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Patriarch Kyrill hopes to build churches in Africa

Summing up his visit to Pope Theodore II, Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, Patriarch Kyrill has stated that the Russian Church mission on the African continent must develop. He explained that this can only happen together with the Patriarchate of Alexandria, which is canonically responsible for the African Continent.

’We have agreed that we will set up parishes for the Russian-speaking flock and build churches where necessary’, Patriarch Kyrill told journalists at a press conference at the Patriarchal residence in Alexandria. He added that the Russian Church was ready to send clergy to Africa and bear the costs of organising Russian churches there. Patriarch Kyrill also offered Pope Theodore II the opportunity to send students both from the Greek Diaspora and local Africans to be educated in Russian theological schools.

The Russian Church Primate expressed his gratitude to Patriarch Theodore for his active missionary work among African peoples and reminded journalists that the Alexandrian Patriarch’s flock consisted of nationals from over fifty different African countries. Thus, the Patriarchate of Alexandria unites many countries in the same way as the Russian Church, which preserves the unity of its faithful in some fifty different countries, but who still ‘belong to the one space of Holy Russia’, commented Patriarch Kyrill.

We note that this April trip follows increasing Russian Church influence and presence within the territories of the other tiny but ancient Patriarchates of Constantinople, Antioch and Jerusalem. For example, it is reckoned that a third of all Orthodox living on the canonical territory of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem are Russian and that twenty times more Russian Orthodox than Greek Orthodox now live in Turkey. Thus, there are close parallels between the present and the pre-Revolutionary period, when the Russian Church had a strong presence among the same ancient Patriarchates, many of whose bishops and senior clergy received their theological education in Russia.

(Note: The official title of the primates of the Church of Alexandria is ‘Pope’. Coming from the Greek word ‘papa’, or ‘father’, this title was used in the West for priests and bishops for many centuries. (See, for example, ‘The Conferences’ of the fifth-century Church Father St John Cassian or its use among Irish priests in the ninth century). Its use for the bishops of Rome came about in the second millennium and this exclusive usage is local to Western Europe).

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