Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia has called for efforts to improve relations between Russia and the United States.
"Currently, we are experiencing not the best period in the relations between Russia and the United States, but not the worst either, if you compare history. I think work needs to be done, including by religious leaders, so that the two world powers could develop their relations and treat each other with mutual respect and trust," the patriarch said at a meeting with U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Tefft and his wife in Moscow on Friday.
He also called on Americans to jointly participate "in the big cause required of us by numerous crises which have engulfed the modern civilization."
The religious leader called the U.S. a great nation with which Russia is bound by many ties, including historical ones. He recalled that the first Orthodox believers appeared in the west of the U.S., and in Alaska when it was still part of the Russian Empire - those were a mission of monks from the Valaam Monastery.
"The history of Orthodox Christianity in America is linked to the names of two very outstanding people: Metropolitan Benjamin of Moscow, who was a missionary among Aleutians, the small ethnicities of the North and Far East, and with the name of Patriarch Tikhon, who was already a bishop in New York," the patriarch said.
The Russian Church was directly involved in pastoral work on the American continent, "and this led it into contact with the U.S. Protestant churches," he said. Moscow Patriarchate did not cease dialogue with them and other religious communities in America even during the Cold War, Patriarch Kirill recalled.
"Christians turned out to be able at the time to work together and make joint statements, which I think, in some sense, prepared ground for the changes which began in the 1990s," he said.
For his part, Tefft said that he used to visit an Orthodox church in Alaska and had a chance to meet the Orthodox clergy.
He invited the patriarch to a reception at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow on December 3 and congratulated him on his birthday, having presented him with a small souvenir.