On January 21, Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk, Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department for External Church Relations, who is in Syria with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, together with his entourage was invited to the Russian Embassy in Damascus, where a reception was given in honor of the arrival of a delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Syrian capital. Among those invited was His Beatitude Patriarch John X of Great Antioch and All the East.
The reception was also attended by Colonel-General A.N. Serdyukov, Commander of the group of troops of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in the Syrian Arab Republic, Bishop Roman of Seleucia, Archpriest Nikolai Balashov, Adviser to His Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Archpriest Igor Yakimchuk, Deputy Chairman of the DECR, Archimandrite Philip, representative of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia to the Patriarch of Antioch and All the East (Vasiltsev), assistant to the DECR Chairman Priest Alexander Ershov, Executive Director of the Foundation for the Support of Christian Culture and Heritage Egor Skopenko.
The participants were greeted by the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to the Syrian Arab Republic A.V. Efimov. He stressed that the Primate of the Orthodox Church of Antioch is visiting the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Damascus for the first time, as is Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk, also here for the first time. According to A.V. Efimov, it is a great honor for all employees of the diplomatic mission of Russia.
"The embassy is Russian land in Syria. However, none of those present should feel like a guest here, because we are all brothers and all are one family," the Russian ambassador said.
His Beatitude Patriarch John of Antioch and All the East in his speech expressed his joy at being on Russian soil in Syria. He shared warm memories of his visits to Russia, meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.
His Beatitude emphasized the deep and historical nature of the ties between the peoples of Syria and Russia, between the Russian and Antiochian Orthodox Churches. He recalled that the first Russian metropolitan was St. Michael, a native of Syria.
DECR Chairman Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk warmly thanked the Russian Ambassador to Syria A.V. Efimov for his hospitality. Bishop Anthony noted the importance of the service of Russian diplomats and military personnel in Syria, which they sometimes carry at the risk of their lives for the sake of establishing peace on Syrian soil and preserving the Christian presence here.
In conclusion, Metropolitan Anthony announced the decree of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, according to which the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to the Syrian Arab Republic A.V. Efimov was awarded the Order of the Holy Prince Alexander Nevsky of the III degree for his contribution to the development of church-state relations and in connection with the 65th anniversary of his birth.
The DECR Chairman presented the Russian diplomat with a high church award.
In turn, A.V. Efimov asked to convey to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill his deep gratitude for the high appreciation of his work in the diplomatic field.