FaithWorld

Russian Orthodox Church clergy allowed to enter politics

russian orthodox medvedev

(President Dmitry Medvedev (C, bottom row), Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill (2nd R, bottom row) and Russian Orthodox Church hierarchs at the Kremlin in Moscow February 3, 2011/Alexander Nemenov)

Russia’s Orthodox Church has allowed its clergy to enter politics in certain cases, in the latest sign of its growing presence in Russia’s secular society. Endorsed by Kremlin leaders as Russia’s main faith, the Church has grown increasingly powerful since communism fell two decades ago. Its role has drawn criticism from human rights groups who say it undermines Russia’s constitution.

On Thursday, President Dmitry Medvedev backed a decision by the Church to allow clergy to enter politics in certain cases. “The Russian Orthodox church is the largest and the most respected social institution in the modern Russia,” Medvedev told top clergy visiting the Kremlin.

The Church, which made the announcement on Wednesday, said it had made some exceptions allowing clergy to enter the political arena in cases where the Church encounters hostility from other faiths and factions. It did not elaborate.

“Exceptions to this rule can be made only in a case when the election (to government) of clergy … arises from the need to counteract forces…,” a statement posted on Patriarch Kirill’s official website mospatriarchia.ru said.

God absent from Russian church’s new spiritual guide

God is absent from a new spiritual guide the Russian Orthodox Church is drafting in tandem with Russia’s ruling party, a newspaper said on Thursday. Instead justice, patriotism and solidarity top the list of the guideline, dubbed “Eternal Values: The Foundation of Russian Identity,” which the Church is to publish with the dominant United Russia party, headed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

kremlin cathedralThe moral guide lists the values in order of their importance in the eyes of the church and the party, as reported by the daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta:

1. justice

2. freedom

3. solidarity

4. unity

5. self-restraint and sacrifice

6. patriotism

7. welfare

8. love

Read the full story by Lidia Kelly here. (Photo: St Basil’s Cathedral and the Kremlin on Red Square in Moscow October 14, 2007/Yushko Oksana)

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Orthodox Church asks Russian women to dress modestly

russian orthodoxRussian feminists have expressed outrage after the country’s increasingly powerful Orthodox Church proposed an official dress code to ensure that women dress more modestly.

A top Church official, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, called for the code in a letter in which he said: “Either scantily clad or painted like a clown, a woman who counts on meeting men on the street, in the metro or a bar not only risks running into a drunken idiot but will meet men with no self-respect.” (Photo: An Orthodox priest leads an Epiphany day celebration in Moscow January 19, 2011/Denis Sinyakov)

Chaplin, who heads the Church’s department for relations with society, said last month that women in mini-skirts were to blame if raped as they “provoke men.”

Russian extremism law targets religious minorities, dissenters

jehovah (Photo: Alexander Kalistratov leaves a court building in Gorno-Altaysk, December 16, 2010/Alexandr Tyryshkin)

When armed Russian security officers forced their way into Alexander Kalistratov’s home, he hardly imagined they were after his books. The local leader of a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Siberia now faces up to two years in prison if found guilty this week of inciting religious hatred for distributing literature about his beliefs.

“They swept everything from my shelves without even bothering to sort it, even my Bible,” Kalistratov, a street sweeper, said by telephone from the Siberian town of Gorno-Altaysk, 3,600 km (2,200 miles) east of Moscow. His trial is the first of a dozen pending against Jehovah’s Witnesses and scores of others caught up in the widening net of criminal prosecutions brought under Russia’s anti-extremism law.

Rights activists say the vaguely worded legislation, first passed in 2002, is increasingly being exploited by the authorities to persecute religious minorities, intimidate the media and clamp down on opposition activists.

Russian Orthodox Church’s Kirill on ecumenism, via Wikileaks

kirillSome interesting comments on Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, back in April 2008 when he was still Metropolitan Kirill, in a cable from the U.S. embassy in Moscow published by Wikileaks:

8. (C) Kirill seemed to be in good health was preoccupied as always with the, in his view, excessive emphasis on the individual in the West, and stressed the need to harmonize traditional human rights concerns with “morality and ethics.” Economic progress had been a two-edged sword for Russia, Kirill thought. With prosperity, Russians had “lost something” and Kirill, who is Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, pointed to less prosperous Smolensk as “better preserved” than Moscow or St. Petersburg.

9. (C) Kirill spoke highly of a UN-sponsored effort to bridge the gap between East and West by seeking an alliance of civilizations. Kirill was attempting to interest the UN in his efforts to sponsor ecumenical dialogue especially, he said, in the Middle East. As he has in past conversations, Kirill contrasted Roman Catholic Pope Benedict favourably with his predecessor John Paul II, and again held out the prospect of significant improvement in Russian Orthodox – Roman Catholic relations. Also on the ecumenical front, Kirill reported to the Ambassador efforts, via the Russian Orthodox Church of America and the National Council of Churches, to reach out to Protestant denominations in the U.S.

On Tolstoy centenary, Russian Orthodox won’t lift excommunication

tolstoy 2The Russian Orthodox Church refused to rehabilitate him and the state chose to ignore him, but the official silence surrounding the 100th anniversary of Leo Tolstoy’s death has not muffled praise or quelled debate.

Unlike the 150th anniversary of writer Anton Chekhov’s birth this year — which prompted an emotional outpouring from President Dmitry Medvedev and spurred a nationwide festival — the November centenary of one of Russia’s most universally acclaimed writers has been met with surreal silence. (Photo: Leo Tolstoy, around 1897/U.S. Library of Congress)

Neither Medvedev nor Prime Minister Vladimir Putin mentioned the “War and Peace” author for the actual centenary on November 20th, the Culture Ministry planned no events in his honor and there were no major programs on state television — Russia’s favored outlet for tributes.

Russian Orthodox say “no breakthrough” at Catholic-Orthodox talks last week

catho-orthThe Russian Orthodox Church said on Tuesday there was no “breakthrough” at a Catholic-Orthodox theological dialogue meeting in Vienna last week that ended with reports of promising progress on the thorny issue of the role of the Catholic pope. The statement may be more interesting for what it doesn’t say than what it does. It’s not clear which reports Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the “foreign minister” of the Moscow Patriarchate, was referring to when he said that “contrary to allegations in the press, the Orthodox-Catholic Commission meeting in Vienna has made no ‘breakthrough’ whatsoever.” (Photo: Pope Benedict and Metropolitan Hilarion meet at the Vatican, May 20, 2010/Tony Gentile)

Did any media report a breakthrough? Not that I’ve seen. Is it possible that Hilarion was actually referring to the cautiously upbeat statements given at a final news conference by Metropolitan John Zizioulas of Pergamon and Archbishop Kurt Koch, the top Vatican official for Christian unity?

Hilarion was in Vienna last week but did not appear at the news conference. Metropolitan John, who spoke for the Orthodox side, is affiliated with the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul, the spiritual leader of all Orthodox which Moscow seems to compete with for a leadership role. Could this have played a part?

Catholics and Orthodox report promising progress in latest round of unity talks

cathorth 1Roman Catholic and Orthodox theologians reported promising progress on Friday in talks on overcoming their Great Schism of 1054 and bringing the two largest denominations in Christianity back to full communion. Experts meeting in Vienna this week agreed the two could eventually become “sister churches” that recognize the Roman pope as their titular head but retain many church structures, liturgy and customs that developed over the past millennium. (Photo: Metropolitan John Zizioulas (L) and Cardinal Christoph Schönborn in Vienna, 24 Sept 2010/Leonhard Foeger)

The delegation heads for the international commission for Catholic-Orthodox dialogue stressed that unity was still far off, but their upbeat report reflected growing cooperation between Rome and the Orthodox churches traditionally centred in Russia, Greece, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

“There are no clouds of mistrust between our two churches,” Orthodox Metropolitan John Zizioulas of Pergamon told a news conference. “If we continue like that, God will find a way to overcome all the difficulties that remain.” Archbishop Kurt Koch, the top Vatican official for Christian unity, said the joint dialogue must continue “intensively” so that “we see each other fully as sister churches.”

New Russian holiday marked as Kremlin boosts Orthodox Church

russia holiday (Photo: Soldier holds candle at ceremony for adoption of Christianity, in Stavropol, July 28, 2010/Eduard Korniyenko)

Russia marked its adoption of Christianity in 988 on Wednesday with a new public holiday, the latest show of Kremlin support for the Russian Orthodox Church that has grown increasingly powerful since the fall of Communism.

Rights groups have criticized the new holiday, approved by President Dmitry Medvedev, as undermining Russia’s secular constitution and members of the country’s large Muslim minority have complained that it excludes them.

Marking the anniversary Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, held a liturgy in Kiev, the capital of modern Ukraine and mediaeval Kievan Rus, whose leader Prince Vladimir made Christianity the state religion more than 1,000 years ago. Kievan Rus is seen as the precursor of modern-day Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

Moscow art curators anger Russian Orthodox church but escape jail

moscow artTwo art curators have been found guilty in Moscow of inciting religious hatred in a case that has highlighted the growing influence of the Russian Orthodox church and its links to the Russian government.

Yuri Samodurov and Andrei Yerofeyev must pay fines of 200,000 roubles ($6,477) and 150,000 roubles, respectively, to the state for their 2007 Forbidden Art exhibit, which mixed religious icons with sexual and pop-culture images.  (Photo: Yuri Samodurov leaves the courtroom, July 12, 2010/Denis Sinyakov)

Among the art on display in the exhibit were works depicting an Orthodox icon adorned with Mickey Mouse, a Russian general raping a soldier, and a Soviet-era Order of Lenin medal over Christ’s head. Leading cultural figures had appealed to President Dmitry Medvedev to drop the charges, saying it heralded a new era of censorship.