by Deacon Keith Fournier -
There is a growing recognition that there is more that joins theologically faithful Catholics and theologically faithful Orthodox than that which separates us. The cultural decline compels our collaboration in Christ. It is leading us to a growing mutual respect which may pave the way toward some form of restored communion. Patriarch Kirill sees the Orthodox and Catholic Churches as “sister churches”. That is a welcome sign of the work of the Holy Spirit. We ask our readers around the globe to pray for the Patriarch and for Christians in Russia. …
We welcomed the selection of Patriarch Kirill as the 16th Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia in 2009. It was the first election of a Patriarch since the fall of the atheist Communist regime which governed the former Soviet Union for so many years. We, along with millions the world over, hoped it was a sign of the revitalization of the ancient faith in this critical time in history.
Patriarch Kirill is theologically and doctrinally solid – said to be a man of deep faith and courage. He is a champion of the authentic Orthodox Christian Tradition and a stalwart defender of the doctrine of the ancient Christian Faith of the First Millennium – before the first split in the Church occurred.
He is outspoken in his concern over the moral decline in Russian, European and broader western culture. He is also dedicated to doing something about it - leading a resurgence of authentic Christianity and a new missionary undertaking to Russian culture.
In an insightful analysis written for Catholic Online shortly after the Patriarchs enthronement entitled Patriarch Kirill & Pope Benedict: A Tale of Two Leaders for a new Missionary Age Orthodox priest Fr Johannes L. Jacobse, the editor of Orthodoxy Today and President of the American Orthodox Institute opined, “Patriarch Kirill is a theological conservative in the mold of Pope Benedict. Both see religion as the wellspring of culture. Both understand that Europe cannot escape a final capitulation to tyranny if it does not rediscover its Christian roots.”
Since his enthronement, Patriarch Kirill has offered his voice of clarity and authority to the growing Catholic and Orthodox critique of the decline of moral values and the hostility of the contemporary culture toward the Church. He openly decries the growing rejection of Christian influence throughout the world. He warns of the the dangers that such a rejection present to civilization and authentic freedom.
Patriarch Kirill has repeatedly called upon Orthodox Christians to be actively involved in reclaiming the culture with the values informed by the ancient faith. Shortly after his selection, the Patriarch noted that, “in the Vatican and not only in the Vatican but all over the world, Catholics understand that Orthodox (people) are their allies. And Orthodox (people) are more and more coming to understand that Catholics are their allies in the face of hostile and non-religious secularism.”
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”. The elements of that message echoed much in the mission of Pope Benedict XVI.
One of many signs of the work of the Holy Spirit in the Third Christian Millennium is the rediscovery between Orthodox and Catholic Christians of our common Baptismal bond as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. I am numbered among a growing number who believe that the Holy Spirit is gathering a movement of Orthodox and Catholic Christians to collaborate in this critical hour.
There is a growing recognition that there is more that joins theologically faithful Catholics and theologically faithful Orthodox than that which separates us. The urgency of the cultural decline compels our collaboration in Christ. It is also leading us to a growing mutual respect which may pave the way toward some form of restored communion.
Polls in Russia indicated that only 5 percent of Russians were observant in the practice of their Orthodox Christian faith when the Patriarch was enthroned. Less than 30 percent expressed their commitment to following the moral teaching of the Church.
The Patriarchs’ call for exposing this moral disintegration and remedying its effects on Russian culture through a resurgence of the faith shows how much the new Patriarch shares with his brother, Pope Benedict XVI. The growing resurgence of the Orthodox faith indicates his work is bearing fruit.
Patriarch Kirill has faced opposition within the Orthodox Church for his dialogue with the Catholic Church. However, he has showed 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 has continued that dialogue.
Pope Benedict XVI sent an especially meaningful gift to the new Patriarch when he was enthroned, a chalice with which he now consecrates 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”.
Asia news reported that between 40,000 and 65,000 of the lay faithful and Orthodox priests gathered in Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow for a day of Prayer on April 22, 2012 at the request of the Patriarch. He led the historic event.
Media reports in Russia reflect some hostility in the Russian media toward the Patriarch. In late February a punk rock girl group performed a musical “punk prayer” concert in the Cathedral. The Patriarch was vocal in his condemnation of the event, calling it blasphemous.
Some in the Russian media do not like his opposition to the performance and paint him as some kind of enemy of free expression. Some question his alleged support of Putin, though he has questioned the recent elections and distanced himself from the leader. Most simply appear to find his open, persistent and vocal condemnation of what he calls a dangerous moral decline in Russia offensive.
The Patriarch gave his perspective on the media’s hostility toward him, telling a reporter “We are under attack by anti-Russian forces. The danger is that blasphemy and mockery of religion are presented as a legitimate expression of human freedom, which must be protected in modern society.” Of course, he sees such acts as a misuse and abuse of freedom.
His call for this day of prayer, as well as the response of the Orthodox faithful, reflect Kirill’s growing influence in Russia. Asia news interviewed Olga Golubeva, 54, a lawyer, who participated in the procession and prayer gathering. She said, “I came here because there is a risk that Russia will return to its past without God,”
Another participant, Alexei Makarkin, an analyst with the Center for political technologies in Moscow told them, “The Church needs this kind of events to prove it has more supporters than detractors - but also to consolidate the support of clergy and faithful.”
We certainly do not know the full story of what is happening in the current political climate of Russia. However, we do have confidence in sources which continue to affirm that this Patriarch is a man of deep Christian faith who seeks to lead of resurgence of Orthodoxy in Russia.
Patriarch Kirill has a genuine respect for the Catholic Church. He sees the Orthodox and Catholic Churches as “sister churches”. That is a welcome sign of the work of the Holy Spirit. We ask our readers around the globe to pray for the Patriarch and for all Christians in Russia.
The return of Christianity to Russia is a welcome turn of history. It should give us hope for our own Nation as we face the effects of moral relativism, secularism and the growing hostility toward Christianity.
HT: Catholic Online