President Vladimir Putin: Your Holiness,
Participants in the meeting,
First of all, I would like to congratulate you on this important date for the Russian Orthodox Church – the ninetieth anniversary of the restoration of the patriarchate. Russian Orthodoxy has a particular role in our country’s history, in the formation of our statehood, culture, morals and spirituality. In restoring the patriarchate, the Church once again showed its strength, independence and ability to organise itself. As has been the case on more than one occasion in the past, the Church showed these qualities at a turning point in our country’s history. The patriarchate helped the Russian Orthodox Church to withstand, together with the people, the most difficult tests and trials of the twentieth century. It helped the Church to defend its faith, unite its flock and preserve not only its own but also the nation’s holy treasures. Later, when religious life began its revival, the patriarchate continued tirelessly to help the Church. Today, we greatly value the Russian Orthodox Church’s efforts to return to our country’s life the ideals and values that served as our spiritual references for so many centuries.
We welcome the Church’s appeal to its faithful to fulfil their duty not only to their families and loved ones but also to cultivate a spirit of patriotism based on service to their homeland and a sense of civic responsibility. The state has respect for all of the country’s traditional and other religions that are a source of spiritual support for many of our citizens. It is therefore particularly important that peace and harmony between these different religions reigns in our society. We place great importance on the Russian Orthodox Church’s efforts to develop dialogue and cooperation between the different religions and to strengthen the spirit of religious tolerance. This aspect of the Church’s work, like other socially important areas of its work, has our all-round support. The state and the Church have ample scope for working together to strengthen morality and educate the young generation, and of course, to preserve our country’s spiritual and cultural heritage.
The state will continue to support the Church in restoring and maintaining the historical and cultural monuments transferred to it and in carrying out philanthropic work.
The Church’s cultural and educational projects are also important. In this respect, the Government has been instructed to examine the question of making financial and other assistance available to religious organisations in order to develop and launch relevant television and radio programmes.
The demographic situation is one of the most pressing issues that the state and religious organisations must address together. The state, as you know, is working hard on improving the demographic situation today and is putting in place favourable social and economic conditions. But reviving family values and changing people’s attitudes to the institution of the family and issues of children’s education is possible only through consolidated effort by all of society, and the traditional religions have a very important role to play in this respect.
I would like to mention another topical matter. We know what importance the Russian Orthodox Church places on religious education. Last week, the State Duma passed amendments to the law on education and freedom of conscience giving religious organisations the right to accredit their educational programmes in accordance with state education standards and to issue diplomas recognised by the state. I am pleased that the Moscow Patriarchate has welcomed these amendments. There is a need today for various forms of religious education in our general school programme, and this doesn’t mean teaching children about one particular religion. Municipal schools have developed, for example, the practice of teaching a course on the basics of the country’s traditional religions, Orthodoxy, Islam and others, and a course on religion in Russia. I think that all of these forms of religious education may have a place in our education system. It would be good to make an overview of the experience gained so far and take into account the need for spiritual and moral education when drawing up education standards. Of course, the principle that religious education should be conducted on a voluntary basis also needs to be observed.
Our country stands on the eve of an important social and political event – the parliamentary election. The stability of our country’s development and the continuation of the positive changes that have already taken place in our lives depend directly on the election’s outcome. I am sure that Orthodox Christians, like other citizens in our country, will show their active civic spirit.
In conclusion, I would like to inform you that I have issued an instruction to examine the question of presenting as a gift to the Russian Orthodox Church particularly revered holy Christian relics from the Moscow Kremlin Museum’s collection.
Thank you for your attention.