Tuesday, 9 December 2008

RIP Patriarch Alexei II


Friday 5th December Patriarch Alexei II died and ever since the Russian news has been full of stories about his life, full of scenes of mourners weeping and queuing to see his body that until today has lain in an open casket for all members of the faith to pay their last respects. Messages of sympathy have been received from different faiths and Christian denominations all over Russia and the world. Messages have also been given by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitri Medvedev about this sadness, both describing him not only as a great patriarch but a good person too.
It feels strange to be here in Moscow while this is going on and see the news and television specials about the Russian Orthodox Church and how it survived through the years of the Soviet Union, but also because the only time I can remember watching scenes like this was when Pope John Paul died. I should probably say at this point that the Patriarch is the Russian Orthodox version of the Pope or Roman Father as he is called here. The first I heard about this was on Saturday morning when I was munching my kasha and my Babushka wandered into the kitchen and said ‘You know Patriarch Alexei the Second has died.’ I was like ‘Erm….no…who’s Patriarch Alexei? Is he the Russian version of the Pope?’ This was met with an explanation and a somewhat despairing look at my lack of knowledge about Russian culture.
I continued here more about Patriarch Alexei in church on Sunday as he was a supporter of St. Andrew’s Moscow (the only Anglican/Western Church in Moscow) and he knew our minister Father Simon. Being Russia there are loads of laws about religious groups and things involving the West and it is highly probably that because of Patriarch Alexei that the church exists today. Only enough one of the laws states that any registered Religious Organisation that is bigger than ten people gets a tax break. In the past the church has been told that no matter how bad relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Anglican church get St. Andrew’s will always be a friend to the Patriarch.
Earlier Patriarch Alexei’s body was laid to rest and the next step for the Russian Orthodox faith is to choose it’s new Patriarch, but that is the future today Russia mourns.

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