Dear festival participants, brothers and sisters in Christ!
On behalf of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, I welcome all of you who have gathered here on the Greek Island of Corfu in order to participate in the International Charity Festival of Christian culture Russia – Greece: Together Through the Centuries, which is being held under the auspices of the Year of Greece in Russia and of Russia in Greece.
The sincere friendship, mutual understanding and fundamental values, which are rooted in Orthodoxy, have long informed Russian- Greek relations. The Greek Orthodox Church is associated with the Christianization of Rus which brought our people the blessing of true faith, as well as introducing them to world culture.
The Greek East became for Slav peoples a precious source of life-enhancing faith and enlightenment. Prelates from Orthodox Byzantium were the first pastors of our people. The Greek land nurtured the Saints and Equal-to-Apostles Kyrill and Methodius, the creators of the Church Slavonic alphabet, the Likhud brothers Sophronius and Joannicus, founders of the Slavic Greek Latin Academy, the Venerable Maxim Grek, the great icon painter Theophanes the Greek and other outstanding men, who labored selflessly in our native land.
The Russian people have always reciprocated the love shown them by their Greek brethren. In the Russian Orthodox Church, Saint Bishop Spyridon of Trimythous, Saint Nectarios of Aegina, Saint Theodora, the Byzantine Empress, the great martyr Dmitri Solunsky, Saint Andrew of Crete and others, are deeply revered. Churches are consecrated in their honor, each year a great number of pilgrims from Russia make the journey to Greece to pay homage to their venerable relics.
In turn, when freedom was lacking and times were hard, Greece found a loyal ally in Russia. In the difficult years of Ottoman rule, the Russian Tsars, prominent statesmen and members of society considered it their duty to support the Greek churches and monasteries. In present - day Greece, the glorious saints of our land, St. Sergius of Radonezh and Seraphim Sarovsky, St. Luke of Crimea, the venerable warrior Theodore Ushakov and many others are widely known and venerated.
The history of the Russian presence in Greece is indissolubly bound to the ascetic tradition of Mount Athos. Founder of the Russian monasticism St. Antony Pechersky started his spiritual life on this land of Holy Mother of God. The tradition of our compatriots performing acts of religious devotion on Mount Athos (this year we celebrate its 1000th anniversary) gave a host of zealots to the Orthodox Christian Church.
An outstanding personality, who made a significant contribution to relations between Russia and Greece, was Olga Konstantinovna, Queen of the Hellenes, grand-daughter to Tsar Nicholas lst, and the direct ancestress of many present-day monarchs and their families. Actively involved in educational and charitable work, she founded a military-naval hospital, and was responsible for establishing a Russian Church and cemetery at the Russian naval base, in Piraeus.
Our common patristical and cultural legacy can and should serve as a firm basis for the further development and strengthening of the multi-sided and friendly relations which exist between our two countries. I am sure that, drawing on their many-centuries-old spiritual traditions and historical experience, our two nations can act in unison to preserve the Christian basis of European civilization.
I hope God will bless the Festival participants with creative inspiration and help them in their endeavor, and I wish peace and prosperity to the peoples of Russia and Greece.
Metropolitan of Volokolamsk,
Chairman The Moscow Patriarchate department for external church relations