04/17/2008, 00.00
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Under the law Russian Orthodoxy to retain “supervisory” role in Catholic orphanages

by Alexander Pirogov
State Duma bill becomes law without the provision that would have allowed only public orphanages, but it confirms the control of the Russian Orthodox Church over Catholic institutions.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – Private and religious groups that run orphanages in Russia can breathe a sign or relief after the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, recently approved a bill that modified the Family and Civil Codes that did not include a proposal which would have banned private children’s homes, allowing only those run by municipalities or states. At the same time the law places activities by Catholic orphanages under the control of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The idea of outlawing private institutions for orphans had generated a lively debate in Russian public opinion, causing criticism from the Moscow Patriarchate and human rights activists.

Discussions intensified after September 2007 when national media picked up the issue. After two months the draft bill was brought back to the Duma for review. Then Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (Federation president as of 7 May) expressed his support for non state orphanages and his appreciation for their work.

Religious children’s homes will thus be able to survive but a hard knock was delivered to Catholic centres. In fact the new piece of legislation on “supervision” will not ban the control function exercised by the Russian Orthodox Church on the activities of other institutions.

The decision had already been announced at a recent meeting of a joint working group dealing with problems between Catholics and Orthodox.

Representatives of the Catholic community in Russia have already expressed their concern over the matter but remain confident that they can overcome this trial.

For now though the Duma law has not yet come into force.

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