Sunday, January 26, 2014

Carol Saba on Day One of Patriarch John X's Visit to Moscow

French original here.

The Irenic Visit of Patriarch John X to the Patriarchate of Moscow and All Russia: Day One

Moscow-- Saturday, January 25, 2014-- His Beatitude Patriarch John X of Antioch, primate of the Orthodox Church of Antioch and All the East, left Beirut today to begin, in response to his official invitation from the Russian Orthodox Church, an irenical visit to his brother His Holiness Cyril, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. This important visit which will continue until January 30 comes in the context of the irenic visits that Patriarch John X is making according to tradition to the primates of the autocephalous Orthodox churches following his accession to the See of Antioch. The importance of this visit lies in the fact that it is an irenical, ecclesial visit that aims to reaffirm the fraternal, bilateral relations between the two churches and the lines of communication between them. It also aims to strengthen relations between the churches in order to face the challenges of today's world by means of a good and edifying understanding of the many changes occurring in this world.

An important delegation from the Orthodox Church of Antioch is accompanying His Beatitude John X of Antioch during this visit. It is composed of Metropolitans Basil and Ephrem, respectively the archbishops of Akkar and Tripoli, Archimandrites Philip (Yazigi) and Parthenios (Ellati), Archdeacon Gerasimos (Kabbas), former minister and ambassador Hassan Richi, Dr Georges Nahas, vice-president of Balamand University, Mr Carol Saba (responsible for the visit's communications), and Mr Taki Louka, photographer.

His Beatitude John X was welcomed at the Moscow airport by a delegation of high dignitaries from the Moscow Patriarchate consisting of Metropolitan Juvenaly of Kroutitsi and Kolomna and Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Patriarchate of Moscow's Department of External Relations. Likewise, Metropolitan Niphon Saikali, the Patriarchate of Antioch's vicar for the Patriarchate of Moscow, was also present. Patriarch John X and the accompanying delegation went directly to the patriarchal residence of His Holiness Patriarch Cyril at the Danilovski Monastery, where they were welcomed by His Holiness, along with numerous bishops, priests, deacons and monks who accompanied them to the chapel of the patriarchal residence as they chanted to the Mother of God "It Is Truly Meet To Bless Thee". At the request of His Holiness, Patriarch John X presided at the service of thanksgiving from the throne. Following the service, there was an exchange of speeches during which the patriarchs mentioned the historical relations between the two churches and ways of developing relations further, as well as the difficult situation and trials that the Patriarchate of Antioch is experiencing during the conflict in the Middle East, especially in Syria. Then in the throne-room the two delegations held profound bilateral discussions which, in a frank and brotherly manner,  covered topics as diverse as relations between the two churches and the means of developing them even further, inter-Orthodox relations and the imperatives of Orthodox unity and of Orthodox witness in the world today, the difficult situation of the Middle East and of Syria in particular and the means of dealing with it as well as the need to establish peace in these countries beset with trials, the importance of Muslim-Christian coexistence, the need to establish societies based on citizenship in the Middle East which preserve unity and diversity and guarantee for everyone all freedoms and fundamental rights in terms of equal treatment with regard to rights and responsibilities for each citizen, regardless of religious affiliation. The issue of ecumenical relations was also raised, as well as the imperatives of Christian witness in today's world together with the irenic relations between religions for the service of humanity, their freedoms and dignity of life. All these issues will be raised more extensively during the discussions of the coming days.

Following the discussions, the two parties exchanged gifts. His Holiness Cyril then granted His Beatitude John X the Russian Church's highest honor, presenting him with the first rank of the Order of Saint Vladimir. He likewise granted Metropolitans Basil and Ephrem the second rank of the same order and each member of the delegation the third rank. His Holiness then showed the Antiochian delegation the hall of the Holy Synod of the Russian Church before hosting, with His Beatitude John X, the dinner offered to the Antiochian delegation in the dining hall of the Russian Orthodox Synod.

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