Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill has blessed the cornerstone of a new Orthodox church outside the walls of the academy of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in western Moscow.
According to a press statement by the Patriarchate, the new church is being constructed "at the initiative of the leadership and students" of the academy.
The patriarch's appearance highlights the increasingly close ties between the church and state, a relationship that has recently come under closer scrutiny and criticism from the opposition.
At a ceremony on July 31, the patriarch noted that because of the communist-era destruction of churches
-- often carried out by the FSB's predecessor agencies -- many districts of the capital have few or no places of worship.
"We know what enormous losses were brought to the church life of Moscow by the years of revolution and the subsequent years of persecution," Kirill said. "Hundreds and hundreds of churches were destroyed. And today, in the memory of those destroyed holy places of the capital, we are erecting new churches in new areas."
WATCH: Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill blesses a new Orthodox church outside the FSB academy in Moscow:
Although the new church is next to the academy, the patriarch said it would be open to the public. It is part of a new project by the Russian Orthodox Church to build 200 new churches in the capital.
Kirill thanked Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin and FSB Director Aleksandr Bortnikov for their support in constructing the new church. Both men were represented by deputies at the ceremony.
'Attacks On Christian Way Of Life'
FSB Academy Director Viktor Ostroukhov also spoke at the ceremony. He said that staff at the academy are "not indifferent to the future of the country."
He added that they are also concerned about what he called "the increasing number of attacks on the Christian way of life."
"These attacks are becoming sharper and are aimed first of all at the young," Ostroukhov said. "Together we can oppose these dangerous threats to modernity and preserve a great and indivisible Russia."
The patriarch's appearance comes just as the three members of the feminist performance-art collective Pussy Riot is going on trial in Moscow on charges of hooliganism for trespassing in a closed area of Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral.
The indictment against them accuses them of trying to "openly express disrespect to the Christian world and the church canons."
Defendant Nadezhda Tolokonnikova issued a statement at her trial on July 30 saying that the group acted because of "the patriarch's call, which made us upset, for people to vote for the politician Vladimir Putin."
If convicted, they face up to seven years in prison.