Thursday, November 12, 2009

A highflying patriarch

The head of Russia’s Orthodox Church has flown fighter jets and passenger airliners and has tried to convince colleagues of the joys of parachute jumps, according to a senior cleric in Moscow.

Patriarch Kirill, enthroned as leader of the world’s 160 million Russian Orthodox believers in February, spends much of his time following rituals little changed since the Middle Ages. But he has other ways to get close to the heavens.

“He has taken the control stick of passenger planes, to which I am a witness, and of fighter jets,” said Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev, quoted by Interfax news agency.

“Once he even tried to convince me to make a parachute jump,” said Alfeyev, a senior cleric who oversees the church’s relations with other Christian denominations. “I said I was ready so as long as I knew the date in advance so I could leave my papers in order.” He said the 62-year-old patriarch had not yet set a date.


Fr. Andrew said...

160 million! That's not only every person in Russia, but it's another 18 million besides!

I've come to conclude that religion statistics are almost entirely meaningless.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Fr. Andrew,
I am guessing that the numbers are somewhat inflated. But one must remember that the canonical jurisdiction of the Russian Church extends beyond the political borders of modern Russia. It includes a number of countries in what the Russians refer to as their "near abroad" such as Ukraine and Belarus. Also there are a few autonomous but not autocephalous Orthodox Churches which commemorate the Patriarch of Moscow. And finally there are those Orthodox in what is rather condescendingly referred to as the diaspora. After Constantinople; Moscow has the largest number under its omophorion.


Fr. Andrew said...

It really does seem like a big number—I wasn't even aware that the MP claimed a number that big (90m, maybe?).

Anyway, I think that the MP actually does have many more people than the EP, even if we knew the real numbers. (I believe Romania is #2.)