Sunday, December 5, 2010
2 years ago the world lost Patriarch Aleksy II
Patriarch Alexy II (or Alexius II, 23 February 1929 – 5 December 2008) was the 15th Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, the primate of the Russian Orthodox Church.
His name is transliterated from the Cyrillic alphabet into English in various forms, including Alexius, Aleksij, Aleksi, Aleksiy, Alexiy, Alexis, Alexei, Alexey, and Alexy. When he became a monk, his name was not changed, but his patron saint changed from Alexius of Rome to Alexius, Metropolitan of Moscow whose relics repose in the Theophany Cathedral in Moscow.
Elected Patriarch of Moscow one and half year prior to the Soviet Union's collapse, he became the first Russian Patriarch of the post-Soviet period.
He entered Leningrad Theological Seminary in 1947, and graduated in 1949. He then entered the Leningrad Theological Academy (now Saint Petersburg Theological Seminary), and graduated in 1953.
On 15 April 1950, he was ordained a deacon by Metropolitan Gregory (Chukov) of Leningrad, and on 17 April 1950, he was ordained a priest and appointed rector of the Theophany church in city of Jõhvi, Estonia, in the Tallinn Diocese. On 15 July 1957, Fr. Alexiy was appointed Rector of the Cathedral of the Dormition in Tallinn and Dean of the Tartu district. He was elevated to the rank of Archpriest on 17 August 1958, and on 30 March 1959 he was appointed Dean of the united Tartu-Viljandi deanery of the Tallinn diocese. On 3 March 1961 he was tonsured a monk in the Trinity Cathedral of the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius.
On 14 August 1961, he was chosen to be the Orthodox Church Bishop of Tallinn and Estonia. On 23 June 1964, he was elevated to the rank of archbishop; and, on 25 February 1968, at the age of 39, metropolitan.
In 1986 he was released from the post of the Chancellor, which he had held since 1961 and which allowed him to be based in the Moscow Patriarchy's headquarters, and transferred to Leningrad; the decision was effectively made by the Council for Religious Affairs and was later presented by Alexy as punishment for his letter in December 1985 to Mikhail Gorbachev with proposals of reforms to church-state relations. Shortly after Alexy's death, the then Chairman of the Council Kharchev strongly denied that and said the decision was aimed at "defusing the tense emotional atmosphere within Patriarch Pimen's inner circle".In an earlier interview Kharchev suggested the removal had been requested by Patriarch Pimen "for a year"
After the death of Patriarch Pimen I in 1990 Alexiy was chosen to become the new Patriarch of The Russian Orthodox Church. He was chosen on the basis of his administrative experience, and was considered "intelligent, energetic, hardworking, systematic, perceptive, and businesslike."
He also "had a reputation as a conciliator, a person who could find common ground with various groups in the episcopate." Archbishop Chrysostom (Martyshkin) remarked "With his peaceful and tolerant disposition Patriarch Aleksi will be able to unite us all."
Patriarch Alexy II was "the first patriarch in Soviet history to be chosen without government pressure; candidates were nominated from the floor, and the election was conducted by secret ballot."
Upon taking on the role of Patriarch, Patriarch Alexy became a vocal advocate of the rights of the church, calling for the Soviet government to allow religious education in the state schools and for a “freedom of conscience” law. During the attempted coup in August 1991, he denounced the arrest of Mikhail Gorbachev, and anathematized the plotters.
He publicly questioned the junta's legitimacy, called for restraint by the military, and demanded that Gorbachev be allowed to address the people. He issued a second appeal against violence and fratricide, which was amplified over loudspeakers to the troops outside the Russian "White House" half an hour before they attacked. Ultimately, the coup failed, which eventually resulted in the breakup of the Soviet Union.
In July 1998 Alexy II decided not to officiate in the Peter and Paul Cathedral of Saint Petersburg at the burial of the royal family murdered by the Bolsheviks in 1918,a ceremony attended by President Boris Yeltsin, citing doubts about the authenticity of the remains.
Under his leadership, the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia who suffered under Communism were glorified, beginning with the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev, and Metropolitan Benjamin of Petrograd in 1992.
In 2000, after much debate, the All-Russian Council glorified Tsar Nicholas II and his family, as well as many other New Martyrs. More names continue to be added to list of New Martyrs, after the Synodal Canonization Commission completes its investigation of each case.
Alexy II had complicated relations with John Paul II and the Roman Catholic Church. He had a dispute with Rome over the property rights of the Greek-Catholic Church in Ukraine, which had emerged from Soviet control after the Gorbachev's liberalisation of Russia. He nevertheless had good relations with Latin-rite Christians in France and was friends with Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, who invited him to the country shortly before his death.
Patriarch Alexy II repeatedly affirmed the traditional stand of the Orthodox Church and opposed the display of homosexuality in Russia, and in particular, opposed gay parades in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The Church, according to the Patriarch, "has invariably supported the institution of the family and condemns untraditional relations, seeing them as a vicious deviation from God-given human nature". He also said, "I am convinced that gays' desire to organize a parade in Moscow will not help strengthen the family as the foundation of a strong state". He also said that homosexuality is an illness, and a distortion of the human personality like kleptomania.
Patriarch Alexy has also issued statements condemning anti-Semitism.
On 27 April 2007, he was reported by some Russian media to be in grave condition and even dead,though this was later shown to have been a hoax.
Patriarch Alexiy has stated that the motivation behind these rumors were to scuttle the upcoming reconciliation between the Russian Church inside of Russia with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
"As you can see, I'm healthy, I'm serving, I'm alive," he is quoted as saying. Despite his age, he appeared healthy, and had been leading an active pastoral life. He was frequently seen on Russian TV, conducting Church services, and meeting with various government officials.
In February 2007 a controversy erupted when Diomid, Bishop of Chukotka, condemned the ROC's hierarchy and personally Patrirch Alexy II for ecumenism, supporting democracy and misguided loyalty to the Russian secular authorities. Bishop Diomid also took the position that taxpayer IDs, cell phones, passports, vaccination and globalisation were tools of the antichrist, and that the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church have "departed from the purity of the Orthodoxal dogma" in its support of the Russian government and of democracy, as well as its ecumenism with other confessions. After a decision of the All-Russian Council, and Bishop Diomid's refusal to appear, he was defrocked in July 2008, In turn, Diomid issued a proclamation in which he anathematized Patriarch Alexy, and some other bishops.
Patriarch Alexiy died at his residence in Peredelkino, outside Moscow on 5 December 2008.