2011-11-01 14:39:00

Patriarch Kirill hopes visit to Japan will strengthen bilateral ties (updated)

Moscow, November 1, Interfax - Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia has reaffirmed his readiness to visit Japan in 2012.

"I plan to visit Japan next year if everything goes right and God gives me health," the head of the Russian Orthodox Church said at a meeting with Japanese Ambassador to Russia Tikahito Harada in Moscow on Tuesday.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the arrival Nicholas Kasatkin in Hakodate. He subsequently became Archbishop Nicholas and "created the Japanese Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill said.

The 100th anniversary of Archbishop Nicholas's death will be marked in 2012.

Patriarch Kirill said that, like Father Nicholas, he wants to start his visit to Japan in Hakodate, then travel to Sendai, which was "hardest hit by destruction, the earthquake and floods," and then visit Tokyo.

Some 35,000 Japanese belong to the Japanese Orthodox Church today, the patriarch said, adding that they pray in the Japanese language.

"We will continue maintaining close ties with the Japanese Orthodox Church because it is a very important factor in promoting good relations between our people," he said.

The Russian Orthodox Church plans to raise and addition $1 million more to augment the $1.5 million collected previously to be used for funding the reconstruction of Orthodox churches in Japan, Patriarch Kirill said.

"Our representatives in Japan have calculated that around $1 million more will be needed. I hope that we will raise this money to enable our brothers and sisters in Japan to conduct all of the necessary renovations and reconstruct these buildings completely," he said.

Russians have been indifferent to the recent natural disaster in Japan, where one Orthodox church was destroyed and several others were seriously damaged, he said.

The Russian Orthodox Church has raised $1.5 million to fund their reconstruction, he added.

Patriarch Kirill also congratulated the Japanese ambassador on his recent 60th birthday.

The Patriarch cited Confucius, who said that he had learned to distinguish good from evil and truth from lies by the age of 60.

"It is a very important quality for any person, but it is special for a diplomat. I think that the success of a diplomat's work largely depends on his ability to distinguish truth from lies in order to be able to analyze events in the country where he represents the interests of his state soberly and objectively. May God prompt you to serve in Moscow in line with these principles - for the benefit of our countries and people," he said.

Patriarch Kirill said he hoped his upcoming visit to Japan would help "our two nations understand each other better, learn to distinguish truth from lies in our relations and build these relations for their own benefit and the benefit of the two states."

The Japanese diplomat, on his part, expressed his gratitude to the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russians for extending both financial and psychological support to Japan.

Today the Russian Orthodox Church has "great influence" both in Russia and abroad, the ambassador said, adding that he hoped to maintain close ties with Patriarch Kirill and the Moscow Patriarchate.