President Dmitry Medvedev warmly welcomed the spiritual leader of the world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians Tuesday, hailing improving ties between Russia’s powerful church and its ancestor faith. Relations among the Orthodox have improved after past strains when churches in former Soviet states such as Estonia and Ukraine broke away from the Russian mother church and tried to pledge allegiance to the patriarch in Istanbul.
“The visit of your Holiness is a significant event and, beyond all doubt, it will help strengthen the dialogue which always linked the two sisterly churches,” Medvedev told Bartholomew, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, according to a transcript published by the Kremlin.
Russia’s influential Patriarch Kirill has assigned a high priority to improving inter-faith relations since his election last year. Church sources say dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church has improved markedly.
The previous day, the two patriarchs led a procession of 40,000 through central Moscow to commemorate the name days of Cyril and Methodius, the saints who brought Orthodoxy to the Slavs in the ninth century.