Our profound sympathies to the members of the Russian Orthodox Church and all Orthodox Christians on the passing of His Beatitude, Patriarch Alexiy II of Moscow and All Russia yesterday, 5 December 2008.
Patriarch Alexiy's history is, like most human histories, checkered. Born of German extraction of parents who were devout Russian Orthodox Christians, he grew up in Estonia during the violent era following the overthrow of Czar Nicholas II of Russia (+1917) by the Bolshevik Revolution which ushered in the communist regime known as the Union of Soviet Socialistic Republics (USSR).
He was ordained a priest in 1947 and eventually was ordained a bishop, being elected in 1990 to the Patriarchate of Moscow and All Russia, just as the Soviet Union was collapsing. Patriarch Alexiy was responsible for the resurgance of both the placement and respect of the Russian Orthodox Church in Russian society. He also worked diligently with the flegling struggling democratic Russia of Boris Yeltsin and, subequently, Vladimir Putin.
Former President and now Premier Vladimir Putin of Russia embraces Patriarch Alexiy II of Moscow and All Russia during the Divine Liturgy
His Beatitude has been accused of collaborating with the KGB when the USSR was still extant. Some noted that the once secret files of the former secret police force (for which Vladimir Putin worked) have supported this allegation, although there was no arrived conclusion.
Nevertheless, Alexiy worked diligently at re-establishing the Russian Orthodox Church from its debilitated state under the oppressive communist regime. While severely punished in the early days of the Soviet Union, it was more tolerated toward the time of Mikhail Gorbachev in the 1980s.
One of the successes of Alexiy's patriarchate was the reconciliation and reunion with the Russian Orthodox Church Aborad (ROCA). This body had split with Moscow over the patriarchate's accomodation to Soviet persecution of the Church -- banishment to the gulags and execution of bishops, priests, monks, nuns and laity. The patriarch at the time apparently made concessions to the Soviet government which drew the wrath of Russian expatriots and exiles around the world.
Hence, many formed the parallel Church meant to restore the Orthodox Faith of Russia all the while mistrusting the Church leadership in Moscow as being agents of the KGB. In 2007, Patriarch Alexiy II met with Metropolitan Archbishop Laurus of the ROCA in the partiarchal cathedral in Moscow (with Mr. Putin attending) and signed the official document of reconciliation, embraced with the sign of peace and concelebrated the Divine Liturgy.
Metropolitan Abp. Laurus of the ROCA and Patriarch Alexiy II of Moscow and All Russia at the celebration of reunion and reconciliation in the patriarchal cathedral in Moscow, Russia in May 2007