President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr President, your Reverences, fathers,
I am happy to visit Mount Athos again. According to the Orthodox tradition, it is the earthly domain of the Mother of God, so everyone who steps on this sacred soil doubtlessly experiences special feelings.
The President [of Greece Prokopios Pavlopoulos] has said that Mount Athos is a unique centre of Orthodoxy and Christianity. For more than a thousand years, it has been carefully preserving and enriching spiritual traditions and our common values. I fully agree that the role played by Mount Athos is crucial at a time when Orthodoxy is growing stronger in Russia and other countries where it is practised. Orthodoxy is gaining ground and is helping a great number of people, including Russians, find inner strength.
The first written account of Russians on Mount Athos dates back a thousand years, which underscores the importance of this place for modern Russia. For centuries, Orthodox believers from our country have drawn spiritual strength and knowledge from here.
As we revive patriotic values, historical memory and traditional culture, we count on building a stronger relationship with Mount Athos. I am happy to note that each year more pilgrims are coming here from Russia, over 11,000 every year. I want to thank you for your warm hospitality towards our compatriots.
The relics that are brought to Russia for worship are an important testament to the deepening ties between Russia and Mount Athos. They include the Cincture of the Theotokos from the Vatopedi Monastery and the Holy Right Hand Remains of St George from the Xenophontos Monastery, which have been venerated by hundreds of thousands of Russian Orthodox believers. I want to thank you especially for this. I hope that this lofty and noble mission of the Athonite monasteries will continue.
In 2016, we are holding the reciprocal Year of Culture between Russia and Greece. For centuries our people have been united by a common faith and mutual affection, which, as has already been mentioned, have helped our peoples overcome difficulties and end up victorious. This was true during the liberation of the Balkans and at other stages of world history. Today’s generation fully shares these deep mutual feelings.
I am confident that Russia’s ties with Mount Athos and Greece as a whole will continue to strengthen, and spiritual kinship and trust will continue to set the tone of our traditionally close and friendly relations.
Christ has risen.