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Official website of the President of Russia

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Visit to Christ the Saviour Cathedral

November 22, 2016, Moscow

During a gala concert in the Hall of Church Cathedrals Vladimir Putin congratulated Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia on his 70th birthday and awarded him with the order “For Services to the Fatherland,” 1st Class.

The concert was attended by President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Speaker of the Federation Council Valentina Matviyenko.

 * * *

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Your Holiness, Mr Lukashenko, ladies and gentlemen.

Today we are brought together by a cheerful event – the birthday of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.

I would like to wish a happy 70th birthday to Your Holiness once again and express my profound gratitude for your selfless work for the benefit of the Church, the people of Russia, and our compatriots abroad, and wish you success in these noble and sacred efforts.

For millions of people on Earth you embody the enormous prestige of the Russian Orthodox Church and are a loyal successor of its traditions and the outstanding deeds of its devotees that made an invaluable contribution to upholding Christian values and played a major role in the development of the Russian state.

The Russian Orthodox Church is a great prophet of love for the Fatherland and its powerful moral defender that has always upheld the principles of kindness, truth and loyalty to our country.

The Russian Orthodox Church, joined by our other traditional faiths, is the main spiritual foundation of our people and statehood. This is especially important at a time when the world community faces new and complex challenges and needs mutual understanding, accord and trust between countries and peoples more than ever before.

Your Holiness, you have always been a staunch supporter of dialogue in the broadest sense of the word. Your work, the wise words of a pastor and a thinker give hope to many people across the world, inspire many good deeds, and encourage people to overcome evil and injustice and to cultivate the best human qualities in themselves. This is why the voice of the Russian Orthodox Church is so compelling and convincing.

Over the years in which you have been Patriarch, the collaborative efforts of the church and the state have reached a new level. Together, we have marked important dates in our history, such as the 1025th anniversary of the Christianisation of Russia, the 700th anniversary of the birth of St Sergius of Radonezh, and the 1000th anniversary of the repose of the Holy Great Prince Vladimir, Equal of the Apostles.

You pay particular attention to promoting productive cooperation with representatives of all traditional religions in Russia (it is no accident that I can see their representatives in this room) in areas such as social service, patriotic activities, and upholding moral standards – our common, I want to emphasise this, our common moral standards.

Your Holiness, by your authoritative word you bless people's willingness to work for the prosperity of their homeland; you support, through your concrete actions, various charitable and educational projects, as well as initiatives for spiritual and moral education at preschools, schools, and universities.

Largely due to your personal involvement, concern for the unity of the Orthodox world has not diminished. Relations with local churches and representatives of other Christian denominations and other traditional religions are being promoted. I would like to once again welcome our guests here.

Your Holiness, once again, please accept my congratulations on your birthday. I wish you all the best and many happy returns!

I am very pleased to have this opportunity to present to you, Your Holiness, with the order “For Services to the Fatherland,” 1st Class.

President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko: Your Holiness, Mr Putin, dear friends, guests of our Patriarch!

It is with a special feeling of excitement and pride that I wish you a happy birthday.

Many years ago, you chose the difficult and responsible path of pastoring. All these years, you have tirelessly preached the Gospel truth of goodness, love and mercy. You seek to bring people up in the Christian traditions, helping millions of believers to find a solid spiritual foundation, support and, most importantly, to find their way to the church.

Your wise words strengthen faith and give hope and strength for creative activity. Today, your work as the head of the Russian Orthodox Church is aimed at preserving the moral principles and ways of society, the spiritual cultural traditions of the Orthodox faith, and bringing up the younger generation.

The Patriarchate is hard daily work and a huge burden of responsibility. Faith, wisdom, fortitude and strength of mind help you to perform your noble mission.

Thanks to your work and prayers, the Russian Orthodox Church continues to develop and, most importantly, to affirm its greatness, taking its rightful place in the Christian world.

You pay particular attention to the unity of the Russian Orthodox Church.

At a time when the world is shaken by wars and religious ethnic conflicts, the words of St Sergius of Radonezh, “unity and love shall save us”, are filled with special meaning.

Thanks to your proactive disposition, the Church plays an important role in maintaining harmony in society, friendship and cooperation between peoples, and in supporting peace and stability in the world.

Your Holiness, you are well aware of the fact that you enjoy well-deserved authority, and I would say popular affection in Belarus. Everyone knows you — Christians and Muslims, as well as representatives of other religions. This is the result of your work and positive attitude to our country as the head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

I am grateful to Your Holiness for the attention that you have shown to the people of Belarus. Your every visit to Belarus is an important event. Wherever you went to hold a church service, be it in legendary Polotsk, heroic Brest, ancient Vitebsk, or Minsk, the capital of Belarus, everywhere people received you as a good pastor and a spirited mentor.

Under your leadership, the Orthodox Church has helped strengthen the spiritual unity of the Slavic peoples of Belarus and Russia based on Christian values, such as a peaceful disposition, mutual aid, humanism and justice.

Belarus is not a new country to you: before you became head of our church, your area of responsibility, if I may put it this way, included Smolensk and Kaliningrad regions. Travelling between these two regions, as you yourself always point out, you did not just come to see the Belarusian land, you came to love it and the wonderful Slavic people of Belarus. I am confident that in the future, your activities will be just as positive and productive, and the Orthodox Church will do its utmost to help address current spiritual, moral and social problems.

Allow me, on behalf of the Belarusian people, to sincerely wish you, Your Holiness, good health — thank God, you have it — inexhaustible spiritual strength, a gift you do possess, blessed God's help in your work, and as the Russian President said, many happy returns.

I wish all of us happiness, good health, and peace. May you continue to work tirelessly for the benefit of our brotherly peoples for many years to come.

Thank you.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia: Mr Putin, Mr Lukashenko, Your Holiness, Your Beatitude, Primates of local Orthodox Churches, Your Eminences, head of religious organisations of our country,

I would like to start by sincerely thanking you, Mr Putin, for your kind words. I would also like to thank you, Mr Lukashenko, for your kind words. But first and foremost, I would like to thank all those who have been helping me in word and deed with my demanding mission over the seven years of my patriarchate.

It is probably now time for me to say what matters the most, and to put it intelligibly, albeit briefly. Here is what came to my mind when I contemplated what to say in this solemn moment.

What is the purpose of the church’s existence? Theologians often describe the existence of the church in terms that are not often clear to an ordinary person. But an ordinary person knows all too well that coming to a church and praying there makes you feel brighter and lighter. When we leave the church, we are no longer the same as we were when entering it. This means that the church has the power to affect human hearts and inner state. And it is this inner state of mind that determines everything else, be it in political, economic, social, ethnic or cultural terms. All these dimensions derive from the inner state of mind.

As Apostle Paul said, evil thoughts come from within, out of the hearts of men, but the light also comes out of human hearts. It is not the purpose of the church to address political, economic or other issues. The church it there to assist the state, society and the people to overcome challenges they face.

That said, the church sees its main task in changing human hearts. When people change for the better, the world also becomes a better place. There is no other way or method to bring about positive change other than changing human hearts.

I remember a conversation I had with a state official in the Soviet time who could not fathom what the church does. He told me angrily: “You know, I will tell you, so that you understand the real place of the church in the Soviet Union, that you are somewhere in the 125th place on our agenda. Only when we settle all our problems will we maybe turn our attention to helping a small part of the population in exercising their religious feelings.” I did not tell this man anything at the time, but I saw that he had no understanding of the church or life. But the main thing is that he had no understanding of human beings.

I cannot determine the place of the church on the national agenda, but I know that the issue concerns the most important thing – human lives and the abundance of life. It is for the benefit of this that we work in all humility, hoping for God’s grace and with gratitude to our leaders, and primarily you, Mr Putin.

I would like to underscore the high level of dialogue and cooperation that has developed over the past few years with the Russian state represented by the President and the Russian authorities as a whole, which you are leading.

I would like to express our gratitude to Mr Lukashenko for the wonderful achievements in the spiritual life of Belarusian people. We know that this has happened through dialogue between my brethren and you. I always take part in this dialogue when we meet with you.

I would like to remind you about what I said after my election to the patriarchal throne, when I entered the Kremlin together with Council members. Dmitry Medvedev was President of Russia at the time, he met with the Local Council, and I was asked to deliver my remarks. As it sometimes happens, there was so much to do that I forgot to prepare a speech. I was to speak in the Kremlin, in front of the President and a very large audience, and the cameras. I did not expect this, as I was very inexperienced then. But when I stood at the lectern, just as I am doing now, it became clear to me what I needed to say.

I spoke about the ideal form of relations between the religious and the secular, between Church and State, which emerged in Byzantium. We describe it as symphony. In modern Russian, symphony is a harmony of sounds or other components. And this is how ideal relations between Church and State were described in ancient Byzantium. This ideal has never been attained in full, and will likely not be attained in our empirical world in any given historical period of time. But it will always remain an ideal to strive for.

We certainly have not created an ideal symphony over the past seven years, but we have created the foundation, which can be used to erect the building of symphonic consonance of the church, believers and the state gradually, one brick after another.

I want to express my sincere gratitude to you, Mr Putin, and to you, Mr Lukashenko, as representatives of the authorities that understand our aspirations and provide assistance to our efforts.

I pray for God’s blessing for our Homeland, the entire historical territory of Russia, of which I am now Patriarch, and the fraternal Slavic nations who live in independent states but who still receive their spiritual sustenance from the common historical source that was sanctified in the common Dnieper baptistery. I sincerely hope that our movement forward will be peaceful, tranquil and prosperous.

God bless all of us. Thank you very much.

November 22, 2016, Moscow