Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill arrives on-Facebook
by Nina Achmatova
Despite Internet criticism, the leader of the Russian Church has arrived on the social networks in an attempt to "respond to the growing interest around his person."

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill, has opened a personal page on Facebook, launched - according to sources inside the Orthodox Church - to respond to growing public interest about his figure. The religious leader's open support for Vladimir Putin's return to the Kremlin and strong condemnation of the provocative performance of the punk band Pussy Riot - which cost the three band members prison - has sparked debate in Russia on the relationship Church and State, with criticism for his close ties with political power.

"There is a growing interest on the web for what he does and the Patriarch's presence on Facebook is a step forward to meet Internet users," a source inside the Orthodox Church told Reuters on condition of anonymity. "The Patriarch himself - he adds - uses the Internet to research information." The Moscow Patriarchate has its own YouTube channel launched in 2010.

At the height of the so-called "revolution of snow," which was born and spread through social networks, Kirill had warned the Russians not to trust the Internet, a tool - he said - that could "control" people.

In his Facebook profile, the patriarch is portrayed in prayer during a church service. On the page you can find many images from Kirill's youth, his travels and meetings, and his page has gained already 2,000 "likes " in less than 48 hours

At the beginning of this winter's protests against Putin, the Russian Orthodox Church leaders had asked the authorities to open up to dialogue, only to bless the former KGB agent, three-time president, as a "miracle of God." Criticisms about his figure grew over the past three months. Two scandals relating to the possession of an expensive watch and a prestigious apartment opposite the Kremlin, gave rise to speculation about a lifestyle that is not appropriate for a man of the Church. To guard against a smear campaign, he said, carried out by "anti-Russian forces", in late April Kirill announced a "Day of Prayer in defense of the faith" that has brought thousands of people to the Church of Christ the Saviour, symbol of religious revival in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union.