Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The New Russian Patriarch

Blessings on and prayers for His Holiness Patriarch Kyrill of Moscow and All Russia. He was enthroned on 1 February. There is information and some nifty pictures here.

Following is an excerpt from his enthronement address to those gathered (including the Russian President and his string-puller, Vladimir Putin

To combine Orthodox faith and the moral of the Gospel with the everyday thoughts and hopes of people means to help them answer the most difficult philosophical and ethical questions of our time. Faith will be understandable and in real demand, irrespective of the variety and discrepancy of views and convictions in society, only when people realize and feel deeply the unquestionable rightness and power of the message which God Himself is sending to people in His revelation. Human thoughts and human words cannot be stronger than the Word of God. If this obvious truth is not evident to many people, this means that the beauty and persuasiveness of the Divine Word is obscured by that what we today call the ‘human factor.’

The witness of the Church to the world presupposes not only the sermon in church, but also an open, friendly and interested dialogue, in which both sides are both speaking and listening. The truths of faith become at least understandable through this dialogue, as they come into creative and living contact with the thoughts and convictions of people. The Church enriches herself through this dialogue with the knowledge of what contemporary people are with their way of thinking and their questions to the Church.

This kind of dialogue facilitates a greater understanding among people of different views and convictions, including their religious beliefs, and promotes the consolidation of peace and accord in our societies and states. The relations between the Church and the State should develop in the framework of a friendly dialogue and cooperation on the basis of the Constitution to serve the good of the Church and the state and the good of people.

The Primates of all Local Churches are called to care for the unity of Universal Orthodoxy together with their brothers from other Churches. I thank the first hierarchs and representatives of the Holy Orthodox Churches present here for our common prayers, and I state that I shall always be open to dialogue with the sister Churches and to common efforts which would help us strengthen and improve all-Orthodox cooperation and to attain more coordination of our pastoral and missionary efforts.

For the most part, not bad, I think. (I recognize that I may overly optimistic in my interprestation of the Patriarch's reference to the "sister Churches." Does he mean only those Churches gathered around the Eastern patriarchs, or does he implicitly acknowledge an ecclesial reality in the other traditions, too?) It's reminiscent of some of the sentiments of Vatican II's readiness to engage in conversation with the "separated brethren," with the Church's cultured despisers, and with those who just don't get what the Church stands for. Principled and respectful dialogue is the way to go (also in secular foreign affairs, if I may inject a political note -- but then Patriarch specifically addresses his nation's political leaders, so I can't be too far inappropriate).

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