President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Your Holiness,
Allow me to sincerely greet you on your 75th birthday.
You have chosen the path of spiritual and moral service and you are pursuing it with dignity, wisdom and deep understanding of the responsibility for the destiny of our people and Russia.
Obviously, the Church has been through both good and hard times, but currently its voice has acquired momentous significance again; it is being heeded and trusted. To a great degree this is the result of your personal efforts and relentless pastoral labour, sincere care about infusing the ideals of peace, justice, love and mutual understanding into people’s hearts.
Under your thoughtful spiritual guidance, the Church is actively participating in the life of society, in resolving current social issues and in implementing large-scale projects, which matter for the entire country.
Your fruitful pastoral service has garnered you the highest regard not only in Russia but also abroad, as well as respect among millions of believers in our vast country.
I also want to note your immense contribution to promoting the traditional values of our peoples and to the preservation of our historical and cultural heritage.
Today, as we fight the coronavirus pandemic, your call to unite in the face of the threat inspires the Russian Orthodox clergy, volunteers and all those who carry out the merciful mission of helping the sick, those in need of support and a spiritual pillar.
Your Holiness, it is a great and tremendous honour for me to commend your merits and work for the good of our Motherland and to decorate you with Russia’s top award – the Order of St Andrew the Apostle the First-Called, a particularly revered educator and missionary of the Christian faith.
One again, I congratulate you on your birthday. I wish you good health and success in your noble service.
Patriarch Kirill: Your Excellency, Mr President,
I wholeheartedly thank you for your kind words about my humble contribution, and, of course, for this order, Russia’s highest award.
The Order of St Andrew the First-Called is a state award but it is no coincidence that it was instituted in honour of Apostle Andrew. He was one of the twelve apostles who shed the light of Christ’s truth onto the land which is today a significant part of Russia. In this respect the order in a certain sense is not only a token of state recognition but also a sacred object for it bears the image of St Andrew the First-Called.
Given that the Order of Andrew the First-Called, the enlightener of our land, is the highest order in contemporary Russia, I would like to speak about the changes in the life of our people and the changes in the people themselves.
We all know that “there is no man that sinneth not,” according to a church maxim. And there is nobody who lives their lives without making mistakes. There are also collective mistakes, and we know that there were such mistakes in the history of our country and our people.
At the end of the 20th and the turn of the 21st century our life – the life of the state, society as well personal lives of a great multitude of people – took on an amazing configuration in that we realise that we live in a happy country. Even though there are problems and we all are well aware of them, we have the key: we are free, we are independent, we have preserved our culture, we have preserved our faith. Our people have survived despite the hardest tribulations of the 20th century.
Today, Russia is marching forward along its historic path with a large reserve of strength, and it is you who leads our Fatherland in this special period of our history.
Thank you for the award and I would also like to express gratitude to you on behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church and on my own behalf for your unfading attention to spiritual life, for your balancing of politics and morals, for your commitment to building the life of our Fatherland based not only on law, but also on the truth. We are grateful for that. I know that a huge number of the sons and daughters of the Russian Orthodox Church wholeheartedly support my words today.
Thank you once again for the high award.
Allow me to wish you good health, God’s help, many years of life and success in further governing the Russian state.
Vladimir Putin: You Holiness, thank you very much.
To conclude this ceremony, which could be called modest even though it is a grand event, but it is modest because we all have to live under certain restrictions due to the pandemic, as I have said, but which is, nonetheless, a ceremony marking a great occasion, this is what I would like to say in conclusion.
We are certainly well aware that the state’s achievements in the economy lie at the foundation of the country’s wellbeing, its economic progress and strengthening its defence capabilities. This is a basic matter which defies any arguments.
Yet there are deeper issues. Both the economy and everything related to it depend on the spiritual underpinnings of any society that unify this society into a single whole. And society and the state only succeed when they unite into that whole.
Your Holiness, you are the person who is attending to the core – our faith, our spiritual values, our basic principles, and you truly do it from the bottom of your heart with full dedication.
I once again express my genuine gratitude and wish you all the very best.
Patriarch Kirill: Thank you.