Pope to Patriarch: We Will Continue Cooperating

Congratulates Kirill on Enthronement as Leader of Russian Orthodox

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 2, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI has sent another message to the new patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, reiterating the importance of collaboration in seeking Christian unity.

The Pope again wrote Patriarch Kirill, elected last Tuesday, on the occasion of Sunday’s enthroning ceremony. The message was made public today. He had already sent a message on the occasion of Kirill’s election.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, headed the Vatican delegation at the enthroning ceremony and delivered the papal message, together with a chalice, to the 62-year-old patriarch.

The Holy Father recalled his meetings with the new patriarch in Kirill’s previous role as the president of the Department of External Affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate. The Pontiff characterized these encounters as full of «good will» and recalled Kirill’s role in «forging a new relationship between our Churches, a relationship based on friendship, mutual acceptance and sincere dialogue in facing the difficulties of our common journey.»

«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,» he added.

Firm foundation

Benedict XVI also recalled the work accomplished by Kirill’s predecessor, Alexy II, who died on Dec. 5. The Pope mentioned Alexy’s efforts in the renewal of the Russian Orthodox Church itself, as well as its cooperation with other Christian Churches.

The Holy Father spoke of the heritage left by the late patriarch, «as he led the Russian Orthodox Church out of the long and difficult period of suffering under the totalitarian and atheistic system to a new, active presence and service in today’s society.»

Alexy II «worked assiduously for the unity of the Russian Orthodox Church and for communion with the other Orthodox Churches,» the Pontiff affirmed. «He likewise maintained a spirit of openness and cooperation with other Christians, and with the Catholic Church in particular, for the defense of Christian values in Europe and in the world.

«I am certain that Your Holiness will continue to build on this solid foundation, for the good of your people and for the benefit of Christians everywhere.»

«Conscious of the enormous responsibilities which accompany the spiritual and pastoral ministry to which the Holy Spirit has called you, I renew to Your Holiness the assurance of my prayers and fraternal good will,» the Bishop of Rome concluded. «I ask Almighty God to bless you with his love, to watch over the beloved Russian Church, and to sustain the bishops, priests and all the faithful in the unfailing hope which is ours in Christ Jesus.»

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