Pope Benedict XVI sent a goodwill message to mark Patriarch Kirill’s enthronement in Moscow yesterday as head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The Vatican was represented at the enthronement by a delegation led by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Bishop Brian Farrell, the council’s secretary.

In his message, the Pope said he greeted the new Russian Orthodox patriarch “with joy” and recalled the “good will” Kirill had shown during his two decades of service as President of the Department of External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church.

In that capacity, Benedict said, Kirill has “played an outstanding role in forging a new relationship between our Churches, a relationship based on friendship, mutual acceptance and sincere dialogue in facing the difficulties of our common journey.”

Said the Pope, “On the occasion of your enthronement I wish, therefore, to reaffirm my esteem and my spiritual closeness. I pray that our heavenly Father will grant you the abundant gifts of the Holy Spirit in your ministry and enable you to guide the Church in the love and peace of Christ.”

The Holy Father added that it was his “earnest hope that we will continue to cooperate in finding ways to foster and strengthen communion in the Body of Christ, in fidelity to our Savior’s prayer that all may be one, so that the world may believe.”

“Conscious of the enormous responsibilities which accompany the spiritual and pastoral ministry to which the Holy Spirit has called you, I renew to Your Holiness the assurance of my prayers and fraternal good will,” the Pope said in closing. “I ask Almighty God to bless you with his love, to watch over the beloved Russian Church, and to sustain the Bishops, priests and all the faithful in the unfailing hope which is ours in Christ Jesus.”

— Edward Pentin