The year 2005 will see an unprecedented ecumenical collaboration: Russian Orthodox Christians and Catholics from Italy and Poland will join "their scholarly and creative forces" to make a five-part historical documentary about early Christians, "Pilgrimage to the Holy City." The filming process begins in the spring, and the release is scheduled for Christmas.This sounds very encouraging....
Announcing the plan, Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and All Russia pointed out that the idea behind was to once again remind to the world that Christianity was the foundation of European culture. He sees the project as an event of paramount importance. "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. According to him, "millions of Christians worldwide took as an insult [this attempt to] hush up the modern world's historical foundations."
The acclaimed 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. "Contemporary society has sidelined moral issues for some reason, making their consideration optional. A person coming forward to speak about those values in public will be immediately attacked or ridiculed. This is just what has happened to Mel Gibson's 'The Passion of the Christ,' for instance." Miracles should be made tangible and visible, Mr. Khotinenko holds. He said his ambition was to create a convincing visualization so that viewers would have no doubts the imprints of the Apostle Peter's knees on the stone floor were genuine (the imprints will be among the relics featured in the new documentary).
The film is going to be produced by a Moscow Patriarchy scholarly center, the Orthodox Encyclopedia. Sergei Kravets, in charge of the center and of the script editing team for "Pilgrimage to the Holy City," has announced, "all the catacombs and relics of the Vatican and Rome will be opened to Russian filmmakers for the first time ever." The Moscow Patriarchy and Holy See officials made the decision when they met for talks in Moscow in August. The visiting Vatican officials then brought along a copy of the Icon of the Virgin of Kazan, which had for more than a decade been confined to the Pope's private rooms. This year, John Paul II decided to return the image to the Russian Orthodox Church as a gesture of goodwill.
In response to the Pontiff's gift, Patriarch Alexis II expressed confidence that kind relations with the Roman Catholics would eventually be restored, noting that the Russian Orthodox Church had all along "showed willingness to develop these relations in the spirit of sincere cooperation."