Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill is Enthroned
The selection of the new Patriarch is being received by the Holy See as a very hopeful sign for the relationship between the Russian Orthodox and Catholic Churches.
Pope Benedict XVI sent an especially meaningful gift to the new Patriarch, a chalice with which he will consecrate the blood of Christ.
Patriarch Kirill has now become the first Russian Patriarch to be chosen since the fall of the former Soviet Union. His selection to succeed his predecessor Patriarch Alexy II occurred on Tuesday of the week before. It was received by the faithful of the Orthodox Church with great joy. It was also received by the Holy See as a very hopeful sign for the continued warming of the relationship between the Russian Orthodox and Catholic Churches. There is no doubt that the dream in the heart of the late Servant of God John Paul II is also borne by his successor Pope Benedict XVI, the “breathing together with two lungs” of the Church for her mission in the Third Millennium.
The “enthronement” occurred in the presence of the President of Russia, it’s Premier and many other government leaders. The Holy See sent its highest delegation, along with a special gift. There were 4,000 members of both the Clergy and the faithful in attendance. Reports of the service have all spoken of its beauty, transcendence and profundity. The Cathedral was filled with melodious chant and the smoke of incense representing the prayers of the Saints joining with the angels and the vast communion of heaven in the offering of worship.The light filling the vast cathedral came from the candles held by the faithful, symbolizing the light of Christ placed in their hands to bear in the midst of the world. Patriarch Kirill received a new vestment, embroidered in black and gold, and a gold brocade miter.
His first message to the faithful - and to the world as millions watched by television and internet - emphasized his commitment to reaching out to the young, his dedication to working with those whom he called the “sister churches” and his strong intention to combat “moral relativism”. Each of these is, of course, being received with great hope and optimism by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. They echo so clearly the missionary mindset and urgent mission of his own Papacy. Finally, they signal to millions of Christian faithful the goodness of God in his response to their prayers.
Polls in Russia indicate that only 5 percent of Russians are observant in the practice of their Orthodox Christian faith. Less than 30 percent express their commitment to following the moral teaching of the Church. This again shows how much the new Patriarch shares with his brother, Pope Benedict XVI. They are both called to lead what the late Servant of God John Paul II called a “New Evangelization”, a phrase by which he referred to the desperate need to re - evangelize and properly catechize the baptized members of the Church. Only a truly faithful lay faithful can rise to the challenges presented in what many believers are convinced is a new missionary age for the Church.
The Patriarch is a strong and popular preacher known to use the media for proclaiming the message of the ancient faith. He is also considered to have a pastoral heart, accompanied by the keen mind of a careful strategist. He already faces opposition within the Orthodox Church for his dialogue with the Catholic Church. However, he shows no sign of retreat, particularly in joint efforts aimed at stemming the growing spread of the culture of death and the sordid fruit of moral relativism. Before he was elevated to the Patriarchate, he was responsible for dialogue with the Holy See. He met with Pope Benedict XVI in December of 2007 and the two speak well of each other.
Patriarch Kirill is the son of an Orthodox Priest. Though considered unusual to many Roman Catholics, this is not uncommon for Eastern Christians. In the Eastern Christian tradition, Orthodox and Catholic, married men are accepted for candidacy and can pursue ordination into both the order of Deacon and the Holy Priesthood. They must be married before ordination and cannot remarry upon the loss of their spouses. However, those who serve as Bishops in both the Orthodox and the Eastern Catholic Churches are all consecrated to celibacy.
Pope Benedict XVI sent an especially meaningful gift to the new Patriarch, a chalice with which he will consecrate the blood of Christ. He expressed his hope in these words, "It is my earnest hope that we will continue to cooperate in finding ways to foster and strengthen communion in the body of Christ in fidelity to our savior's prayer that all may be one so that the world may believe".
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
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