Patriarch Kirill Becomes the First Orthodox Leader to Visit Antarctica

Patriarch Kirill Becomes the First Orthodox Leader to Visit Antarctica

0 comments 📅27 October 2016, 08:09

patriarch-kirill-penguins2A week after meeting Pope Francis to smooth over centuries of tensions with the Roman Catholic Church, the Russian Orthodox Church’s Patriarch Kirill has reached out to another historically non-Orthodox congregation: penguins.  The patriarch, who heads the largest of the world’s various eastern Orthodox churches, arrived at Russia’s Bellingshausen research station on King George Island, just off the coast of Antarctica, on Thursday.  He took a walk with penguins on the island’s rocky shore before who delivering a service for scientists at the station’s Holy Trinity church, the southernmost Russian Orthodox chapel on the planet.  Built of Siberian pine in Russia’s Altai Mountains, the church was dismantled and reassembled in at Bellingshausen in 2004.  Patriarch Kirill is the first head of the Orthodox Church to preach in the chapel – or, indeed, set foot on the southern continent.  King George island is the largest in the South Shetland archipelago and claimed by Britain as part of its Antarctic territory. Eleven nations, including Russia, maintain scientific research stations there.

Kirill’s Antarctic adventure comes after last week’s historic meeting with Pope Francis in Havana, which was the first summit between heads of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox faiths since a unified Christian church split in 1054.  The meeting, which followed decades of delicate negotiations, was hailed by senior clerics in both Churches as an opportunity to show a united front against persecution of Christians in the Middle East.  Patriarch Kirill is both Russia’s most senior clergyman and a key political player in Moscow, where he is considered a close ally of Vladimir Putin.  Some analysts have described last week’s meeting as an attempt by Mr Putin to use the soft-power of the church to soften Russia’s image abroad.

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