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Meeting with Patriarch Ignatius IV of Antioch and All The East

May 11, 2010, Damascus

The President of Russia awarded the Patriarch the Order of Friendship.

During the meeting at the Patriarch’s residence, Dmitry Medvedev congratulated Ignatius IV on the upcoming Ascension Day and passed along warm greetings from Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.

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PATRIARCH IGNATIUS IV OF ANTIOCH AND ALL THE EAST (retranslated): Your Excellency Mr President,

Seeing you here today is a truly special event, because I am welcoming a guest who represents the state which is home to the largest Orthodox Church in the world: the Russian Orthodox Church.

We have a long-spanning shared history. Without exception, we have stood by one another through all kinds of situations. I am proud that for many years, I have served as a bridge that unites our brotherly churches and our brotherly peoples.

We are proud of your influence and the results of your activities in our region. I am not exaggerating when I say that you hold the same positions as us on many issues. I am referring to the fact that our churches take similar positions and approaches. It is a pleasure to tell you that when we say ‘Christ is Risen!’ in Arabic, millions of Orthodox followers in Russia also say, ‘Truly He is Risen.’ I must say that the relations between us, between our churches, are special, sacred relations.

In my years of service, I have been acquainted with at least three Patriarchs of Moscow and All Russia. Now, I am acquainted with a fourth Patriarch – Kirill – and I have known him for a very long time.

You say that everything you do is for the sake of preserving peace. Your visit today demonstrates that Russia continues to seek peace, joining efforts with Syria in particular. When we say the word ‘peace,’ we mean peace for everyone who lives in this nation and throughout the region. We never say that peace is only for ourselves. In striving for peace, we implore God that everyone may think about the desirability and importance of achieving peace. God is the creator of all humankind.

I do not recall the wars started by Russia, but we know from history that all invaders that tried to attack the Russian state always met their grave there.

President Bashar al-Assad, whom we all love, is the leader of our country. His position, spirit, and policies reflect the hopes and aspirations of the entire Syrian people. And we, Christians, do not feel ourselves to be outsiders in this state. The ancient scriptures say that when two or three people meet, the holy spirit should be present among them. Now, we will pray that the holy spirit is present between two presidents and that this holy spirit may help you be leaders who bring about peace in this holy land.

Thank you very much.

President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Your Beatitude, it is my great pleasure when you say ‘Christ is Risen!’ to respond ‘Truly He is Risen!’ and congratulate you on the upcoming Ascension holiday.

As you very rightly noted, our churches have brotherly and, as we say, sisterly relations which are a very ancient tradition, continuing over the course of centuries since the 12th century when their active cooperation began. I believe that this is very important for the development of our states.

This cooperation continued throughout the 20th century as well, especially during the time when Russia and the Soviet Union of those days were going through terrible ordeals in the war against Nazism and when your church was helping us actively. This, too, is one of the notable moments of our relations.

I am pleased to pass along Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia’s warmest greetings to you. I think that you have some contacts planned to promote your inter-church dialogue.

I would like to say that the way relations are developing between Russia and Syria should stand as an example for good interstate relations. In this regard, we think that the talks I had today with President Bashar al-Assad took our relations to a new level, which will certainly advance our nations’ inter-church dialogue as well.

In Syria, the Muslim Ummah and the Christian Community coexist very well. Russia is also a multi-faith nation, and Muslims make up more than ten percent our population. Our nations provide an example of how dialogue can develop between different faiths. In this regard, both Russia and Syria’s experience is especially significant.

Your Beatitude, you have visited our country several times during different historic periods, and as you said, you have talked with various primates of the Russian Orthodox Church – our patriarchs – and we appreciate this very much. I would like to sincerely congratulate you on your 90th birthday, which you celebrated just recently, and on behalf of the Russian state I would like to commemorate this event and your services by awarding you the Order of Friendship.

May 11, 2010, Damascus