The Russian Orthodox Church and its values have been under an attack from those opposed to its post-Soviet revival, which is aimed at testing the depth of people’s faith, says the head of the Church, Patriarch Kirill.
What has been happening in terms of aggression against the Church “is certainly not accidental,” he believes.
“I can’t get rid of the thought that it was a certain offensive reconnaissance to check… the devotion to Orthodox Christianity in Russia,” the Patriarch told a weekly news program on Rossiya TV channel.
He is confident that masterminds of “provocations” have now seen that Russians are not a “faceless, quiet mass,” but people who are capable of protecting their shrines.
The Russian Church has lately been target of fierce criticism in the media over the Pussy Riot trial and the luxurious lifestyles of some orthodox clerics. After three young women from the infamous punk band were sentenced to two years in jail for hooliganism, a number of holy sites across the country were desecrated by Pussy Riot supporters: vandals chopped down crosses and left graffiti right on walls of churches.
According to Patriarch Kirill, the recent aggression is aimed not against the Church only, but against “our cultural core.”
Russia was called “Holy Rus” not because of its large number of cathedrals, but because holiness and understanding of the sacred “have always been a dominant facet of life” in the country, he pointed out.
“And exactly this heart, this dominant facet has been struck,” the Patriarch added.
However, attempts to undermine the moral grounds of life of the people have failed, he added, citing polls.
“The absolute majority of Russians do not accept blasphemy…and stand for laws that would limit the spread of the sin,” Patriarch Kirill noted.
Patriarch Kirill stated that assumptions that there is a merger between the Russian Orthodox Church and the state were nothing but “an intentionally-created myth” aimed at attacking the Church.
The goal of those who impose such an idea is to convince people that the Church wants to control their minds and will, and is therefore “dangerous” in terms of freedom, he observed.
In the past 20 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union the Church has achieved impressive results in enlightenment: “our people have become Orthodox.”
“So how should a politician believer behave? Should one distance in every possible way from one’s beliefs?” Patriarch Kirill pointed out.
If officials maintain a friendly dialogue with clerics or if the president or prime minister pray once or twice a year with the patriarch, it is not yet proof of collusion between the state and the church, he stressed.
He recalled that opponents also tried to prove the existence of such collusion by referring to his trip to a submarine base in the town of Vilyuchinsk in the Kamchatka Region.
“So what? Why does no one conclude that there is a merger between the Church and the state in the US when we see chaplains in Afghanistan?” Kirill observed.
“What frightens our opponents is the Christianization of our society,” the patriarch stated.