« Representatives of the Diocese of Sourozh attended the First International Congress of Orthodox Youth in Moscow »

His Holiness Patriarch Kirill addressed the audience about the importance of being grateful to God, leadership, youth work and searching for one’s other half.

On the 18th and 19th of November, 2014, a large-scale International Orthodox Youth Forum was held in Moscow. 10,000 delegates came from Russian Orthodox dioceses from all over the world, from Kazakhstan to Canada, Siberia to Ireland. The Diocese of Sourozh was represented by Archpriest Stephen Platt from Oxford, Anastasia Denisova from London and Ivan Kozodoev from Dublin.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia opened the Congress and emphasised the role of youth in the Orthodox Church development. It was for the first time in the history of our Church that so many Orthodox youth were able to gather together to listen to the Patriarch’s address, to get to know each other, to feel their unity and to discuss common views and principles. 

Patriarch Kirill’s address touched upon a variety of burning subjects, highly relevant to the experience of young people in the modern world: from the search for a husband or a wife and the dangers of virtual communication to Orthodox leadership and sensitive missionary work. Moreover, His Holiness mentioned that, whilst acknowledging the importance of repentance, we may currently want to put an emphasis on developing our gratitude to God for all his gifts and great mercy. The focus on gratitude and joy caused a lot of interest on the part of the audience. As the Patriarch explained, “Christianity is not a joyless and mournful religion. It is a not a system of taboos that restricts a man and disturbs his life. Christianity gives plenty of energy, it sets the human spirit free, lifts a man above everyday circumstances, opens a vast perspective. You can observe this perspective only when you use godly criteria in defining what your life and other people’s lives are. This condition of remaining in joy and gratitude to God derives from our trust in God”.

 (You can find the full text of the Patriarch's address (in Russian) on the Patriarchate's website - http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/3845271.html)

The audience showed no less interest in the Patriarch's concept of Orthodox leadership. He used two well-known war cries «Follow me!» and «Go ahead!» as examples of different approaches to leadership. Patriarch Kirill further noted that a true Christian should not direct others where to go, but lead them by his or her own example. It is necessary not to lecture or rebuke, but rather to be yourself a positive example that could  inspire others to follow the same path.

Finally, the listeners held their breath when the advice on finding a spouse followed. Patriarch Kirill reminded the audience about the unacceptability of a physical relationship before marriage and the great gifts granted to a couple whose marriage is blessed in the Church. He also mentioned that while waiting for meeting their soulmate a single Christian may want to improve in his spiritual life. As fasting precedes receiving the Holy Communion, in the same manner spiritual fasting precedes the marriage.

On the next day the Congress participants divided into various sections. Under the guidance of experienced pastors, delegates discussed the management of Orthodox youth groups, interrelation of church and civic institutions, opposing extremism, building healthy Orthodox leadership and the development of youth apologetics. Then the Bishop Ignatiy of Vyborg and Pirozersk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate's Synodal Department for Youth Affairs, together with other clergy, concluded the Congress. Delegates openly shared their views on the current issues of Orthodox church life in a vibrant Q&A session and adopted the final document of the Congress. This noted, among other things, that ‘special attention must be paid to the development of youth ministry in parishes abroad in countries where the majority of people are not Orthodox. Young members of the flock of the Russian Orthodox Church abroad should not feel themselves isolated. It is important to help the parishes abroad to connect to the system of international cooperation of Orthodox youth.’