Remarks to Religious
Leaders at the Danilov Monastery in Moscow
May 30, 1988
a very great pleasure to visit this beautiful monastery and to have a chance to
meet some of the people who have helped make its return to the Russian Orthodox
Church a reality. I am also addressing in spirit the 35 million believers whose
personal contributions made this magnificent restoration possible.
been said that an icon is a window between heaven and Earth through which the
believing eye can peer into the beyond. One cannot look at the magnificent
icons created, and recreated here under the direction of Father Zinon, without experiencing the deep faith that lives in
the hearts of the people of this land. Like the saints and martyrs depicted in
these icons, the faith of your people has been tested and tempered in the
crucible of hardship. But in that suffering, it has grown strong, ready now to
embrace with new hope the beginnings of a second Christian millennium.
in our country share this hope for a new age of religious freedom in the Soviet Union. We share the hope that
this monastery is not an end in itself but the symbol of a new policy of
religious tolerance that will extend to all peoples of all faiths. We pray that
the return of this monastery signals a willingness to return to believers the
thousands of other houses of worship which are now closed, boarded up, or used
for secular purposes.
are many ties of faith that bind your country and mine. We have in America many churches, many
creeds, that feel a special kinship with their fellow believers here --
Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Orthodox, and Islamic. They are united with
believers in this country in many ways, especially in prayer. Our people feel
it keenly when religious freedom is denied to anyone anywhere and hope with you
that soon all the many Soviet religious communities that are now prevented from
registering, or are banned altogether, including the Ukrainian Catholic and
Orthodox Churches, will soon be able to practice their religion freely and
openly and instruct their children in and outside the home in the fundamentals
of their faith. We don't know if this first thaw will be followed by a
resurgent spring of religious liberty -- we don't know, but we may hope. We may
hope that perestroika will be accompanied by a deeper restructuring, a deeper
conversion, a mentanoya, a change in heart, and that
glasnost, which means giving voice, will also let loose a new chorus of belief,
singing praise to the God that gave us life.
is a beautiful passage that I'd just like to read, if I may. It's from one of
this country's great writers and believers, Aleksandr
Solzhenitsyn, about the faith that is as elemental to this land as the dark and
fertile soil. He wrote: ``When you travel the byroads of central Russia, you begin to
understand the secret of the pacifying Russian countryside. It is in the
churches. They lift their belltowers -- graceful,
shapely, all different -- high over mundane timber and thatch. From villages
that are cut off and invisible to each other, they soar to the same heaven. People
who are always selfish and often unkind -- but the evening chimes used to ring
out, floating over the villages, fields, and woods, reminding men that they
must abandon trivial concerns of this world and give time and thought to
our prayers we may keep that image in mind: the thought that the bells may ring
again, sounding throughout Moscow and across the
countryside, clamoring for joy in their new-found freedom. Well, I've talked
long enough. I'm sure you have many questions and many things on your minds,
and I'm anxious to hear what you have to say.
Note: The President
spoke at in the reception room at the Father Superior's residence.
Prior to his remarks, the President viewed restored icons at the monastery and
discussed restoration techniques.