2011-11-11 14:24:00

Patriarch Kirill plans to meet with Syrian president (updated)

Moscow, November 11, Interfax - The Moscow Patriarchate hopes that a November 12-15 visit to Syria and Lebanon by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia will contribute to peace in these countries.

"His Holiness the Patriarch is going to this region on a peacekeeping mission as well. He will most likely call for dialogue between all the sides in Syria's social life in order to restore political stability to this country," Secretary of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, Inter-Orthodox Relations, Priest Igor Yakimchuk told Interfax-Religion on Friday.

Patriarch Kirill plans to meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Prime Minister Adel Safar, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East Ignatius, as well as Russian expatriates in the Russian Orthodox Church's representative office at the Patriarchate of Antioch, he said.

Both Patriarchs will also conduct a religious service at Damascus Cathedral and open an exhibition dedicated to relations between the two Churches. A presentation of the Arabic language version of Patriarch Kirill's book Freedom and Responsibility will be held as well.

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church will also meet with Syria's Grand Mufti Sheikh Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun and Minister of Awqaf Mohammed Abd al-Sattar al-Sayyed.

On November 13, Patriarch Kirill will leave for Beirut, where he will visit Saint George Orthodox Cathedral and meet with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman and senior clerics, including Orthodox Metropolitan Ilias, Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and Cardinal of All the East Bechara al-Rai.

The Patriarch also plans to visit Balamand Monastery, which includes a university of the Orthodox Church of Antioch. The Patriarch will meet with university students and teachers and present his book Freedom and Responsibility.

The Russian Orthodox Church is concerned over possible harassment of the Christian minority if instability continues in Syria, the priest said.

"The examples of Iraq, Egypt and other countries that experienced the so-called 'Arab spring' show that minorities, mostly Christian minorities, primarily suffer. Christians, who were first called Christians in Damascus, should not be allowed to stop to exist or be discriminated against there. In essence, Syria and Lebanon is the cradle of Christianity," he said.