Moscow, February 1, 2019
Yesterday, January 31, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia met with a number of delegations from fraternal Local Orthodox Churches that had arrived in Moscow to participate in the celebration of the 10th anniversary of Pat. Kirill’s enthronement as the primate of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The meeting at the patriarchal residence at Moscow’s Danilov Monastery included delegations from the Churches of Alexandria, Jerusalem, Georgia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Poland, reports the site of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Pat. Kirill began the meeting by highlighting the opportunity to pray and to discuss matters of common concern whenever representatives of the Local Churches gather together. “I would like to use this meeting to acquaint you with the understanding of the Russian Orthodox Church regarding the events taking place, including in our Orthodox family,” His Holiness said in particular.
Focusing on the Patriarchate of Constantinople’s actions in Ukraine, Pat. Kirill reflected: “A very difficult situation arises when schismatics accepted without repentance are declared canonical, and the canonical Church is actually put in the place of the schismatics.”
The Russian primate highlighted the importance of the issue by noting that Kiev is the “Mother of Russian cities” and is viewed like the Russian Jerusalem. “The unity of our entire Local Church is based on this spiritual connection, he said.
He also noted that only two bishops from the canonical Church attended the “unification council” in December, and that the Russian Church, of course, does not accept this “council.” Moreover, the Ukrainian state is fighting against the canonical Church today, pressuring bishops and clergy to accept the schism, with churches being seized throughout the country.
“In other words, on the territory of Europe today we are faced with the open persecution of the canonical Orthodox Church,” the Patriarch said.
“Our Church was forced to respond to non-canonical acts,” His Holiness said. “The Orthodox Church’s set means in such a situation is small: The only means that could somehow admonish and instruct those who initiated this tragedy is the cessation of Eucharistic communion. Therefore, we decided with great sorrow to cease Eucharist communion with the Patriarch of Constantinople because of his direct participation in the legalization of schism in Ukraine,” Pat. Kirill explained.
He also pointed out that this situation raises questions about what primacy in the Church means. Whereas, primacy was always understood to mean “first among equals,” “If the first among equals is willing to invade the life of other Local Orthodox Churches, regardless of their autocephalous status, it means something more—it means there is the concept of ‘First Without Equals,’” which is a challenge for the whole Church, Pat. Kirill explained.
At the same time, His Holiness noted that the Orthodox Church has great potential to respond to the radical secularization of modern society, centered in the grace that comes from the Divine Eucharist.
Then the head of the Alexandrian delegation, His Eminence Metropolitan Theophylactus of Tripoli, addressed Pat. Kirill, saying that the Russian primate has “struggled day and night in love and care” to preserve the spiritual and cultural tradition of the Russian Orthodox Church and Russian people while bearing the cross of the patriarchal ministry. He also conveyed the good wishes of His Beatitude Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria and All Africa.
Then His Eminence Metropolitan Andria of Gori of the Georgian Orthodox Church read out a message from His Holiness Patriarch-Catholicos Ilia II that read, in part: “We congratulate you, because by your efforts and missionary efforts millions of people have strengthened their faith, many churches and monasteries have been opened, centers of education, culture and charity have emerged, and hundreds and thousands of bishops, priests and monks are working in the field of God. We wish you further fruitful service.”
The Georgian primate also expressed that hope that Orthodox unity will be preserved in the midst of the Ukrainian crisis by common prayers and efforts and a reliance on the holy canons of the Church.
Next, the greetings of His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel of Romania were read out by His Eminence Metropolitan Nifon of Târgoviște, in which Pat. Kirill is said to be on par with his successors who nurtured the Russian Church, which has given birth to so many saints and martyrs, and who actively continue the revival of the Russian Church that began in 1991.
“On this blessed day of your Patriarchal ministry, on behalf of the bishops, clergy and faithful of the Romanian Orthodox Church, I congratulate you and wish you many and blessed years with health and fruitful achievements!” the Romanian primate wrote.
Congratulations were also received from His Holiness Patriarch Neofit of Bulgaria, as read by His Eminence Metropolitan Cyprian of Stara Zagora. As Pat. Neofit notes, Pat. Kirill’s primatial ministry comes at a “time full of many challenges and trials for the Christian and our archpastoral conscience.”
“Every day and every moment the enemy of human salvation exposes us to various insidious tricks to lead us away from the path that Christ the Lord commanded us on the Cross. However, in our hands and hearts there is the only reliable and faithful weapon against every enemy and adversary, and this weapon is truth and love—that Divine love that knows no boundaries and before which the enemy forces are powerless,” Pat. Neofit said, wishing the Russian primate health and courage in facing these tricks.
Finally, the message of His Beatitude Metropolitan Sawa of Warsaw and All Poland was read out by His Eminence Archbishop Abel of Lublin and Chelm.
Having mentioned that Pat. Kirill lived in the difficult time of the atheistic regime, which left the Russian land irrigated with the blood of martyrs for the faith, Met. Sawa stressed: “Therefore, you, as few of the younger generation, know the misery and sufferings of people of faith. Today's young man, not knowing the past, will not understand what happiness it is to believe openly. Various trials shaped You for the forthcoming episcopal work, and then for the high patriarchal ministry.”
Met. Sawa also noted a number of Pat. Kirill’s achievements as Patriarch and wished him health and rich mercy from the Lord.
And, addressing His Holiness, Abp. Abel said: “I want to testify that I sympathize with the Russian Orthodox Church in the very difficult Ukrainian issue. Our position in this matter is unchanging and will be steady.”
At the end of the meeting, gifts were exchanged between Pat. Kirill and the delegations.
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