02/02/2019, 10.12
RUSSIA
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The first 10 years of Patriarch Kirill

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Celebrations and liturgies for the head of Russian Orthodoxy. He witnessed the overcoming of the long atheist winter and evangelization in the Church has grown, with an increase in dioceses and parishes. Hope for reconciliation with the Kiev Patriarchate in Ukraine. For Putin, autocephaly pursued by the Ukrainian government as part of "power struggle, which has nothing to do with religion".

 

Moscow (AsiaNews) - On January 29, Russia celebrated the first decade of Patriarch Kirill (Gundjaev) on Moscow's patriarchal throne. The event was marked with great liturgical and secular celebrations, biographical publications and  albums on the life of the patriarch, and numerous comments and reflections on the important and delicate phase that the Orthodox Church in Russia is currently experiencing.

Kirill responded to questions in a group press  interview with the major news agencies (Ria Novosti, Tass, Interfax) and the Russia 24 and Spas TV channels. The patriarch retraced the events of this past decade, "full of important changes in the life of our Church and our people". Without emphasizing sociological surveys and statistics, Kirill said he saw "a great change in people's lives and in their relationship with the Church, as the understanding of the role of the Church in the life of our society changed". The long atheist winter tried to "ghettoize the church, devoting great efforts to this over the decades, but those efforts failed".

Regarding the future of the Russian Church and its role in the international community, Kirill recalled that "the course of human history is not accomplished with the visible victory of the Church, but with apocalyptic events, while the Church must always go against the current". Contemporary man is a slave to his own desires and instincts, and the Church will have to meet with great resistance in the future. One of these resistances and difficulties certainly concerns the state of "schism" in Orthodoxy, a subject the journalists pushed the patriarch on.

In the responses of the patriarch there seems to be some glimpse of future relations with the "sister" Churches: "There is no point of no return, apart from the death of each of us ... As long as the Church lives, there will never be a point of no return. You have spoken of 'crisis', and we must use this word in its original sense, judgment and discernment. You can not joke about these topics ". The most important thing is the relationship between the pastors and their flock, that the Church does not renounce her true mission, and as the Gospel says, "you will recognize them from the fruits" (Mt 7: 6). Kirill declares himself convinced that "our spiritual, cultural and civilian unity, that of the Russians and the Ukrainians, is stronger than all models and political schemes".

The head of the Russian Church confesses that deeply desires to visit Ukraine again, where he traveled many times before the conflict in 2014, and to celebrate the liturgy at the Lavra of the Kiev Caves. In his opinion, the current political circumstances will soon be overcome (at the end of March there will be the presidential elections), and things will easily change.

Regarding the support of the Russian Churchfor national politics, the patriarch reflected on the mechanisms of opposition, so the Church "can not stand against the state, but must not remain silent, when the rights of people and the community are violated ". Recalling the Church's opposition to the laws that favor abortion, Kirill emphasized "the importance of overcoming what I would call the moral illness of our society".

On 31 January, at the Kremlin Palace, the ceremony for the celebration of the patriarchal decade was held. In his official speech, Kirill claimed responsibility for the growth of the pastoral life of the Russian Church, the clergy and the laity, in the missionary field, in evangelization, in religious education and in social work and youth outreach. All this, he underlined, "not only in the capital and in the big cities, but also in the deep Russia of the provinces, with the creation of 150 new dioceses [today there are 309] and almost 10 thousand new parishes [today in all 38,649]".

In turn, President Putin gave a congratulatory speech to the patriarch, highlighting his contribution to "strengthening social cohesion", and the importance of the social and charitable activities of the Orthodox Church in the country. Putin recalled the "gigantic challenges and ambitious goals" that await Russia in the coming years, which requires all efforts "to preserve our identity, our unity and solidarity".

The president complained about "speculation, politicity and parasitism in religious matters", referring to Ukraine and describing the government's actions as "false and conditioned by the power struggle, which has nothing to do with religion", in which even the patriarchate of Constantinople has been involved. The leaders of this project, according to Putin, "have learned from the godless of the last century, who chased the faithful from the churches, oppressed and persecuted the priests". Russia "preserves for itself the right to react and defend people's rights, starting from the freedom to profess one's faith", with the blessing of Patriarch Kirill.

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