Patriarch Kirill addresses Orthodox missionaries in Moscow

Milena Faustova

Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill, addressing a congress of Orthodox missionaries in Moscow earlier this week, called for mending the existing rifts inside the Orthodox Church.

After decades of forced atheism during the former Soviet rule, people on the post-Soviet territory are again reaching out to faith, the Patriarch said. He called this process the “second Christianization era”.

“A country with a millennium-old tradition of Christian culture, which came to be known as Holy Russia, has gone through terrible historical cataclysms. Its traditions were ruined. Four generations of people grew up on these ruins of Orthodoxy. For a long, long period, society was evolving without the church playing any part in it.”

The separation of the church from society caused splits inside the church. It was not until May 2007 that the longest of them – between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia – had finally been overcome. Splits and misunderstandings have inflicted painful and still unhealed wounds on Russian Orthodoxy, one of them being an attempt to create an autocephalous church in Ukraine. Deacon Maxim Plyakin, a member of the commission to overcome divisions between churches, looks into the issue:

“Not long ago, Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev and all Ukraine allowed religious services in the Ukrainian language. And now many Russian Orthodox parishes in Ukraine use Ukrainian. We have thus removed one of our opponents’ arguments that the Russian Orthodox Church uses only Old Church Slavonic and doesn’t recognize the Ukrainian language.”

Ukrainian priests who for years have been opposed to the Moscow Patriarchate are now being welcomed back to the bosom of Russian Orthodoxy. No one is going to punish anyone. It’s important that they themselves realize that they were wrong and repent.

Thanks to the active missionary activity of the Russian clergy and Patriarch Kirill’s annual trips to Ukraine, the number of opponents has decreased manifold. His next visit is due on November 22. His Holiness will travel to Kiev to congratulate Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev and All Ukraine on his 75th birthday.