HISTORY OF OUR WORK

December 2012: The Urbi et Orbi Foundation is Launched

Out of a conviction that the “signs of the times” call for greater unity among Christians, andgreater collaboration among all men and women of good will to build a more free and just society than the one emerging in the “post-Christian” West, we launched the Urbi et Orbi Foundation . We dedicated our new foundation to the work of creating a “strategic alliance” between Catholics and other Christians, especially the Orthodox, around the world.

This Foundation is the result of years of work and reflection. Our western culture, sadly, has turned from the “path of life” indicated to us by the Hebrew prophets, and by all the saints down through the ages, and, above all, by Christ himself. Our Church seems hesitant, and sadly divided. And the greatest, oldest division is that between Catholics and Orthodox, West and East, Latin and Greek.

1993: Inside the Vatican magazine is founded. Continuing to this day under Urbi et Orbi Communications, this publication is a clear voice following the movements of the Church in the world — including the relationships between Christians around the globe.

1999: Following Pope John Paul II’s vision that Europe should “breathe with two lungs,” East and West, Orthodox and Catholic, we began to work to improve Catholic-Orthodox relations through common cultural and social projects. We visited with Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz in Moscow, met then-Archimandrite Hilarion Alefeyev, and consulted with the Pope’s secretary, Don Stanislao Dsiwisz, in Rome.

2000: We found support for translating the five-volume history of Christian doctrine by the late Professor Jaroslav Pelikan from English into Russian, in collaboration with the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow. The project was led by Father Igor Vyzhanov.

2001: We hosted a group of Russians in Rome in October. The group met with Pope John Paul II. At the end of 2001, we negotiated and found support for a special concert by a Russian Orthodox children’s choir, which flew from Moscow to Rome to sing in St. Peter’s Basilica for the Pope on New Year’s Day, January 1, 2002.

2001-2004: During several trips to Russia, we came to know the remarkable story of the disappearance and rediscovery of the holy icon of Our Lady of Kazan, known as “The Protection of Russia.” Meeting with the Pope’s secretary and with officials of the Russian Orthodox Church, we worked to bring about the icon’s return to Russia, which was finally accomplished on August 28, 2004.

2005: We published long interviews with leading Orthodox thinkers, including Russian Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev and Metropolitan Kirill. In these interviews, the Russian Church leaders expressed interest in working together with Catholics against the growing secularization of Europe and the world (this was just after the death of Pope John Paul II on April 2, 2005)

2006: We helped support, and attended, a watershed Catholic-Orthodox conference in a castle in Vienna, Austria. There, for five days in early May, leaders of both Churches were able to get to know one another and discuss issues freely. The conference, organized by the Pro Oriente Foundation in Vienna, was entitled “To Give a Soul to Europe,” and is now regarded as having marked a “breakthrough” in Catholic-Orthodox relations.

2007: We supported and organized a concert in Rome on March 29, in which a Russian Orthodox orchestra and choir performed “The Passion of St. Matthew,” a work composed by Russian Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev.

Urbi et Orbi Communications also supported the delivery to Kazan, Tatarstan, of several sacred relics from Italy on May 13, and helped sponsor a discussion of future common work to fight alcoholism in Russia.

Later in 2007, Urbi et Orbi Communications supported and organized an exhibit on the “Spiritual Renewal of Russia” in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. At the same time, we supported and organized the performance of a “Christmas Oratorio” by a Russian orchestra and choirs in Washington, New York, and Boston on December 17, 18, and 20.

2008: We supported a commemorative “Requiem for the Romanovs” in Moscow, a concert and exhibition recalling the lives and deaths of the last Russian czar, Nicholas II, and his family on July 16, 2008. We supported a concert of Christmas music held in Vienna, Austria, on December 22, 2008

2012: In December, we formalized our work by creating Urbi et Orbi Foundation. The Foundation was formed to focus on uniting Christians to defend our traditions and common beliefs.

2013: Urbi et Orbi Foundation supported with grants the following:

  • Dr. Constantine Sigov, the head of the St. Clement’s Center in Kiev, Ukraine, for general support in the center’s efforts to re-evangelize the former Soviet bloc peoples.
  • A summer project in Kharkiv, Ukraine, helping dozens of Orthodox children with physical handicaps to participate more easily in the life of their schools and communities.
  • The respected Russian Orthodox Metropolitan in Minsk, Belarus, Filaret, who hosted an important Catholic-Orthodox theology conference in November.
  • A “Concert for Peace” we organized and supported in November in Rome. We partnered with the Russian Orthodox “St. Gregory the Theologian Foundation” of Moscow, founded by Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Hilarion. We worked closely with several offices in the Vatican, especially the Pontifical Council for Cultural and the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity. Cardinal Kurt Koch and Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, the two cardinals who lead those Councils, attended both the event and a reception preceding the concert. After the concert, both cardinals thanked Urbi et Orbi Foundation for making this important event a reality.

2014: Urbi et Orbi Foundation supported with a significant and timely grant the 4th Orthodox-Catholic Forum in Minsk, Belarus in June, which brought together Orthodox and Catholic bishops from around Europe to discuss religious freedom in the increasingly secularized society of Europe.

In July, the Urbi et Orbi Foundation held its first pilgrimage, to Moscow, Istanbul, Vienna, and Rome to seek counsel on the next steps that could be most fruitful in our effort to build Church unity.

In December, the Urbi et Orbi Foundation held its first annual dinner in Washington, D.C. at the Papal Nunciature. This was a two-day event which also included an opening Mass at St. Matthew’s Cathedral and a roundtable at the National Press Club.

2015: In July, Urbi et Orbi Foundation led its second annual pilgrimage to Moscow, Istanbul, and Rome to review our efforts, and continue dialogue regarding our work towards building church unity.

In December, the Foundation led its first Advent Retreat-Pilgrimage to Rome and Vatican City, where we met with Vatican officials and discussed the possibility of a meeting between Pope Francis and Russian Patriarch Kirill during the upcoming year.

2016: In March, the Urbi et Orbi Foundation led its first Lenten Retreat-Pilgrimage to Rome and Vatican City. During our spiritual retreat, we met with Vatican officials, and discussed future projects between Catholic and Orthodox to build upon the Joint Declaration that was signed by Pope Francis and Russian Patriarch Kirill at their first meeting ever in Cuba on February 12, 2016.

In May, Urbi et Orbi Foundation provided full funding at the request of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity for an Exchange visit between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Vatican. This unprecedented exchange brought 10 Russian Clergy members to Rome to meet with Vatican officials to further our communication and relationships with our Orthodox brothers and sisters. In July, Urbi et Orbi Foundation led its second annual pilgrimage to Moscow, Kiev, and Rome to review our efforts, and continue dialogue regarding our work towards building church unity. In August, the Foundation provided funding at the request of the Moscow Patriarchate for an exchange visit between the Vatican and the Moscow Patriarchate. This was to reciprocate the May Exchange. Russian Clergy members met with Vatican Officials in Rome to further mutual understanding with our Orthodox brothers and sisters—funded by Urbi et Orbi Foundation, again at the request of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity. The participants said it was a life-transforming experience.

2017: The Foundation gave a $13,000 grant to the Orthodox-Catholic Bishops’ Forum in Paris, meeting January 9-12, 2017, on rue du Bac, not far from the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal, given to the Conference of European Bishops’ Conferences.

The Council of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (Latin: Consilium Conferentiarum Episcoporum Europae — CCEE) is a conference of the presidents of the 33 Roman Catholic episcopal conferences of Europe. The president is Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa, Italy. The vice-presidents are Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, England, and Archbishop Stanisław Gadecki, Archbishop of Poznań, Poland. The general secretary of CCEE is Father Duarte da Cunha. The offices of the CCEE Secretariat are located in St. Gallen, Switzerland. Dr. Mynihan, Deborah Tomlinson, and longtime friend of Urbi et Orbi Communications, Dan Schmidt, were in attendance and made a presentation on behalf of the Foundation.

Urbi et Orbi Foundation led its second annual pilgrimage to Moscow, Ukraine and Rome in July to review our efforts, and continue dialogue regarding our work towards building church unity. The Foundation made an $8,349.00 grant in September to the Russian Orthodox Church to support the Vatican-Moscow Summer 2017 Exchange Program and Summer Institute.

In December, we gave a $3,000 grant to the Pontifical Council of Christian Unity to support the preparation of a video about Pope Francis and Ecumenism.

Throughout the entire year, we gave $30,000 in support for publication and distribution of news and information about Catholic-Orthodox issues.

2018: In May, the Foundation gave a $1,000 grant to Ukrainian Downs Syndrome Association in Kiev, Ukraine, to help children with Downs syndrome in the Ukraine. In June, a $8,349.00 grant went to the Russian Orthodox Church to support the Vatican–Moscow Summer 2018 Exchange Program and Summer Institute.

2018 : In July, Urbi et Orbi Foundation led its fifth annual pilgrimage to Moscow, and Rome to review our efforts, and continue dialogue regarding our work towards building church unity.

2019 : In July, Urbi et Orbi Foundation led its sixth annual foundation pilgrimage to Moscow, Ukraine, Hungary and Rome to review our efforts, and continue dialogue regarding our work towards building church unity.