Last updated: 13 November, 2012

Russian Patriarch leaves Israel after historic visit

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill left Israel on Tuesday after a historic visit marking his growing influence as a religious leader, during which he called for peace and interfaith dialogue.

The Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia spent his last day in Israel in the northern Galilee region, including Nazareth — home to Israel’s largest Christian community — before crossing the Jordan River to Jordan.

He is due to meet with Jordan’s King Abdullah II.

Kirill arrived in Israel last Friday and was received by Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III and leaders of other Christian churches, for his first pilgrimage to the Holy Land since becoming head of the powerful church in 2009.

He visited the major Christian sites including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the Palestinian territories, as well as Tiberias.

The 65-year-old patriarch went to the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, and met with Israel’s two chief rabbis. Kirill was also received by Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

Russia is attempting to situate itself as the protector of Eastern Christians in the Middle East, a minority concerned over the rise of Islam and being pushed into exodus.