A series of conferences held from 23 to 26 January brought together researchers, teachers, students and politicians from Russia and around the world. For Metropolitan Mercurius, “it is rare to find those who are willing to have Christian justice as the foundation of their professional activity”.
Moscow (AsiaNews) – The 26th edition of ‘Christmas Readings’, a Church-centred social forum, was held in Moscow from 23 to 26 January.
The event has grown in importance after a slow start in the 1990s with few experts in theology and religious culture following the long winter of Soviet atheism.
This year, more than 15,000 people took part in the Readings from all the regions of the Russian Federation, with many guests from other countries like Ukraine, Belarus, the United States, Great Britain, Georgia, Greece.
Following the post-Soviet tradition, the Patriarch of Moscow presided over the Christmas Readings. The Synodal Department for religious education and catechesis led by the metropolitan of Rostov Mercurius (Ivanov) organised the event.
Patriarch Kirill (Gundyayev) opened the proceedings at the Kremlin Palace of Congresses (picture 1). The next day he made a report about it to the Federation Council, the Russian Senate, which was involved in this important Church event.
As Metropolitan Mercurius (picture 3) told journalists, about 190 sessions were held at the various Readings venues. Discussions centred on Church life today, public education, youth, voluntary work and charity, restoration and construction of churches, science and culture.
All of Moscow's high schools were involved this year with 300 sending different professors and students to the meetings. Various representatives came from high schools in many Russian regions.
The meetings were also held in particularly prestigious and important venues like the State Duma (lower house of parliament), the Chamber of Commerce, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour and Lomonosov State University in Moscow.
The director of the Synodal Department for Church-Society Relations, Vladimir Legoyda, noted that it is no coincidence that the main theme of this year's Christmas Readings was "Moral values and the future of humanity".
“We often pronounce the word 'morality' today, devoid of its meaning,” Legoyda said. “What does the Church want to talk about? About the fact that morality is about the emotions we experienced recently following the school tragedies in Perm and Buryatia, for example. The theme that we present is directly connected to the need to educate ourselves first, so that certain things do not happen anymore."
According to the representative of the Moscow Patriarchate, true morality "are the bureaucrats who do not steal, the children to whom no one brings violence and abuse, families that do not break up, socially responsible commerce, and the ability of each of us to throw trash out of the house without calling the press."
According to Zinaida Dragunkina, chairwoman of the Federation Council Committee for Science, Education and Culture, "the theme of this year's Readings was about children, teenagers and the issues of moral values to be passed on to the youngest. We cannot limit ourselves to declarations in principle. We must prepare young people for the practical realisation of these values."
During the Readings, two competitions were held to encourage student participation, one for children, on "the Beauty of the Divine World", and one for young people up to 20 years on “the moral commitment of the teacher "(picture 2).
Patriarch Kirill along with the Speaker of the Federation Council Valentina Matviyenko handed out the awards on Thursday in the presence of the authorities and many lawmakers, in the main hall of the Kremlin.
Metropolitan Mercurius handed out an award, a medal "In memory of the 100th anniversary of the restoration of the Patriarchate", to Chairperson Dragunkina.
Speaking at the final Readings Round Table on the "Role of ethical and moral values in the formation of the person through the education system", Mercurius stressed the importance of collaboration in the field of education at the highest levels of Church representatives and state institutions.
"We have a simpler and more effective recipe for the rebirth and grounding of morals in our homeland, compared to the uncertain road of seeking a consensus, namely we propose respect for evangelical precepts. One cannot but agree – no one can question the greatness of the evangelical doctrine.
“At the same time, it is rare to find those who are willing to accept Christian justice as the foundation of their professional activity, without adjusting it to the circumstances of time and the difficulties of social development.” Still, “In the history of the Church and our homeland we find many examples of sacrifice of earthly goods for the realisation of the ideals of the Gospel."
According to the metropolitan, notwithstanding the proper education to civil duties, it is necessary to inculcate the true end of social life through the education of young people, to prepare them to enter into the heavenly homeland, in accordance with the words of the Gospel.
"Only this way can the Church understand the meaning, not only of school, training and education, but also of politics and the entire construction of society . . . Every year, by organising Christmas Readings, we hope that the vision of the Church will become a decisive element in state politics, so that we can look with real hope to our future.”