Kazakhstani Catholics & Orthodox receive St. Andrew's relics
Benedict XVI's secretary of state is in Kazakhstan delivering relics of the Apostle St. Andrew to both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches there.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone is on a six-day trip to the nation, coinciding with the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) summit.
The journey also coincides with today's feast of St. Andrew, making the delivery of the relics particularly timely.
In a homily at the Orthodox Cathedral of the Assumption in Astana, the cardinal spoke of Kazakhstan as "a country in which there are ample possibilities for a peaceful and profitable religious coexistence. In this context, for us Christians the duty of reciprocal love is all the more urgent: We are called, in fact, to give witness to all, with words and works, that God is Love. [...] Propitious occasions are not lacking, dear friends, of mutual support and of deepening of friendship."
The Catholic Church is a tiny minority in Kazakhstan, which is some 47% Muslim and 44% Russian Orthodox.
Cardinal Bertone noted how he was fulfilling a "lofty task" given him by Benedict XVI "of handing you a fragment of the distinguished relics of the Apostle St. Andrew, which are venerated in Italy, in the city of Amalfi."
He explained: "This assignment, which I am honored to effect in the hands of His Eminence Metropolitan Alexander, comes in response to the devout request that his predecessor, Metropolitan Mefodji, and Archbishop Tomasz Peta, Catholic Metropolitan, jointly addressed to Pope Benedict XVI. The Pontiff, gladly desiring to meet the ardent request, decided to send to the two respective Churches two fragments of the precious relics. This choice has a profound significance, in as much as is underlines the common veneration of the apostles."
The Holy Father's secretary of state went on to reflect about the figure of St. Andrew, "the first of the apostles to be called to follow Jesus."
Reliquary of St. Andrew in Amalfi
"Precisely on the basis of this fact," he recalled, "the Byzantine liturgy honors him with the name of Protoklitos (Πρωτ?κλητος), which means precisely, the first called."
Cardinal Bertone noted how the apostles spread the "'good news' of salvation" and that faith comes from hearing the "Word of Christ, which still today the Church spreads to the ends of the earth."
Referring to the Pope's new postsynodal apostolic exhortation on sacred Scripture, the cardinal continued: "This Word is the indispensable food of the soul. It is said in the book of the prophet Amos that God will put hunger in the world, not hunger for bread, but to hear his word. This is a healthy hunger, because it makes us seek constantly and receive the Word of God, knowing that it must nourish us for the whole of life.
"Nothing in life can have consistency, nothing can really satisfy us if it is not nourished, penetrated, illumined, guided by the Word of the Lord. Moreover, an ever more profound commitment of radical adherence to this Word, together with the support of the Holy Spirit, constitute the strength to realize the aspiration of every Christian community and of every individual faithful to unity."
Forward in hope
Cardinal Bertone further reflected on an icon donated in 1964 to Pope Paul VI by Patriarch Athenagoras I, in which "the two Holy Apostles, Peter the Coryphaeus and Andrew the Protoklitos, embrace, in an eloquent language of love, beneath the glorious Christ."
"Andrew," he said, "was the first to follow the Lord, Peter was called to confirm his brothers in the faith. Their embrace under the gaze of Christ is an invitation to continue the path undertaken, toward that goal of unity that we intend to reach together. Nothing must discourage us, but we must go forward with hope, supported by the intercession of the Apostles Peter and Andrew, as well as by the maternal protection of Mary Most Holy, Mother of Christ and our Mother.
"Let us ask God with particular intensity for the precious gift of unity among all Christians, making our own the invocation that Jesus raised to the Father for his disciples."