Brother Alois, accompanied by two other brothers, was in Moscow from 28 May to 2 June. He was eager to go there to express to Patriarch Alexis II the Taizé Community’s desire to continue on its way in great closeness and in deep trust with the Russian Orthodox Church. He expressed it, “Brother Roger opened up a way and we want to continue in his footsteps. The Russian Orthodox Church had a special place in his heart. He had infinite respect for it because of all the trials it has come through, and he recalled how much so many Orthodox Christians have known how to love and to forgive.”
- Brother Alois presenting to Patriarch Alexis II the shawl often worn by Brother Roger over his prayer robe
The three brothers were touched by the warm welcome they received from the Patriarch himself, from Metropolitan Kirill, president of the External Relations Department of the Patriarchate of Moscow and from others in charge of this department. The Patriarch underlined the good relations that existed between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Community of Taizé. He recalled that he had himself visited Taizé and that he had met Brother Roger several times.
This was the fourth visit Brother Alois has made over recent months, and it followed his visits to Pope Benedict XVI, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, and to the World Council of Churches meeting at Porto Alegre, Brazil. “Through these visits I wanted to show that the brothers and I are seeking passionately for communion among all Christians. In this search for communion, we discover more and more the treasures the different traditions have kept through their history. In Taizé, we want to contribute to a true exchange of gifts taking place between the great Christian traditions.”
- Metropolitan Kirill and Brother Alois
In Moscow, Brother Alois underlined the gifts that Christians of the East could share with those of the West. “One of the secrets of the Orthodox soul lies in a prayer of adoration where the goodness of God becomes perceptible. It is through such a prayer that the Orthodox find an access to the great mysteries of faith.”
And Brother Alois added, “The most unique aspect is to be found in the experience of Christians who have transmitted their love of Christ from generation to generation, particularly those who confessed their faith at the risk of their lives. The memory of these witnesses of the faith remains alive in Russia. We met people who have been deeply marked by these witnesses, some even became martyrs.”
- Meeting with young adults
The brothers took part in the liturgy of the Ascension, presided over by Patriarch Alexis, and in celebrations in various other parishes. They visited several deeply moving places: Boutovo where in 1937-1938 more than 20,000 people were shot, and the place where Father Alexander Men was murdered. Their visit to the Theology Academy of Moscow at the Lavra of the Trinity enabled them to pray in the Cathedral of the Trinity, where the relics of Saint Sergius are venerated, and where the heart of Russian believers beats.
On the final evening, they met young adults in an Orthodox parish and took part in a prayer. For many of the young it was as if this visit brought Taizé closer to their day to day reality. And for the brothers, the welcome they received from all those they met remains written in their hearts. “From the very first day, when we went into a church, we felt we were welcomed by all those praying there, young people, old women, all standing before the icons.”