The head of the Russian Orthodox Church claims that the church is under an information attack, after several scandals broke out in less than a month.
Patriarch Kirill made the statement at Tuesday’s session of the newly-founded Supreme Church Council. He claimed that the “powerful anti-church rhetoric” coincided with “three terrible desecrations of churches”, and that he himself was subjected to information attacks.
The “desecrations” mentioned include an improvised concert by girl punk band Pussy Riot in Moscow’s major Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Police detained some of the group’s members, charging them with organized hooliganism, a criminal offence in Russia. Some church officials asked the state to give the young women the harshest possible sentence, but top religious leaders denounced the entire event as an attempt to sow discord between believers and non-believers.
Another part of the alleged campaign was the spreading of information about the Patriarch’s lawsuit against his neighbors in a historical apartment bloc near the Kremlin. Kirill seeks 20 million rubles (about $700 thousand) in damages, claiming that renovation work carried out by the family of former health minister Yuri Shevchenko caused clouds of grit to get into his apartment, damaging valuable books. The report was initially spread by lesser-known websites, but was later confirmed by Kirill himself in interviews with major media.
“Of course, we are dealing with a sort of information strategy against the church,” the top Russian cleric told the council.
He then said that the clergy must not descend to the level of the slanderers and critics by replying to their taunts in kind. He called upon his brethren not to lose their spiritual vision, and to prepare “reasonable answers that we will not be ashamed of”.
Kirill also thanked all those who defended the church and the clergy in the media.
The Patriarch was not the first to suggest that an information campaign is being run against the church – other clerics have also claimed to have been victims, and blamed none other than the devil himself. Neither Kirill nor other church supporters have so far tried to explain who is behind the smear campaign, and what it hopes to achieve.
However, a group of political experts said last week that the campaign could be aimed at general destabilization of the political situation in the country and also at undermining the Church’s authority after top hierarchs publicly voiced their support for Vladimir Putin at recent presidential elections.
Deputy dean of the political science department of the Higher School of Economics, Leonid Polyakov said that the campaign was aimed against the Patriarch and the Church in general. He suggested that it was organized by the fugitive tycoon Boris Berezovsky, who also recently announced plans to organize a Christian democratic party outside Russia. “Those who ordered the campaign intend to destroy the spiritual core and the foundations of the Russian political system. These are very dangerous actions that must be exposed,” Polyakov said.