The head of the Russian Orthodox Church has said that Vladimir Putin's 12-year rule in Russia was a "miracle of God."
The comment came as part of a larger meeting of religious figures and the Russian prime minister, where Putin also received the endorsement of the nation's top rabbi, Berel Lazar. Also in attendance were four Islamic muftis, a Buddhist lama, an Armenian bishop, and representatives of other Christian denominations.
Patriarch Kirill, who heads the Russian Orthodox Church, praised Putin for rescuing Russia from turbulent times during the 1990s. "What were the 2000s then?" Kirill asked the assembled leaders at St. Daniel's monastery. "Through a miracle of God, with the active participation of the country's leadership, we managed to exit this horrible, systemic crisis."
"I should say it openly as a patriarch who must only tell the truth, not paying attention to the political situation or propaganda, you personally played a massive role in correcting this crooked twist of our history," Kirill said.
The Patriarch also took the opportunity to speak out against the "ear-piercing shrieks" of anti-Putin protesters. The protests have been increasing in volume and violence since Putin announced that he would try to return to the office of the president in Russia's March 4 election.
"The majority, I assure you, are those who agree with what I am saying," Kirill said.
The other assembled leaders also took the opportunity to heap praise upon Prime Minister Putin and decry those who oppose him. Mufti Ravil Gainutdin said, "Muslims know you, Muslims trust you, Muslims are wishing you success," and Russia's chief mufti, Talgat Tadchuddin, added, "Thanks to the Almighty, the country has been saved from ruin… and one must add -- with your direct involvement!"
Russia's top Rabbi, Berel Lazar, thanks Putin "for everything you have done for the Jews," and said of the protesters, "the fact the [demonstrations] took place on Saturday suggest that it was not a Jewish event."
Putin also took the opportunity to state his support for the "voice of the church" having a larger presence on state-run television channels. The prime minister pledged "to provide adequate representation in the informational sphere of the interests of citizens who tie their worldview to the values of orthodoxy and other traditional faiths."
While he did not give any particular plans for how to increase religion's influence on television, Putin did cite poll numbers showing that 71 percent of Russians support the establishment of an Orthodox television channel.