Benedict XVI has expressed his
profound sadness over the death of Aleksij II, Patriarch of Moscow, whom he
called a tireless servant of the Gospel.
In a message to the Russian
Orthodox Church, the Pope recalled the Patriarch's valiant battle in defense of
human and evangelical rights, especially on the European
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch
Aleksij II, died at the age of 79, after a long disease.
Patriarch of all Russia in 1990, the first head of the Church elected without
the influence of the Russian government. The Russian Church is the greatest
Orthodox community in the world, with 135 million faithful.
credited with helping restore the freedom and moral authority of the Russian
Orthodox Church after decades of repression under communism. But many priests
arrested and sent to the gulag accused him of collaboration with the Soviet
secret police (KGB). He was considered a supporter of Putin's New
Ecumenical dialogue with the Catholic Church was substantially
held back under his leadership. He always refused to meet Pope John Paul II,
pointing the finger at alleged proselytising by Russian Catholics.
top Vatican official for ecumenical dialogue, cardinal Walter Kasper, sent a
telegram of condolences, expressing profound sadness for the Patriarch's death.
He said that, in spite of the difficulties and tensions which have
emerged over the years, Aleksij's personal commitment to improving relations with
the Catholic Church has never been in doubt.