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Between 1 and 4 October, His Holiness Patriarch Alexis visited France. There he officially thanked the French government for its historic role in taking in hundreds of thousands of Russian
émigrés, who fled persecution after the atheist coup d’etat in Russia ninety years ago. Then His Holiness visited the Russian cemetery at St Genevieve de Bois to the south of Paris and celebrated a memorial service for the representatives of exiled Russian culture and all faithful Orthodox who repose there.

He also met and spoke to the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, about the situation of the Russian Church in France and its need for new churches, notably, in Paris, where it needs a new and spacious Cathedral and Church centre. In Paris the main service, in Slavonic and French, celebrated by His Holiness and attended by some 9,000 people, had to take place in the Notre Dame Cathedral, for lack of any other suitable building. President Sarkozy has promised to help the Russian Church in this vital matter. His Holiness also once more called schismatic elements from among the children and grandchildren of Westernized émigré intellectuals, who still occupy the old Russian Cathedral, back to unity with the Russian Church.

His Holiness gave several interviews. Among other things, it was explained to the media that there can be no meeting between Patriarch Alexis and the Pope of Rome as long as Uniatization is being pursued in the extreme west of the Ukraine and Roman Catholic proselytism pursued elsewhere in Russia. Until there is repentance for Roman Catholic aggression and intrigues against the Russian Church and people since 1917 (if not also for those during the long centuries before), any meeting with the Pope would be a meaningless photo opportunity. Patriarch Alexis was also called onto address the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, where he expressed the Orthodox view on what is happening in Europe today and called Non-Orthodox Europeans back to their Orthodox roots. He declared that:

‘Today a split that is fatal for European civilization is taking place between human rights and morality. This can be seen in a new generation of human rights which contradict morality and justify immoral acts. If we do not take morality into account, then ultimately we do not take freedom into account. Morality is freedom in action…the destruction of moral standards and propaganda in favour of moral relativism can undermine the world view of European man and lead the peoples of the Continent to a point, beyond which European peoples will lose their spiritual and cultural identity, in other words, their place in history. I am convinced that if Europe is to keep its cultural identity, especially in its dealings with other cultures and civilizations, it is extremely important to keep this moral dimension, which spiritualizes and ennnobles the life of Europeans. At the very least, with the help of State institutions, we must avoid creating propaganda and encouraging anything that weakens or destroys the moral foundations of society.

Concluding his historic visit to the spiritual vacuum of contemporary Western Europe with an interview with the French newspaper Le Monde, the Patriarch stated: ‘If the countries of Western Europe do not keep faith with their spiritual and moral values, they have no future. Today, European society is distinguished by an aggressive secular ideology, the cult of consumption and the worship of the reason. If freedom does not go hand in hand with a sense of responsibility and humility, then mankind and society enter on a path of self-destruction’.

Fr Andrew

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