Head of World Council of Churches to meet Russian Patriarch in Moscow
World Council of Churches leader, the Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, will meet with Patriarch Kirill I of the Russian Orthodox Church in his first official visit to Russia. During his 27-29 June visit, Tveit, the WCC's general secretary, and Patriarch Kirill will meet on 28 June, following a service to be led by the Russian Patriarch in the Kremlin's Cathedral of the Dormition, the Moscow Patriarchate's external relations section told ENInews.
The Russian Orthodox Church is the biggest of the WCC's 349 member churches.
Tveit's visit precedes the 30 June-4 July meeting of the WCC's Permanent Committee on Consensus and Collaboration, hosted by the Russian Orthodox Church. The committee meets each year and works on Orthodox participation in the WCC. Bishop Irinej of Australia and New Zealand is the standing representative of the Serbian Orthodox Church to the Permanent Committee on Consensus and Collaboration.
"I look forward to this important meeting with His Holiness and the Russian Orthodox Church and with the Russian society, and to learn more about the mission and the vision of the Russian Orthodox Church, particularly concerning their contribution to the ecumenical movement and as member of the WCC," said Tveit in a statement in advance of the visit.
His activities will also include meetings connected with the charity and social services of the Russian Orthodox Church and with Russian government officials.
Before being elected as Patriarch, following the December 2008 death of Patriarch Alexei II, the then Metropolitan Kirill served for two decades as chairperson of the patriarchate's external church relations section, and played a major role in the ecumenical movement.
Patriarch Kirill's involvement took part in the WCC's fourth assembly in Uppsala, Sweden, in 1968, which he attended as a delegate when he was 22-years-old. He was the Moscow Patriarchate's representative to the WCC from 1971 to 1974 and he served on the council's main governing body, its central committee, as well as on the executive committee between 1975 and 1998.
The Russia Orthodox Church joined the WCC in 1961 and currently has five representatives serving on the council's 150-member central committee. The Moscow Patriarchate has stressed recently that it will focus on cooperation with Protestant groups that promote traditional values, but has indicated it would not pull out of the WCC.
Speaking in February before an assembly of Russian Orthodox hierarchs, Patriarch Kirill said that inter-Christian relations had become further complicated by "the polarisation of Christians between the liberal and traditional reading of the Christian message".
Nonetheless, referring to Tveit, he said, "I hope that he will succeed in finding a reasonable balance in relations between the Orthodox and Protestant member churches of the WCC, and likewise overcome the crisis of worldview in this largest of international Christian organizations."
Tveit has made relations with Orthodox churches a priority. Soon after his installation as WCC general secretary, he visited Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos I of Constantinople.
"Rev. Dr Tveit has made it a point to communicate with and to meet many of the patriarchs of the Orthodox churches very early in his tenure," Anne Glynn-Mackoul, of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, who also serves on the WCC's central committee, told ENInews.
Taken from Sophia Kishkovsky