Patriarch Kirill hopes visit to Japan will strengthen bilateral ties
Moscow - Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia has reaffirmed his readiness to visit Japan in 2012.
"I plan to visit Japan next year if everything goes right and God gives me health," the head of the Russian Orthodox Church said at a meeting with Japanese Ambassador to Russia Tikahito Harada in Moscow on Tuesday.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the arrival Nicholas Kasatkin in Hakodate. Kasatkin subsequently became Archbishop Nicholas and "created the Japanese Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill said.
The 100th anniversary of Archbishop Nicholas's death will be marked in 2012.
Patriarch Kirill said that, like Father Nicholas, he wants to start his visit to Japan in Hakodate, then travel to Sendai, which was "hardest hit by destruction, the earthquake and floods," and then visit Tokyo.
Some 35,000 Japanese belong to the Japanese Orthodox Church today, the patriarch said, adding that they pray in the Japanese language.
"We will continue maintaining close ties with the Japanese Orthodox Church because it is a very important factor in promoting good relations between our people," he said.
Patriarch Kirill said he hoped his upcoming visit to Japan would help "our two nations understand each other better, learn to distinguish truth from lies in our relations and build these relations for their own benefit and the benefit of the two states."