Russian Patriarch Calls for Peace in Middle East
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Calls for Peace in Middle East
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church expressed satisfaction with
the growth of the church and called for peace in the Middle East in
his Christmas Eve message Saturday.
Jim Heintz Associated Press Saturday, Jan. 6, 2007 Posted: 5:27:PM PST
MOSCOW (AP) - The head of the Russian Orthodox Church expressed
satisfaction with the growth of the church and called for peace in
the Middle East in his Christmas Eve message Saturday.
"Ever more people are returning to the homeland faith, churches are
filled with parishioners of all ages, millions of people are reading
spiritual literature and taking part in church affairs," Patriarch
Alexy II said in his message.
The Russian Orthodox Church, like some other Orthodox churches,
including the one in Serbia, observes Christmas on Jan. 7 because it
follows the Julian calendar for its liturgical schedule instead of
the Gregorian calendar, adopted by Roman Catholics and Protestants
and commonly used in secular life around the world.
The Russian church has seen a strong revival since the collapse of
the officially atheist Soviet Union in 1991. It now claims more than
27,000 parishes and 700 monasteries throughout the former U.S.S.R..
During Soviet rule, the church continued to operate under tightly
constrained conditions. Many Russian Orthodox believers overseas
considered the Moscow-based church essentially a Kremlin pawn and
formed a splinter denomination, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia.
The two churches reconciled last year, and in May plan to sign a
Alexy noted those moves with satisfaction, saying that "the unity and
links that were broken as a result of the tragic events of 80 years
ago, today are being restored, and in this we see the kindness of God."
However, the patriarch expressed deep concern about tensions in the
"The tragic events in the Holy Land have caused great pain in the
hearts of all believers. There, where 2,000 years ago the angels
announced Glory to God in the highest and peace on Earth, the blood
of the innocent has been spilled anew," he said.
Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle, meanwhile, urged Serbs to overcome
"senseless" internal divisions, and called on Serbs in Kosovo to be
steadfast amid tensions.
Orthodox Serbs consider Kosovo, although today predominantly ethnic
Albanian and Muslim, the heart of their ancient homeland. Since the
end of a 1998-1999 war between ethnic Albanian rebels and Serb
forces, Kosovo's minority Serbs have lived in guarded enclaves under
fear of attack at the hands of Albanians, and many Orthodox churches
and monuments there have been destroyed or vandalized.
"In the end, the oppressed will defeat the oppressors," Pavle said.
"We pray for our enemies so they see that doing evil can bring no good."
Kosovo has been under UN administration since 1999. Its final status,
expected to be decided this year, is an issue of high tension.
Alexy, in a meeting with journalists on Friday, decried the
destruction of churches in Kosovo, saying they "are being destroyed
with the reticent agreement or silence of those who should raise
their voice in defence of these holy places," according to the church website.