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Gathering in honour of the 10th anniversary of the Russian Orthodox Church Local Council and the Patriarch's enthronement

January 31, 2019, The Kremlin, Moscow

The President visited the State Kremlin Palace, where events are being held to mark the 10th anniversary of the Russian Orthodox Church Local Council and the enthronement of the Patriarch.

Earlier, the President met with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and heads of the delegations of local Orthodox churches from different countries who arrived in Moscow to participate in the festivities.

* * *

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Your Holiness, primates and representatives of local Orthodox churches, priests, ladies and gentlemen,

I am glad to welcome all of you in the heart of Russia, in the Moscow Kremlin, with its holy shrines that mean a lot to every Orthodox believer.

Today’s gathering is dedicated to a special date. At the end of January 2009, the Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church met to elect a new primate – Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.

I would like to warmly and sincerely congratulate His Holiness on the 10th anniversary of his enthronement.

In December 2017, we came together to celebrate the centenary of the restoration of the patriarchate in our country and recognised the decisive role played by the primates of the Russian Orthodox Church in many respects in the destiny of the Fatherland, the greatness of their devotion and service to our people.

Like his outstanding predecessors, Patriarch Kirill carries out his archpastoral mission with honour. Abiding by the Christian commandments, he seeks to help people find their way to the church, to bolster their faith, and to support them in word and deed. His wisdom and honesty, his openness and generosity have earned him respect and trust both in Russia and far beyond its borders.

His Holiness and Orthodox hierarchs, together with representatives of other traditional religions, are making a significant contribution to strengthening social harmony, helping resolve profoundly important, sometimes very sensitive issues that people are concerned and worry about.

I know how much has been done in recent years to expand the Church’s social services; the enormous, tireless work in this area the churches are doing, bringing in volunteers, benefactors, and all those who seeks to selflessly help other people.

This work is invaluable; it cannot be measured by statistics, but still, allow me to cite a few figures.

In 2009, there was only one church shelter in Russia for women with children who ended up in difficult life situations. Last year their number grew to 58. More than 100 new humanitarian aid centres have opened. Nursing care and social rehabilitation services are developing.

The Russian Orthodox Church is always found where people are experiencing difficulties; it is always with people who are in trouble. That was the case in the summer of 2010, when Russia was confronted with the elements, when fires raged across many regions of our country; that was the case in Krymsk and in cities and villages of the Far East affected by floods.

Today, the Russian Orthodox Church coordinates and contributes to over 6,500 social projects, thereby significantly strengthening the efforts of the state and society in this area.

I would like to offer special thanks to Patriarch Kirill and the Church for the spiritual guidance of the Russian army. Your sincere, heartfelt words help the soldiers and officers to defend their homeland with honour, instil in them confidence in their military prowess and moral righteousness.

The educational activities of the ROC deserve great respect, as do the restoration of old churches and the building of new ones. Patriarch Kirill and I recently attended the ceremony to consecrate the foundation of one of them – a majestic cathedral commemorating the soldiers of the Great Patriotic War, named the Resurrection of Christ.

The noble devotion of the Russian Orthodox Church extends over its entire canonical territory. And we are grateful to His Holiness for his constant attention to our compatriots and the support of foreign communities, for his tireless work to build trust between countries and peoples, to expand humanitarian contacts.

I must emphasise that such honest, impeccable service that Patriarch Kirill demonstrates is an example of true love for the Fatherland and for our people, and the successes achieved in this field lay the foundation for the development of the Church for decades to come.

Your Holiness, participants of this solemn gathering,

Today, as for many centuries before, the high purpose of the Russian Orthodox Church remains exceptionally important.

I emphasise that the state will continue to actively promote constructive partnership with the Church in all significant areas, primarily, bringing up younger generations, preserving cultural heritage and solving pressing social problems.

Russia faces major challenges and ambitious goals and, without exaggeration, historic tasks in demography, social development and improvements in the quality of life, as well as efforts to achieve economic, scientific, and technological breakthroughs.

But we are well aware that in order to reach new heights, it is important to preserve our identity, unity and solidarity, which rely on values that have been cherished at all times by Orthodoxy and other traditional religions of Russia, such as compassion, honesty and justice, caring for your neighbour and family, respect for parents and children and, of course, love for the Motherland.

Neglecting these values can lead to the most destructive consequences, to the depersonalisation and degradation of the individual, and make people victims of the most vile and base manipulations.

To reiterate, the common duty of cooperation and responsibility of the state, the Church, religious leaders, and society lies in preserving and strengthening our spiritual, moral and ethical foundation, passing it on to the young, to future generations, so as not to lose ourselves in an era of turbulent global change.

Of course, we hope that the Russian Orthodox Church will remain an effective force for peace, promote friendship and neighbourliness, and support our compatriots and people belonging to Orthodox culture.

Brotherly interchurch ties have historically united nations and served to promote equitable relations between Russia and many foreign countries.

Unfortunately, we can see other examples as well where speculation, politicking and parasitism on matters of religious life have led to disunity among people and provoked anger and intolerance.

Precisely such a project that is unrelated to faith and is false through and through, focusing on the struggle for power, is unfolding in Ukraine. Regrettably, the Patriarchate of Constantinople got dragged into it. In fact, we are witnessing flagrant interference in church life. Its initiators seem to have taken after the godless people of the previous century, who expelled believers from churches and attacked and persecuted the clergy.

To reiterate, the state, the Russian authorities consider any interference in church affairs to be absolutely intolerable. We have and will always have respect for the independence of church life, all the more so in a neighbouring sovereign country. Nevertheless, we reserve the right to respond and do our best to protect human rights, including freedom of religion.

In closing, I would like to once again congratulate Patriarch Kirill on the occasion of a significant date, ten years since his enthronement. I wish His Holiness vigour, longevity and every success in his archpastoral work. May your prayers keep the Russian Orthodox Church and our Fatherland.

Thank you.

January 31, 2019, The Kremlin, Moscow