Mr Putin and Patriarch Alexii II of Moscow and All Russia visited the Church of St Seraphim of Sarov, after which the Patriarch served a liturgy in a town square in front of the saint’s relics, the President attending.
The Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church blessed a procession that carried the relics to the village of Diveyevo, where they would be permanently preserved. Mr Putin addressed the congregation to congratulate it on the landmark event. He said that the celebration was mainly possible due to the revival of religious and spiritual freedom in Russia. The nation cherished the contribution of all its religions and denominations to the cause of strengthening the state, interethnic accord and the ethical pillars of life.
While in Sarov, Mr Putin met with Metropolitan Philaret of Minsk and Slutsk, Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus, and Bishop George of Nizhny Novgorod and Arzamas, and conferred state awards on them. Metropolitan Philaret received the Order for Service to the Fatherland, 4th class, for his outstanding contribution to the revival of religious and ethical traditions, and for promoting international friendship and cooperation. Bishop George received the Order of Friendship.