Taking part in the meeting were also Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchateâ€™s Department for External Church Relations, and hegumen Philaret (Bulekov), DECR vice-chairman.
The participants were joined in the meeting by Archbishop Niphon of Philippopolis, representative of the Patriarch of Antioch to the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.
His Holiness Patriarch Kirill warmly greeted the guest, saying: â€œWe are happy to welcome you to the Russian Orthodox Church and Russia. I treasure up in my heart the recollections of the reception you gave in my honor in Lebanon. That remarkable meeting enabled us to discuss with you and esteemed brothers the Catholic Patriarchs, whose residences are located in Lebanon, various issues of Christian presence in the Middle East. I hope that your visit to Russia will give you an opportunity to learn about the life of the Russian Orthodox Church and talk about the situation of Christians in the Middle East.
â€œYou are the second Primate of the Maronite Church to visit the Russian Orthodox Church. Your predecessor, Cardinal Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, was the guest of the Russian Church in the year of 1987. Our Churches have achieved much for the past twenty-five years; much has changed in the world, and the Middle East is not an exception.â€
Having noted that the visit of the Maronite Patriarch coincided with the commemoration day of St. Maron the Hermit of Syria, Patriarch Kirill said, â€œThe history of your Church is closely related the life of this saint who is venerated in the Maronite Church and in the Russian Church as well. You have already visited the Church of St. Maron in Moscow and presented this parish with the holy relics of St. Maron brought from the Catholic diocese of the Italian town of Foligno.â€
His Holiness Patriarch Kirill emphasized, â€œYour Church plays a special part by representing Antiochian theological tradition and Antiochian tradition of piety within the Catholic Church. It enables us to exchange our views on theological issues including the issues of the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue.â€
His Holiness expressed his hope that the visit of the Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and All the East will create â€œnew opportunities for discussing a wide range of topical issues.â€
He mentioned that the delegation of the Maronite Church had attended the divine service celebrated by archbishop Arseny of Istra in the presence of numerous parishioners on the commemoration day of St. Maron. The Maronite Patriarch noted the importance of strengthening good relations between the Syriac Maronite Church of Antioch and the Russian Orthodox Church.
He conveyed to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill greetings from Cardinal Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir and from H.E. Mr. Michel Suleiman, President of the Lebanese Republic.
Speaking about the situation of Christians in the Middle East, the Maronite Patriarch noted: â€œWe do not want to be called minorities as we settled in this land two thousand years ago. We are not just a group of people transferred by someone to the East. We come from the East and we were here six hundred years before Islam. We will continue working with the Russian Church and with other friendly Churches and governments in order to affirm Christiansâ€™ right to citizenship in our region. We are citizens and will defend our rights.â€