Will Russian Orthodox role under Kirill match its numbers?

February 1, 2009

(Photo: Patriarch Kirill at his enthronement in Moscow, 1 Feb 2009/Sergei Karpukhin)

Our Moscow bureau chief Michael Stott makes an interesting point in his report (read it here) on the enthronement of Patriarch Kirill today as the new leader of the world’s 160 million Russian Orthodox Christians:The 62-year-old patriarch will oversee the world’s second biggest Christian church, which has grown stronger, wealthier and more influential since the collapse of communism.

About two billion people — one-third of the world’s population — are Christian. More than half of them are Roman Catholics — 1.1 billion — and they have the pope as their spiritual and administrative leader. After that, counting heads gets complicated. Second place usually goes to the Orthodox family of national churches and third to the Anglican Communion of member provinces. These groups earn these places because they are loose associations of churches with a spiritual leader for all. There are many Protestants divided into many denominations, but their churches are smaller because they are mostly independent of each other.

The latest figures from the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary puts the Orthodox at over 250 million and the Anglicans at over 82 million. But the Russian Orthodox, 160 million under one spiritual and administrative leader, make up the second largest organised church in Christianity. About 30 million of them live outside Russia, meaning even the Russian Orthodox diaspora is larger than all of Sikhism (23 million) or Judaism (13-15 million).

With a dynamic new leader like Kirill, one who gathered wide experience abroad during two decades as the effective “foreign minister” of the Moscow patriarchate, we may hear a lot more about the Russian Orthodox in coming years. Attention will first focus on when to expect two “summits” — with the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch (of all Orthodox) Bartholomew and with Pope Benedict. The meetings will probably take place in that order, and it’s not clear whether Kirill will receive Benedict in Moscow or meet him in a neutral third country.


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> “Attention will first focus on when to expect two “summits” — … with Pope Benedict.”

Who cares? Honestly, there are more important issues in Russian Orthodoxy than whether or not the Patriarch meets the Pope of Rome.

Posted by Aleksandr Andreev | Report as abusive

Aleksandr Andreev, many thanks for your comment. What do you think are the important issues in Russian Orthodoxy that would also be important for foreign readers to know? There are bound to be issues that won’t mean much to non-Russian Orthodox. But if you think there are big issues that should be on the international religion news radar screen, please let us know.

Posted by Tom Heneghan | Report as abusive

Orthodoxy will not be one tenth as effective as when it is reconciled with Rome. Rome also cannot be entirely effective without its reconciliation wth Orthodox Christianity. The Catholic Church should include the Roman and the Eastern Churches, each retaining their respective traditions, but in real communion with the See of Peter. Where there is Peter there is the Church.

Posted by Michael Grech | Report as abusive

There is, of course, a strong devotion within Russia to the Blessed Virgin, highlighted by Her prophecies at Fatima in 1917 and again at Garabandal (Spain) between 1961-65. The prophecies foretold that one day the Immaculate Heart of Mary would prevail over the darkness, violence and lies of this world, “Russia would be converted” and “a certain period of peace” given to the world. At Garabandal the Blessed Virgin said the conversion and planetary peace would be the result of a great Miracle of healing that appears to be imminent–perhaps on Holy Thursday, April 9, which also happens to be the beginning of Passover this year. So, it would seem highly likely that Patriarch Kirill, President Medvedev, Prime Minister Putin and Mikhail Gorbachev will be witnesses to the Miracle at Garabandal, along with President Obama, Secretary Clinton and other American leaders. Mr. Obama would then have a very interesting trip, indeed, to Moscow. I’ve been corresponding with Mrs. Clinton since 1993 about the Miracle and have twice personally given information to the Dalai Lama (among others) about it in the hope he would lead an inter-faith delegation to witness it; who could be opposed to planetary peace? The only alternative is fulfillment of the genuine Third Secret of Fatima: a nuclear War killing two-thirds of humanity with “the survivors envying the dead.” That is what Pope Benedict needs to be discussing with Patriarch Kirill as soon as possible, I think.

Posted by Louis Jarvis | Report as abusive

I can’t say that I’ve ever understood the notion that Orthodoxy is somehow deficient without Catholicism, from either side: both ‘sides’ (if I may attempt to use non-prejorative language) uphold that there is “One, … Church”, and both sides uphold that the other is, at some level, not Church. Is there two halves of the Church – because if so, we should be saying ‘in Two Halves of One…Church\'; similar response to believing (somehow) in two Churches.
With a mutually-acknowledged bifurcation, we must accept that there is a side that is incorrect. Without even this basic acknowledgement of a fairly fundamental premise, how is there supposed to be a dialogue?

Andrew K. D. Smith, livingtheology.wordpress.com

Posted by Andrew K. D. Smith | Report as abusive