On the occasion of the 75th birthday of Kirill I, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded him the highest Russian state decoration, the Order of St. Andrew the Firstborn Apostle.
“Holiness, it is a great and tremendous honor for me to praise your merits and your work for the good of our Homeland and to decorate you with the highest distinction in Russia: the Order of St. Andrew the Firstborn Apostle, an especially revered educator and missionary of the Christian faith,” said the president during the ceremony in the Kremlin.
The Russian Orthodox Church has gone through good and difficult times, “but today its voice has once again acquired a transcendental importance; she is being listened to and trusted,” Putin said. To a large extent, it is the result of the patriarch's personal efforts, he added.
Patriarch Kirill's tireless pastoral work has earned him "the highest regard not only in Russia but also abroad, as well as the respect of millions of believers in our vast country,” continued the Russian president.
Mr. Putin also highlighted the enormous contribution of Patriarch Kirill to the promotion of the traditional values of the peoples of Russia and to the preservation of their historical and cultural heritage.
“Today, as we fight the coronavirus pandemic, your call for unity in the face of the threat inspires the Russian Orthodox clergy, volunteers, and all who carry out the merciful mission of helping the sick, those in need of support, already a spiritual pillar,” Mr. Putin finally concluded.
In an interview given on the same day, Patriarch Kirill describes Russia as the true leader of the free world. He suggested that Russia could be an example for other countries in terms of respecting freedoms.
“We are truly a free country. This is a real fact. I can imagine the types of reaction to my words from different corners, but I can prove that Russia today is the true leader of the free world. We are developing in accordance with our own path and, by God’s will, our path shall be successful,” he said.
According to the primate, Russia can serve as an example to others, and although it has many problems, they are soluble. “We currently do not have a hot-button issue that would make societal interests collide and produce deep, irreconcilable contradictions. I believe it is the grace of God,” added the patriarch.
It should be noted that Vladimir Putin presented the same decoration to Xi-Jinping on July 4, 2017.