President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Your Holiness and Beatitude, very reverend bishops,
First of all, I would like to cordially greet you and express my gratitude for gathering here together to mark such an important event both for Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church, the 100th anniversary of restoring the Patriarchate in Russia.
This, of course, emphasises the unity of the Orthodox world, which is very important in itself and because you represent churches that play a considerable role in the life of your countries and in the life of society. You call for mercy and do work in education, which is very important.
The modern world is becoming more open and interdependent. But we are also witnessing examples of the great problems of our times. We see examples of the crisis of morality, with the devaluation of traditions, moral values and everything that is the basis of human civilisation.
Sadly, in the second decade of the 21st century we again face things that seemed to be long condemned and gone, that is, religious persecution, and this concerns Christians as well. We already addressed this at similar meetings several years ago. This issue is especially topical in the Middle East, and this region is the cradle of Christianity where the Orthodox faith is rooted.
The Syria situation certainly requires the most attention. We know about this. It is very difficult. During the years of the war, terrorists killed or drove out from their homes tens of thousands of people. Many Christian churches and monasteries were looted and destroyed.
However, the situation is gradually changing. The Syrian armed forces, supported by the Russian military, have liberated almost the entire country from terrorists, including places historically populated by Christians.
For years, the Russian government and the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as other religious organisations, have been providing humanitarian aid to the victims in Syria. It is important to establish a peaceful life there as soon as possible, so that people can return to their homes and begin rebuilding their churches.
I believe that a working group established by the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church can play a very important role in the return of the Christian population of Syria. One of its jobs is to compile a catalogue of destroyed Syrian churches for their subsequent restoration.
We will also help representatives of other religions, including Islam, who, as we know, have also suffered at the hands of militants, terrorists and extremists. We will also help Judaists. Some Jewish organisations have already asked us to help restore the Judaist temples. We are in contact with representatives of the Jewish community of Syria, namely with some of its Jewish organisations, and in the United States, including those in New York. We will work together on this problem.
I expect that your visit to Russia will serve to further develop dialogue between Orthodox churches, deepen the ties between our countries and between our peoples, which is extremely important in the modern world.
I would like to wish all the best to all of you, happiness and prosperity to your congregations.
Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia: Your Excellency Mr President,
Allow me to thank you for this meeting on behalf of the heads of local Orthodox churches who attended the celebrations.
I would like to say a few words about the recent council.
The council brought together almost 400 hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church from 20 countries to review our efforts over the last four years and make adjustments to our development plans.
Today, we have three priorities. The first one is education, including theological and religious education in general. The second one is welfare, and the third priority is young people. The Russian Orthodox Church will focus on promoting specific programmes in these three areas.
However, there is much more to our efforts. There is also the construction of churches, and the steady development of the entire church organisation in and outside Russia.
I would like to draw your attention to the general concern about the situation in the Middle East, as you have just mentioned. The expulsion of Christians and the destruction of holy sites is a great pain for the churches in the Middle East, who are represented here today, as well as for all of us.
Thanks to the efforts of the Russian Federation and other countries, terrorism has been almost defeated in Syria. Of course, as you have said, a lot has to be done in terms of restoring what has been destroyed, and we understand this all too well.
I would like to say that my brothers who head local Orthodox churches were looking forward to this meeting with you, and we are grateful to you for this opportunity.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.