21 November 200712:48

Opening Remarks by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at Press Conference After Tenth Meeting of Working Group on MFA-Russian Orthodox Church Interaction, Moscow, November 20, 2007

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Your Holiness, Honorable Colleagues and Friends,

The tenth – jubilee – meeting of the Working Group on Interaction between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Russian Orthodox Church took place today. It is the group that was set up in 2003 during the first visit by His Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexy II to the Ministry and which over these five years, almost five years, in our common judgement, confirmed in the course of today's meeting, has proved its undoubted relevance in tackling issues which directly affect the national interests of the country and the vital interests of our citizens.

Orthodox values formed the basis of Russian culture and Russian statehood, and herein lie the origins of the centuries-old tradition of cooperation between domestic diplomacy and the Church. We today too, working hand in hand, help the Russian diaspora abroad, defend the rights of Russians who have found themselves far away from the Homeland and, as a matter of fact, the Church engages in tackling the same tasks as does diplomacy, carrying out a peacemaking mission in the Commonwealth of Independent States area and in other regions of the world. We are allies with the Russian Orthodox Church in countering any manifestation of racism and xenophobia, in countering attempts to split the world on religious, ethnic or civilizational grounds. We are united by a common understanding of the importance of a dialogue among cultures, religions and civilizations and by an awareness of the significance which this dialogue now has for calming down the situation in the world. The colossal experience of the Russian state and the Russian Orthodox Church in this field within our state, undoubtedly, can and should be drawn upon globally and worldwide today. Together with the Russian Orthodox Church the Russian leadership supports the development of the initiative under the aegis of the United Nations that is called "The Alliance of Civilizations." With concurrence of the Russian Orthodox Church we suggested that this process be supplemented with a consultative process involving major world religions, and the prototype of such cooperation was already laid in 2006 when the world summit of religious leaders took place in Moscow at the initiative of His Holiness Patriarch. We believe that the initiative for creating such a consultative council of interfaith cooperation under the aegis of the UN will be supported. And of course, the promotion of an intercultural and interfaith dialogue was one of the chief priority themes of the Russian chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in 2006. Speaking of the Council of Europe, I want to once again stress the wide positive international response that the speech of His Holiness, made by him at the recent Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly session as part of his unprecedented trip to Western Europe, evoked.

Today we also discussed our concrete moves to develop cooperation further, particularly consolidate the results that had a truly historic character and which found expression in the signing in May 2007 of the Act on Canonical Communication between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. We see in the revival of church unity a hugely important factor for consolidating the entire "Russian world." We in the activities of our ministry, our embassies and consulates general always cooperate with the parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church in different countries, with Moscow Patriarchate representatives and, I repeat, we do one big work very necessary for the country.

In conclusion I would like to congratulate all those present and especially His Holiness Patriarch on the anniversary of the restoration of the patriarchate in Russia, congratulate him on the lofty words that were heard yesterday at the meeting with the President of the Russian Federation. We see the role which the Church plays in solving the tasks of strengthening our Fatherland and establishing the most favorable conditions for the further development of the country, conditions for the realization of all the expectations of our citizens. Once again, thank you.

November 21, 2007

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