Month: December 2008
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The Chancellery of the Ordo Supremus Militaris Templi Hierosolimitani Universalis
Patriarch Alexy II, the head of the Russian Orthodox church, died on Friday aged 79. The cause of death is not known, but Alexy had been suffering from a heart condition for a long time. President Dmitry Medvedev is cancelling a visit to Italy following the death of the patriarch, returning straight to Moscow from India.
After the dismantling of the Soviet Union in 1991, Alexy became a major driving force in the resurgence of religion in Russian society. Some critics accused him of being subservient to the post-Soviet Kremlin and turning the Orthodox Church into an instrument of nationalism.
Reacting to Alexy’s death, former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev told the Interfax news agency he was shocked by his passing. “I respect him immensely,” said the leader who oversaw the end of the Soviet Union.
White-bearded Alexy II was influential and widely respected in Russia. He often officiated in Masses of national significance, in the presence of political leaders like Vladimir Putin, the current prime minister.
Despite two-thirds of all Russians belonging to his Orthodox Church, Alexy II’s relation with other world religions was tense. He felt the Roman Catholic church was proselytizing among his flock, and famously refused to receive visiting Pope John Paul II. Despite a warming of relations with Rome since the pontificate of Benedict XVI, Alexy continued to see “catholic proselytism” as a problem. The two churches split in the eleventh century.
Alexy II was born Alexei Ridiger, as the son of an Orthodox priest, in Estonia in 1929 when that country was independent. His funeral is expected to take place on Sunday.
A successor to Alexy II will be elected by the church synod within six months.
A study of the famous 4th Crusade of the 13th century — which was called to rescue Jerusalem from Islam but resulted instead in a sack of Christian Constantinople — has been published by the Vatican.
The Vatican Publishing House has released a volume collecting the addresses in various languages from a conference held in 2004 on the 4th Crusade. That year was the 800th anniversary of the crusade that went awry. The 13th-century event is considered to have cemented the Great Schism with the Orthodox that had occurred in 1054.
The 2004 conference was organized by the Pontifical Committee of Historical Sciences, in collaboration with the Institute of Byzantine History of the University of Athens and the Institute of Byzantine and Neo-Greek Studies of the University of Vienna.
The volume is titled “The 4th Crusade Revisited” and it has an interdisciplinary scope, including considerations of the political, anthropological and theological implications of the crusade.
Monsignor Walter Brandmuller, president of the pontifical committee, wrote in the prologue that the volume was edited with the intention of “contributing to the completion of the historians’ great project and to the purification of memory, which has been indicated by the path that has to lead to the coexistence of men, nations and religions, characterized by reciprocal understanding and benevolence.”
He said the congress welcomed the invitation of the Pope, convinced that a “serious and impartial writing of history” without prejudices and based in “rigorous historical method” would be an indispensable tool in reaching this goal.
The volume brings together texts prepared by people of various nations and religious creeds, seeking what they call the step from suspicion to truth in charity.