The head of Russia’s dominant church urged its citizens to adopt children, speaking in a Russian Orthodox Christmas address on Monday after President Vladimir Putin signed a controversial law barring Americans from adopting Russian children.

Patriarch Kirill paid particular attention to the issue in a Christmas message, lending support to Putin’s promises – issued along with a law that outraged liberals and child rights activists – that Russia will take care of its own.

“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,” the Russian Orthodox Church head said.

The ban on American adoptions is part of a law Putin signed on Dec. 28 in retaliation for U.S. legislation designed to punish Russian human rights violators, which the Kremlin chief said is poisoning relations.