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Putin praises Patriarch's role in building Orthodox Church

MOSCOW, June 8 (RIA Novosti) - Vladimir Putin said Thursday that the head of Russia's Orthodox Church had played an important role in making the church an important part of civil society.

"You have gained authority and respect in this country due to your long and productive activities as head of Russia's Orthodox Church," Putin said in comments marking the 16th anniversary of Alexy II's accession to the post. "You have been teaching people mercy and tolerance for many years and helping them find firm spiritual support."

"The Russian Orthodox Church has become an integral part of civil society in Russia and a factor in stability of inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations mainly due to your efforts," Putin said.

He also highlighted the church's educational, charity and peace-making activities.

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