Page 5, 19th December 2008

19th December 2008
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Page 5, 19th December 2008 — Thousands pay respects at funeral of Russian patriarch
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Thousands pay respects at funeral of Russian patriarch

BY STAFF REPORTER

RUSSIAN Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II, credited with rebuilding his Church after the fall of Communism. was interred in Moscow last week after a funeral attended by Church and government leaders and several Catholic cardinals.

"Under this holy man, the Russian Orthodox Church became the only force preserving the traditions and values of holy Russia," the Church's acting leader, Metropolitan Kirin of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, said in Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral.

"Like a sick man, allowed to stand after a long period in bed, our Church was weak at the beginning of his service and unable to use its spiritual potential fully. Today, it is no longer weak, and it lives with the people," he told participants in the service last week.

Among those in attendance were Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, as well as Orthodox patriarchs and archbishops and leaders of other faiths and denominations. Among the Catholics attending were German Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity: French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, retired head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace: Polish Cardinal Jozef Glemp, retired Archbishop of Warsaw and leaders of Russia's Catholic minority. Metropolitan Kirin described Patriarch Alexy, who died on December 5 at age 79, as "a man of not just national but planetary significance". who had worked for "peace. prosperity and wellbeing".

He added that the late Church leader had also helped "form the unity of holy Russia-, while "always respecting the sovereignty of the countries of the former Soviet Union", without "stirring up conflicts or hostility or trying to establish authority by force".

Police said more than 80,000 people had paid their respects to the patriarch in the days leading up to the funeral Some 7,000 people lined up in sub-zero temperatures for up to eight hours to attend the fimeral in the cathedral. which is widely seen as a symbol of Russia's Christian revival.

Catholic Archbishop Paolo Pezzi of Moscow concelebrated a Mass in Moscow's Immaculate Conception Cathedral with the Vatican nuncio,Archbishop Antonio Mennini. Commemorations also were held by other religious leaders including Russia's Chief Rabbi Berel 2 zar, who said it was thanks to Patriarch Alexy that the country had become "an example of interfaith harmony for the whole world".

Following the funeral, the Estonian-born patriarch's body was taken in procession to Moscow's Epiphany Cathedral, where he was enthroned in 1990. and interred in a chapel.




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