Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill appeals to shared faith in Romania: 'There is extraordinary potential for peace'

Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church is extending an arm of friendship to Orthodox Christians in Romania in the first visit by a head of the Russian Church since the fall of communism.

Romania, a NATO and European Union member which now hosts part of the US anti-missile shield and NATO's anti-ballistic defence system, has had cool relations with Russia since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, although the two countries share cultural and religious ties.

It is the first visit by a Russian Orthodox Patriarch to Romania since the fall of CommunismRomanian Orthodox Church

Kirill is the first Russian Patriarch to visit since Patriarch Alexy I in 1962.

He arrived in the country on Thursday and spoke of the countries' shared values and the 'extraordinary potential for peace'.

He said: 'The Orthodox values are the same for Romanians, for Romania, for the Russians, for Russia and for all the other orthodox believers.'

He added: 'There can be good relationships between people only when they share common values. And regardless of the path the history goes, we, the Orthodox believers living in different countries, have to remember that we share the same values and a common life system. That means there is an extraordinary potential for peace, cooperation and interaction.'

He blessed a crowd of the faithful celebrating the Feast of Bucharest patron saint Dimitrie Basarabov the New on Friday and urged people to steer clear of false political and religious teachers who promise an earthly Heaven, yet without Christ and without God.

'I am glad to see today the believers gathered here in such high numbers. Your devotion bears testimony to the flourishing of today's Romanian Orthodoxy,' he said.