Monsignor Santoro and Monsignor Pezzi during the liturgy in Moscow (Photo" "L'isola che non c'è - Latiano")

"Peace is born in the heart of each of us"

After visiting Kiev in late April, Monsignor Filippo Santoro was in Moscow from July 8-12. Here is his homily during Mass in the Russian capital's Catholic Cathedral.
Filippo Santoro*

At the end of April, as part of a peace initiative organized by the cultural Association of Latiano (Brindisi) "L'isola che non c'è," Monsignor Santoro, together with Franco Giuliano, journalist and honorary president of the association, and Loreto Gesualdo, nephrologist at the University of Bari, visited Kiev to meet local communities and deliver a bas-relief depicting St. Michael the Archangel. The delegation's peace mission continued in Moscow between July 8 and 12, with a meeting with Monsignor Paolo Pezzi, Archbishop of the Mother of God in Moscow, and the delivery of a triptych depicting St. Nicholas by Apulian sculptor Cosimo Giuliano to the city’s Catholic Cathedral. Both works were donated by the artist to the Association. The visit concluded with a meeting with Orthodox Metropolitan Antonij of Volokolamsk. Here is Monsignor Santoro's homily in Moscow.

Most Reverend Excellency Monsignor Paolo Pezzi, His Excellency the Italian Ambassador here in Russia, Giorgio Starace, dear faithful, I am very happy to celebrate this Liturgy in which a dream comes true for us as well.

The first reading (Genesis 28:10-22a) tells us about Jacob's dream as he leaves Beersheba and heads for Harran and then stops at a place where he spends the night because the sun has already set. He takes a stone, uses it as a pillow and lies down in that place. He has a dream, "a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.” What does this dream mean? That heaven did not remain closed, heaven opened wide; heaven is the fullness of life, of happiness; heaven opened and from heaven God, the Lord, spoke. Heaven is the place of peace, where life opens wide and reaches out to us, heaven is no longer silent; the Lord reveals himself and speaks to us, happiness speaks to each of us and promises each of us its fullness. God promised Jacob the land and numerous descendants like the grains of the dust of the earth. Then the Lord says something extraordinary: "I am with you." But think about it: the meaning of everything, of heaven and earth, is revealed, shown as closeness and companionship to us weary in daily life. Jacob wakes up and says, "How awesome is this place. This is none other than the gate of heaven.” Yet how greatly we would like to encounter the Gate of Heaven, the Gate of Life! But the Lord has opened this door, He has come to meet us. But Jacob says, "How awesome is this place." It is awesome because it was unimaginable that the meaning of the universe could be revealed. This is the house of God, the Gate of Heaven. He then placed oil on the stone he had used as a pillow and erected a stele there. Once again the Covenant of Abraham was fulfilled, God coming close and making a covenant with us.

The meeting with Orthodox Metropolitan Antonij of Volokolamsk (Photo: ''L'isola che non c'è - Latiano'')

In the Gospel we have heard that God shows himself as a man, as one of us, in the flesh. In the Word made Flesh, the closeness of the ultimate reason for life is no longer a dream or a mysterious voice, but a concrete man who opens wide the mystery and heals us. This is what today's Gospel tells us: Jesus sets out to visit the daughter of a synagogue leader who is in great pain and is believed to already be dead. On the way he meets a woman who had been suffering from bleeding for twelve years. She approaches Jesus and touches the hem of his cloak from behind; she knows that Jesus can cure her (what the doctors did not do), he can save her; she recognizes the Majesty of Jesus and says, "If I can even touch His mantle, I will be saved." Then Jesus, who was surrounded by so many people, asks, "Who touched me?" And the Apostles say to Him, "You are surrounded by so many people and you ask who touched you?" But that woman had recognized him and touched him with faith and her evil, which hurt her as a woman, was cured. She was saved. Jesus turned around and saw her and said, "Take courage, your faith has saved you." And from that moment that woman was healed. Then coming to the house of the synagogue leader who had invited him, Jesus says, "The little girl is not dead," and they mocked him. He took her by the hand. Think about it: the Lord God takes us by the hand. And the girl got up.

Jacob, and with him both myself and the friends of the ''Isola che non c’è” Association
had a dream, that of bringing two works of art, one to Kiev and one here to Moscow, to implore peace. One with the intercession of St. Michael the Archangel and the other with the intercession of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker.

The triptych of St. Nicholas donated to the Catholic Cathedral in Moscow (Photo: ''L'isola che non c'è - Latiano'')

Dear Excellency, thanks to you and the Italian Ambassador to Russia this dream had come true, and today we also had the grace to meet Archbishop Antonij of Volokolamsk, Chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate. We are asking the Lord for the heavens to open, for peace to reign in hearts, for so much suffering to end, for so many lives to be saved, for so many children and young people to be saved. As you see in this terracotta bas-relief, where Saint Nicholas is in the centre, who by the power of God restores the lives of three children, it is our wish that humanitarian corridors be opened here as well to save children. The next scene depicts Saint Nicholas mastering the storm and saving the lives of sailors. So we too ask that peace may return to these troubled waters, and this Liturgy of ours is the Eucharist of peace. The peace in our hearts, the peace that is born from God's closeness, like that of Jacob, the peace that is born in the heart of each of us precisely so that Jesus, who healed that leader's daughter and that woman who was bleeding and suffering so much in body and soul, can give each of us peace. And Jesus does, he wants to do it, and we pray to him that he may bring peace to these lands through the intercession of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker. I was born in Bari and have always venerated Saint Nicholas, and all of you from Russia and all these lands are as devoted as we are, and sometimes more so, to Saint Nicholas.

The most amazing thing is that in the Eucharist we not only touch the hem of the Lord's mantle, but we receive the Body and Blood of the Risen Jesus Christ; we receive Him glorious and alive, making us one people, one Church, the Body of Christ. That is why this morning's meeting with Archbishop Antonij was also an ecumenical gesture of unity; the Eucharist itself is a source of Unity and Communion. May this Eucharist be a source of peace. Also for us this evening, the heavens open, the Lord visits us, touches us, makes us creators and builders of peace: the Orthodox Archbishop said he will come to Bari in the fall. May the Lord, through the intercession of St. Nicholas, fulfil what is in our hearts and grant peace to all, particularly to those who live in these lands. Amen.

*Metropolitan Archbishop of Taranto and Special Delegate of the Pope for the Memores Domini