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Orthodox Syrians greet Russian patriarch

November 12, 2011, 20:20 UTC+3

“My mission is neither political nor diplomatic. I have come to my brother and to the church where I feel at home,” he said

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DAMASCUS, November 12 (Itar-Tass) — Hundreds of Orthodox Syrians greeted Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia who has arrived in Damascus on a visit on Saturday, November 12.

The welcoming ceremony was accompanied by a procession of Orthodox Arab scouts who were singing songs and beating the drums. It also included a group of incumbent President Bashar al-Assad’s supporters who were carrying his portraits and Syrian flags, and chanting slogans thanking Russia for supporting their leader.

At the assumption Cathedral Patriarch Ignatius IV of Antioch and All the East and Patriarch Kirill held a religious service, praying for the well-being of the Syrian and Russian peoples.

“My prayer today is about the well-being of this country, about the preservation of traditionally friendly relations between Muslims and Christians. My prayer today is about the Church of Holy Antioch and about the Church of Holy Russia so that we keep our brotherly relationship and can appeal to God together,” Kirill said.

The patriarch said he had wanted to visit to Syria immediately after his election, but circumstances did not let him do it “as soon as I wanted” last year and even now some told him it was “not the best time to go to Syria”.

“But there must be no borders for love and there must be no ‘more or less favourable situation’,” Kiril said.

“My mission is neither political nor diplomatic. I have come to my brother and to the church where I feel at home,” he said.

According to Kirill, the peoples of Syria, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and other countries within the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church have good relations among themselves.

The Church is a spiritual bridge between the peoples of Russia and Syria, he added.

“God help us keep relations between people of different faiths, such as Christianity and Islam, friendly at all times. This is particularly important now for Syria and the Middle East,” the patriarch said.

Kirill has arrived in Syria at a hard time marked by months of mass riots that have claimed some 4,000 lives. A hope for the end of the crisis appeared only recently after the adoption by the League of Arab States of a “road map” that envisions measures aimed at restoring confidence and fostering a dialogue between the sides.

The patriarch will meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to call for the speediest stabilisation and national reconciliation in the country.

Apart from contacts and joint service with Patriarch Ignatius IV, Kirill will also have talks with Syria's Grand Mufti Shiekh Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun, whose son was killed by brigands two months ago, and confer with Prime Minister Adel Safar and Minister of Awqaf (Religious Endowments) Mohammad Abdul-Sattar al-Sayyed.

When asked about the importance of Kiril’s visit, Patriarch Ignatius IV of Antioch and All the East said the Russian Church is the world’s biggest Orthodox Church with which the Church of Antioch has been bound by “historical, spiritual and brotherly ties”. 

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