Russia’s new patriarch is “proving to be a capable administrator” and has surrounded himself with a team of “well-trained and capable younger clerics,” say Leonid Sevastyanov and Robert Moynihan in the Moscow Times. In “100 Days of Patriarch Kirill,” the writers also say that the new leader of the Russian Orthodox Church has a “fully European” vision for his ministry.
Kirill now heads a church with about 140 million adherents, far larger than the Anglican Church and second only to the Roman Catholic Church. With a significant percent of Orthodox believers living outside Russia, this gives the church a truly global reach.
But statistics are less important than suffering and faith. The Russian Orthodox Church suffered greatly under Soviet rule. Now it has re-emerged from the catacombs following the collapse of the Soviet Union 17 years ago to take on a greater role in post-Soviet Russia.
Despite the enormous challenges that the Orthodox Church faces, now is the time of promise and hope for a country that has become highly secularized. Kirill evidently hopes that it will be a “Orthodox moment” for the church as well as the country.
One of Pope John Paul II’s most important goals was to put an end to the scourge of atheist communism, and Pope Benedict XVI still passionately hopes to see the restoration of a unified church. While Kirill has not spoken in terms of unification, he has helped improved ties with Rome. This explains why Benedict has made numerous gestures toward Kirill of welcome and appreciation since the moment that he was elected patriarch on Jan. 27.