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BISHOP ROBERT IN MOSCOW WITH ARCHBISHOP JUSTIN

Bishop Robert was a member of the delegation taken by the Archbishop of Canterbury on a visit to Moscow this week. It was the Archbishop’s first visit to Russia and a particularly important event given the current political tension between the UK and Russia.
One highlight of the three day visit was to commission Malcolm Rogers as Anglican ‘Apokrisarios’ (representative) to the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow and to take forward dialogue with the Patriarchate Krill.

Malcolm and Alison Rogers took up their post in the summer. Malcolm’s primary responsibility is the pastoral care of St. Andrew’s Moscow, a diverse church community inhabiting a splendid Victorian Gothic building, unique in Russia, which was used in Soviet times as a recording studio. He also acts as the face of Anglicanism in Orthodox relations in Moscow. His knowledge of Russian is particularly useful for this.

The ‘main event’ of the visit was a lunchtime meeting for the Anglican delegation with Patriarch Kirill, Metropolitan Hilarion and other members of the Russian delegation. This took place with a high level of formality, in the magnificently regal surroundings of the Moscow Patriarchate. The Patriarch’s opening address included significant reference to the Middle East and to the Ukraine and was delivered to a bank of television cameras. The media then left and Archbishop Justin was invited to respond.

The dialogue between the two principals continued over a six course banquet. “It was an extremely open, honest and warm discussion,” says Bishop Robert. “I was impressed that the Archbishop could sustain the highest level of religious, and indeed political, dialogue and debate, whilst also eating a very substantial lunch.” Afterwards the delegation moved to Metropolitan Hilarion’s offices, where there was further discussion of the specific ways the two churches could collaborate. A joint press statement was issued drawing the attention of world leaders to the plight of persecuted Christians in the Middle East and North Africa.
In the evening, the British Ambassador, Laurie Bristow, hosted a lecture and reception for the Archbishop for 100 people from different sectors of the international and Russian communities.

The following morning the Ambassador hosted a breakfast meeting for our delegation with younger Russians who had been sponsored to spend a period of time studying in the UK. It was fascinating for us to hear their perspectives on matters of faith, their future and their country. Bishop Robert spoke with a woman who had studied business at Durham University. She described how she had been one of the first Russians to study market economics and accountancy after the communist era. She explained how, in communist times, the notion of ‘making a profit’ didn’t exist – so you had to start learning about ‘profit and loss accounts’ from a very basic level!

“It was an unforgettable visit,” says Bishop Robert. “It was a privilege to experience first-hand dialogue and debate between global leaders. It was a tough and demanding engagement and one could not but be impressed with the Archbishop’s grace, intellectual ability and diplomatic skill. At a time when political relations between Britain and Russia are frozen, I found it so encouraging to be reminded of our common faith, common concerns and common humanity.”

The full story and more pictures can be seen on Bishop Robert’s Blog