The Russian Church celebrates the family
by Vladimir Rozanskij

Inspired by the Orthodox Church a special day in veneration of the Blessed Princes Petr and Fevronia of Murom. The patriarchates support of single mothers and pregnant women in critical condition. Abortions have decreased by 35% in the country.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Day of the family, love and fidelity was celebrate din Russia yesterday. The Orthodox Church inspired this civil and religious holiday, commemorating a couple of blessed princes: Petr and Fevronia of Murom (see photo). In ancient Kievan Rus', around 1200, the couple saved themselves and their people from curses and infighting with their love and monastic consecration.

In the city of Murom, just over 200 km from Moscow, already in the 1990s the veneration of the blessed princes represented one of the most genuine expressions of the religious revival of post-communism. About 20 years ago, precisely in Murom and the province of Vladimir, people began to combine liturgical remembrance with public demonstrations in defense of the family.

"In recent years, the institution of the family has been suffering from a serious crisis," explains Maria Studenikina, director of the Moscow Patriarchate's Office of Family Support and the Orthodox charitable center "A Home for Mother." As Studenikina states, "the Church does everything it can to help people. Every woman who is faced with the dramatic choice of keeping a pregnancy or carrying out an abortion can count on our support." She points out that the patriarchate offers free room and board in a crisis center, humanitarian aid, legal consultations and the help of professional psychologists.

According to the "Save Life" program devised by the Orthodox Church, since 2015 in medical institutions and counseling centers across Russia the pre-abortion consultation program is active in aid of single mothers and pregnant women in critical condition. Where there is a lack of public workers to offer such services, they can be replaced by members of non-profit associations. In six years of activity, almost 100 thousand women have received support; about 15 thousand have preserved the pregnancy by obtaining various services. The Ministry of Health reports that thanks to this initiative, the number of abortions in the country has decreased by 35%. However, the practice remains widespread, a legacy of Soviet times, when the communist regime considered it normal and did not oppose it.

Today, 56 non-profit associations participate in the "Save Life" program: they are of Orthodox inspiration, but also secular. Through the Department for Charity and together with various medical institutions, the Moscow Patriarchate offers retraining courses for gynecologists, midwives and psychologists who work with women in critical conditions. Seventy-seven church hostels for pregnant women and single mothers are open. In addition, there are 221 humanitarian aid centers: they distribute clothes, shoes, food, personal and household cleaning items; they also provide beds and space for child care.

The Patriarchal Department for Charity coordinates the social service of the Orthodox Church not only in Russia, but also in other countries such as Moldova, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines and East Timor, where dioceses and missions of the Russian Church have been created