Roman Catholic-Orthodox Joint Film Project Aims to Reconcile

An unprecedented ecumenical collaboration is being planned, as the Roman Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church look set to join hands to produce a film titled Pilgrimage to the Holy City in 2005. The film project aims to revive the roots of Christianity in Europe and fill the gap between the secular culture and religion. Through this common goal, both Churches expect their relationship to be enhanced.

Europe was once a stronghold for Christianity in all aspects when Christianity was developing. It has played an important role in Reformation and is home to the Reformed churches. However, experiencing the end of Christendom and many cultural changes, all churches including Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox, have suffered to some extent a degree of decline. The Churches condemn the widespread secularisation across Europe, and many claim this is the cause for the decline of Christianity.

Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and All Russia from the Orthodox Church said the idea behind the proposals was to once again remind the world that Christianity was the foundation of European culture. The film is a five-part historical documentary about early Christians. It describes Apostles Peter and Paul, who both suffered martyrdom for their faith. Because of their footsteps, the spread of Christianity in Europe has been allowed to proceed and reign until now.

"The recent signing of the EU Constitution, which does not even make any mention of the common Christian roots, requires a creative spiritual response as well as a political one," the Russian Patriarch said emphatically as he announced the film project to the Russian media earlier, "millions of Christians worldwide took as an insult [this attempt to] hush up the modern world's historical foundations."

The film's final part is about the dialogue between church and state, describing the Roman Emperor Constantine and his mother Helena. Because of Helena, major Christian shrines were discovered and the Church received government support.

The project's mission is political as much as educational. It aims to promote reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church as well.

In August, the Moscow Patriarchy and Holy See officials met for talks in Moscow. The visiting Vatican officials brought along a copy of the Icon of the Virgin of Kazan from John Paul II to the Russian Orthodox Church as a gesture of goodwill. These actions allowed a window of reconciliation between the two Churches to be opened up.

In the speech of Patriarch Alexis II, he expressed confidence regarding the relationship between the two Churches, noting that the Russian Orthodox Church had all along "showed willingness to develop these relations in the spirit of sincere cooperation." He also referred to the times when there was no split between eastern and western traditions; Christianity in Europe was flourishing.

The film is going to be produced by a Moscow Patriarchy scholarly centre, the Orthodox Encyclopedia. Sergei Kravets, in charge of the centre and of the script editing team for the film announced, "all the catacombs and relics of the Vatican and Rome will be opened to Russian filmmakers for the first time ever."

Russian filmmaker Vladimir Khotinenko, 52, has been invited to direct the Christian documentary. "Our task will be to make Pilgrimage to the Holy City a film appealing to mass audiences," the director says.

The film project will begin in the spring 2005 and the release is scheduled for Christmas 2005. Russian Orthodox Christians and Catholics from Italy and Poland will join "their scholarly and creative forces" to make the film. A joint panel of Vatican and Moscow Patriarchy experts will also be formed to certify its quality.