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From Armenia to Guatemala and Costa Rica

After last week’s visit to Armenia, in an attempt to foster even closer relations and encourage the Armenian Church back into the Orthodox family, His Holiness Patriarch Kyrill of Moscow seems to be cultivating relations with Central America.

On 22 March, at a meeting with President Álvaro Colom Caballeros of Guatemala at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, His Holiness said that the State should never abandon the cause of social justice, even in a society with a free market economy. ‘Today the development of our economic life is based on free market models, but, at the same time we must also concern ourselves with social justice. Here, of course, the State has a very important role to play’. He added: ‘The State must never give up any of its duties. Likewise, the Church must always stress the need for justice’. Patriarch Kyrill believed that the need to address social problems is particularly acute in times of economic crisis. He said that questions of social justice are pertinent in Russian society where ‘in the nineties there was economic collapse and a general crisis, resulting in a vacuum in society’. In like manner, in Guatemala, civil war during the second half of 20th century claimed thousands of victims.

The Patriarch noted that Russian Orthodox Christians ‘have always shown sympathy for the native peoples of America’. He remarked on the missionary endeavours of the Russian Church in the 19th century among aboriginal peoples in America (in Alaska). ‘The Russian missionaries won their flock with love, not with the sword. Thanks to this, they left behind a favourable legacy. At present, there is great interest in Orthodoxy amongst the native peoples of Central America’. He gave President Colom an icon of the Mother of God of the Sign, telling him that it was a copy of the icon before which he prayed as a child.. ‘May God bless the relations between our peoples’, said His Holiness. In turn, President Caballeros noted that his meeting with Patriarch Kyrill was ‘very important for the Guatemalan people’ because Guatemala needs Christian values.

On 23 March, Patriarch Kyrill sent an official message of congratulation to the newly elected President of Costa Rica, Laura Chinchilla. In the message he mentioned how she had stood up for the ordinary people of her country and her defence of traditional spiritual and moral values. He promised her the support of the Patriarchate of Moscow in this domain. His Holiness mentioned his 2008 visit to San Jose and the thousands of Russian Orthodox in Costa Rica. He said that he was looking forward to the continuing development of good and constructive relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Republic of Costa Rica.

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