Christmas with Kirill

ITAR-TASS reports:

Patriarch of Moscow and All-Russia Kirill and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev exchanged memorable gifts in the altar of the Moscow Cathedral of Christ the Savior after the Christmas service had ended… Medvedev presented a bouquet of white roses to Patriarch Kirill and congratulated the head of the Russian Orthodox Church on the Christmas holiday.

Interfax tells us what Medvedev said to Kirill:

I wish you good health, spiritual power and new successes in your responsible primatial service to the Fatherland, our people and the Russian Orthodox Church. I am sincerely grateful to you for your attention and spiritual patronage and guidance. My wife joins my greetings.

By “spiritual patronage”, Medvedev probably means prayers or such, although in the context of church and state in Russia the phrase has other connotations. Amusingly, the ITAR-TASS story is filed on its website as “non-political”: it should be recalled that ahead of the 2012 elections, Kirill criticised Putin’s opponents and referred to his rule as a “miracle of God”.

Kirill also appeared on TV over Christmas; RIA-Novosti reports:

National television also aired early Tuesday a lengthy interview with Patriarch Kirill, who sermonized against the commercialization of Christmas, warned against a possible revolution in Ukraine, criticized Internet addicts and promoted a nationwide cleanup of the country.

Interfax has further details:

“….when clergymen appear on the barricades goading the people, it is not a church message,” he said adding that in any circumstances the church should serve peace and unity.

This was an obvious barb against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate, which does not accept the authority of Moscow. Kiev Patriarch Filaret responded by complaining that Kirill’s enthusiasm for the idea of a “Russian World” amounts to empire. The two men have a history of ill-feeling.

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