Unity-Seekers Welcome New Russian Patriarch

Expect Advances in Dialogue With Catholics

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ROME, JAN. 28, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The Catholic archbishop in Moscow hailed the election of a new patriarch for the Russian Orthodox Church as a hope for the continuation of ecumenical dialogue.

Archbishop Paolo Pezzi said this today to Vatican Radio, commenting on Tuesday’s election of Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad. The 62-year-old metropolitan, till now 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.

Archbishop Pezzi called the election «very positive news» and said that it implies «continuity and recognition of the work of the former patriarch, Alexy II.»

The prelate predicted that as patriarch, Kirill will «increase efforts toward dialogue and communion among Christians.»

Meanwhile, Aid to the Church in Need, which offers financial support to the Moscow patriarchate, also welcomed the news. The organization has supported the Russian Orthodox Church since Pope John Paul II requested it in 1992.

The president of the charity organization, Joaquín Alliende, explained that there has been a long history of «fruitful contact» with this new patriarch. He expressed his expectation that there will be a continuation of dialogue with the Catholic Church «to face the common challenges of all Christians.»


Vladimir Gundyayev, the future Metropolitan Kirill, was born in Leningrad in 1946, the son of an Orthodox priest. He was ordained a hieromonk (a monk who is also a priest) in 1969 and made archimandrite in 1971.

Between 1971 and 1974, he represented the Russian Orthodox Church at the Ecumenical Council of Churches. In 1976 he was ordained a bishop and became metropolitan of Smolensk in 1991.

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