BEIRUT, November 14 (Itar-Tass) —— The Orthodox Church unites people and erases borders between its followers in Lebanon, Syria, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and other countries, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia said after a joint prayer with Patriarch Ignatius IV of Antioch and All the East and Metropolitan Elias of Beirut at the Lebanese capital’s Cathedral of Saint George on Monday, November 14.
“We all belong to one Orthodox Church where all national and political borders vanish. We live one life no matter where we are physically, be it Lebanon, Syria, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus or elsewhere,” Kirill said.
Patriarch Ignatius IV of Antioch and All the East has arrived in Beirut from Damascus to accompany the Rsusian patriarch on his trip to Lebanon, which is also part of the canonical territory of the Patriarchate of Antioch.
He noted that the ancient cathedral in Beirut plays a special role for Orthodox believers in the region, and his own life is closely connected with this cathedral where he read himself in.
“It’s great that we have all gathered here. The Church you head and the Church you are visiting today are one Church. Our Lord Jesus Christ brings us together on this day. And we ask you to pray for us and for our salvation,” Metropolitan Elias of Beirut said.
Patriarch Kirill said his speech at the cathedral that he had last visited it when the cathedral “lay in ruins” and was happy now to see it in its “restored glory”.
Despite the horrors of the civil conflict in Lebanon, people have preserved their will to stay together and live in peace. “And today we can see the changes that have occurred in Lebanon in peacetime,” he said.
Kirill stressed that Saint George, after whom the cathedral was named, is one of the most revered saints in Russia, whose images appear on the coat of arms of Russia and its capital Moscow.
“We believe that Saint George is the defender of Holy Russia. And this belief is based on historical facts. The Second World War started for Russian people when we were celebrating All Russian Saints’ Day, and that war ended in a victory with Russian soldiers entering Berlin and destroying the citadel of fascism. That happened on Saint George’s Day, which out Church celebrates on May 6. It was a day when the last shot was fired… and our Marshall Zhukov was named after Saint George the Victorious,” the patriarch said.
The service was held in Russian and Arabic. The cathedral was full of believers, including Russian-speaking residents of Lebanon.
Kirill came to Lebanon from Syria where hundreds of Orthodox Syrians greeted him 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 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 called for the speediest stabilisation and national reconciliation in the country.
Apart from contacts and joint service with Patriarch Ignatius IV, Kirill also had 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”.