DAILY CATHOLIC MONDAY September 20, 1999 vol. 10, no. 178
NEWS & VIEWS
RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH IN SEARCH OF IDENTITY
Patriarch Kirill at Bose Ecumenical Congress
BOSE, SEP 17 (ZENIT).- Patriarch Kirill, second in authority in the hierarchy of the Moscow Patriarchy, made an evaluation of the "Russian Orthodox Church on the threshold of the third millennium," during the 7th International Ecumenical Congress, which began yesterday in the ecumenical monastery of Bose.
Kirill, who is Patriarch of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, and Moscow Patriarch Alexey II's Foreign Minister, said that "many Christians in Russia do not accept" a balanced situation, swinging instead from the ultra conservatives to the extremely liberal. We are "in a time of transition and movement," far from what the Patriarch considers the "ideal model."
Kirill's assessment is reflected in the current outbreaks of violence in Russia, and the moral degradation that is manifest, threatening Russian society. Although Kirill did not refer to the recent bomb attacks in his country, he was explicit about the responsibilities, including the civic role, of Christians. "The Russian Church must do its duty to save its people." In other words, it must "give evangelical motivation to citizens' private life and to the civic life of the nation. At present, there are many believers in Russia, scrupulous observers of religious rules, but when asked about the relation of faith to social life, they don't even understand the question. We want faith to be reborn in the Russian people, because we are convinced that this will help society in a concrete way to build relations that will guarantee respect for its own identity, to develop economically, and to have a peaceful role in the world."
This is the reason the Orthodox hierarchy has referred to the "social doctrine of the Church" in the West, an Orthodox version of which "was elaborated on the basis of experience over the years," which will be presented in the year 2000. Moreover, the Russian Church has renounced political power. "In 1992 we could have had a majority in the Duma, with all the priests who had been asked to be candidates; but we have prohibited (our) religious direct involvement in politics because the Church can only criticize power when it can demonstrate it has no personal interests."
The future of Christians in Russia, Patriarch Kirill pointed out, is not a problem of means. "Over the past ten years we have witnessed enormous changes in ecclesiastical life. We have reopened thousands of churches and hundreds of monasteries; we have at least 100 religious leaders and dozens of theological schools. Materially, we have everything that we could not even dream of at the time of the Millennium of Rus. Of course places of worship are lacking, but even if the number was doubled, these would be empty, as we see in Europe. We could produce Orthodox television and no one would watch it." This is not the aim of the current "religious renaissance." In Kirill's opinion, the issue is to find an "effective mediation between Russian cultural and religious tradition and modern models of civilization that are no longer Christian."
"The tragedy of the Christian this century -- and one must be blind not to see the corrosion of values in West and East -- is not in the loss of the Church's political or economic influence, but in the fact that Christian motivation is no longer a determining factor in people's life. The crisis is not in the Church, but in Christian civilization. And, given the terrifying and bloody experience of our martyrs, we wish to affirm that without faith, human civilization does not have the possibility to survive," Kirill warned.
"The Orthodox Church has always been controlled by the government. Now, for the first time in its millenary history, it can construct a new model in its relations with the government. What is needed is a balance between those who wish to return to a 'National Church' and the super-democratic for whom Orthodoxy is just one confession among others."
"But, in regard to all the rest, we do not want to isolate ourselves; we
want to give witness in this world, by suffering and battling for the
Gospel. (We want to be) worthy heirs of the thousands of anonymous Orthodox
martyrs of Communism, "killed in basements as political criminals, without
anyone even being aware of their heroism," he concluded.
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NEWS & VIEWS