Friday, December 5, 2008

Alexei II: The Passing of a Patriarch

Head of the Russian Orthodox Church dies

The Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church died, he was 79 years old. Patriarch Alexei II was a priest under the old Soviet Union. He emerged as a bishop and then the head of the Church, a position he held for the past 18 years.

The Patriarch’s career spanned a painful time in Russian Orthodox history. During the Soviet regime the church was persecuted. Churches were confiscated and razed to the ground. Priests were hounded, arrested and sent into internal exile. Out of this system Alexei II emerged to help mold a new Russia. First he worked to rebuild Christ the Savior Cathedral, a magnificent cathedral that had been destroyed by Stalin.

The Patriarch supported the new Russia. He was suspicious of Rome and Catholic intentions in Russia. He reached out and healed an 80 year old rift between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. The latter consisted of the descendants of the white army that fled Russia. He was active in European Ecumenical events. In short, during his reign the Russian Orthodox Church emerged out of persecutions and silence to become the most vibrant Christian Church in the Republics of the former Soviet Union. The church emerged as a powerful religious, political and cultural force in the life of the Russian nation. May those who mourn find comfort and may those who lead continue to build bridges.

Russian Orthodox Choir

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