(JTA) – Kirill I of Moscow, The Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, will travel to Israel in November for his first official visit since assuming the title in 2009.
The mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, visited Moscow last week to discuss the upcoming visit by Kirill with Metropolitan Hilarion, the number two man in the church, which is estimated to have more than 85 million people.
Barkat’s trip was his own first official visit to Russia since becoming mayor in 2008. In Moscow, he also met with Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin for more than one hour, according to Matvey Chlenov, deputy executive director of the Russian Jewish Congress, the group that invited the Israeli.
Chlenov told JTA that Barkat’s reception was “a promising gesture of sympathy from the Moscow administration towards Israel and the Jewish community.” It showed, he added, that Sobyanin is interested in strengthening relations with Israel and Russian Jewry.
Before being elected as mayor, Sobyanin served as the chief of staff under former Russian president Vladimir Putin. He became deputy prime minister before being elected as mayor in 2010 and is believed to still be close to Putin.