The head of Russia's Orthodox church urged fellow citizens to adopt children in part of his Christmas message on Monday in the wake of a decision by the government to ban Americans from adopting Russian children.
"It is very important for our people to adopt orphans into their families, with joy and a special sense of gratitude to God, giving them not only shelter and an upbringing but also giving them their love," said Patriarch Kirill, according to a report by Reuters. Most Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas according to the Julian calendar, with the holiday falling on Jan. 7.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a ban on adoptions by Americans on December 28 in the wake of the passage of U.S. laws meant to punish Russian human rights violators. He also ordered improvements in the nation's care for orphaned children.
Patriarch Kirill also put the issue of adoptions in the context of God's Kingdom.
"[T]he Lord tells His followers that if they want to reach the Kingdom of God they must … share their opportunities with the needy – primarily invalids, the elderly, and children," he said.
"'Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them,' says the Lord. These words from Him should ... make us all realize how important children are in the eyes of God," he said."
"And as we celebrate Christmas I would like to appeal to everyone with a request: If you can take this important step in life aimed at adopting children, supporting orphans, take this step," Kirill said. "There should be no orphans in our country."