Bartholomew I Foresees Orthodox Unity With Kirill

Proposes a Convocation of the Grand Synod

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MOSCOW, FEB. 6, 2009 ( The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, expressed hope that the election of Kirill as the new Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia will bring greater unity among the Orthodox Churches.

Bartholomew I made this known in his message to the new Russian patriarch on the occasion of his enthronement in Moscow on Feb. 1, reported L’Osservatore Romano today. He expressed the hope that this event will be a step forward toward the celebration of «The Great and Holy Synod» that gathers together all the Orthodox Churches.

The message was delivered to Patriarch Kirill by Archbishop Ireneus of Crete, head of the delegation of the ecumenical patriarch in Moscow.

It read, «The expectations of the Church of Constantinople are many and are focused above all on unity and good will, as well as the common path toward the organization and convocation of the Great Synod, which has been announced for some time.»

The celebration of the Great Synod «should be accelerated in order to preserve the credibility of the Orthodox Church and the cooperation with the other Christian Churches when the theological discussions have finished,» added the patriarch.

He affirmed that «the peaceful solution of bilateral divergences and other issues that have come up in time» also necessitates the unity between Orthodox Christians.

Furthermore, he added, Christians should face together «the socioeconomic problems which affect the contemporary world,» as well as the “challenges of bioethics.”

Bartholomew I described Kirill as «an active and creative man» and «a man of proven ecclesial value, characterized by wisdom and by his contribution to the unity of Christians.»


The Russian Orthodox Church, according to tradition born in 988 with the conversion of Vladimir the Great, depended initially on the patriarch of Constantinople, until 1589. It is one of 14 Autocephalous Orthodox Churches, and the most numerous in members, including more than 80 million of the 200 million Orthodox believers in the world.

The patriarch of Moscow does not recognize the patriarch of Constantinople as «primus inter pares» [first among equals], a title traditionally attributed to him by other Orthodox Churches. This has given rise to historical disagreements and misunderstandings.

The last of these rifts took place in 1996 on the occasion of Estonia’s independence. The Church of that country requested to enter the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, abandoning Moscow, and the Moscow Patriarchate does not recognize it.

This particular controversy led to the Russian Orthodox Church’s withdrawal from the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches, in protest of the participation of Estonians in the meeting held in Ravenna, Italy, Oct. 8-14, 2007.

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