Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill: Your Excellency Mr President,
Gathered here today are the members of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Holy Synod and the heads of 15 local Orthodox Churches, who accepted our invitation to take part in the religious services and the programme of anniversary events.
Of course it means a lot to everyone here today to have this opportunity to meet with you, the President of the Russian Federation and an Orthodox believer. We are happy that you could be together with us today to celebrate the memory of the holy and upright St Sergius of Radonezh.
We have a chance to talk now, and so I give you the floor to address everyone present.
Vladimir Putin: Your Holiness, friends, brothers,
Recently, you met for the first time in this format to mark the 1025th anniversary of the baptism of Rus, and that seems to have started a fine tradition of meeting in this group for big Orthodox holidays.
The 700th anniversary of the birth of St Sergius of Radonezh is certainly one of these important dates. St Sergius helped to unite the Russian lands and made an invaluable contribution to our country’s history and development and to strengthening the Orthodox faith.
We live in difficult times, sadly. Be it on the international stage or in our spiritual and moral lives, there are many, many problems that we must overcome. But we can succeed in this only if we follow the ideas that St Sergius of Radonezh formulated. The Patriarch and I recalled his words earlier today, his appeal for unity and love. He said that only in unity and love can we find salvation.
It is tremendously important that you have all come to Moscow to meet with each other, meet with the Patriarch of Moscow, talk, discuss the problems we face today and look at what we must do to overcome these problems. This is essential for our success.
I think the world is becoming ever more complicated. Orthodoxy has its own moral and ethical values, but they are very close to the moral and ethical values of other faiths and religions. It seems to me that although much divides us in the teachings of our different faiths, we have a great amount in common when it comes to the moral and ethical side of life.
I think that we can take everything good and positive that unites us and use it as a foundation for moving forward with confidence. I think we can say with full justification that in this we have not just the support of the overwhelming majority of people where Orthodoxy is the main religion, but that people in many other countries also share our view about the primacy of traditional moral and ethical values.
Once more, I want to thank you for coming to Moscow to be together with us for these anniversary events. I hope that this unity will continue to grow stronger for the good of all of our churches and for the good of our countries’ peoples.
Thank you very much once again. I congratulate you on this holiday.
Patriarch Kirill: I sincerely thank you, Mr Putin.
I think that what you just said is very important, that moral values unite people if they do not contribute to the destruction of those moral values. Today, we live in a world where, unfortunately, for the first time in all the history of human civilisation, legislative steps are being taken to destroy the moral foundations of human lives. There has never been anything like it.
And I must gratefully admit that Russia and other Orthodox nations do not share this general trend. We resist this as people who understand the seminal importance of a moral beginning in the life of human individualsand human civilisation. If this beginning is destroyed, then the human world will be destroyed.
I would like to express gratitude to you and the entire Russian leadership, our parliament, for the fact that we currently have a very high level of agreement regarding the need to protect moral values in politics, the economy and day-to-day life. And let us hope that we give spirituality this priority – or, at least, this significance – in our daily lives in the future.
I sincerely thank you for this.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.
Patriarch Kirill: Now, perhaps, one of the brothers would like to ask Mr President a question? We have a unique opportunity. Mr Putin does not have a lot of time, but if somebody would like to do so, then please, go ahead.
Metropolitan Timofei, representative from the Jerusalem Patriarchate. I will note that he was my student at the Leningrad Ecclesiastical Academy.
Metropolitan Timofei: Thank you.
Your Holiness, Your Excellency,
For us in Jerusalem, it is a great honour to participate in the celebrations honouring the 700th anniversary since the birth of St Sergius of Radonezh and in this historical meeting with the President of Russia.
We in the Holy Land have always regarded Russia as a protector of holy places and a protector of Christians in the Middle East. And today, these hopes are justified as Russia, represented by the President and Patriarch of the Russian Church, supports the Jerusalem Patriarchate.
We recently received a great deal of help in restoring the ancient historical Church of the Nativity. And we are all grateful for the enormous sacrifices from Russia and you personally, Your Excellency, for the Holy Land and for holy places. And we will constantly pray for Russia to remain strong.
We view Russia not only as a protector of Orthodoxy and Christianity, but also a protector of moral beginnings. And we are grateful to you for this. This is a great blessing – to have a President who is an Orthodox Christian.
We are proud that the holy Patriarch Kirill is the primate of the Russian Church. He truly understands the problems of all Orthodox churches and he always provides help to Orthodox peoples.
Thank you very much.
I think Orthodox Christians throughout the world view Russia as a great power that not only practices the Orthodox faith but also defends human rights everywhere. We pray for this and are thankful for it.
Vladimir Putin: For my part, I would like to wish you success in your service. You are carrying out your service, bearing your cross, in a unique place, in the cradle of Christianity. It is a part of the world that, sadly, has been constantly reeling from various conflicts for many years. And now, we once again see this conflict expanding there, with bloodshed and human victims.
We are alarmed to see what is happening there. But I am certain that the presence of the Orthodox Church should and will play a positive role in building peace between all the conflicting parties. And ultimately, everything ends in peace. It is only important that this path toward peace should be as short as possible, and there should not be a large number of victims on that path.
We are also watching what is happening in Ukraine, in eastern Ukraine, with alarm and sorrow. It is terrible, it is a tragedy. We also believe peace must triumph as quickly as possible in Ukraine; direct contacts between all conflicting sides should be established as rapidly as possible, and all sides in the conflict should immediately cease hostilities and move on to peace talks.
I think we must all strive for this and I will ask the Patriarch to do what he can for this peace process.
Patriarch Kirill: Thank you, Mr Putin.
We pray for Ukraine; it is a source of great sorrow for us. We say a special prayer for peace in Ukraine during every Sunday service and at celebratory liturgies.
We are calling this an internal feud; this is exactly the kind of infighting that took place in ancient times. But today, it is greatly exacerbated by many external circumstances that many of us know about.
We pray for the Lord to bring peace to Ukraine, for peace and justice to reign again, for every individual living in Ukraine to feel at home, in their Fatherland, so that they are not subject to any discrimination on a religious or faith basis, nor due to their political or philosophical choices.
A modern state must provide individuals the option to express themselves in accordance with their conscience. That is what freedom of conscience is about. We pray that all this will happen in Ukraine.
Vladimir Putin: You know that we are in contact with President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko. I hope that he will be able to stir Ukraine in such a direction as to offer all the people – all people, regardless of where they live – a way of ensuring their lawful rights and interests that would lead to a final, full and long-term peace on this earth.
Metropolitan Elias (retranslated): Your Excellency,
We are the delegation from the Antioch church: Metropolitan Niphon, Bishop Yefrem, and I am the Metropolitan of Tyre and Sidon.
We are very happy and proud to be with you today on this great day. We thank His Holiness for the invitation, which demonstratesthe wonderful ties that exist between our churches and our peoples.
Your Excellency, we talked about the Reverend Father Sergius, how he always prayed for unity in Russia. The Reverend took his vow under the name Sergius in honour of the holy martyrs Sergius and Bacchus of Antioch. Holiness unites us with the Russian church and all of you.
Your Excellency, we are proud of what you are doing. We are so happy to see you in the church when you pray with us. We are very happy to see you as a leader, a great President, who defends human rights everywhere, who protects people who find themselves in difficult circumstances in other nations. We see everything that you are doing in the Middle East, how you care about peace in Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and everywhere else. We are proud that you have this attitude toward everyone, based on your faith in humanity. This is true Orthodox faith, for which the most important thing in life is spiritual values.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much.
I want to once again wish you all a pleasant and fruitful stay in Russia, in Moscow. I want to thank you for your service and once again stress that I very much count on your moral, ethical and spiritual support in upholding the values that we all serve.
Thank you very much.