Moscow (AsiaNews) - Card Bechara Boutros Rai, Maronite patriarch of Antioch today, begins a visit in Moscow. He is in Russia before travelling to Rome for the conclave that will elect the new pope, Ria Novosti reported today citing Mgr Ivan Jurkovic, apostolic nuncio to the Russian Federation. The patriarch is in Russia on the invitation of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Card Rai will leave Moscow on Friday. During his stay, he is scheduled to meet local religious and political leaders. The main issue he will discuss with his Russian hosts will be the situation of Christians in the Middle East, and the ongoing crisis in Syria where the Kremlin is trying to mediate a solution that would avoid external military interventions.
The Maronite primate's first stop will be a visit with the local Lebanese community. He will take part in the liturgy at St Maron Church where he is bringing as a gift a relic from the titular saint.
Tomorrow, he will meet Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the Moscow Patriarchate External Relations Department, followed by a meeting with Patriarch Kirill. The latter visited Lebanon in November 2011 and visited the local Catholic Maronite Church.
Card Rai will also meet Sergei Naryshkin, speaker of Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament.
His visit will end with a final Mass in Immaculate Conception Catholic Cathedral where he will meet Mgr Paolo Pezzi, archbishop of Mother of God in Moscow.
Patriarch Boutros Rai recently celebrated his 73rd birthday and was elevated to the dignity of cardinal by Benedict XVI in the last consistory in November 2012. (N.A.)