thirty years. Ekaterina Genieva was received by John Paul II at the Vatican and gave him a catalogue of old German books taken from Germany to the then Soviet Union after World War II. «With such publications you try to end the war, but it wouldn’t come to an end», said the Pope.
The opening in Moscow of a monument to the bishop of Rome, created by Ukrainian and Russian masters upon the idea of director Gregory Amnuel, did not go unnoticed. It took place on 14 October, 2011, on the feast of the Protecting Veil of Blessed Virgin according to the Julian calendar. The same year, the library published an anthology of theological, social and dramaturgical works by Karol Wojtyla, «The Attainment of Love».
That’s why, on the day of the Pope’s centennial, the Library for Foreign Literature could not but pay tribute to his memory. Thus, Monsignor Paolo Pezzi, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of God’s Mother in Moscow, recalled that, according to John Paul II, many Europeans had a «place» of Christ now taken by «a very dim religious feeling that doesn’t mean much to them». For his part, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz expressed support for the initiative of dialogue. Meanwhile, Father Hyacinthe Destivelle, a senior official of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, admitted that he had realized his ecumenical vocation by pondering the famous words by Pope Wojtyla: „You can’t have a Christian... breathing through only one lung; a Christian must have both lungs, East and West”.
In 1996 – 1999, poet Olga Sedakova met with John Paul II several times and had an opportunity to talk with him about the philosophy of Russian thinker Vladimir Soloviev. As she recalled, Father Wojtyla was a fan and admirer of Russian culture. According to writer Natalia Zazulina, the author of the book about Benedict XV and his aid to Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church in the 1910 – 1920s, the crucial moment of John Paul II’s ministry was the Mea Culpa prayer of repentance on behalf of the entire Catholic Church said by him on 12 March 2000.
Historian and TV presenter Aleksei Yudin, an organizer of the virtual Moscow meeting, remembered his several audiences with John Paul II and observed that the already sick Pope «revealed to us the forgotten strength of old age, the power of the human spirit and its resistance to the infirmity of the body». According to Yudin, once while delivering the message, Pope Wojtyla felt ill and handed the sheets of paper to one of his assistants to finish the reading. But, nevertheless, he managed to gather his strength and «pronounce the last lines... by his voice».
And the last detail: John Paul II was born in the year of the so-called Russian exodus, when clerics, intellectuals and officers began to emigrate from Russia en masse due to the revolution and civil war. The country experienced the worst religious persecution in its history, affecting both Orthodox and Roman Catholics. In 2001, John Paul II beatified Father Leonid Fedorov, the first Catholic saint born on the territory of Russia, who went through the Soviet labor camps. Then the Pope emphasized that the sacrifice of the martyrs of the 20th century was a «practical lesson as to how to live for all», namely to live, rather than to suffer and die. The ministry of John Paul II shows that the gift of life for all is the true key to dialogue, understanding and unity.
18 May 2020