Your Beatitude and All-Holy Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All-Russia, dearly beloved Brother and Concelebrant in the Holy Spirit, welcome to Constantinople, New Rome, whence came the light of the Gospel to Your great homeland! We welcome – both you and your honorable Patriarchal entourage – to the See of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.This visit, Your Beatitude, being your first journey as Patriarch to the court of the Mother Church, which you have of course visited repeatedly in the past, in another capacity, comprises for us as well as for the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Throne cause for great joy and profound sentiment. After your joyful and hopeful, while at the same time entirely deserved, election and enthronement only a few months ago for the holy Patriarchal Throne of Moscow and All-Russia, succeeding your much blessed and deeply mourned predecessor, our beloved Brother Alexy II, behold today we have you with us in person as a dear brother, filled with grace, bearing peace, conveying love and piety from the most holy Church of Russia, its venerable Hierarchy and faithful Russian people. “How wonderful are your steps,” holy and beloved Brother, “as they walk in the gospel of love, announcing the good news!” May your arrival andsojourn here be blessed. “Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord!”
Our acquaintance, Your Beatitude, is old. We encountered you, still in your youth as a hopeful Archimandrite, representing the Russian Church at the World Council of Churches as well as at other inter-church bodies and conferences; and later as Bishop, even as Archbishop, of Vyborg but especially as Metropolitan of Smolensk, responsible for the Office of External Ecclesiastical Relations of your Patriarchate, in which capacity we were pleased to cooperate with you closely on repeated occasions. In your person we discerned the much-talented ecclesiastical man, the skilled manager of sensitive matters of the Church, the distinguished theologian and honorable laborer of the Gospel. In this way, when the electoral body looked upon you to assume the responsibility and honor as the successor of the Patriarchal and most holy Church of Russia, we were not surprised. For we observed the natural progression of matters, sincerely rejoicingand glorifying the all-holy name of God, who deemed worthy to place you as the bright lamp over the great and holy Church of Russia.
Thus, we welcome you, Your Beatitude – precisely 420 years after the elevation of your blessed predecessor Metropolitan Job to Patriarch of Moscow and All-Russia by our blessed predecessor Ecumenical Patriarch Jeremiah II the Great – with a profound sense of fervent love and wholehearted honor. For we welcome the successor of that Job, of the martyr Philip, the theologian Philaret, the wise Plato, the great and equal to the Apostles Innocent, the holy and patient Tichon, as well as numerous Patriarchs who glorified your Throne with their virtue, wisdom, holiness, martyrdom and confession of Christ. We are certain that their souls rejoice at your promotion and their holy prayers are with us all at this hour.
Your Beatitude, you have been called to the helm of the Patriarchate of Moscow and All-Russia not of course under the harsh conditions of your venerable predecessors, from St. Tichon to your immediate predecessor Alexy II, but also not in bright or cloudless days for our world. A spiritual crisis, a moral crisis, a financial crisis and indeed a crisis with many names characterizes our world from one end to another. It is true that militant atheism has retreated almost everywhere; yet the practical atheism of self-sufficiency, insensitivity and material pleasure are alive and strong. Supposedly in the name of God, the sounds of war are still heard, the blood of people is still shed, and numerous populations are uprooted and rendered refugees. Religious and nationalistic fanaticism is increasing, nations exchange hands, human beings are humiliated and ridiculed in dark “trafficking,” women and children are abused, drugs are pushed. At the same time, Christians – instead of remaining unified and working together in one spirit and one heart so that the hope that is within us may prove a convincing word – are troubled by divisions, disagreements and trivialities both on a pan-Christian level as well as (which is worse) on the inter-Orthodox level. Yet, this renders us greatly responsible before the Arch-Shepherd Christ, who demands us to have love, peace and unity among us in order that our light may shine before the world and that all people may be directed to the Father of Lights by means of our good deeds and example.
Nevertheless, Your Beatitude and dear Brother, we have before us the common decisions of the blessed Synaxis of the Primates of the most holy Orthodox Churches held last October at the Phanar, with the participation and unanimous agreement also of your predecessor, the late Patriarch Alexy. These decisions were taken in light of the Holy and Great Synod of Orthodoxy, giving us a fitting witness as one family, so to speak, before the Christian world as well as to those outside of Christianity, who are in great uncertainty, confusion and anxiety. The common Pre-Conciliar Conference held only a few days ago in Geneva, together with the prevailing spirit of unity and love as well as its pious and unanimous decisions, not only grant us much hope but at the same time also comprise a model for the future.Your Beatitude! You were born into a priestly family, you were nurtured by the piety of your priestly father, so that the Pauline words also hold true for you: “You have known the sacred letters from childhood, and these are able to enlighten you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. 3.15) When you were born, there was still “deep night”; and while you were a child, you experienced the horrible persecution that broke out exactly fifty years ago against the Church. You matured in difficult days, being molded as iron in the fire. All this was divine dispensation in order that you may be well prepared and qualified in ecclesiastical matters, gaining training and invaluable experience for the struggle that you have assumed upon your shoulders with the great burden of Patriarchal responsibility for the difficult and critical times that lie ahead. Your qualifications, together with your broad education, your spiritual cultivation, the open horizons of your thought, your manifold virtue, your numerous acquaintances throughout the world, as well as the confidence and love of your Hierarchy, clergy and laity, bode brightly for a fruitful Patriarchal tenure. We assure you that we are beside you. We extend to you a hand of sincere love and unfeigned cooperation. We are ready to work with you, in the context of canonical order and the ages-old and sacred ecclesiastical traditions, in directness of heart before God, for the benefit not only of our two Churches, but of the entire Orthodox and Christian world.
Welcome, then, Your Beatitude and beloved Brother. We pray that your visit here will be the first in a series of many blessed such occasions. Our fraternal embrace will always be open to you and your honorable coworkers in the Lord. May your years be many and healthy!