Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Kirill Elected New Russian Orthodox Patriarch

The bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church this evening in Moscow elected Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, 62, to succeed the late Patriarch Alexi II as the head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The new Patriarch's challenge: to deepen the Church's influence inside Russia, and to widen its presence outside Russia

Kirill will "certainly" invite Pope Benedict XVI to visit Russia, and increase collaboration with the Roman Catholic Church worldwide, Orthodox sources say.

His election thus opens new perspectives for closer relations between Orthodoxy and Catholicism, the "two lungs," East and West, of a Christianity divided since the Great Schism of 1054.

His election also opens a new era in the post-Soviet period of the Russian nation, its internal life and its relations to the West and the entire world.


One great question concerns his relations with the Pope of Rome and with the Roman Catholic Church in general. It seems certain that Kirill, who has traveled several times to Rome and has met with Pope Benendict XVI more than once, will invite Benedict to visit Russia -- something Pope John Paul II wished to do but was not able to due to the unwillingness of Patriarch Alexi to receive him.
(Photo: Pope Benedict XVI greets Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Kirill before a meeting at the Vatican Dec. 7. The pope and Metropolitan Kirill, head of the Moscow Patriarchate's office for external relations, held a rare meeting in a bid to improve often-strain ed relations.

"Kirill has a keen sense of the important role of religious institutions in public life," said Daniel Schmidt, an American philanthropist who has met and spoken at length with Kirill. "He recognizes the essential role of religious faith, not just in his own country, but in human society in general, in building social trust," Schmidt, director of programs for the Bradley Foundation of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, said. The foundation has supported many Russian youth centers, orphanages, clinics and schools over the past 10 years.

Kirill's election, then, may usher in a time when the Russian Church will be more open to collaboration and common efforts, in Russia and worldwide, with the Catholic Church, and with others as well.

Source: Inside the Vatican, Dr. Robert Moynihan

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