09/13/2010, 00.00
RUSSIA
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The Russian Orthodox Church calls for same legal status as Catholics in Ireland

by Nina Achmatova
Patriarch Kirill spoke at a meeting in Moscow with Irish President McAleese. Orthodox parishes in Ireland are registered as “charitable organisations". The request in line with the Orthodox Patriarchate policy of strengthening its presence abroad.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Moscow Patriarchate has asked Dublin to change the status of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ireland and make it similar to that of Catholics, no longer as a "charitable organization", but a Church in every respect. The request, which affects 1,500 people, was made on 8 September during a meeting in Moscow between Irish President Mary McAleese and Patriarch Kirill. It was the first state visit to the Russian Federation for McAleese.

"His Holiness raised the issue of granting the Russian Orthodox Church a similar status to that of the Catholic Church in Ireland. This is a very important goal," stated Fr. Georgy Zavershinsky, head of communications for External Relations Department of the Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. The priest explained that tRussian Orthodox parishes in many Western countries are registered as charitable communities, similar to other small communities or sects. Besides Ireland, this is also the case in Britain.

Patriarch Kirill spoke of the situation of Orthodox parishes in Ireland: "In general, in the twentieth century there were several waves of emigration from the Soviet Union, and the people established themselves in Western countries, including Ireland. When I talk of these people, I refer not only to citizens of the Russian Federation, but also to the Moscow Patriarchate and the Church of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova. Taken together, many of them now live in Ireland where we have five parishes, and some are very active (eg, Dublin).

The president promised to start bilateral consultations between ministers to discuss the issue and if necessary between the premier of the two countries. Today the Russian Orthodox Church in Ireland has about 1500 faithful, out of a total population of 4,150,000 inhabitants.

The words of Kirill confirm the policy initiated by the successor of Alexius II towards a strong promotion and strengthening of the presence of the Russian Orthodox Church abroad, from China to the Caribbean, throughout south-east Asia and Europe. Of note, however, that in Russia the Catholic Church is not recognized among the four official religions (Orthodox, Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist) which enjoy a privileged status.

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