» 04/23/2012 RUSSIA Moscow, tens of thousands with Kirill in defense of the faith by Nina Achmatova After weeks of media scandals, the Patriarch of All Russia leads a procession and a prayer at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior: "Protect the Church from the anti-Russian forces."
Moscow (AsiaNews) - Thousands
of people took part in the day in defense of the faith yesterday in Russia,
organized by the Moscow Patriarchate to "protect the Church from the
attacks of anti-Russian forces", as stated by the same Patriarch Kirill,
center of a series of media scandals which are compromising his image.
At least 40 thousand
people arrived for a prayer led by the patriarch at Christ the Saviour
Cathedral in Moscow.
The same church, where in late February the Pussy Riot group sang their "punk
prayer", in which they condemned the close relations between the
Patriarchate and the newly elected President Vladimir Putin. The gesture cost
the band's three girls custody on charges of "hooliganism". The
incident has raised a heated debate over the role of the Church in politics and
exposed Kirill to harsh criticism. "We are under attack by anti-Russian
force," said the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in front of the crowd
of priests and faithful. "The danger is that blasphemy and mockery of
religion are presented as a legitimate expression of human freedom, which must
be protected in modern society," he added.
Media and internet criticism of Kirill intensified after his open support for
the third nomination of Vladimir Putin to the Kremlin. The religious leader had
called the 12-year reign of the politician and former KGB agent at the head of Russia as
"a miracle of God", but shortly after he railed against the Pussy Riot,
demanding exemplary punishment. On 20 April, Moscow's court ordered that the three girls,
held since March, remain behind bars until at least June 24, to allow
investigators to complete investigations. In fact, it is a case of detention
without trial, note human rights activists, who point out that the three women
face up to seven years in prison.
According to many believers, the "punk prayer " was nothing more than
the beginning of a series of "acts of vandalism" against the Orthodox
Church. Some of these have brought to light, in the Russian media, Kirill's life
of luxury and privilege prompting the Patriarch to hold a Day of Prayer. "The
reason for this hostility -, according to Pyatigorsk theology student Anastasia
Pavlukhova - is that the Church now supports the state more explicitly and so
they attack it to indirectly affect the authorities." On 6 March, as news
agency Reuters recalls, a man with an ax lashed out against icons in Veliky
Ustyug, north-east of Moscow.
Two weeks later, an attacker armed with a knife, attacked and desecrated a
priest at the altar in the Church
of Nevynnomyssk, in the
south-east of the country.
"I came here because there is a risk that Russia will return to its past
without God," said Olga Golubeva, 54, a lawyer, who has participated in the
procession and prayer led by Kirill yesterday. According to the Patriarchate,
the participants were 50 thousand, 65 thousand for the Ministry of the
Interior, and 40 thousand for the international press. Other similar events
with thousands of people were held in Yaroslavl,
Krasnodar and St. Petersburg.
"The Church needs this kind of events to prove it has more supporters than
detractors - says Alexei Makarkin, an analyst with the Center for political
technologies in Moscow
- but also to consolidate the support of clergy and faithful." "Within
the Church itself - he adds - opinions are divided on what was worse: the
performance of Pussy Riot or the reaction of the Patriarchate, the scandal or the
demand for punishment for the girls."