President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Your Holiness, Your Beatitude, Your Eminence, friends,
I am very happy to meet with the hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. I have warm recollections of our last meeting; it occurred ten years ago here, at Kiev Pechersk Lavra. But today’s meeting has special significance. It is being held during the days when Russia, Ukraine and Belarus are jointly celebrating an important date: the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus. This is a shared celebration for our brotherly peoples and an important event for Orthodox Christians around the world.
Two days ago, I met with the primates and heads of delegations from all localOrthodox churches at the Moscow Kremlin, and we discussed this matter at length.
Strong humanitarian and spiritual ties are a firm foundation for Russian-Ukrainian friendship. It has been built over the course of many centuries, and together, we have lived through the most difficult trials, tribulations and tragedies. But we were also together as we built and protected our common Fatherland, Great Rus, maintaining our faith, our unique historical experience and our destiny. This is due largely to the entire Russian Orthodox Church. On this festive day, I am particularly pleased to fulfil the honourable mission of the Russian government and present you with state decorations – you, the hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.
”Strong humanitarian and spiritual ties are a firm foundation for Russian-Ukrainian friendship. It has been built over the course of many centuries, and together, we have lived through the most difficult trials, tribulations and tragedies. But we were also together as we built and protected our common Fatherland, Great Rus.“
During the most difficult times, you have unfailingly demonstrated bravery and spiritual strength. You did much to maintain canonical unity, uniting people from different ethnic groups. These state decorations are a symbol of genuine gratitude for your input into strengthening peace, harmony and spiritual renewal in our nations.
I sincerely wish you health and success in this noble service, and I want to thank you once again for your wisdom and selflessness, which are so greatly needed not just by the citizens of Russia and Ukraine, but by all Orthodox peoples. Thank you very much.
Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia: Mr President, the permanent members of the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and I appreciate this wonderful opportunity to meet with you here in Kiev.
As you mentioned, you met with the primates of local Orthodox churches at the Kremlin. This was a historic event because its participants could clearly present concerns that are currently troubling all the heads of the Orthodox Churches and all individual Orthodox churches.
Today, we are in Ukraine, our sister nation, at the site of the Baptism. The words you just said about the role of the bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church were very just. Ukraine did not escape the most trying instances of post-Soviet turbulence, which affected all of historical Rus, and many things came to pass here. And our church, the unified Russian Orthodox Church represented by the Ukrainian diocese, made a decisive contribution to the preservation of the spiritual unity of our peoples, who have a shared foundation, while fully understanding that each country is self-sufficient, independent, sovereign and defines its own national priorities, but there is a common spiritual basis that unites our people. And the people present in this hall with you also played an important role in preserving this spiritual foundation, which is important not just to Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, but also clearly has enormous civilisational significance.
Thus, I would like to thank you for your words and introduce you to my brothers, who truly perform their service with great dignity, serving their fatherland, Ukraine, the Ukrainian people, and preserving our shared spiritual values. Thank you very much for this opportunity.
Vladimir Putin: I will say a few more words informally about today’s visit.
I must state from the outset that we have very friendly, close, business-oriented relations with Ukraine’s leadership. But today’s visit was linked first and foremost with our common celebration, the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus. Indeed, this is the main goal of our visit to Ukraine, to Kiev, today. For any person who feels a spiritual connection to the Dnieper, Kiev baptistery, it is a special kind of pleasure and a special honour to touch these relics, worship them.
I would like to once again thank you all for serving as true guardians of this common spiritual heritage, which is so important to us – and not just to us, but to all people who honour these values.
In today’s world, when we come across various points of view on how the world should develop and the values it should draw upon, your service and your role in maintaining these moral foundations is invaluable. We are aware that this service is difficult, that this fate is difficult, and for that, we want to truly thank you.
Patriarch Kirill: Thank you, Mr President.
”In today’s world, when we come across various points of view on how the world should develop and the values it should draw upon, your service and your role in maintaining these moral foundations is invaluable.“
Vladimir Putin: Your Holiness, your Beatitude, hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church,
Please let me sincerely congratulate you on receiving Russian state decorations and allow me to recall, as was said earlier, our common history, which began so long ago. Our spiritual unity began with the Baptism of Holy Rus 1025 years ago. Since then, much has happened in the lives of our peoples, but our spiritual unity is so strong that it is not subject to any action by any authority: neither government authorities nor, I would even go so far as to say, church authorities. Because regardless of any existing authority over the people, there can be none that is stronger than the authority of the Lord – nothing can be stronger than that. And this is the most solid foundation for our unity in the souls of our people.
There were different attitudes from the part of our government towards Orthodox Christians in our nation, but during these festive, celebratory days, let me speak of the good times only. One such good periodwas Peter the Great’s decree of 1721, when theological schools were established at every episcopacy across Russia and the teachers at these schools all came from Ukraine – all of them – this was the general rule introduced by Peter the Great’s decree. And I suppose this was no accident; I imagine it was precisely because, as I already said, the Dnieper, Kiev baptistery is our common spiritual basis.
I want to once again congratulate everyone on this great event, the Baptism of Rus, and wish you all success. Thank you very much.