Russian Orthodox Patriarch due in Palestine
Will visit Christian sites as well as Israeli and Palestinian leaders
Occupied Jerusalem: Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill is on Friday to begin his first trip to Palestine since being elected in 2009, officials said.
The head of Russia’s powerful Orthodox Church will visit key Christian sites in Palestine November 9-14, as well as the Yad Vashem memorial to the Jewish victims of the Nazi holocaust in Occupied Jerusalem.
The visit was confirmed by the Greek Orthodox patriarchate in Jerusalem, which will host Kirill.
Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III met the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church in Kazakhstan in May.
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He is expected to tour Christian landmarks in Occupied Jerusalem, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem and in the towns of Nazareth and Tiberias.
Officials said he was expected to hold meetings with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
Mass arrivals from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s boosted the Russian Orthodox community in Israel, which is now estimated to number up to 300,000 people.
The Russian Orthodox Church is the largest of the Eastern Orthodox churches and has around 150 million followers worldwide.
Kirill, who is 65, visited Syria and Lebanon in November 2011.
On November 13, the Russian patriarch will cross the River Jordan for a visit to Jordan where he will meet King Abdullah, before returning to Moscow the following day.
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