Russian Orthodox leader defends ties with Kremlin

MOSCOW Fri Sep 28, 2012 7:58am EDT

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a ceremony in which the diplomatic credentials of newly appointed ambassadors were accepted at the Kremlin in Moscow September 26, 2012. REUTERS/Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a ceremony in which the diplomatic credentials of newly appointed ambassadors were accepted at the Kremlin in Moscow September 26, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - The head of the Russian Orthodox Church on Friday rejected criticism of his increasingly strong relationship with President Vladimir Putin, saying that close ties between the church and state were good for society.

Opposition groups, and some Russian Orthodox believers, have voiced concern about the Church's closeness to the state in a debate fuelled by the two-year jail terms given last month to three members of the Pussy Riot punk band who protested in a Moscow cathedral.

Patriarch Kirill, who has called Putin's long rule a "miracle of God", did not name the president or Pussy Riot in a speech to students, but he underlined the importance of cooperation between the church and state and criticized calls for a totally secular state.

"The institution of power appeared in the world, in a society prone to sin, to safeguard this society so that people could live together," the Patriarch said in a speech at Moscow State University.

"So, clear and very definite support by the Orthodox Church for the institution of state authorities does not amount to an assessment of this or that politician or state figure by every representative of the church," he said. "But it is indispensable to understand that safeguarding the institution of power is a guarantee of a flourishing society."

Putin, a former KGB leader, has increasingly promoted Orthodox Christianity during his 12-year rule, while also making clear that there is a place for many religions in Russia.

However, Pussy Riot reignited the debate about the church's role in the mainly Orthodox country when they burst into a Moscow cathedral in February to give a profanity-laced rendition of song criticizing Putin's ties with the Church.

Kirill, who backed Putin in this year's presidential election, has said that the Russian Orthodox Church is under attack from enemies who want to mock and destroy it.

The July killing of a Muslim leader and wounding of another in Tatarstan, in Russia's heartland, also raised fears in the Kremlin that an Islamist insurgency in the North Caucasus may be spilling over to other Russian regions.

The attacks prompted calls for unity by Putin, who said he would not let religious or ethnic extremism to tear Russia apart.

The lower chamber of Russia's parliament, the State Duma, is now working on changes to the criminal code that would introduce jail sentences of up to three years for anyone guilty of offending religious feelings.

Critics say that this would blur the line between the state and the Russian Orthodox Church, and that the new law could be used to stifle Putin's critics.

The parliament, which is dominated by Putin's United Russia party, has already passed measures that the opposition considers repressive, such as increasing fines for protesters who step out of line and toughening the punishment for defamation.

About 70 percent of Russian citizens describe themselves as Russian Orthodox Christians, but far fewer attend church regularly. All major faiths, however, have enjoyed revivals since the collapse of the communist Soviet Union in 1991.

(Editing by Timothy Heritage and David Goodman)

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Comments (2)
BugsFire wrote:
I am an atheist and consider Catholic church a criminal organization for all of its crimes against humanity, from crusades to inquisition to child abuse. However, I must admit that in one very important respect it is superior to Orthodox – it is supposedly independent of government power. Russian Orthodox church always was working with the regime – subordinate to Romanovs, then paid agents of KGB, now singing hymns to Putin, former KGB colonel and current dictator. It is a testament to cognitive dissonance that is characteristic of religion that church leaders may continue with their jobs while clearly agreeing to put not just civil laws, but the will of a monarch before the teachings of their organizations very founder, who they believe to be the son of the creator of the Universe.

In XXI century, there is no place for laws that provide three years of imprisonment for offending someone’s feelings. How do you even define that? Russian populace never quite grasped the whole concept of freedom of speech, and those who did were and are pushed out of the country throughout its entire history (sometimes through immigration, more often by slaughter).

Pushkin wrote 200 hundred years ago (translation, naturally, does not capture the beauty of his poetry, but the meaning is preserved)

Comrade, believe, this star will rise,
This star of captivating joy,
Russia will wipe the sleep from her eyes,
And on autocracy’s ruins,
Our names will be incised.

Alas, Russia will always be asleep.

Sep 28, 2012 12:17pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
DeanMJackson wrote:
The article reads, “Putin, a former KGB leader, has increasingly promoted Orthodox Christianity during his 12-year rule, while also making clear that there is a place for many religions in Russia.”

In fact, all Christian denominations in the USSR and the East Bloc were/are controlled by Communist agents, and this continues to be the case in the East Bloc and the USSR (yes, I said the USSR. The “collapse” of the USSR was a strategic ruse under the “Long-Range Policy”, which all Communist nations signed onto in 1960):

Google: “Bulgaria protestant communist agents” and “Bulgaria orthodox communist agents”.

Bulgaria is the only nation to have created (belatedly) a Files Commission looking into Communist-era agents still in power there. Guess what they found? Communist-era agents still in control of the government, media, Churches and other institutions (and the Files Commission is only chartered to investigate from 2003 onwards).

If Files Commissions had been created in all not-so-former East Bloc nations/USSR republics, then we’d get the same results as Bulgaria: That Communist agents are still in control there too.

The question is: In 1992, why didn’t the Russian electorate immediately create a de-Communization program in order to ferret out Communist agents still in power? If the “collapse” of the USSR had been real, such a de-Communization program would have been immediately implemented.

The above also explains why the Russian electorate are only electing Soviet-era Communist Party members for President/Prime Minister. If the “collapse” of the USSR had been real, the Russian electorate would never have elected such Quislings back into power.

Sep 28, 2012 7:14pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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