10/17/2011, 00.00
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Thirteen new dioceses for the Russian Orthodox Church

by Nina Achmatova
The Holy Synod approved the creation of new eparchies from Irkutsk to Kazakhstan. The restructuring of the canonical territory of the Moscow Patriarchate continues, the largest reform since 1991.
Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Moscow Patriarchate has given the green light for the establishment of 13 new dioceses throughout its territory, as part of what the media in Russia have already called the biggest reform of the Orthodox Church since the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Continuing the project that began last March and which has already seen the creation of eight new dioceses including three in the North Caucasus, last week the Holy Synod - which is the highest administrative level, chaired by Patriarch Kirill - approved the foundation of new dioceses in Kazakhstan, in the regions of Irkutsk, Orenburg, Ryazan, Saratov and in the Republic of Tyva, as reported by the website of the Russian Orthodox Church.

According to some analysts, as well as to improve the administration of the Church at the local level, the restructuring of the canonical territory strengthens the authority of the Patriarch, who already last year had launched a more centralized management of the church, even for missions . Vladimir Vigilyansky, spokesman for the Patriarchate, told the newspaper Kommersant that the reform is to improve the organization of life of the Church still based on a structure of Soviet times, "so a diocese can include cities 1000 km distant from each other and parishioners who don’t even know who their bishop is. "

Many priests approve the reform and the bishops believe that it will help to establish more direct contacts with churches for a more concrete guidance. "The fact that the priests have sometimes never even met the bishop who in turn was not aware of the daily life of the parishes has often been a problem," Andrei from the parish of the Assumption in Angarsk , in the Irkutsk region, told The Moscow Times.

For some, the opening of new dioceses and the construction of new churches is a sign of religious revival in Russia after decades of state atheism. But for others, it is also a strategy to boost the power of Patriarch Kirill, considered not only a religious but also political figure.

According to the director of the Institute of Religion and Law, Roman Lunkin, "the reform of the Church will strengthen the personal authority of the Patriarch in the provinces, because the new bishops are people loyal to him." Last year, Kirill has taken personal control of the Patriarchate missions Department, ordering its expansion. At the time some had suggested the same “vertical power plan” applied to State management by Vladimir Putin in his first term as president was also being brought to bear on the religious sphere.

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