FROM THE RUSSIAN INFORMATION AGENCY NOVOSTI
DAMASCUS, May 29 – A monument to St. Paul the Apostle created by a Russian sculptor was unveiled in the suburbs of the Syrian capital Damascus on Saturday. His Eminence GERMAN, Archbishop of Kursk and Rylsk, the head of the Russian delegation, said at a press conference in Damascus that the Russian and Syrian Antiochian Orthodox Churches came out for consolidation of spiritual links between the two nations. “The Russian and Antiochian Orthodox Churches have always maintained close relations. The history of Russian-Syrian links has deep spiritual roots,” Archbishop German said. According to him, the unveiling of the monument to Apostle Paul created by a Russian sculptor will promote bilateral relations. “We hope that we shall visit each other more often after the unveiling of the monument to the Apostle Paul and other religious events in Damascus,” the archbishop said. Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and All Russia is expected to visit Syria in 2007, he added.
According to His Grace Mousa al-Khouri of the Antiochian Patriarchate, representatives of the Antiochian and Russian Orthodox Churches can find mutual understanding although they speak different languages. “There is only one Orthodox Church in the world and its prayers are said in different languages,” he said. The Antiochian Orthodox Church was founded by Ss. Peter and Paul the Apostles in 37 AD. The history of relations of the Russian and Antiochian Orthodox Churches dates back to the ancient times. For instance, the first Orthodox metropolitan of Kiev, Mikhail Sirin (or Syrian), was a disciple of Patriarch John of Antioch. The Russian Empire supported Orthodox Christians in the Middle East for centuries. Christians account for 10% of the Syrian population. Most of them are followers of the Orthodox Greek-Byzantine Church.
The Holy Apostle Paul is believed to be the first man who brought Christianity from the Palestinian territory to other countries. It was in Antioch that his disciples were called Christians for the first time. The five-meter monument to St. Paul was unveiled in a picturesque place south of the Syrian capital. This is a bronze sculpture of the apostle holding the New Testament in his hands. The sculpture stands on a bronze pedestal. It was made in Russia by the order of the Apostle Paul Spiritual Heritage international foundation. The patriarchs of the Russian and Antiochian Orthodox Churches approved the initiative.