Moscow, November 16, Interfax - Contact between believers in Russia and the United States will help improve the bilateral relationship, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia said at a meeting with U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman.
"Our relations with the U.S. at the level of Churches' interaction were extensive even during the quite difficult Soviet period," the patriarch said.
"It was an important factor in maintaining the relations during the Cold War," he said.
The current level of relations leaves much to be desired, he said.
"It seems to me that we are now going through not the best of times. I would like to talk about the possibility of maintaining religious contacts, not least in order to exert influence on our relations," Patriarch Kirill said.
"Pious people maintain relations at the level of the heart; diplomats, at the level of the mind; business people, at the level of the stomach. We would not like to take the heart out of our relations," the patriarch said.
Today it is not just inter-state and political relations between Russia and the U.S. that are difficult, but "there is something very difficult and dangerous at a very fundamental level - that of the understanding of values," he said.
"We are alarmed by what is happening in the West. Christian values are being destroyed, the West is giving up on God, but Russia is not giving up on God," the Russian church leader said.
What is happening is a "civilizational problem," he said. "We would like, together with American religious people, [together] we could look for answers to these civilizational challenges," he said.
Russian-U.S. religious, spiritual relations have a long history, the patriarch said.
"The Russian church has special attitudes towards the U.S. Two hundred twenty years ago the Russian Orthodox Church began a mission in the Far East and then in Alaska. From Alaska, the Russian church spread to California and then onwards," Patriarch Kirill said.
The Russian Orthodox Church in the U.S. is autonomous, but maintains contact with that of Russia, he said, stressing the importance of such communications.
Huntsman, meanwhile, said that Russia and the U.S. should looking for dialogue opportunities through unifying values.