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Lectures - “Celebrating Vatican II”

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Message from Fr Tad – Russia!

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Assignment: Russia

On October 6, 2010, I arrived in St. Petersburg. In Russia. A country apparently well known, right? Not necessarily. A newcomer is likely to meet with numerous surprises here, even in that second largest city of Russia, and its “cultural capital”, as it is called due to its significant historical heritage, and, definitely, “the most western” Russian city, as far as its character is concerned. St. Petersburg is located at the mouth of the Neva River to the Gulf of Finland. The city is relatively young, it was founded in the beginning of the 18th century, when Tsar Peter I, called Peter the Great later, defeated the Swedes in the 12-year-war, and in the captured territory on the Baltic coast built a stronghold first, and then a city, which was later to become the country’s capital. The only Catholic major priestly seminary has its residence here, as well as the management of the SVD Ural Region, which includes Russia and Belarus. There are 11 confreres in St. Petersburg SVD community. The other SVDs are working in such Russian towns and cities as Gvardejsk near Kaliningrad, Moscow, Volgograd, Tambov, Irkutsk and Blagoveshtshensk, and Baranovitchi in Belarus. The area is huge and merely 40 SVDs are working there. What are their tasks? To minister to the Catholic population, which counts approximately about 1 million people, and to help realise various social projects connected with the upkeep of poor families and disabled persons, as well as immigrants whose number in Russia is steadily growing, especially in the areas bordering on Asian countries (among them the former Soviet republics) and in big cities, like Moscow and St. Petersburg. The native population keeps decreasing, which may be the result of a faulty family policy of the present government, as well as of the “sovietisation” of the country in the proceeding time of the country’s history. Most Russians declare that they belong to the Orthodox Church, even though there are quite few truly practicing- hence an expression used to refer to such lukewarm or seeming Christians: “Orthodox atheists”. The Roman Catholic Church in Russia is represented by the SVDs, Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits and Salesians. They came to Russia soon after the split of The Soviet Union and its fall in the nineties, in result of the so-called political and religious “meltdown”. Nowadays, a kind of stiffening of the authorities’ attitude toward the religious and clergy can be noticed, especially those coming from abroad, by introducing all kinds of administrative procedures and limitations visa and stay refusals, as well as not allowing the Church administration to be established in the country. There are not enough native Russians in the Church hierarchy, most of the leading posts are held by foreigners, for example the Archbishop of Moscow and St. Petersburg is an Italian, Rev. Paolo Pezzi. We have been facing all kinds of difficulties attempting to legally regaining the ownership of the church property, nationalized after the October Revolution, which is a condition to start the renovation of the BV Mary Visitation Parish Church (see: www.visitmaria.ru ). The SVD Ural Region is the only unit of the Society in Europe that has to be subsidized by the SVD General Management. What is more, the Orthodox Church has rather an ill-willing attitude toward Catholic missionaries. The Orthodox Church leaders view them as a kind of threat to the integrity of their Church, willing to take over members of their denomination. It is, in fact, not true, yet the Orthodox leaders keep exerting a kind of moral pressure on Russia’s authorities to force them make the situation of the Roman Catholic Church uncertain and difficult. On the other hand, the presence of Catholic missionaries constitutes a challenge to the Orthodox Church, letting them introduce practices rather not known or at least uncommon, like teaching religion to their young believers, which has always been strength of our Church. We do believe that even this is a positive aspect of our presence in Russia. Divine Word missionaries work in the seminary, they are also active in the local diocesan Church carrying out works connected with our charisma, like taking care of national minorities and the disabled or addicts.
Fr. Tadeusz Panek svd

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Message from Fr Tad – Poem for his Jubilee

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A very warm welcome to Father Tad


A very warm welcome to Father Tad
His presence here it makes us glad
From Russia with love every July
To sunny England he does fly.

He lights up our church with his smile
The way he bounds down in the aisle
To say to us “Peace be with you”
A handshake that is firm and true.

On hot days he keeps him cool
Visiting Biggleswade swimming pool
He swims the breadth and then the length
To build up stamina and strength.

We look forward to his homily
On the day of his jubilee
25 years he has served our Lord
Not one day has he ever been bored.

We wish him well for his future goals
Doing good and saving souls
Maybe one day we will see
His golden or diamond jubilee.

From St. Petersburg to St. Peter’s
Thousands of long kilometres
We lift our glasses and we say
Father Tad, “Na zdroviye”!



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Message from Fr Tad – Battle of Russia

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“Battle of Russia”

Help restore Russia’s Christian faith! There has been a religious vacuum in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union, most Russians remain atheists- yet the Russian Orthodox Church which wishes to be regarded as Russia’s only genuine and national Church and restore Christianity in this country, fails to fulfil that role satisfactorily. Other churches, the Roman Catholic Church among them, want to help, yet with the Russian Orthodox Church’s hostile attitude and without the government’s full approval and support they fall short of their task to help spread and strengthen Christianity in Russia. The Society of the Divine Word is present on the Russian religious scene, working actively on the vast territory from St. Petersburg in the west till Blagoveshtshensk, on the Chinese border, in the Russian Far East. There is a shortage of people willing to co-operate, there is a shortage of financial means. Due to official statistics, in 2025 Russia will need at least 10 million immigrants to fill all jobs, for the number of the native people decreases severely. The majority of immigrants will surely come from Asia, from the former Soviet republics, bringing along with them the faith they profess- the Islam. Are you going to allow Russia, once Christian, to become another Islamic country because of the lack of Christian support. Help us win the Battle of Christian Russia!
Steyler Bank, Sankt Augustin, Germany; Konto-Nr. 12 0985, BLZ: 386 215 00, BIC: GENODED1STB
IBAN: DE 89 3862 1500 0000 1209 85

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