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» 04/23/2012
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."



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See also
01/07/2013 RUSSIA
Kirill: Campaigns against the Russian Orthodox Church will not silence the Church
03/15/2012 RUSSIA
Pussy Riot case, Muslims invoke spiritual courts
by Nina Achmatova
03/12/2012 RUSSIA
Anti-Putin punk band divides Orthodox community
by Nina Achmatova
10/05/2012 RUSSIA
Pussy Riot become icons: "blasphemous" art exhibition under investigation
by Nina Achmatova
09/17/2012 RUSSIA
Crosses torn down and Pussy Riot slogans on a church in Georgia
by Nina Achmatova

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