VATICAN CITY, 5 DEC 2008 (VIS) - Benedict XVI has sent a telegram of condolence to the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church for the death of His Holiness Alexis II, Patriarch of Moscow and All the Russias.
"I was profoundly saddened to receive news of the death of His Holiness Alexis II, Patriarch of Moscow and of All the Russias, and with fraternal affection I wish to convey to the Holy Synod and to all the members of the Russian Orthodox Church my most sincere condolences, assuring you of my spiritual closeness at this very sad time. In my prayer I beseech the Lord to welcome into His Kingdom of eternal peace and joy this tireless servant, and to grant consolation and comfort to all those who mourn his passing, Mindful of the common commitment to the path of mutual understanding and co-operation between Orthodox and Catholics, I am pleased to recall the efforts of the late Patriarch for the rebirth of the Church, after the severe ideological oppression which led to the martyrdom of so many witnesses to the Christian faith. I also recall his courageous battle for the defence of human and gospel values, especially in the European continent, and I trust his commitment will bear fruit in peace and genuine progress, human, social and spiritual. At this sad time of loss, as his mortal remains are consigned to the earth in the sure hope of the resurrection, may the memory of this servant of Gospel of Christ be a support for those who are now in sorrow and an encouragement for those who will benefit from his spiritual legacy as leader of the venerable Russian Orthodox Church".
For his part, Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, has issued a note expressing his own sadness at the death of the patriarch, who "was called to guide the Russian Orthodox Church in a period of great change. ... His leadership has enabled that Church to face the challenges of transition from the Soviet era to the present with renewed interior vitality".
The cardinal recalls his "many meeting with His Holiness, who always made a point of expressing his goodwill towards the Holy Father and his desire to strengthen collaboration with the Catholic Church. His personal commitment to improving relations with the Catholic Church, in spite of the difficulties and tensions which from time to time have emerged, has never been in doubt".
TGR/DEATH PATRIARCH ALEXIS II/...VIS 081205 (430)