Orthodox Church warns that youth neo-paganism is a challenge for the future
by Nina Achmatova

A few days before the anniversary of the Baptism of Rus, Moscow Patriarchate officials sound the alarm against paganism among athletes and soldiers. Going back on Christianity “is a step towards self-destruction.”

Moscow (AsiaNews) – As the anniversary of the Baptism of Rus approaches, Russian Orthodox Church officials warn against the growing popularity of neo-pagan groups, which they describe as a "direct challenge" to the Church.

At a recent press conference, Vakhtang Kipshidze, deputy chief of the Department for Church relations with society and the media of the Moscow Patriarchate, said that the people of Rus left pagan practice after the baptism. “Unfortunately today there is a movement that shows interest in the pagan past, and some organisations are trying to reincarnate this quasi-religion.”

"Baptism, for us, was a historic choice and an irrevocable fact,” he stressed. “Attempts to revise it, even citing pagan apologetic arguments, are based on an invention of the pagan representation of reality."

According to Kipshidze, to go back on the civilisational choice made by the ‘baptiser’ of Rus "is a step towards self-destruction."

Russian Orthodox believers mark the anniversary of Christianity’s adoption in Rus, also known as the Baptism of Rus, on the day that Grand Prince Vladimir was baptised – 15 July according to the Julian calendar, and 28 July, according to the Gregorian calendar – in the year 988.

Last winter, Vladimir Legoyda, head of the Department for Church relations with society and the media, complained about the rising popularity of neo-paganism in Russia.

"We are witnessing the growth of neo-pagan sentiments among young people; first of all, among athletes, and then in the Armed Forces and the Special Forces, which is doubly unpleasant," Legoyda said.

For him, this is a "direct challenge" to the Church over the coming future.

What is more, "It seems to me that this problem will only get worse,” he lamented, and that “It should not be underestimated".

It is such a concern that led to the recent creation of the Patriarchal Commission for Physical Education and Sport.