Select language:

Vatican Radio and the Russian Texts of Pope John Paul II

 /  / Russkiy Mir Foundation / Publications / Vatican Radio and the Russian Texts of Pope John Paul II

Vatican Radio and the Russian Texts of Pope John Paul II

27.03.2015

Father Claude Robinet has an exceptional biography. He began studying Russian in Belgium and Belarussian in Rome. In Belgium he study theology and joined the Jesuits. In Rome he worked for Vatican Radio and became head of Saint Anthony Abbot on the Esquiline, the Russian Catholic church. He also wrote texts for Pope John Paul II. The fates of an enormous number of Russians – Catholic and Orthodox, communists and aristocrats have been intertwined with his life.

How did you begin to study the Russian language and take interest in Russian culture?

I was born in a small town in the south of Belgium. The school there had a library. There weren’t very many books in the library and I read one book over and over again. It was a book of Russian fairytales. I also had a small radio. Once I heard a liturgy on the radio, and my father told me that the liturgy was in Church Slavonic. He knew because he spent five year in a German prison camp, and there were Serbs and Russians there.

When I was 17 I began to visit the Chevetogne Abbey (l'abbaye de Chevetogne). This is a Catholic monastery but the services are held in Church Slavonic and Greek. I liked that and thought that I should become a monk at this monastery. But then I began by studies at the philosophy department of the University of Namur.

I also attended Russian language classes. There was an old immigrant there, Prince Mstislav Starosvetsky. He taught Russian. We had this textbook were it was written how you should greet your teacher. I looked at what was written in the textbook and said to Mstislav Starosvetsky: “Good evening, comrade teacher!” He replied: Let this be the first and last time you say that!

How did your life in Rome begin?

I joined the Jesuits and worked for a year in Brussels at a school for disabled children. And then in 1976 I was sent to study in Rome. After a year I transferred to another seminary called Russicum. This is a Russian seminary established by the pope. At Russicum we held service in Church Slavonic, as Pope Pius XI once said: No more, no less and no different than in the Russian Orthodox Church.

How did you start working at the Vatican Radio?

After my studies I spent a year in France. And then I was sent straight to the Vatican Radio to work for the Russian service. At first I simply edited information but then two years later I became deputy editor-in-chief. I worked for many years in this role, and then in 1996 the head of the Belarussian service died. I was offered to take his place. But I did not know anything in Belarussian. I slowly began studying texts… It was not a simple task, as the stresses are not like in Russian.

When I started working for the radio in 1982 there were few contacts with Soviet Russia. It was difficult because there was little information. The radio was jammed. For example, when I started talking about Father Gleb Yakunin the signal was immediately jammed. They even jammed the signal after Gorbachev came to power. Not the entire program just the news.

Tell us a little about your parish in Rome.

In 1982 I was appointed deputy head of the Saint Anthony Abbot on the Esquiline. This is a Russian Catholic church. The head of the church was Father Antony Koren, a Slovenian. This is a small parish. At the beginning it drew Russian emigrants of the first and second waves. General Rossi was a member, and later on his gravestone they even wrote Generalissimus. I led his funeral service. Many of them were Orthodox believers.

Some of them for various reasons adopted Catholicism. That was in the 1930s. But they did not write that the Orthodox converted to Catholicism. They wrote that they adopted the Ecumenical Church, Ecumenism. In my times this did not happen. The Orthodox who attended Saint Anthonys remained Orthodox.

A small Russian monastery was established in Rome: the Convent of the Assumption (Monastero Russo Uspenskij). I often lead services there. The head of the convent, Mother Ekaterina, was also from a noble family. She talked about playing with Wrangels children. Nuns for the convent were sought out from all over the world. Some remained there, some left, and some returned to the Orthodox Church. Such is life

Who also served at the Convent of the Assumption?

There was Mother Arkhangela. She was from Kursk. She was from the second wave of immigrants. She would say: I am a young communist. She knew all of the Soviet songs. One priest asked: how is it you are a nun and you sing those songs? Later she wrote her memoires, read them on the radio and cried when she spoke about her father.

There was always a connection between the Convent of the Assumption and St. Anthonys, where I served regularly. In 1985 I became the head of this church. I did baptisms, performed funeral services, married people from 1985 to 2012.

What kinds of people attended?

There were Russians who had not been baptized during Soviet times. Several Muslims converted and were baptized. If someone wanted to get baptized or married in my church rather than at Orthodox churches, I told them that they also must respect the Orthodox Church and not criticize it.

I remember how I baptized the son of one teacher. That was a very interesting baptism. Her godmother was Natalya, the daughter of Nikolai Romanovich Romanov, and her godfather was a communist who did not even both to put on a tie for the baptism.

How did you work with the parishioners?

I think that my specialty at this parish was mixed marriages. Girls would come to Italy to work, and Italians love blondes. And then they would need to get married. So it often was a compromise: to get married at our church. Because the parish is Catholic while the service is exactly the same as the Orthodox service. And I serve as a Russian priest, and also say a few things in Italian.

You translated for Pope John Paul II. How did that work?

On several occasions I prepared texts in Russian so that the pope could read them. One time I even recorded him a tape. And there was one phrase that was difficult. He understood it but it was difficult for him to repeat it. So he asked me to record this phrase several times.

Once I did not know that I was going to be helping him, but one priest came to me and said: you need to go to the pope immediately. I was not even dressed as a priest and I thought it was a joke. I didnt even know the text, but when they told me I had to go I did what I could and wrote the text. The pope was receiving some bishops and at one point I was invited. I entered the library and was so embarrassed that I turned red. The pope understood this. I stood behind him so that he would not see me. He read his speech with expression and gests. I remember that he had a little difficulty pronouncing rasprostranyat [to disseminate].

<>

Daria Alexander
Source: LObservateur russe (Russkiy Ochevidets)
Rubric:
Subject:
Tags:

New publications

Ten Russian regions, including five that will host the World Cup next year, are taking part in the Gastronomical Map of Russia federal project. This means that visitors to these regions will be able to enjoy not only their cultural and natural landmarks, but also culinary samplings made from local products.
Two years of work, 20 hours of interviews, four episodes of the documentary and now yet the issue of The Putin Interviews that acclaimeddirector Oliver Stone presented at the International Book FairNon/fiction19. Filmmaker believes in the importance of conveying the Russian president's views to the Western society, where the situation on matters relating to the freedom of expression reminds him Soviet newspaper Pravda from Soviet times.
In September and October of 2017, a Russian expedition organized by the Miklouho-Maclay Foundation visited the Maclay Coast in Papua New Guinea, which was discovered by the famous explorer who gave the Foundation its name. To learn about this corner of the Earth (practically unknown to Russians) and his encounter with the descendants of the Papuans who received Nicholas Miklouho-Maclay 150 years ago, we spoke with the explorers descendant Nikolai Miklouho-Maclay, Jr.
On 22 November Russias greatest baritone passed away. He worshipped Enrico Caruso, Mario Lanza, and Feodor Chaliapinnames that are etched into the history of vocal artistry. And now one more joins their ranksDmitri Hvorostovsky.
The icebreaker, backpack parachute, tramcar, and foam fire extinguisherall of these things have long belonged to the list of human achievements. Most people dont know that they owe their existence to Russian inventors. At the turn of the twentieth century, Russia had one of the strongest schools of inventors in the world, although in many ways it developed in spite of circumstances. We discussed this topic with Tim Skorenko, the author of the book Invented in Russia and editor-in-chief of the Popular Mechanics website.
The idea for the Teacher for Russia program originated with two graduates from Saint Petersburg State University, Alena Makovich and Elena Yarmanova after they came across Teach for All, a major international network of nongovernmental social enterprises. Four years have passed since then, and this year the Russian program celebrated its first graduating class.
7 November marked the centennial of the October Revolutionan event that, whatever you think of it, has done much to define the entire twentieth century. And of course, the main figure in these epoch-making events was Vladimir Ilich Lenin. We have attempted to interview the Bolshevik leader so that he might explain how he related to the tasks of revolution, politics, morality, and other questions that are important to us all.
Poland appears frequently in the Russian informational space, but sadly, it appears almost every time for a painful reason. This results in a corresponding tone for discussions in online forums. Of course, even a passing familiarity with these forums will show that a typical Russian, especially a young one, does not have a high level of knowledge about Poland (to say the least). And this is too bad, since Russo-Polish relations are very instructive.