While Catholics and Orthodox may be divided on earth, they are still able to pray to the same intercessors in heaven for unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch said during a visit to Russia.

The cardinal, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, led a group to St Petersburg to return a relic of St Nicholas to Bari, Italy. It had been on loan to the Russian Orthodox since late May.

Russian Orthodox officials estimated that some two million faithful venerated the relic eith­er at Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow or at Holy Trinity Cathedral in St Petersburg.

At a Mass on July 27 at the Catholic cathedral of St Catherine in St Petersburg, Cardinal Koch said Catholics and Orthodox believe that when they venerate a saint, they are giving glory to God.

“The veneration of the saints is divine worship and adoration of God in his holiness and in his coming, which sanctifies human beings,” he said. “The saints are like a prism that reflects the light of God’s holiness in different chromatic tones and refractions.”

St Nicholas is one of the patron saints of Russia and, having lived and died centuries before the East-West split of Christianity, he is revered by both Catholics and Orthodox.

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