ISTANBUL - Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill gave the message of solidarity and unity in their meeting in Istanbul on Saturday.
Patriarch Kirill arrived in Turkey on Saturday for a three-day visit and met with Barholomew. Kirill also attended a religious service before the meeting, the state-run Anatolian Agency reported.
They were expected to discuss the sensitive issue of the churches in Ukraine and Estonia during the visit of Krill who enthroned in February to lead the Russian Orthodox Church.
Priests kissed Kirill's hands and children gave him flowers when he arrived to the sound of bells ringing at the Patriarchal Church of Saint George, where he blessed parishioners and prayed at icons, Reuters reported.
"I hope my visit will be the start of a renewal in our relationship," Kirill told reporters before his talks with Patriarch Bartholomew.
He said he agrees with the message of Bartholomew that the two institutions find themselves as members of a joint church.
Bartholomew, an ethnic Greek but a Turkish citizen, said Kirill's presence in Istanbul is a message of unity. "Your visit to the patriarchate and the mother church is a source of great joy and deep emotion. Your presence here carries the message of unity, togetherness and fraternity with the Holy Russian Church," Bartholomew was quoted as saying by the news agencies.
Relations between the Churches have been strained in the past because Churches in some former Soviet states, such as Estonia, have broken away from the Russian Orthodox Church and tried to pledge allegiance to Bartholomew instead.
A spokesman for Bartholomew said the Churches of Estonia and Ukraine were expected to be on the agenda during the talks, Reuters also reported.
Ukraine and Russia have long been in dispute over the ex-Soviet state's right to its own independent church. The global Orthodox Church does not recognize the Ukrainian Church.
Kirill will attend a joint mass with Bartholomew on Sunday and is expected to hold talks with Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul when he then visits Ankara.
Kirill, leader of 160 million Russian Orthodox believers, is seen as an outspoken modernizer who may thaw ties with the Catholic Church. He was de facto "foreign minister" of the Moscow patriarchate for two decades before succeeding Alexiy II.
Source: Hurryiyet Daily News
Image Source: Enthronement of Patriarch Krill in February 2009, via Wikipedia