Istanbul (AsiaNews) - The Orthodox patriarch of Moscow, Alexy II, "felt his end approaching" and decided to "work to reestablish peace within the Church": this is the testimony that Bartholomew I, ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, has given to AsiaNews, commenting on the death of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Yesterday, during first vespers for the feast of St. Nicholas in Ipsomatia, behind the walls of the Yedikule, Bartholomew officiated over prayers for the deceased patriarch. His voice trembling with emotion, he said: "the mother Church of Constantinople shares in the sorrow of our Russian brothers, over the death of our brother Alexy, patriarch of Moscow."
Bartholomew I recalled that "sometimes there was tension between us, and we did not have the same opinion on various questions concerning the Orthodox Church." Constantinople and Moscow have gone through difficult moments over the question of the independence of the Estonian Orthodox Church, which Moscow wanted to control; on relations with Catholics; on the Orthodox Churches of the diaspora; on the attitude toward the Ukrainian Churches. On this last point, Bartholomew added: "when I went [to Ukraine] to participate in the celebration of the 1020 years of the Christianization of the Russian people, after the celebration of the liturgy and after the official lunch, we had a long and productive meeting, in which [Alexy] told me that he felt his end approaching, and that we had to work to reestablish peace within the Church. He told me that he might not be able to come to the pan-Orthodox meeting last October. In spite of his dour predictions, and disobeying the orders of his own doctors, Patriarch Alexy came to the meeting because he had a strong desire to add his signature to the important final document of the pan-Orthodox meeting, which constitutes the reply of the entire Orthodox Church to the challenges of the contemporary world. With this signature, he left an indelible mark of his testimony."
"Dear brother," Bartholomew added, "may your memory be eternal, and we pray that the Holy Spirit may help the Russian Church to provide a worthy successor to you."
The ecumenical patriarch has also convened a synod to decide on sending representatives to participate in the funeral liturgy for the patriarch of Moscow.