12/06/2008, 00.00
RUSSIA - VATICAN
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Alexy II: pope expresses condolences

Remembering the figure of the deceased Orthodox patriarch, Benedict XVI hopes that his memory will be "an encouragement for those who will benefit from his spiritual legacy." Condolences also from the Russian Catholic world, and bishops Werth and Pezzi. The funeral of Alexy II is scheduled for December 9, and Cardinals Kasper and Etchegaray are expected to attend from Rome. The date of the synod for the election of his successor will be made known following the ceremony.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Benedict XVI says he is "profoundly saddened" over the death of Alexy II, and affirms his "spiritual closeness" to the entire Russian Orthodox Church. In his message of condolence, the pope calls the deceased patriarch a "tireless servant," and his death a "sad time of loss."

The pope's message recalls the "common commitment to the path of mutual understanding and cooperation between Orthodox and Catholics," and "the efforts of the late Patriarch for the rebirth of the Church, after the severe ideological oppression which led to the martyrdom of so many witnesses to the Christian faith."

"I also recall," Benedict XVI continues, "his courageous battle for the defence of human and Gospel values, especially in the European Continent, and I trust that his commitment will bear fruit in peace and genuine progress, human, social and spiritual."

Concluding his message of condolence, the pope expresses his hope that "the memory of this servant of the Gospel of Christ be a support for those who are now in sorrow and an encouragement for those who will benefit from his spiritual legacy as leader of the venerable Russian Orthodox Church."

The many expressions of condolence addressed to the Orthodox Church by various representatives of the Catholic world also include that of the Russian Church. The president of the local bishops' council, Bishop Joseph Werth, has affirmed the participation of the Catholic community of the country in the sadness of the Orthodox faithful.

Paolo Pezzi, archbishop of the archdiocese of Mother of God at Moscow, has expressed his own condolences, affirming that "Russian Catholics, together with their Orthodox brothers and sisters, raise their prayers to the Lord for a luminous and eternal repose for His Holiness Alexy II among the just, in the sure hope that our Lord Jesus will welcome His faithful servant into His Kingdom."

Beginning on the afternoon of Sunday, December 7, the remains of the patriarch will be displayed in the cathedral of Christ the Savior, where the population and the authorities will be able to pay homage to Alexy II.

The patriarch's funeral will be celebrated on December 9, in the cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. Participating in the ceremony for the Catholic Church will be Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the pontifical council for Christian unity, and Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, vice-dean of the college of cardinals.

Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, of the department for external relations at the patriarchate, has communicated that the date for the convocation of the synod to elect the 16th patriarch of Moscow and the successor of Alexy II will be made known after the funeral.

The patriarchate says that the burial place has not yet been decided. Alexy II had expressed a desire to be buried in the cathedral of the Epiphany in the Russian capital. The only thing that is certain is that "the body of the patriarch will be buried in the heart of Moscow."

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