MELBOURNE, Australia (CNS) — One of the smallest Eastern Catholic churches in the world, the Russian Catholic Church, faces some big issues, including its survival.

That’s the issue that will be front and center at a Congress of Russian Catholic delegates from around the world meeting in northern Italy in June. It has been organized by an Australian-based Russian Catholic priest, Father Lawrence Cross, a retired lecturer in theology at Australian Catholic University.

The congress, the first in Russian Catholic history, will occur against the backdrop of last February’s historic meeting in Havana between Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. It was the first time a pope had met with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. Both churches drifted into schism in the two centuries after the so-called Great Schism of 1054.

Father Cross explained that the tiny Russian Byzantine Catholic Church was formed by Russian Orthodox who saw the pope, the bishop of Rome, as an essential element for the fullness of orthodoxy.

These Russian Catholics, Father Cross says, should be the poster-child for ecumenical relations, living proof that reconciliation is possible. Instead, he is worried they are in danger of being lost to history.

About 30 clerical delegates from Russian Catholic communities across the world, as well as laity, will meet in Seriate, just outside Bergamo, Italy, to discuss their future and once again petition Rome for an exarch, or bishop, and the revival of the Russian Catholic Exarchate.

“We have saints and martyrs, many dead in the gulags and shot for their Russian Catholic faith. I can’t believe that was all in vain,” said Father Cross.

“This is our last hurrah. If this fails, you can forget about the Russian Catholic movement,” he said.

The Russian Catholic Church began in the 19th century with the writings and work of philosopher, critic and mystic Vladimir Soloviev. He spoke against the unhealthy relationship between the Orthodox Church and the state, at that time the courts of Czars Alexander III and Nicholas II. He saw that the only way to end the corruption in Moscow was for the Orthodox Church to find a point of reference for unity and freedom outside itself. This guardian of freedom was Rome.

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Teachings of Christ

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43-44 ESV)

Saint Nicholas of Myra

The truth of your deeds has revealed you to your flock, * as a rule of faith, an image of meekness, and a teacher of abstinence. * Therefore, you attained the heights through humility, * and riches through poverty. * O Father and Hierarch Nicholas, * pray to Christ God that our souls may be saved. (Troparion, Tone 4)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

In Myra, You were shown to be a servant of the sacred things, O Holy Nicholas, * for, fulfilling the Gospel of Christ, you, O Venerable, laid down your life for your people, * and saved the innocent from death. * Therefore, you were sanctified as a great initiate of the grace of God. (Kontakion, Tone 3)

Random Proverb

"My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights." (Proverbs 3:11,12 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

Our distresses are notorious, even though we leave them untold, for now their sound has gone out into all the world. The doctrines of the Fathers are despised; apostolic traditions are set at nought; the devices of innovators are in vogue in the Churches; now men are rather contrivers of cunning systems than theologians; the wisdom of this world wins the highest prizes and has rejected the glory of the cross. Shepherds are banished, and in their places are introduced grievous wolves hurrying the flock of Christ. Houses of prayer have none to assemble in them; desert places are full of lamenting crowds. The elders lament when they compare the present with the past. The younger are yet more to be compassionated, for they do not know of what they have been deprived. All this is enough to stir the pity of men who have learnt the love of Christ; but, compared with the actual state of things, words fall very far short....

Saint Basil the Great
(Letter 90)