Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s speech at a Foreign Ministry reception marking Orthodox Easter, Moscow, June 2, 2016
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to welcome you all to this traditional Easter reception at the Foreign Ministry. This uplifting celebration, the biggest on the Orthodox calendar, fills people’s hearts with joy, hope, and love and strengthens our commitment to the lofty ideals of truth and justice.
Over the more than 1,000 years of its history, the Russian Orthodox Church has always been the keeper and defender of our country’s spiritual heritage and provided our people with a reliable moral foundation in times of great endeavours and achievements and in times of trials and sorrows, and makes an invaluable contribution to preserving interethnic harmony.
These dedicated efforts take on particular significance today, as the situation in the world grows more complicated. Attempts by a narrow group of countries to reverse the objective trend towards the emergence of a polycentric and democratic system of international relations in a bid to secure unilateral advantages and impose their global domination have a serious destabilising impact. This destructive policy clearly conflicts with the reality of cultural and civilizational diversity in the modern world and peoples’ natural desire to determine their own future. This policy has contributed to the reign of chaos and anarchy over broad swathes of the Middle East and North Africa, and helped push Ukraine into serious internal political crisis and a fratricidal war.
The current situation calls for sober policies and collective diplomatic efforts. Russia seeks to take part in uniting the efforts of all countries with the goal of reducing the level of conflict in the world and establishing a system of international relations that reflects the 21st-century reality.
We value greatly the Russian Orthodox Church’s contribution to the common efforts to improve the situation in world affairs and prevent divisions between civilisations and faiths. The historic meeting between Your Holiness and Pope Francis was an important milestone on the road to reinforcing inter-Christian harmony on key political, spiritual, moral and social problems of life today. The common appeal these two church leaders made drew the international community’s attention to the need for steps to protect Christians in different parts of the world from severe persecution and in many cases even from deliberate destruction, above all, in the Middle East and North Africa.
It is clear that we can properly protect Christian populations in this region and achieve general, lasting stability there only if we effectively suppress terrorism and extremism and settle the numerous crises through political and diplomatic means based on international law and national dialogue with all ethnic groups and faiths taking part. This is the objective of Russia’s action to support the Syrian Arab Republic’s government in combating terrorism and to establish the required conditions for implementing the agreements on a ceasefire between the Syrian army and the opposition and the provision of humanitarian aid. We will work consistently to ensure implementation of the UN Security Council decisions on the principles for political settlement in the interest of preserving Syria as a united, sovereign and secular state with guaranteed territorial integrity.
It is important to take a comprehensive view of the many problems in the Middle East region and ensure that serious new conflicts do not overshadow older ones, particularly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is the goal of Russia’s efforts, including our participation in the international Middle East peace conference in Paris tomorrow. Russia has a genuine desire to see Israelis and Palestinians return to the negotiating table and set out firmly on the road towards a definitive settlement that would bring development and prosperity to these ancient peoples and bring peace to the Holy Land.
Russians’ hearts have always burned with a desire to see the holy sites. This is a source of spiritual inspiration and striving. This year, we are marking 1,000 years of Russian monastic presence at Mt Athos. With the active support of the Russian Orthodox Church and Your Holiness personally, work is underway to preserve and restore historic sites connected with the Russian presence on this holy mountain. The visit by President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and Your Holiness to Mt Athos several days ago confirmed the enduring significance of these centuries-old fraternal ties in the Orthodox world. We hope that your upcoming visit to Crete to take part in the World Orthodox Assembly will also help to cement the Orthodox peoples’ unity.
This year, we are marking the 70th anniversary of the Department for External Church Relations, a very important Synodal institution within the Russian Orthodox Church. Among its many services, I particularly note the reunification of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) in 2007, and the increase in the number of Russian Orthodox Church eparchies and parishes throughout the multi-ethnic Russian world in neighbouring countries and farther abroad.
Our Ministry will continue to develop cooperation with the Russian Orthodox Church and will work together with Russia’s other traditional religions to strengthen the moral foundation of international relations and ensure peace and stability at the global and regional level.
Your Holiness, guests, I congratulate you with all my heart on this Easter holiday. I wish you all good health, prosperity and success.
Christ is Risen!