» 05/14/2013, 00.00
RUSSIA - CHINA
Patriarch Kirill calls for recognition of Orthodox Church in China, but is silent on religious freedom
In Russia, commentators and analysts ponder the meaning of the Orthodox leader’s mission to the People's Republic. For some it is one step in the Kremlin's foreign policy, which aims to strengthen a renewed geopolitical alliance with China. For others, the goal is only pastoral: the Orthodox Church needs restructuring.
(AsiaNews) - "Is it acceptable from a moral point of view, to ask for the official recognition of
Orthodox Christianity in China and keep quiet about the thousands of victims of
religious persecution in this country?". This
is one of the most frequently asked questions, these days, on Internet sites
and blogs of religious information in Russia, that are following the
"historic" visit of the Patriarch of Moscow, Kirill, to the People's
Republic of China, which will end on May 15 . The
leader of the Russian Orthodox Church has already met with Chinese President Xi
Jinping and with the leaders of local Christian communities and of the Chinese
Department of Religious Affairs. He
hopes that Beijing will grant Orthodox Christianity (after Catholicism, Protestantism,
Islam, Buddhism and Taoism) the status of "recognized religion" by
the government. But
he has thus far remained silent about the plight of religious freedom in the
he has recognized as interlocutors, the very institutions that are responsible
for this repressive policy, inviting them to join efforts to "strengthen
the moral values in the world."
No one expected
something different. For
many commentators, Kirill's visit has a more political-diplomatic character than
tones were cordial and open for what Xi himself termed the "first visit by
a head of the Russian Orthodox Church and a Russian religious leader." The
mission of the Patriarch follows another "historic" event: the visit to
Moscow in March, of the newly elected Chinese president, on his first trip
abroad and clear signal of a renewed resolve to strengthen bilateral relations
between the two neighbors. And
to cement an alliance geopolitics, which finds its lynch pin in the common
objective of limiting U.S. influence in the Asia-Pacific region. In
this context, a more structured orthodoxy obedient to Moscow - according to
some analysts - would mean for Beijing the possibility of forming a sort of
" visible spiritual opposition" to Western Christianity,
traditionally associated with the Vatican and the United States.
Orthodox Church, moreover, could also represent a "middleman" useful
- others point out - in dialogue with the Kremlin. Beijing
recognize the Moscow Patriarchate as an important actor in Russian foreign
policy, with close connections to the corridors of power. The
same Xi invited Kirill to "play a greater role" in cementing the
relationship between the two nations.
Russian commentators are
the director of radio Kommersant, Konstantin von Eggert, the Patriarch's
visit to China, "undoubtedly has a political significance." "Behind
it all - the columnist, told AsiaNews - is the concept of Russkiy Mir
(Russian World): strengthening, that is, the presence of the Russian people and
culture in the world." "This
is real 'soft power' - he added- every one of the Patriarch's actions abroad seem
more like political propaganda, and not of a spiritual and pastoral nature."
Zolotov - director of the news website Russia Profile and expert on
religious matters - in Russia Church and State promote an often agreed foreign
said, however, the Patriarchate remains an independent institution. "Sometimes
the priorities of the state coincide with those of the Church. Sometimes - he
admits - the Church influences the state, as in the case of inclusion in the
political agenda of issues such as the fight against 'Christian-phobia' and the
persecution of Christians ". Despite
this - adds the expert, contacted by AsiaNews - Kirill's visit to China
"has a much more spiritual significance than political." "The
Orthodox Church has huge problems in the country - he explains - the church
hierarchy needs to be completely reconstituted." For fifty years bishops,
priests and parishes are lacking. According
to him, the presence of Kirill in China (where he celebrated the Divine Liturgy
in Beijing, and at the chapel in the Russian Embassy in Harbin, the central
place of worship for the Orthodox community) will be relief and aid to Chinese
faithful (about 15 thousand). According
to Zolotov, the Patriarch's visit to the Church of Shanghai will be of
particular significance. St.
John of Shanghai and San Francisco, one of the twentieth century's most revered
Orthodox saints, worked here.
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