04/05/2011, 00.00
RUSSIA

Moscow Patriarchate calls on the faithful to hang the crucifix in schools and offices

Nina Achmatova
Archpriest Chaplin calls on Orthodox to be more courageous in demonstrating their faith. Human rights activists protest: ideas that contribute to dividing society.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – Fresh controversy has broken out in Russia between the Orthodox Church and human rights organizations. The head of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department for Relations between the Church and society, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, has appealed to the community of believers to be more courageous in showing their faith. "We should have no qualms about making the sign of the cross wherever we like, or hanging an image of the crucifix, where we live and work," the priest wrote in an article published in the April issue of the Orthodox journal Sovereign Rus'.

The idea of the crucifix in the workplace or in schools has angered human rights activists. "The problem in our society is not the number of crucifixes on the walls, but immorality," Lev Ponomarev, a noted leader of a human rights movement, told Interfax. "Concern yourselves more with prayers and sermons - he continued, addressing Chaplin – and not with pushing for official displays of Orthodox attributes”.  

He stressed that in Russia, church and state are separate and attacked the Patriarchate’s interference in civil society. "I think that religious symbols have no place in public offices, schools or in institutions - added Ponomarev – for example, if they were hung in schools, what would the many Muslims say? Would they start asking to hang the crescent? And why is it needed? All this will only contribute to dividing society. " Ponomarev has, however, admitted that if some people work in offices that are considered Orthodox, nobody has the right to prevent them from hanging a cross. " Bolstered by the decision of the European Court of Human Rights that has found display of crucifixes in classrooms not in violation of human rights, Chaplin continues to launch high-impact hypothesis on a society that is still recovering from 70 years of state atheism. In the case against Italy raised by a citizen of Finnish origin Sole Lautsi, the Moscow Patriarchate has always openly supported Italy.

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