Patriarch Aleksey II: We have started on the road to unity

The fall of communism and the establishment of religious freedom have laid the groundwork for beginning on the road to church unity. The statement was made Friday by Aleksey II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, after services at the Kremlin Cathedral in Arkhangelsk, Rosbalt learned Saturday at Orthodox Encyclopedia, the religious research center of the Moscow patriarchate. Summing up the results of a visit to Russia by a delegation church leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCA), the Patriarch noted that they way to church unification was now open after many decades of division. Aleksey II said: 'The way will not be easy, but there no longer exist barriers of such a kind as to divide homeland Russians from those beyond its borders.'

He said negotiations between representatives of the Moscow Patriarch and ROCA had been conducted 'in a spirit of openness and Christian love.' 'We reviewed the road that we will follow toward unification,' Aleksey II said. Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany, leader of the ROCA delegation, stressed how much in common the two churches share. 'We considered matters that might interfere with the unification process,' the archbishop said.

The ROCA delegation was in Russia from November 17 through November 22 and came at the invitation of Aleksey II and Russian President Vladimir Putin. It was the first official visit by Orthodox church hierarchy from abroad since the politically motivated schism of 1927. The latest meetings were expected to take up matters related to ending the schism and gradually unifying the administration and property of the two Orthodox churches.

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