On 12 February 2020, the Joint Working Group for Coordination of Cultural and Social Projects between the Holy See and the Russian Orthodox Church held its annual meeting at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in Rome. Founded in 2015, the Joint Working Group aims at promoting a range of initiatives in the cultural, academic and social spheres.
On behalf of the Pontifical Council, Cardinal Kurt Koch, Co–President of the Joint Working Group, welcomed the delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church, led by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Department for External Church Relations (DECR) of the Moscow Patriarchate, and Co–President of the Group.
The meeting commenced with a reflection on the work undertaken to date, particularly the successful outcome of the reciprocal study visits of young clergy to deepen understanding and friendship between the two Churches. Both Cardinal Koch and Metropolitan Hilarion also highlighted the importance of widening the terms of reference of the Joint Working Group by including social issues that are commonly shared. Lastly, the Group discussed the implementation of new projects to be carried out in the cultural and social spheres in 2020–2021, including humanitarian projects in the Middle East.
The Catholic delegation included representatives of different dicasteries and entities of the Holy See, including Bishop Carlos Azevedo, Delegate of the Pontifical Council for Culture; Msgr Marcos Pavan, Director of the Sistine Chapel Choir; Revd Andrea Ciucci, of the Pontifical Academy for Life; Revd Alexander Sapunko, of the Congregation for Eastern Churches; Revd Jaromír Zádrapa, of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity; Mr Peter Humeniuk, of the Papal Foundation “Aid to the Church in Need”; Professor Nataša Govekar, of the Dicastery for Communications; and Dr Gabriella Gambino, of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life.
The delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church included Archimandrite Philaret (Bulekov), DECR Vice-Chair, Archpriest Leonid Kalinin; Hieromonk Stephan (Igumnov); Revd Alexander Aleshin; Hieromonk Ioann (Kopeikin); Hieromonk Ambrose (Matsegora); Revd Alexiy Dikarev; Mr A. Puzakov; and Mr P. Baranov.