MOSCOW, April 6, 2005 (zenit.org) – John Paul II became the voice of voiceless Catholics of the former Soviet Union, the Catholic Archbishop of Moscow told ZENIT in an interview. Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz (see picture) analyzed the Pope's imprint on Russia, a country he never was able to visit. "We will remember him as the Pope who spoke to us, but at the same time as the Pontiff who spoke on our behalf, in our name, when we did not have the possibility to do so," said the Archbishop.
Archbishop Kondrusiewicz, head of the Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow, will be in Rome for the Pope's funeral on Friday, but he will return to Russia immediately to continue offering Masses for the eternal rest of the deceased Pontiff. As Archbishop Kondrusiewicz said in his sermon last Sunday in Moscow, "Catholics of Russia feel a particular gratitude for him. We cannot but recall the love of the first Slav Pope for Russia. The whole world was a witness of his incessant desire to foster dialogue and cooperation with the Russian Orthodox Church. John Paul Il addressed, on more than one occasion, the Russian people and Orthodox brothers."
"John Paul II gave us confidence," he added. "With his first call to open doors and borders to Christ, he gave us, Catholics of the former Soviet Union, new hope. John Paul 11 reconstructed and renewed the Catholic churches that existed before 1917, and loved Russia very much. He was a Slav, and loved the Orthodox very much."
Among the Pope's gestures of closeness to Russia, the Archbishop highlighted the return of the icon of the Mother of God of Kazan, taken on his behalf to the Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow by Cardinal Walter Kasper. "People loved him: last Sunday, all Masses in Moscow were full as at Easter", commented Archbishop Kondrusiewicz. Archbishop Kondrusiewicz, who recently visited John Paul Il at the Gemelli Hospital, added: "The Pope was close, open, he listened, made suggestions, and loved the people very much."