Helsinki, November 15, 2019
His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia will visit Finland next year in May, marking the first time a Russian Patriarch has visited the neighboring country since 1994, when His Holiness Patriarch Alexei II headed the Church.
The Patriarch will visit at the joint invitation of the Finnish Orthodox Church, the Catholic church in Finland, and the Evangelical Lutheran church in Finland, which was presented to him during the visit of the heads of the Finnish churches in Moscow in 2015, reports the press service of the Finnish Orthodox Church.
The Patriarch will meet with the heads of the three churches to discuss topical issues.
“I am glad that His Holiness’ visit to Finland will take place after so many years of waiting. Here, on the border where East meets West, we have always built close and constructive ties with the Russian Orthodox Church,” commented Archbishop Leo of Helsinki and All Finland of the Finnish Orthodox Church.
The Russian Orthodox Church has been out of communion with the Finnish Church, an autonomous body within the Patriarchate of Constantinople, since last year, after Constantinople invaded the canonical territory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. However, the day after the Russian Synod’s decision, the hierarchs of the Finnish Church declared in a statement that they were still ready to build constructive relations with the Russian Church.
Last November, following his visit to Finland, ex-President Petro Poroshenko declared that the Finnish Church supported the autocephaly movement in Ukraine, though the Finnish Church then distanced itself from this characterization, saying, “Official position: We are following the development of the situation; we pray for the preservation of peace and unity in the Church.”
On November 29, the Holy Synod of Constantinople canonized Schema-Elder John of Valaam at the request of the Finnish Church. St. John was a Russian ascetic of Valaam who ended up at New Valaam Monastery in Finland due to the war between the Soviet Union and Finland.
Finnish Orthodoxy has its roots in medieval Russian missionaries from Novgorod, and the Finnish Church was part of the Russian Church until 1923, when it was taken in by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, despite the protest of the Russian Church, and was granted autonomy instead of the autocephaly it requested. St. Tikhon, the Patriarch of Moscow, had granted the Church autonomy in 1921.
The Patriarch’s visit also coincides with the 50th anniversary of the dialogues between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Evangelical Lutheran church of Finland.