Will Kirill and Benedict Meet?

Just about 100 days ago, on January 27, Russian Orthodox Church leaders chose a new Patriarch to succeed the later Patriarch Alexi II, who had died on December 5, 2008. His name: Kirill (photo). What has Kirill done since his election, and what are the prospects for a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI?

By Robert Moynihan


THURSDAY, APRIL 30, 2009 — The new Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, Kirill, 62, has met Pope Benedict XVI, who turned 82 a few days ago, three times already — but that was before Kirill became Patriarch.
Now, after nearly 100 days in office, Vatican observers are sensing that Patriarch Kirill and Pope Benedict may meet again — and that such a meeting will be a major step on the way to the long-hoped-for reunion of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches, which have been divided for nearly 1,000 years, since 1054. But where and when could such a meeting be held?
Kirill is an imposing figure, with a grey-flecked beard and sonorous voice. And he has important friends. When he was enthroned Alexi’s successor in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, the church was filled with celebrities and political leaders, and the first person to receive communion from him was… President Dmitry Medvedev’s wife, Svetlana.

(Photo: The new Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill, center, puts on his vestments during the enthronement service in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral, Russia, Sunday, February 1, 2009. Patriarch Kirill took charge of the Russian Orthodox Church, becoming the first leader of the world’s largest Orthodox church to take office after the fall of the Soviet Union. (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze)

In the Soviet era, the officially atheist Communist government treated the devout like moral lepers, imprisoning tens of thousands of clerics of all creeds. Now the Orthodox Church “has become a serious power in society,” former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev told The Associated Press in March.


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