Benedict XVI Welcomes New Russian Patriarch

Sends Telegram of Congratulations for Election

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 28, 2009 ( Benedict XVI sent a telegram to the new patriarch of Moscow and of All Russia to congratulate him on his recent election as head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The Pope expressed his «spiritual closeness» to Patriarch-elect Kirill and offered his «warm» congratulations in the message, published today by the Holy See. The elections were held Tuesday.

The patriarch-elect was serving as the metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad. The 62-year-old metropolitan, until now also president of the Department of External Affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate, had been fulfilling the duties of patriarch since the Dec. 5 death of Alexy II.

«I wish you every strength and joy in the fulfillment of the great task which lies before you as you guide the Church over which you now preside along the path of spiritual growth and unity,» said the Pontiff.

The message also expressed the well wishes of the Holy Father that the new patriarch will «maintain communion among the Orthodox Churches» and will «seek that fullness of communion which is the goal of Catholic-Orthodox collaboration and dialogue.»

He gave an assurance of the «Catholic Church’s commitment to cooperate with the Russian Orthodox Church for an ever clearer witness to the truth of the Christian message and to the values which alone can sustain today’s world along the way of peace, justice and loving care of the marginalized.»

Benedict XVI added: «In prayer, I ask the Lord to grant you an abundance of wisdom to discern his will, to persevere in loving service of the people entrusted to your patriarchal ministry, and to sustain them in fidelity to the gospel and the great traditions of Russian Orthodoxy.»

Curia’s wishes

Also in a communiqué published today, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity welcomed the election, describing the patriarch as a man «with whom we have maintained fraternal relations for many years.»

«We trust we will be able to continue together down the path of mutual understanding we have already begun,» the communiqué added. «We do not, of course, wish to lose sight of the difficulties that still remain, but we are ready and willing to cooperate in the social and cultural fields in order to bear witness to Christian values while, nonetheless, not forgetting that the ultimate aim of dialogue is the realization of the testament of Jesus Christ our Lord: the full communion of all his disciples.

«We hope and pray that God may grant the new patriarch abundant blessings and guide him with the gifts of strength and wisdom.»

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Full text of papal telgram:

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