On September 6, 2023, after the Divine Liturgy in the Dormition Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin, a grand reception took place in the Patriarchal Chambers of the Kremlin’s Palace of Facets of the Moscow Kremlin. During the reception, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus’ held negotiations with the Supreme Head of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church of India His Holiness Baselios Marthoma Mathews the Third, Catholicos of the East.
Among those present were Metropolitan Zachariah Mar Nicholovos of New York; Co-Chairman of the Working Group for the coordination of bilateral relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Malankara Church; Metropolitan Yuhanon Mar Chrysostomos of Niranam, secretary of the Holy Synod; Metropolitan Yuhanon Mar Demetrios of Delhi, President of the Department of Ecumenical Relations; Metropolitan Abraham Mar Stephanos of United Kingdom, Europe and Africa; Very Rev. Philip Thomas Cor Episcopa, Vicar of the Cathedral of St Mary Theotokos, Kuala Lumpur; Principal Secretary to His Holiness Catholicos of Malankara Rev. Fr. Abraham Johns; Priest Trustee, MOSC,. Saji Varughese; Secretary of the Department of Ecumenical Relations, Member of Bilateral Commission MOSC-ROC Aswin Fernandes; Secretary to His Holiness Catholicos of Malankara Johnson Baiju; Church Association Secretary, MOSC, Mr Biju Oommen; Working Committee Member, MOSC, Mr. Jacob Mathew; Programme Secretary, International Affairs, MOSC, Mr. Kevin George Koshy.
The Russian Orthodox Church was represented at the negotiations by Metropolitan Dionisy of Voskresensk, Chancellor of the Moscow Patriarchate; Metropolitan Leonid of Klin, Patriarchal Exarch for Africa, Co-Chairman of the Working Group for the coordination of bilateral relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Malankara Church; Archimandrite Philaret (Bulekov), DECR Vice Chairman; Hieromonk Stephen (Igumnov), DECR secretary for inter-Christian relations, secretary of the Working Group for the coordination of bilateral relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Malankara Church; Hierodeacon Petr (Akhmatkhanov), DECR staff member.
The reception was also attended by the clergy, who concelebrated with His Holiness Patriarch Kirill at the Liturgy.
The Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church cordially greeted His Holiness Catholicos Baselios Marthoma Mathews III, stressing that the relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Malankara Church have deep historical roots.
“Together we belong to the great spiritual tradition of the Christian East. The relations between our Churches made good progress, thanks to such history-making figures as Metropolitan Nikodim (Rotov) of Leningrad and Novgorod and Metropolitan Paulos Mar Gregorios (Varghese), an outstanding hierarch and theologian”, His Holiness said addressing the distinguished guest.
Patriarch Kirill recalled that he first met Metropolitan Mar Gregorios in 1968 in Uppsala at the Fourth General Assembly of the World Council of Churches. “Even back then he already proved to be an outstanding theologian and religious leader. To me, especially memorable was his contribution to the work of the Fifth General Assembly which took place in 1975 in Nairobi”, His Holiness pointed out, stressing that the relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Malankara Church have been actively developing ever since.
His Holiness highly praised the brotherly relations which have always been there between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Church of India. His Holiness expressed hope that the bilateral cooperation between the two Churches will progress successfully in the future.
“We value our common past which has enriched both of our Churches, but we would like to see the present and the future to be no less meaningful for our Churches”, Patriarch Kirill added, “And, of course, we are open to various kinds of common work, and so, I would like to repeat my invitation for your students to be trained in our schools”.
The Primate of the Russian Church also noted the high level of inter-state relations between Russia and India.
“Russia and India are civilizations of great culture, with huge intellectual, human and cultural potential. Russia and India today are partners who do not seek to profit from each other, do not seek to exploit each other’s weaknesses, but interact honestly in policies and economy. Therefore, we have a positive factor for development, including bilateral religious relations”, Patriarch Kirill stated.
His Holiness Catholicos Basil Mar Thomas Matthew III, for his part, thanked the Primate of the Russian Church for his hospitality.
“I am very pleased to be here today”, he said to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, “It brings back memories of the time spent in Leningrad when Your Holiness was the rector of Leningrad Theological Academy. I remember the years of my studies very well. That was the first time I had been abroad, and Russia was the first country I had visited. Russia became my second Motherland and remains such to this day”.
The distinguished guest affirmed that the veneration of the saints of the Russian Orthodox Church is growing in India, in particular Venerable Seraphim of Sarov and Blessed Matrona of Moscow.
“My predecessor, His Holiness the Ever-Memorable Catholicos Paul II deeply venerated St. Matrona of Moscow. There are many other hierarchs, priests as well as lay people who have come to venerate St. Matrona”, His Holiness Catholicos said.
“We also honour the memory of Professor Nikolai Zernov, who was a key figure in bridging together the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ancient Church of the East. During my study years in Leningrad, I was also lucky to meet Metropolitan Nikodim (Rotov), who made an indelible impression on me”, the Primate of the Malankara Church said.
His Holiness Catholicos expressed gratitude to the Russian Orthodox Church for the bilateral dialogue, where successful academic cooperation is a key part: currently two representatives of Malankara Church are students of Saint Petersburg Theological Academy.
Patriarch Kirill thanked the distinguished guest for his kind words, in particular, noting that the Russian Orthodox Church is looking for like-minded people throughout the world so that together they could preserve the ever-living spiritual and moral values. His Holiness stressed that the dialogue between the Russian Orthodox and the Malankara Church of India, which is “based on common spiritual values, especially on common peoples’ devotion, has every opportunity to be successful”.
“We need to develop bilateral relations through interaction and cooperation of our theological schools and the exchange of our pastoral practices. Many priests of the Russian Church would be interested in your pastoral experience, especially in the provinces, in the villages, and in places where people’s lives are not easy. I think that representatives of the Malankara Church might be interested in learning more about our pastoral work not only in Moscow or Saint Petersburg but also out there, in the vast lands of Russia. I am sure that such an exchange of experience can be useful for both Churches”, the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church concluded.
Then the conversation continued on a wide range of issues.
After the reception, the parties exchanged memorable gifts.