Greek Cleric Asks Vladimir Putin to “Provide Assistance to Our Country”

The website of the Government of the Russian Federation has an English-language transcript of Vladimir Putin’s recent meeting with Ephraim,  Archimandrite of the Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos and custodian of the Mother of God’s belt. The belt has has just completed a tour of Russian cities; it is believed that the relic has the power to help women conceive, and the St Andrew the First-Called Foundation, which brought it to the country, is hopeful that it will promote “family values” in Russia. I blogged on the background to the tour here.

Ephraim explained the relic’s power to Putin:

Archimandrite Ephraim: …I am certain that the belt of Virgin Mary has made your people’s faith even stronger. We receive telephone calls all the time, with people sharing their miraculous experiences, such as having a child after ten years of marriage. There have been 20 such cases already. There will certainly be a book on all these miracles that have occurred during the relic’s journey around Russia.   

Vladimir Putin: If this helps to solve our demographic issue, it is most welcome.

The two men also discussed Greek-Russian cooperation:

Vladimir Putin: Your efforts certainly show the bonds between our nations and will strengthen them. This will undoubtedly give an impetus for further development of the relations between our countries. Thank you very much.

Archimandrite Ephraim: Mr Putin, I am very glad to have been by your side all this time… Greece is going through a difficult period and I ask you to provide assistance to our country wherever possible under these challenging conditions. 

I’m sure that Putin will be more than willing to oblige; as I’ve quoted more than once previouslyTime magazine  in 2007 described the Russian Orthodox Church as Russia’s “main ideological arm and a vital foreign policy instrument”.

I previously blogged on Ephraim in 2008, when Vatopedi became mired in a land-swap scandal involving the Greek government. The St Andrew the First-Called Foundation is headed by Putin confidant Vladimir Yakunin, and in July the Foundation’s “World Public Forum” held a conference on the need to protect Mount Athos from tourists and women.