Sept. 17 (UPI) -- Patriarch Kirill, the head of Russian Orthodox Christianity, visited a submarine base in Kamchatka on Saturday as his country continues to wage war on Ukraine.
The church leader, whose secular name is Vladimir Mikhailovich Gundyaev, visited the base of the Submarine Forces of the Pacific Fleet, the press service for Russia's Eastern Military District said in a statement Sunday.
Kirill is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and has expressed support for Russia since the start of the invasion on Feb. 24, 2022.
During his tour of the base, Kirill met with Vice Admiral Vladimir Dmitriev, the commander of the Pacific Fleet Submarine Forces, as well as the personnel of nuclear submarines. He was flanked on the visit by Kamchatka Territory Gov. Vladimir Solodov and other clergy.
"I thank you all and rejoice at the opportunity to meet you, address you with words of greeting and express the hope that no circumstances will prevent you from fulfilling your duty with dignity and carrying out with honor to the end the service that the Motherland has entrusted to you," Kirill said.
Dmitriev presented Kirill with a model of a nuclear submarine before the religious leader toured the nuclear submarine missile cruiser Alexander Nevsky.
The Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church said in a statement that Kirill also performed the rite of minor consecration of the garrison church of the Apostle Andrew the First-Called.
On Sunday, Kirill consecrated the newly built Kamchatka Naval Cathedral "in honor of the Archangel Michael of God in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky" and performed divine liturgy in the newly consecrated church.
In recent months, Kirill has made strong appeals for increased relations between Russia and Africa, a sign of the effects of the war in Ukraine on international diplomacy. Russia has been trying to increase its ties on the continent as it seeks support for its war efforts.
Kirill's Africa blitz also comes after the failed rebellion led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the former head of the Wagner Group -- a mercenary force that has been highly active in Africa and has fought in the war in Ukraine.
Prigozhin died last month in a plane crash after leading the rebellion over the summer.