11/14/2011, 00.00
RUSSIA - SYRIA - LEBANON
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Patriarch Kirill on 'peace mission' to Middle East

by Nina Achmatova
After a visit to Syria, Lebanon is next. The head of the Russian Orthodox Church prays for the dialogue between churches and between Christians and Muslims and meets political leaders to "restore stability".
Moscow (AsiaNews) - A call for dialogue between churches and between Christians and Muslims in the Middle East has been launched by the Moscow Patriarch, Kirill, on the last day of his visit to Syria before heading to Lebanon. In the Assumption Cathedral in Damascus, the Greek-orthodox Patriarch of Antioch Ignatius presided at a liturgy with Kirill,. "My prayers are for prosperity and peace in Syria and the preservation of good relations between Christians and Muslims," said the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. He then called for the "maintenance of fraternal relations between the Russian Church and Church of Antioch", which together must "ask God mercy for their people." The two patriarchs also inaugurated an exhibition dedicated to the relations between their churches followed by the presentation of the Arabic version of Kirill’s volume "Freedom and Responsibility".

On the eve of the visit, the spokesman for the Patriarchate, Archpriest Vladimir Vigilianski, explained that that Kirill was on a sort of "peace mission" in the Middle East to seek dialogue between the warring parties and "restore political stability "especially in Syria. Here he also met the Prime Minister Adel Safar, who has called for a "peaceful solution" to the problems of the country. "As people of faith - said Kirill - we are convinced that the parties must find the strength to put an end to the fighting". "Promoting dialogue is the duty of all those who care for Syria," he added. For its part, Safar assured that the government is working to meet the people’s demands for justice and praised Russia’s "balanced" position regarding the Syrian crisis.

Kirill then left for Beirut, where he remains until November 15. Here he will meet with Christian leaders such as the Orthodox Metropolitan Elias and the Maronite Patriarch of Antioch. As in Syria, Kirill will also meet top political leaders and probably the President Suleiman.

The visit to the Middle East forms part of the growing apprehension of the Patriarchate of Moscow - and shared by the Vatican – regarding the situation of Christian minorities in the region, where there is growing social and political instability.

"The example of Iraq, Egypt and other countries that have experienced the so-called 'Arab Spring' - denounced Fr. Vigilianski - shows that minorities, especially Christians, are the first to suffer. "

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