NARVA, Estonia, June 15 (Itar-Tass) - Some 20,000 people greeted Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia in Narva on Saturday, June 15.
The patriarch led a religious service at Narva’s Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ.
“The warmth of your reception warmed my heart in a very special way,” Kirill said. “I thank you for having staying together as an Orthodox community despite public cataclysms of the 20th century when political borders were changing and people were living through dramatic conflicts and collisions.”
The patriarch arrived in Estonia on Friday, June 14. At the airport, he was met by Metropolitan Cornelius of Tallinn and All Estonia, Bishop Lazar of Narva and Prichudye, Estonia’s State Secretary Heiki Loot, the Russian ambassador to Estonia and Belarus’ charge d’affaires.
The delegation accompanying the primate of the Russian Orthodox Church includes Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s department for external church relations (DECR), Bishop Sergy of Solnechnogorsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s administrative secretariat, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, head of the synodal department for church-society relations Legoida, head of the synodal information department, Archpriest Nikolai Balashov, DECR vice-chairman, Archpriest Igor Yakimchuk, DECR secretary for inter-Orthodox relations, Protodeacon Vladimir Nazarkin, assistant to the DECR chairman, and the head of the Patriarchal personal secretariat.
Kirill told journalists that he had been to Estonia many times. “My childhood is linked with Estonia. As a child and later as a young man, I came here on many occasions, as my parents used to stay here in a country house, and I came to stay with them. I also made several pilgrimages to the Pukhtitsy Convent. I feel close to Estonia as a country as well, to her people, her customs, her culture,” he said.
The patriarch said he has come to Estonia for the celebrations marking the event in which 20 years ago his late predecessor Patriarch Alexy II signed the Tomos of the Autonomy of the Estonian Orthodox Church and granted the right of self-governance to it. “It was a very important event which laid a foundation for further consolidation of Orthodoxy in Estonia,” he said.
Kirill said he would pray at shrines and take part in the celebrations. He will also consecrate a new Orthodox church.
The patriarch visited St. Alexander Nevsky’s Cathedral to celebrate a thanksgiving. After the thanksgiving, he laid a wreath at the Monument of Grief (Monument to Linda) and at the Bronze Soldier in the military cemetery and had a talk with war veterans and youth. Later he met with the Estonian state leaders and Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar.
“The programme also includes a meeting with the leadership of the country, which I believe is very important considering that the religious factor has always played and will play an important role, among other things, in the development of relations between countries and peoples. God willing, relations between Russia and Estonia will improve for the benefit of people in both countries,” Kirill said.
When asked how he assessed the position of the Russian Orthodox Church in Estonia, Patriarch Kirill said he assessed it in the context of the existence of the Estonian Orthodox Church, whose autonomous rights were confirmed by Patriarch Alexy II 20years ago. “The life of the Church continues to develop despite certain circumstances, which, being a vestige of the conflicts in the 90s, have not been overcome as yet. We very much hope that all these problems will be resolved. The Estonian Orthodox Church is a Church of Orthodox people living in Estonia. She is not a representative of a foreign state, much less an agent of a foreign state who works for it. It is a local Christian Orthodox community which goes back to hundred and hundred years ago and has a very rich history. We hope that the repercussions of the upheaval of the 90s will come to an end in Estonia as well,” the patriarch said.
Saturday’s programme includes the Divine Liturgy at the Pukhtitsy Convent. In Narva, he is scheduled to visit the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ and the social centre at the church of Our Lady of Narva. On June 16, Patriarch Kirill will consecrate the church of Our Lady ‘Quick to Hearken’ in the Lasnamae District in Tallinn and celebrate the Divine Liturgy in the newly consecrated church.
In conclusion of his visit, Patriarch Kirill will attend the reception to be given by the Estonian Orthodox Church and meet with Archbishop Andreas Poeder, head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Estonia, at the Dome Lutheran Cathedral in Tallinn, the DECR Communication Service said.