1 april 2009

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin met with Patriarch Cyril of Moscow and All Russia

Vladimir Putin

Meeting with Patriarch Cyril of Moscow and All Russia

"Recent years have seen excellent contacts between the Church and the state in every field of our partnership, which concerns spiritual support by the Church and material support by the state."

Transcript of the start of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon! Do you have much more work now?

Patriarch Cyril: Much, really! But then, my new job does not interfere with my spiritual life. It helps, on the contrary, once you find the right approach to it. I see things differently now from the Patriarchal throne-the scope of problems and their meaning to the Church and the nation.

We have restructured Church management, somewhat. New Synodal offices-Church agencies, so to speak-were established at the meeting of the Synod yesterday.

Vladimir Putin: You have divided the Kaliningrad and Smolensk dioceses.

Patriarch Cyril: We have, because the Church Statute envisages a diocese in every constituent entity. The two dioceses merged because the Metropolitan of Smolensk was sent to revive Orthodoxy in the region, in his time.

Things have changed since then. Kaliningrad has more than 80 parishes, several monasteries, and Orthodox schools, making it a full-fledged diocese now. It is very specific due to the presence of Christians of other denominations living all around. Besides, it is a Russian exclave, surrounded by other countries on all sides, and thus we deemed it reasonable to separate it from the Smolensk diocese. I am temporarily in charge of it, with the help of a vicar. A new bishop will be appointed soon.

We have also established a department for contacts with the press and activities in the information sphere, and a department for partnership with public institutions, which will be in charge of all contacts with the agencies of civil society, political parties, professional guilds, and trade unions. It will also monitor legislative activities-in short, deal with all our concerns on the borderline of Church and secular affairs.

Vladimir Putin: The Church is responding to contemporary realities.

Patriarch Cyril: It should do so in its own specific way, proceeding from its own goals and mission-and its response should be beneficial to itself, the state, and the public.

Vladimir Putin: Recent years have seen excellent contacts between the Church and the state in every field of our partnership, which concerns spiritual support by the Church and material support by the state. On the other hand, it is our shared concern, and it is the state's duty, to pay its dues to all our churches and denominations. We have really done a great deal to promote the Church Renaissance. At any rate, we have helped the Church to re-establish its material basis with church construction and revival of monasteries. We have much to discuss on this theme today, I expect.

Patriarch Cyril: On this and other themes, too. I think the restoration of the Church infrastructure is an essential step, but a mere first step on a long road. Monasteries and churches are built not only to revive our cultural heritage; they have a religious mission and sublime goals. It is of tremendous importance for the Church to do all it can for the sake of our nation, to put new heart into it and promote morals and national self-awareness, which is very important in this era of openness and globalisation. Our churches and monasteries have much to do to save souls, help to improve family life and, last but not least, promote public well-being.

Vladimir Putin: I visited an Orthodox school in Togliatti a few days ago, and heard many kind words about your contacts with it and about what Patriarch Alexis II, your predecessor, did for the school. I was deeply impressed by the way it brings up children.

Patriarch Cyril: Yes, it is an inspiring example, among many others. We also have good contacts with the Volga Autoworks and its scientists, as well as other industrial companies of Togliatti. Church relations with the laity are very good in some places but leave ample room for progress in others. Much has to be done yet.

Vladimir Putin: We will continue to work hand-in-hand.