ATHOS (Greece), May 28. /TASS/. Russia will strengthen ties with Greece and Holy Mount Athos while "spiritual kinship and trust will be determining the nature of our traditionally close and friendly relations in the future," Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a meeting with members of Holy Kinot (Athos’ governing body) on Saturday.
Over the centuries, the same faith and mutual affection have been uniting the Greeks and Russians and helping them to overcome and beat difficulties, Putin said.
"It was evident during liberation movements in the Balkans and in any other stages of the world’s history," he said. "These are very deep feelings inherited in full by new generations of our citizens."
"Relics brought to our country from Athos for worshipping proved to showcase growing ties between Russia and Athos," he said, mentioning the Belt of the Virgin Mary relic from the Vatopedi Monastery and the right hand St. George’s from the Xenophon Monastery.
"Hundreds of thousands of Russian Orthodox believers could venerate them," Putin said. "We hope that high, sublime mission of Athos and Athonite monasteries will be continued," he said, pointing out that each man who put his foot on the holy land of Athos was feeling something special.
"It is a unique hearth of Orthodox Christianity and Christianity," Putin said. "Over 1,000 years spiritual traditions and the values we share have been gently cherished and multiplied here."
Along with this, the Russian president said that Athos’ role was crucial "when Orthodox Christianity in Russia and in other confessing it countries has consolidated."
"Through consolidation, Eastern Orthodoxy enables a huge number of people - with people living on our country, Russia, as well - to gain internal support," he said. "And the first written reference to Russians on the holy mountain goes back as long as one thousand years ago, which underlines again importance of this particular place for the present-day Russia."
Orthodox Christians were drawing spiritual knowledge and strength from Athos, he said.
"Now when reviving values of patriotism, historic memory and traditional culture, we have in mind closer ties with Athos. A year-on-year rise in the number of Russian pilgrims, exceeding 11,000 people a year, is an encouraging fact," Putin said thanking the clergy for their hospitality and good attitude to Russians at Athos.