Russian Patriarch makes monumental visit to Riga

  • 2006-05-31
  • From wire reports
RIGA - Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexei II expressed hope that his recent visit to Latvia 's the first in 900 years by a Russian Orthodox Patriarch - would "strengthen positive relations" between Latvia and Russia. During his three-day stay, Alexei II met with Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, Parliament Speaker Ingrida Udre and Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis. He also visited a number of Latvia's Orthodox churches, where he conducted prayer services.

The patriarch encouraged both countries to further develop cooperation in their cultural, economic and political fields.
But the Russian patriarch said the highlight of his visit was meeting Latvia's people. "I heard from all sides, 'Thanks for coming,'" he told journalists. "I also thank God for this visit."
Alexei II arrived in Riga on May 27. After laying flowers at the Freedom Monument in Riga, he conducted a prayer service at the Orthodox Cathedral of the Birth of Christ. During the service, he wished believers to "multiply peace and the good in the world."
"People should be accompanied by God's love and assistance in their road of life," he said.

In a noble ceremony, Vike-Freiberga presented the Russian Patriarch with the Latvian Tristar Order, the country's most prestigious honor. According to both Alexei II and Latvia's leaders, the visit symbolized more than formal diplomacy.
"The Patriarch's visit didn't just carry religious significance but also political significance," Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks told the daily Diena. "To separate politics from society is very difficult. The Orthodox Church, just like other churches, plays its own role in politics, and this role is very important."