|01-10-2007 - Traces, n. 9
“CHRISTIAN RUSSIA” AND THE LIBRARY OF THE SPIRIT
A HALF-CENTURY LONG EMBRACE
The work of Fr. Romano Scalfi celebrates an important anniversary as it works for the future and for ecumenism
This month, “Christian Russia” completes its first half century. It was October 4, 1957, when Fr. Romano Scalfi moved to Milan and began to bring together people who shared his passion for Russia–by which he meant Christian Russia, its spiritual, ascetic, and theological tradition, the dissident movement, and the testimony of the martyrs who paid for their fidelity to Christ and the Church with imprisonment or their lives. Responding to changes in the Church and politics, “Christian Russia” has also developed, showing a flexibility that proves the validity of its basic principles.
The celebrations will include a book that retraces the stages of the work, a conference dealing with its principal achievements, and an audience with Benedict XVI. Then, Fr. Scalfi will be glad to get back to his work. And there is a lot of work still to be done, above all in Russia. When the USSR collapsed and the frontiers opened, Fr. Scalfi sensed that the best way to foster the faith in Russia was to supply the right educational tools: books. At first, the volumes were printed in Italy and distributed in Russia. Then, a permanent organization was set up in Moscow to publish the books locally and take over their distribution, always with one fundamental policy: to involve our Orthodox brethren as much as possible. This ecumenical approach was the staple policy of “Christian Russia” in its first fifty years and will remain so in the future.
In 2004, the organization’s Moscow presence took a big step forward. It opened a cultural center, conference hall, and tearoom on Pokrovka Street in downtown Moscow. It rapidly became a center of social focus and a vital forum of ideas. Fr. Scalfi appointed numerous Orthodox figures to run the Library of the Spirit (the center’s name) jointly with “Christian Russia” members. The Orthodox Church has a solid respect for the methods of “Christian Russia;” exchanges are frequent and their shared achievements numerous. The general climate of relations between Catholics and Orthodox Christians has greatly improved. The wish for the next fifty years is that the work of the Library of the Spirit will speed the long-desired complete unity with the Orthodox Church.