Friday, January 15, 2021
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Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and All Russia meets with lawmakers
Speaking Friday before the State Duma, or the lower Russian parliamentary house, Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and All Russia called on the lawmakers to reckon with the interests of religious organizations and communities. When voting on bills related to morals, upbringing and land, parliament should be mindful of the interests of religious organizations fostering the nation's spiritual revival and strengthening its morality, the patriarch said to the MPs. "We are not seeking privileged treatment, but are just asking to bear in mind the Church's efforts to solve social problems," Alexis II pointed out. "We are not asking for any funds as we are self-financed, but we are requesting that issues, especially land-related ones, should be settled with due account for the interests of the Church's activity." He said it would be desirable for the Church to be able to use farmland. "There is no such thing as timeless use [of land] in Russia today; land can either be leased or owned," Alexis II said. The Church is pushing for the right for a religious community to use land as long as that community exists. The Patriarch then voiced the Church's concern over some of the bills currently under discussion in the State Duma. One such bill has to do with rallies and demonstrations. This piece of legislation restricts the time of holding rallies and processions to the 7am-11pm bracket. But how about the procession traditionally preceding the Easter Vigil, His Beatitude wondered. He called on the lawmakers to cooperate with the Church in discussing issues relating to the activity of religious faiths and denominations. Alexis II spoke out for putting the fundamentals of Orthodox Christian culture on the school curriculum in Russia. He cautioned against confusing this subject with catechism and said that Orthodox Christianity courses should be optional and offered as part of programs in cultural studies. Every person must know the history of the culture to which he/she belongs, the Patriarch pointed out, adding that the Russian Orthodox Church traced its history back more than a thousand years. He also said in Russian areas with predominantly Muslim, Jewish or Buddhist populations, the history of the prevalent religion should be studied at schools alongside Orthodox Christianity. Alexis' main argument in favor of making religious studies part of the school curriculum is that no faith professes evil, but all of them teach kindness and high moral values. Work with incarcerated persons is among the Church's major priorities, Alexis said. He reminded his audience that 385 cathedrals and over 700 rooms of worship had now been built in jails and penitentiaries across Russia. "When touring the provinces, I try to visit local prisons," Alexis II said. He told the MPs about his visit to a church on the premises of a Chelyabinsk penitentiary, saying that everything in that church was made by inmates. "The Church helps prisoners overcome their inclination to evil and crime, and some of them [eventually] come to realize that they have gone the wrong way, but must now opt for the righteous path," the Russian Patriarch pointed out.
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