Pope Benedict XVI has told His Holiness Alexis II, patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, that the world today needs to hear voices indicating the way of peace, condemning violence and upholding the dignity of individuals and their human rights.

The Vatican released today the text of a message sent by the Pope to the Russian patriarch, and in turn, one from Alexis II back to the Holy Father. They were exchanged in February.

On February 20th, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, the Holy See’s vice dean of the College of Cardinals, was in Moscow to present the Russian patriarch with the Pope's Message along with a gold medal commemorating the current pontificate.

In exchange, after presiding at a solemn liturgy celebrated on February 24th in Moscow’s Cathedral of the Holy Savior, Alexis II presented his own message for the Pope along with a pectoral cross as a sign of his gratitude and respect for the Holy Father.

The Liturgy was held in honor of the patriarch’s birthday and name day.

In his Message, Pope Benedict said that he "spiritually associates" himself with the patriarch's double celebration, and invokes "abundant blessings from the Lord upon your person and your ministry, so generously dedicated to the great cause of the Gospel.”

He went on to write that "The gestures and words of renewed fraternity between pastors of the Lord's flock show how ever more intense collaboration in truth and charity contribute to increasing the spirit of communion, which must guide the steps of all the baptized."

The Holy Father stressed that the modern world "needs to hear voices indicating the way of peace, of respect for everyone, of condemnation for all forms of violence, of the higher dignity of all individuals and of their intrinsic rights."

In his Message, Partiarch Alexis II thanked Benedict for his greetings and wrote that "In our own times, with the rapid growth of secularism, Christianity finds itself facing important challenges that require a shared testimony.”

"I am convinced," he continued, "that one of today's priorities for our Churches, which have a shared vision of the many problems currently facing the modern world, must be the defense and affirmation in society of the Christian values by which humanity has lived for more than a millennium.”

“I hope”, he wrote, “that the rapid resolution of outstanding problems between our two Churches will also contribute to this end."

The Russian patriarch concluded his message extending his "best wishes for good health" to the Pope and invoked God’s assistance "in carrying out the exalted office of primate of the Roman Catholic Church."