Russia: Orthodox Church and other "traditional religions" against cults

Communist representative proposes protection for "traditional religions"

Moscow, Russia
January 31, 2002 ZENIT

Moscow, 31 January 2002. In the newest tradition, January is the month in which the Russian Orthodox Church is most active in social area. On January 25 there took place a conference on the theme of "The State and Traditional Religions" in which the relationships between state and church were to have been analyzed. Metropolit Kyrill of Smolensk, who is responsible for the Department of the Exterior of the Patriarchy, named the most important demands/wishes of the church in his speech. They included a tax monitoring system, return of church buildings, changes in the religion laws, religious education in schools and the fight against religiously tinged fanaticism and terrorism.

Communist representative V. Zorkaltsev, who cosponsored the 1997 religion law, expressed a desire for stronger monitoring of cults to protect the so-called "traditional" religions, in particular the orthodox church, and to protect the "spiritual security" of the people. In order to consolidate this effort, the Orthodox Church asked that state management of the other "traditional" religions - Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, as well as Catholics and Lutherans - involve themselves jointly against the new religions.

This statement concluded with a call for interdenominational cooperation, in which scope a visit from Pope John Paul II to Moscow seems ever less unlikely in the long term. Neither did the Orthodox Church delegation that took part in the prayer meeting in Assisi rule out the possibility of a meeting between Alexei II and the Pope during their visit. It was still stressed that a common position to the most important problems in the relationship between the two church would have to be found in advance.

From 27 to 30 January the most important and the best attended cultural gathering of the Russian Orthodox Churches took place, the so-called "Christmas conferences." Those involve meetings in which gather bishops, priests, teachers, education and cultural officials to debate issues of religious education, training, and the role of the Church in building conscience. In his opening speech, Patriarch Alexei II called attention to the fact that "Orthodoxy was neither an ideology nor a collection of abstract convictions." "It concerns a life that is rich in love for people and for the Lord and that has respect for every creature of God. The manifestation of belief and of an Orthodox life-style may be understood to be more than just a mission of the clergy ... but of a concern by millions of lay people and all the healthy forces of society with whom the Church is prepared to closely cooperate within the realm of charitable works," said the Patriarch.


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