In his first address before the State Duma, Patriarch Kirill calls for a revival of Soviet-era solidarity
by Nina Achmatova
The Russian Orthodox primate spoke before the lower house of parliament. For experts, Russia is a in the middle of economic and international crises, and must mobilise its institutions, especially religious ones.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - In his first address to the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia made a new appeal for peace in Ukraine. The primate urged parliamentarians to protect the family, proposing - among other things - a curb on abortions. He also called for a revival of the Soviet-era sense of solidarity to build modern Russia.

As the Patriarchate's spokesperson Aleksandr Volkov had announced, the patriarch focused on the matter of values and did not touch politics even though many had expected him to take a stance on the annexation of the Crimea.

Although he has avoided discussing the issue since the start of the Ukraine crisis, he did mention Russia's neighbour in order to appeal for peace in its eastern regions, where fighting has resumed following the failure to find a diplomatic solution in the past year.

"I appeal again to the parties in conflict: brothers, stop! Stop the anger and mutual resentment; become reconciled!" Kirill told the Members of the Duma.

The patriarch used the occasion to slam the many cases of destruction and seizure of Orthodox churches in the Ukraine, including by pro-Russian separatist groups.

He also expressed concern over the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, warning that civilisation could experience a catastrophe in the region.

Kirill spoke from the floor of the State Duma, as part of the "International Christmas Readings," now in their 23rd edition. Before this, he had addressed the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament.

 "This was a major event," Volkov said, "because although we have regular contacts with the legislature, the lower house of parliament is the place where decisions are made in the interest of our people, and the Church should not remain on the sidelines."

Aleksei Grishin, director of the Religion and Society Information and Analysis Centre, called the event historic.

"We can associate it to different things," he said, like "the international situation or the economic crisis." However, "we need to mobilise government institutions, civil society, social institutions, especially religious ones, in order to cope with foreign and economic crises from a position of strength."

"Why the Russian Orthodox Church?" asks Grishin. Because "it has been the backbone of the Russian state for over a millennium and it is the religion with the most believers."

Buttressed by such a mission, the Orthodox primate spoke about "solidarity" and a "desire to join efforts and do something good for your country", which characterised Soviet times and on which - according to him - modern Russia must be built.

Party competition, he concluded, must take place in the political arena, and not involve values, because if the country's moral basis is destroyed, "Russia will be no more".