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Church leaders urged to 'build bridges' during Russian Orthodox leader's visit

by Aaron James

Victoria Prentis said church leaders should "build bridges" with the Russian Orthodox Church when its leader Patriarch Kirill (above)  visits.

He is due to make his first visit to the UK later this week, to mark the 300th anniversary of the presence of the Russianchurch in Britain.

Relations between the UK and Russia have soured in recent times, because of the country's differing views on the Syrian war.

But both Ms Prentis and Dame Caroline Spelman, the Church Estates Commissioner in the Commons, said Patriarch Kirill's visit could help improve this relationship.

Speaking during questions to the Church Commissioners on Thursday, Ms Prentis said: "Does my honourable friend feel that the visit of Patriarch Kirill in the next week gives us an opportunity to build bridges with the Orthodox Church, at a time when our relationship with Moscow is perhaps not all it should be?"

Dame Caroline agreed, adding: "The Archbishop of Canterbury believes that deeper relations between all Christian churches is a contribution to the peace we all desire in such turbulent times.

"This visit by the Russian Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus' is an opportunity, not only to celebrate the 300 years of the Russian Orthodox worship in London, but no doubt to discuss current affairs."

Speaking later in the debate, Dame Caroline said the church's community presence and network of schools "is an enormous asset in building community relations".

She added: "This building of trust, awareness and community is an important bulwark against the spread of extremism."

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