Beirut (Agenzia Fides) – The Patriarch of Antioch of Maronites Bechara Boutros Rai is soon to travel to Moscow on a visit with significant implications, both ecumenical and political-humanitarian . From 26 February to 1 March, before travelling to Rome for the Conclave, the Cardinal Patriarch will have a series of high level meetings in the Russian capital with leading Russian politicians and with prominent members of the Patriarchate of Moscow.
The tight programme of Patriarch Rai’s visit will start with a meeting with the local Lebanese community at the church of San Marone, to which His Beatitude will donate a relic of the patron Saint and where there will be a Maronite liturgical service. On 27 February there will be a meeting with Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the department for foreign relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow, and then lunch with Kirill I, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia. The day after, in the morning , Patriarch Rai will be received by Sergej Naryshkin, Chairman of the Duma, the Lower House of the Russian Parliament . Friday 1 March His Beatitude Rai will celebrate the liturgy at the Catholic Immaculate Conception Cathedral and meet Archbishop Paolo Pezzi, Ordinary of the Mother of God Catholic archdiocese in Moscow.
The visit by Patriarch Rai continues a tradition of bilateral encounters between the Maronite Church and the Patriarchate of Moscow which began with the emeritus Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir and marked a significant moment in November 2011, when Patriarch Kirill I visited Lebanon. The focus of talks with the representatives of the Russian Church and politics will be the dramatic scenes being played out in the Middle East, where for some time the government of Moscow has laid claim to a role of mediation in the Syrian conflict. "We will discuss the Christian presence in the Middle East and express our opinion regarding the tragic situation in Syria" Archbishop Paul Nabil el-Sayah, vicar general of the Patriarch of Antioch of Maronites told Fides. Archbishop Sayah, who will accompany H.B. Rai to Moscow continued: "The conflict in Syria has worked its way into a situation from which there appears to be no way out. Neither party seems capable of prevailing over the other. The passing of time only increases the massacres, the destruction of infrastructures, of the entire Syrian society, and all the suffering of a martyred people . Syrian Christians are also paying a high price for this war. What is needed is a peaceful solution to the conflict, to be reached as quickly as possible". (GV) (Agenzia Fides 22/2/2013).