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MOSCOW, March 8, 2013, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia paid tribute to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI for his uncompromising stand on faith issues, and wished him strength for the years to come, the patriarch's press service reported.

“In these days, which are special to you, I would like to express to you my feelings of fraternal love in Christ and respect,” the patriarch said in his message to the pontiff.

Patriarch Kirill, who represents an estimated 150 million Orthodox Christian believers, said the decision made by Benedict XVI to step down from the pontificate was announced “with such humility and simplicity” on February 11 and found “a lively response” in the hearts of millions of Catholics.

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“We have always held dear your consistent position characterized by an uncompromising stand on the questions of faith and commitment to the living church tradition. In an age when the ideology of all-permissiveness and moral relativism tries to force moral values out of people’s lives, you boldly raised your voice in the defense of the Gospel’s ideal, the lofty dignity of human beings, and their calling to freedom from sin,” the patriarch said.

Patriarch Kirill recalled warmly his meetings with Joseph Ratzinger before his election as pope.

The Orthodox Patriarch pointed out that the relations between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church received “a new impetus” in the years of the service of Benedict XVI.

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In an address to the Eastern Orthodox Archbishop of Cyprus in 2008, Pope Benedict XVI invoked the language of Pope John Paul II in referring to the Eastern Church as one of the two lungs of the Church.

Pope Benedict told an Orthodox counterpart, “In you, I greet the pastor of an ancient and illustrious Church, a shining tessera of that bright mosaic, the East, which, to use a favourite phrase of the Servant of God John Paul II of venerable memory, constitutes one of the two lungs with which the Church breathes.”

In his tribute to Pope Benedict, Patriarch Kirill added that both Eastern and Western Churches “bear a great responsibility for common witness to the Crucified and Risen Christ in the modern world.”

Patriarch Kirill said he sincerely hopes that “the good and close relations” between Orthodox and Catholic Christians that developed with active participation by Benedict XVI will further develop under his successor.

“Kindly accept my heartfelt wishes of good health, many years of life and God’s help in your life devoted to prayer and in your theological work,” the patriarch closed in his message to Benedict XVI.

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