Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia finally consecrated a Russian cathedral in a Jerusalem suburb on Monday, just over a century after construction began at the site.
“Today is a special day for the convent, for the entire Russian Orthodox Church and personally for me,” the patriarch said after holding a liturgy in the Church of All Russian Saints.
The foundations for the Church of All Russian Saints in the Gornensky Convent were laid in 1911, but construction was suspended 1914 and only resumed in 2003. The Gornensky Convent is situated in the Jerusalem suburb of Ein Karem, where according to Christian tradition, John the Baptist was born.
Patriarch Kirill, elected to head the Russian Orthodox Church in 2009, recalled visiting the site in 1969 when the church building consisted of just four walls without a roof or floor.
Nuns and hundreds of pilgrims attended the consecration ceremony. The convent, founded in 1874, currently has some 60 nuns.
RUSSIAN Orthodox Patriarch Kirill visited the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem and met with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, on the second day of his Holy Land trip.
After his visit to the Bethlehem church, built over the site where Christians believe Mary gave birth to Jesus in a stable, Patriarch Kirill met with the Palestinian president at his office in the West Bank city.
A statement from the president’s office cited Mr Abbas as telling Patriarch Kirill the visit was historical and bore political meaning.
“We feel it comes from the leadership of the Russian people,” Mr Abbas said of the visit, saying Moscow supported peace and justice in the Middle East.
The statement also quoted Patriarch Kirill as saying the visit was special to him, and especially important “since Christ walked here.”
“I’m fully confident you are committed to real peace, and your position is welcome because the people living here know the meaning of living in unrest,” the Russian patriarch was quoted as saying.
The head of a community of some 150 million Orthodox believers arrived in Jerusalem on Friday for his first visit since becoming head of the powerful church in 2009, and held prayers at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Over the course of his six-day trip, Patriarch Kirill will also meet Israeli President Shimon Peres and King Abdullah II of Jordan, in a new sign of his importance as a global religious figure.
Israel’s foreign ministry called his trip “the most important (religious) visit (to Israel) since that of the Pope Benedict XVI” in 2009.
The 65-year-old patriarch will visit Christian holy sites in northern Israel as well as in Jordan.