Monday, February 2, 2009


Things are always going a bit special with regards to faith in Israel. The Russian Orthodox Church of Moscow proceded today to the enthronement of the new-elected Patriarch Kyrill I of Moscow and All Rus'. It is indeed a major event for the Russian Orthodx Church. It is the first xtime in Modern times that a patrairch is freely elected in the country. The Russian Orthodox Church is undoubtedly the biggest Eastern Orthodox Church. Thus, as a consequence of the fall of communism and the full emergence of all Christian Orthodox Church, this event can be counted among the most fascinating new challenge of Christendom in the world. The Patriarchate of Moscow is present everywhere in the world. It had participated in the creation of the local American and Canadian Church. After the Bolshevik Revolution, Patriarch Tikhon has sent emissaries to set up parishes and spiritual centers in the West and the many diasporas.

The Church of Jerusalem is under the omophoron of Patriarch Theophilos III who heads the Greek/Rum Orthodox Church of Jerusalem. The faithful of all Orthodox Churches are under his obedience and normally, only the local Church of Jerusalem is entitled to marry, a rule that was pending under all previous political systems and that is continuing with the Israeli State, the Jordanian Kingdom and the Palestinian Authority.

Nonetheless, the Church of Moscow has a long tradition in the Holy Land. In 1840, bezfore the birth of Eliezer Ben Yehudah - the reviver of Modern Hebrew - the Eqstern Orthodox ecclesiastical mission in Jerusalem used to propose the Divine Liturgy in Hebrew along with Church Russian (Slavonic). Today the fact is bot very much mentioned, but the clergy of the Russian convents and monasteries often learn Hebrew and slowly make their journey through new "Israelity".

Israel has constant problems with the Christian denominations, whatever tendencies or new trends concerned. Still, new Patriarch Kyrill follows the way opened by late Patriarch Alexey II who had visited Jerusalem in 1991 when he was elected. He then met with the Israeli authorities. The country has and still shows a real cultural imprint that is common with many aspects of the Slavic cultures and languages. The Church do not influence the Israeli attitude. In these very difficult days for the Israelis and the Palestinians, the enthronement of the new patriarch cannot be ignored. Russia had strongly supported the Greeks during the war of Crimea and the problems in the Holy Sepulcher. They also had helped the Arab clergy in publishing the liturgical books in the Middle-East.

Patriarch Kyrill was the assistant of late Metropolitan Nikodim of Leningrad who served many years in Jerusalem. He died in the arms of late Pope John Paul II. He was a man of openness and ecumenical dialog. The new patriarch has the immense task to allow the Russian Church to come out to the full and update in many aspects of the Church life. It is great; he has to cope with multi-faceted orientations, often contradictory movements and groups. Faith is a real challenge for the former Soviet nations. There is the challenge for more freedom, independence from any political bounds. It also relates to the other Christian Churches, the other Eastern Orthodox Churches and Catholicism.

It also concerns the relationships to Judaism and the Jewish tradition. The arrival in Israel of a big number of Russian educated newcomers and of a lot of Orthodox among them should also positevely be considered by the hierarchy. The Russian Church had always developed traditional pilgrimages to the Holy sites. This can pave the way to more positive changes in century-old contacts that could have been more fructuous for the spiritual benefits of both Judaism and Eastern Christianity.

Thus, it should be noted that most Israeli newspapers and media did not mention the enthronement of the new patriarch. Israel and the Israeli Jewish society has the right to feel some caring attitude and reflection about their difficult time, along with the reflection that can be conducted in favor of the Gazan people. This is not a political issue. It is the way we connect or not to those who believe in the Most High. The Russian Church leaders may feel back-laid or keep silent.

Still, it is an event of great importance. It is possible to wait and see. It is always nice and friendly to greet and welcome. New leaders build for generations that are ours and will not be theirs. They have the task to build with insights.

av aleksandr

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