Russian patriarch, a few miles from Alaska, prays for peace with U.S.

by Gregory Tomlin |

REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill holds a church service in Moscow.

BIG DIOMEDE ISLAND (Christian Examiner) – Less than 24 hours after a Russian fighter passed within 10 feet of a U.S. P-8A Poseidon aircraft over the Black Sea, illustrating the rising tensions between the U.S. and its former Cold War adversary, the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church is praying for peace between the two countries.

Interfax Religion reports Patriarch Kirill visited Ratmanov Island – Americans call it Big Diomede – in the middle of the Bering Strait Sept. 8. It is the eastern most point of Russian territory, separated from the American-held Diomede Island – the Russians call it Krusenstern – by just 2.3 miles. Diomede, also called "Little Diomede," is only inhabited by about 170 American citizens, most of them native peoples.

Kirill reportedly held a prayer service on what Interfax Religion called "the USA frontier." The agency said the church leader prayed for peace and the protection of the environment.

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"Let's pray for peace in the whole world. Let's pray for good friendly relations between Russia and the United States; we are neighbors," Kirill said.

"It is difficult to imagine, but we are very close neighbors, we live within four kilometers of each other," the patriarch told a handful of Russian church leaders, frontier guards and journalists who arrived at the island via helicopter from the mainland.

Kirill, sounding much like Pope Francis who said recently that it was a sin to fail in caring for creation, said people should work to preserve God's creation "so that human sin should not destroy the God-granted beauty of this world."

"Certainly, you think about our people, about our country. But your thought go further, you think about the world, about people living on our planet. It is so strange to realize that on this earth, so beautiful, so diverse, so magnificent, granted by God. People live so badly," he said.

Kirill also said wars, terrorism, and environmental destruction are exhausting the world's resources.