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Representative of Moscow Patriarchate on pilgrimage with Bartholomew I

Istanbul (AsiaNews) – For the first time, the Patriarchate of Moscow participated in a pilgrimage that the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I has held annually since 2000. The pilgrimage is to one of the cradles of ancient Christianity: Cappadocia, the land of origin of great figures of Christianity, like the Fathers of the Church St Basil, John the Theologian and Gregory of Nyssa.

This year, the pilgrimage was somewhat special because the Ecumenical Patriarch invited Alexei of Moscow to take part. Since the latter was unable to attend in person, he sent the Metropolitan Kyril of Smolensk. Representatives of the Catholic Church also participated in the pilgrimage; they were in Istanbulfor the Lumen Oriente meeting. It was truly an ecumenical pilgrimage.

During the celebrations, which were held on 13 and 14 May in different churches-museums with the permission of the Turkish authorities, the Ecumenical Patriarch explained the importance played by these places in the history of Christianity, “they saw the emergence of the great Fathers of the united Church”, saying that they remain a milestone of our faith. “Pilgrimages to these places contribute to raising awareness about Christian unity” although political events 80 years ago have deprived us of these sacred sites.”

After thanking the representatives of all the Churches present in the various celebrations, as well as the Turkish authorities for having granted permission, Bartholomew I delivered a special greeting to Metropolitan Kyril. He expressed great joy at the presence in these hallowed places of Christianity of the representative of the Patriarchate of Moscow of the Churchof Russia. “The RussianChurchis first our daughter and then our sister.” It was the first time that a representative of the Churchof Russiavisited these sites and his presence took on particular significance in view of tensions that have prevailed in years gone by.

In his turn, Metropolitan Kyril thanked the Ecumenical Patriarch for his invitation, which gave him the opportunity to render homage at these sacred places of Christianity for the first time, and to pray together, even with brothers of the western Church. He said: “I thank His Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch, on behalf of our Patriarch Alexei and all the RussianChurch, not only for the invitation but for this initiative that is now held ever year, taking on a pan-Orthodox character, thus bearing witness that there is only one Church in one Orthodox people. This land gave light to the great Fathers of the Christian Church. Our shared Orthodox tradition which was born here, as His Holiness said, makes us understand and distinguish, in this globalised world that constantly bombards with information, the true from the false. This tradition enabled us to survive the scourge of the Communist regime and to have faith always in Him our Christ. Holiness,” he added, “I have known you for more than 30 years and our continued contacts have been a source of inspiration and learning for us and I ask you to always mention Russiain your prayers.”

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