Russia: Pilgrimage to Moscow

Words of thanks of Brother Alois to Metropolitan Hilarion

Moscow, Saturday 23 April 2011

Dear Metropolitan Hilarion,

it’s with joy and emotion that we are making this visit to the Holy Russian Orthodox Church. I would like to express my gratitude for your invitation. Through our pilgrimage to Moscow, we would like to humbly express our veneration for the enduring faithfulness of the Christians of Russia.

We brothers of Taizé, following in the steps of our founder, Brother Roger, have discovered that one of the secrets of the Russian soul is in a prayer of adoration where the goodness of God becomes tangible. We came to associate ourselves to that prayer these days.

Through prayer, the celebration of the liturgy or the prayer of the heart, Orthodox Christians find a path towards the great mysteries of our faith: the Incarnation of Christ, his Resurrection, the continual presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church. It is from these mysteries that the Orthodox draw the sense of the greatness of human beings: God became human, so that human beings can participate in his divinity. Human beings are called to be transfigured with Christ already in earth. Orthodox Christians have always placed the emphasis on the Resurrection of Christ which already transfigures the world.

But the most unique and irreplaceable witness of the Russian Church lies in the experience of Christians who have passed on from generation to generation their love of Christ, in particular those who put their lives in peril through confessing their faith. The memory of these martyrs remains alive in Russia. Yesterday, we paid tribute to them in Butovo.

Western Christians need so much to be attentive to the treasures set within Orthodoxy. For our part, we would like to pass on to the young adults from so many countries that we welcome in Taizé, the vision of God, of the human being and of the Church which the Eastern tradition has inspired within us.

Dear Metropolitan Hilarion, we have also come to Moscow to express our thankfulness for the links that our community has been able to forge with the Russian Orthodox Church. These links find their roots in the family history of Brother Roger. He spoke about this in the following terms;

“A deep love for the Orthodox Church goes back to my childhood. During the First World War, some Russians had to leave their country. They were Orthodox. My mother received some of them and I overheard their talks. Then she spoke to me of the trials they had been through. Later on in my youth, we lived near to a Russian Orthodox church. We used to go there and take part in the prayer, listen to the beauty of the singing and I tried to discern the suffering on the faces of these Christians who came from Russia.”

It was in December 1962 that a closer relationship between our community and the Moscow Patriarchate was established, through the visit of Metropolitan Nikodim.

Later on, Patriarch Alexis II, as he reminded me himself, visited Taizé whilst he was still Archbishop of Tallinn.

Invited by the Patriarchate, Brother Roger came in 1978 with two brothers to Moscow. He also spent two days in Leningrad where he met with Metropolitan Nikodim and also with Bishop Kirill, who was rector of the seminary at that time.

Brother Roger made another visit to Moscow in 1988 for the celebration of the thousand years since the baptism of the Rus’. Brother Roger also visited Yaroslavl’ and Kiev. He was invited to the Local Council of the Russian Church at the Trinity Lavra of St Sergius. During this visit, Brother Roger realised the enormous needs of the Russian Church for it to exercise its ministry. With the agreement of the Patriarchate, Taizé printed in France one million New Testaments in Russian in the Synodal translation. They were sent to Moscow, Kiev, Minsk and Leningrad in the beginning of 1989.

Metropolitan Philaret of Minsk came to Taizé to meet Brother Roger in spring 1989. Metropolitan Kirill, who succeeded him as President of the Department of External Church Relations, came in 1990. He had already visited Taizé as a student in Bossey.

From 1990 onwards, young Russian Orthodox began to take part in the international meetings for young adults organised by our community either in Taizé or once a year in a large European city.

Today, when there are Orthodox groups in Taizé, the liturgy is celebrated two or three times a week. The bishop of the Moscow Patriarchate in Paris brought us the antimension for the Orthodox Chapel in Taizé.

As my ministry as Prior began, I wanted so much to visit Patriarch Alexis II in 2006. I returned to take part in his funeral in 2008 and came back once again for the enthronement of Patriarch Kirill I in 2009.

And I wanted to add that the message sent by the Patriarch of Moscow each year for our European meeting of young adults is a much appreciated support.

On the fifth anniversary of the death of Brother Roger, Patriarch Kirill told us in his message, “Combining fidelity to the teaching of the Holy Fathers with creative adaptation to the needs of today, in a missionary ministry among youth, characterized the path of Brother Roger and that of the community founded by him.” By these words, the Patriarch showed us a path that we would like continue to follow.

Dear Metropolitan Hilarion, heartfelt thanks for receiving us, May God bless the Holy Orthodox Church in Russia.

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