Your Beatitudes, Primates and representatives of the Holy Churches of God! Esteemed President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Anatolievich Medvedev! Respected Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin! Esteemed heads and representatives of the states, the Orthodox people of which stay in the bosom of the Moscow Patriarchate, representatives of other countries! Most Reverend brothers archpastors! Honourable fathers, mother superiors, dear brothers and sisters in Christ!
By the will of the Holy Spirit and members of the Local Council of our Church, I, the unworthy, was elevated by my brothers to the Throne of the Patriarchs of Moscow and All Russia and received from them the insignia of patriarchal dignity. Your prayers and your kind faces exhorted me today, before I begin my patriarchal ministry which cannot be either easy, or unimpeded. The Lord and the Church have placed a heavy cross on me, the burden of which demands complete dedication and commitment to the ministry to which I am called, having been seated on the Patriarchal throne three times. It is not fortuitous that the great paraman is placed on the Patriarch’s shoulders as a symbol of renunciation of everything but the patriarchal ministry, a symbol of readiness to be faithful to God to the end through obedience to His will, after the likeness of the One Who ‘humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross’ (Philippians 2:8).
There is no room for anything personal or private in the life of the Patriarch: he and his whole being belong absolutely to God and the Church, his heart bleeds for the people of God, and in particular for those who have fallen away from the unity of the Church and for those who have not yet found faith. The patriarchal ministry is a special spiritual feat. It is impossible to perform this feat alone or with support of a limited circle of like-minded persons. All the bishops and the whole Church with the variety of gifts of her members are involved in the accomplishment of this feat through communion in prayer and conciliar labours.
Therefore, being aware of my unworthiness and with inner trepidation, I ascend to the patriarchal throne and humbly entrust myself to the intercession of my holy predecessors, the metropolitans of Kiev and Moscow, before the altar of God. I see with my mind’s eye the holy primates of our Church, in particular those who performed their ministry in modern times, beginning from St. Tikhon the confessor and ending with His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of blessed memory.
The Patriarch is the custodian of the inner unity of the Church, and he preserves the purity of faith together with his brother bishops. The Patriarchal enthronement is taking place on the commemoration day of St. Mark of Ephesus, an audacious defender and champion of the Orthodox faith, and I take this as a special sign from God. The task of the Patriarch is not to allow factions, which, according to the Apostle, ‘must be’ (1 Cor 11:19), to turn into schisms, disorders, and false teachings. The Patriarch should care for each person with all his unique features to be able to find his place in the church body and, at the same time, care for the factions not to transgress the spirit of love or weaken our common efforts for building up the house of God. The words of St Vincent of Lerins, ‘unity in that which is important, freedom in that which is secondary, yet love in all things,’ should be the guiding principle of the life of the Church.
The Patriarch is the defender of the canonical borders of the Church. This ministry becomes particularly significant in the situation that emerged after the independent states had been formed in the territory of ‘historic Russia.’ While respecting their sovereignty and caring for their well-being, the Patriarch is called, at the same time, to be concerned with the maintaining and strengthening of spiritual ties between people living in these countries for the sake of preserving the system of values which the one Orthodox civilization of Holy Russia reveals to the world.
The Church’s preaching of spiritual and moral ideals as applied to the realities of the life at present should be among the particular concerns of the Patriarch. The witness to the truth and beauty of Orthodoxy can be perceived only when people understand clearly the significance of this witness for their private, family and public life and learn to combine the eternal words of God with the realities of their everyday life with its cares, joys and sorrows.
To combine Orthodox faith and the moral of the Gospel with the everyday thoughts and hopes of people means to help them answer the most difficult philosophical and ethical questions of our time. Faith will be understandable and in real demand, irrespective of the variety and discrepancy of views and convictions in society, only when people realize and feel deeply the unquestionable rightness and power of the message which God Himself is sending to people in His revelation. Human thoughts and human words cannot be stronger than the Word of God. If this obvious truth is not evident to many people, this means that the beauty and persuasiveness of the Divine Word is obscured by that what we today call the ‘human factor.’
The witness of the Church to the world presupposes not only the sermon in church, but also an open, friendly and interested dialogue, in which both sides are both speaking and listening. The truths of faith become at least understandable through this dialogue, as they come into creative and living contact with the thoughts and convictions of people. The Church enriches herself through this dialogue with the knowledge of what contemporary people are with their way of thinking and their questions to the Church.
This kind of dialogue facilitates a greater understanding among people of different views and convictions, including their religious beliefs, and promotes the consolidation of peace and accord in our societies and states. The relations between the Church and the State should develop in the framework of a friendly dialogue and cooperation on the basis of the Constitution to serve the good of the Church and the state and the good of people.
The Primates of all Local Churches are called to care for the unity of Universal Orthodoxy together with their brothers from other Churches. I thank the first hierarchs and representatives of the Holy Orthodox Churches present here for our common prayers, and I state that I shall always be open to dialogue with the sister Churches and to common efforts which would help us strengthen and improve all-Orthodox cooperation and to attain more coordination of our pastoral and missionary efforts.
We shall particularly care for the youth that is in dire need of spiritual guidance today. In an epoch of moral relativism, when the propagation of violence and depravity steals the souls of young people, we cannot wait patiently when the youth turns to Christ. We must go to meet young people, no matter how difficult it is to us, middle-aged people and of older generation, to help them find the faith in God and the meaning of life as well as the comprehension of what true happiness is. The way of life and thought that result from sincere and profound faith would bring about strong personality, a consolidated family with many children, and a society of solidarity.
Our Christian duty is to care for the suffering, the orphans, the poor, the disabled, the elderly, the prisoners, and the homeless – for all those whom we can help to find hope. The voice of the Church should be also the voice of the weak and the disenfranchised who seek justice.
We have to do much difficult work. I recall now the sacred behests of the first and the fifteenth patriarchs. The Holy Patriarch Job wrote, ‘It is a good deed to decorate and build churches, but if at the same time we defile ourselves by passions, God will spare neither us, nor our churches.’ ‘A new Russia will raise from ashes and the sinful abyss, as it used to be; a Russia which has given many zealots of faith and piety to the world; a Russia which builds churches in towns and villages and in human hearts; a Russia which shines truth and love to the world – Holy Russia.’ May God grant these inspiring words of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II to become prophetic ones.
I wholeheartedly thank you all who have gathered to pray here. I hope that your prayerful support and the intercession of the whole Church before God will never cease. I address the holy words of St. Paul to all archpastors, pastors and children of our Church, ‘Brethren, be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace, and the God of love and peace shall be with you’ (2 Cor 13:11). Amen.