This Saturday, we will mark the first anniversary of the death of Patriarch Aleksei Rediger of Moscow and all the Russias. On 4 December, the feast of the Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple, Patriarch Kirill served a Pannikhida at the tomb of the late First Hierarch at the Epiphany Cathedral in Moscow.
This is a memorial service, usually performed on Friday evenings, on the eve of Ancestors’ Saturdays, or on days that the whole Church commemorates the reposed in general. On the morning of 5 December, Patriarch Kirill will return to the same church to celebrate the liturgy, then, he will serve a Pannikhida at the grave of Patriarch Aleksei in the right side of the cathedral.
On this day, all Orthodox churches and monasteries will serve memorial liturgies for the repose of the soul of the late Patriarch Aleksei. Many parishes will hold commemorative events and exhibitions devoted to the departed patriarch.
The clergy and the faithful will remember Patriarch Aleksei, the First Hierarch of the Moscow Patriarchate during the most recent period in Russian history, a time that saw the revival of church life in the Motherland.
Today, the Museum of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour opened a new exhibition about the life and ministry of the reposed First Hierarch. It will present his personal belongings, and, on Saturday, viewers of TV Pervy Kanal (First Channel) will see the documentary Путь патриарха (Put Patriarkha: The Path of the Patriarch), dedicated to the memory of Patriarch Aleksei. In the film, figures such as Metropolitan Amfilohije Radović of Montenegro and Primorsky, the Patriarchal Locum Tenens of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and Patriarch Aleksei’s assistant, Nikolai Derzhavin, and TV presenter Aleksei Svetozarsky, who did holiday broadcasts from the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, shall give their recollections of the late First Hierarch.
The memories of the personal chauffeur of the patriarch occupy a special place in the programme; they are the reminisces of a man who for years was close to His Holiness and to Metropolitan Kornely Yakobs of Tallinn and All Estonia. The chauffeur knew Patriarch Aleksei for many years, starting when the driver was a boy.
Patriarch Aleksei II (his secular name was Aleksei Mikhailovich Rediger) was born in 1929 in Tallinn in Estonia, and served the Church since his early childhood. After graduating from the Leningrad Theological Academy, the future patriarch served in various churches in Estonia. In 1961, he was consecrated Bishop of Tallinn and Estonia, and, in the same year, became deputy chairman of the Department for External Church Relations, and, three years later, Chancellor of the Moscow Patriarchate.
Prior to his election as patriarch by the Local Council of the MP in 1990, Archbishop Aleksei (later, a Metropolitan) headed the Education Committee of the Russian Church, was part of the Synodal Commission on Christian Unity and Inter-Church Relations, and was on the Commission on the preparation and holding of the celebration of the Millennium of the Baptism of Russia. In 1986, he became Metropolitan of Leningrad and Novgorod, and he retained control of the Diocese of Tallinn concurrently.
A revival in the Church unprecedented in scope and pace on the canonical territory of the MP took place in the patriarchate of Aleksei II. To cite only one example, the Church was able to restore about 20,000 churches.
At the same time, the Church greatly increased its role in society. Aleksei II was at the forefront of many peace initiatives, and he shall go down in history as “Aleksei the Unifier”, for his efforts were crucial in overcoming the split between the ROCOR and MP in 2007. Patriarch Aleksei died on 5 December 2008, a little more than two months before his 80th birthday.