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The Socio-Political Relevance of Orthodoxy in Russia

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  • Al Green
    Europaica 32 Bulletin of the Representation of the Russian Orthodox Church to the European Institutions The Socio-Political Relevance of Orthodoxy in Russia
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 5, 2004
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      Europaica 32
      Bulletin of the Representation of the Russian Orthodox Church to the
      European Institutions

      The Socio-Political Relevance of Orthodoxy in Russia

      Paper presented by Bishop Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Vienna and Austria at
      the conference "Russia and European Integration", held at the Vienna
      Political Academy on 8 November 2003

      The 20th century has gone down as the bloodiest and most tragic
      chapter in the history of the Russian Orthodox Church. Persecutions
      of unprecedented scale were unleashed against the Church by the
      militant atheists after their coming to power in 1917. During the
      twenty years of revolutionary terror that began during Lenin's time
      and continued during Stalin's rule, the Church was almost totally
      annihilated. By 1939 all monasteries and theological schools were
      closed, and tens of thousands of churches were either blown up or
      shut down. Of more than 60,000 pre-revolutionary churches only about
      a hundred remained open; of more than 150 bishops serving before the
      revolution only four remained free. The overwhelming majority of the
      clergy and monastics (whose number before the revolution exceeded
      200,000) were either shot to death or tortured in concentration
      camps. Although the Soviet government's policy toward religion
      changed somewhat during World War II, the 1960s brought a new wave of
      repressions. Until the beginning of the 1990s the Church remained a
      social outcast since it was impossible to openly confess one's faith
      and at the same time occupy any more or less significant position in
      society. The entire activity of the Church was under the strictest
      control of the authorities, the number of churches and clergymen was
      severely regulated, and missionary, educational and charitable work
      was forbidden.

      In spite of seventy years of cruel persecution the Russian Church was
      not dead by the beginning of the 1990s. On the contrary, a gradual
      growth of interest in religion among people of all classes of
      society, particularly among the youth, could be observed already in
      the 1970s and 1980s. This process acquired a widespread character
      after the fall of the Soviet regime. Over the past twenty years
      thousands of churches, hundreds of monasteries and dozens of
      theological schools have been opened. The number of bishops at the
      present time has more than doubled and has now reached approximately
      150, while the number of priests, deacons and their parishes has more
      than quadrupled and now counts about 30,000. The growth statistics of
      monasteries and church educational institutions is particularly
      impressive: in 1988 there were 18 monasteries in the jurisdiction of
      the Moscow Patriarchate, while now there are over 600; and the number
      of theological schools during this period has grown from three to
      more than 100.

      According to statistics, about seventy per cent of Russians think of
      themselves as belonging to the Russian Orthodox Church. The majority
      of believers in the Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova belong to the Moscow
      Patriarchate, and most Orthodox believers in the Baltic (Estonia,
      Latvia, Lithuania) and Central Asian countries (Kazakhstan,
      Kyrgyzstan, Tadzhikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan) count themselves
      members of our Church. The total number of faithful of the Russian
      Orthodox Church living in Russia, the above-mentioned countries as
      well as outside of them
      (particularly in Western Europe) comprises well over 100 million;
      some sources give the figure of 160 million.

      This unprecedented quantitative growth was accompanied by radical
      changes in the Church's socio-political situation. For the first time
      after more than seventy years the Church once again became an
      integral part of society and was recognized as a highly authoritative
      spiritual and moral power; and for the first time after many
      centuries the Church acquired the right to independently define its
      place in society and its relations with the state without any
      interference from secular authorities.

      This change in the Church's status required from it tremendous
      efforts in overcoming the 'ghetto mentality,' which had been formed
      during the many years of forced isolation. If clergymen had earlier
      associated only with their parishioners who thought in the same
      categories as they did, now they had to confront a great number of
      people unfamiliar with the Church's teaching and practices, whose
      knowledge of religion was either rudimentary or non-existent. If
      priests earlier did not preach outside the walls of their churches,
      now they had the possibility of appearing on television, radio and in
      print. If society had earlier lived its own life and the Church its
      own, the Church was now drawn into society's discussion of the
      fundamental questions of our times.

      Ten years of intensive work in understanding and analyzing these
      contemporary problems were crowned with the adoption of a document
      entitled 'The Bases of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox
      Church' at the Bishops' Council of 2000. The significance of this
      document has yet to be understood and properly evaluated. The 'Bases
      of the Social Concept' is a kind of codex reflecting the Church's
      position on questions involving church-state relations and
      contemporary society in general. It is also a very lengthy document
      (more than 100 pages), intended to serve as a spiritual and moral
      guide for the entire Russian Church. The moral demands set forth in
      the 'Bases of the Social Concept' are obligatory not just for the
      clergy, but in no lesser way for the laity as well.

      I should note that the process of creating this document was not an
      easy one. The editorial committee was comprised by people of various,
      sometimes even diametrically opposed views. Some topics, for example
      church-state relations, personal, family and social morality,
      bioethics and national self-consciousness caused and continue to
      cause lively discussion within the Church. It seemed as if some
      opinions were absolutely irreconcilable, but as the experience of the
      editorial committee showed, the collective, conciliar mind of the
      Church is able to overcome such inner contradictions by turning to
      the sources of the Christian faith, the treasures of the Church's
      Tradition. The document adopted at the Council of 2000 is a result of
      constructive and creative discussions and the fruit of a consensus
      reached on those questions to which the Church had never voiced its
      answer.

      For the first time in its history the Russian Church defined with
      utmost clarity its relation to society and stated the essence of its
      mission in the world. 'The task of secular law is not to turn the
      world, lying in evil, into the Kingdom of God, but to prevent it from
      turning into hell'
      (IV.2.). Accordingly, the meaning of the Church's existence in the
      world lies in the continuation of the saving mission of the Lord
      Jesus Christ, who 'came to the world He was to save and restore,
      humbling Himself to match its conditions. The Church should go
      through the process of historical kenosis, fulfilling her redemptive
      mission. Her goal is not only the salvation of people in this world,
      but also the salvation and restoration of the world itself. The
      Church is called to act in the world in the image of Christ, to bear
      witness to Him and His Kingdom' (I.2).

      Western mass media frequently speak of how the Russian Orthodox
      Church, supposedly following the Byzantine tradition of church-state
      symphony, is attempting to claim the place of a state Church and make
      Orthodoxy the official national religion. The 'Bases of the Social
      Concept,' together with numerous statements made by Patriarch Alexy
      II, the Holy Synod and leading hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate,
      prove the groundlessness of such allegations.

      In fact, the Church is well aware of the danger of losing its freedom
      if it becomes part of the government apparatus. Orthodoxy was the
      state religion of Russia for many centuries, which meant that the
      Church not only enjoyed a respected position in society and a
      substantial income, but was also totally dependent on the government.
      During the Synodal period (1700-1917) the Church was essentially part
      of the bureaucratic system, with the consequent violation of its
      freedom and limitation of its activities. The Church did not even
      have a patriarch: it was headed by the tsar as the 'keeper of the
      faith.' During Soviet times it was even more enslaved to the state,
      and although the principle of separation of Church and state had been
      proclaimed, it worked only in favor of the authorities: the Church
      received nothing from the government while the latter interfered in
      the affairs of the Church and completely controlled its life.

      Taking into account the sorrowful experience of persecutions in the
      20th century, the Russian Orthodox Church included the following
      statement in the 'Bases of the Social Concept': 'The Church remains
      loyal to the state, but God's commandment to fulfil the task of
      salvation in any situation and under any circumstances is above this
      loyalty.' And: 'If the authorities force Orthodox believers to
      apostatise from Christ and His Church and to commit sinful and
      spiritually harmful actions, the Church should refuse to obey the
      state' (III.5). Cases of such civil disobedience can be of either
      personal or general nature:

      The Christian, following the will of his conscience, can refuse to
      fulfil the commands of state forcing him into grave sin. If the
      Church and her holy authorities find it impossible to obey state laws
      and orders, after a due consideration of the problem, they may take
      the following action: enter into direct dialogue with the authorities
      on the problem, call upon the people to use democratic mechanisms to
      change the legislation or review the authority's decision, apply to
      international bodies and world public opinion and appeal to her
      faithful for peaceful civil disobedience (III.5).

      This point on civil disobedience is an integral part of the
      consciousness of the Orthodox Church. However, I believe that
      the 'Bases of the Social Concept' is the first document in the
      history of world Orthodox Christianity in which a statement on the
      possibility of disobedience to the state has been made at an official
      level. This once again illustrates the degree of freedom which our
      Church enjoys today in Russia and some other post-Soviet countries.

      The document systematically expounds the principles governing the
      Church's relations with the state and society. Confirming the
      principle of separation of Church and state, the Council's document
      stresses that 'the Church should not assume the prerogatives of the
      state, such as resistance to sin by force, use of temporal
      authoritative powers and assumption of governmental functions which
      presuppose coercion or restriction' (III.3). The Church, in its turn,
      expects from the state respect for its canonical regulations:

      The state should not interfere in the life of the Church or her
      government, doctrine, liturgical life, spiritual guidance of her
      flock, etc., or the work of canonical church institutions in general,
      except for those aspects where the Church is supposed to operate as a
      legal entity obliged to enter into certain relations with the state,
      its legislation and governmental agencies. The Church expects that
      the state will respect her canonical norms and other internal
      statutes (III.3).

      The Church can effect its participation in state affairs by
      cooperating in those areas which touch upon its sphere of interests,
      such as 1) peace-making at the international, inter-ethnic and civil
      levels, fostering mutual understanding and cooperation between
      peoples, nations and states;
      2) concern for the moral state of society; 3) spiritual, cultural,
      moral and patriotic education; 4) works of mercy and charity and the
      development of joint social programs; 5) the protection, restoration
      and development of the historical and cultural legacy, including the
      care of historical and cultural monuments; 6) dialogue with organs of
      state government of any kind and at all levels on questions
      significant to the Church and society, including those involving the
      creation of relevant legislation, decrees and decisions; 7) pastoral
      care for soldiers and law-enforcement personnel and their spiritual
      and moral education; 8) crime prevention and pastoral care for
      prisoners; 9) scholarship, including research in the area of
      humanities; 10) health; 11) culture and creative activities; 12) the
      work of church and secular mass media; 13) activities for the
      conservation of the environment; 14) economic activity for the
      benefit of the Church, state and society; 15) supporting the
      institute of the family, motherhood and childhood; 16) opposing the
      activities of pseudo-religious organizations harmful for the
      individual and society. ????????

      Many other questions are examined in the 'Bases of the Social
      Concept,' for example the Church's stance on politics. The document
      states that the Church does not participate in political struggle and
      cannot associate itself with any political party or power. At the
      same time it stresses:

      The fact that the Plenitude of the Church does not participate in
      political struggle, in the work of political parties and in election
      processes does not signify her refusal to express publicly her stand
      on socially significant issues and to present this stand to
      governmental bodies in any country and on any level. This position
      may be expressed only by Councils, the church authorities and those
      empowered to act for them. In any case, the right to express it
      cannot be delegated to public offices, political or other secular
      organisations (V.2).

      While proclaiming the possibility of civil disobedience, the Church
      is also ready to cooperate with the government in the moral education
      of the people. Orthodox Christians themselves are called to give a
      living example of a reasonable and self-sacrificing attitude to their
      homeland:

      The patriotism of the Orthodox Christian should be active. It is
      manifested when he defends his motherland against an enemy, works for
      the good of the motherland, cares for the good order of people's
      lives through, among other things, participation in the affairs of
      government. The Christian is called to preserve and develop national
      culture and people's self-awareness (II.3).

      It is important to note that the concept of patriotism in church
      Tradition does not contain nationalistic overtones or the idea of non-
      acceptance of other nations or peoples. The document comments,
      however, that

      national sentiments can cause such sinful phenomena as aggressive
      nationalism, xenophobia, national exclusiveness and inter-ethnic
      enmity. At their extremes, these phenomena often lead to the
      restriction of the rights of individuals and nations, wars and other
      manifestations of violence. It is contrary to Orthodox ethics to
      divide nations into the best and the worst and to belittle any ethnic
      or civic nation. Even more contrary to Orthodoxy are those teachings
      which put the nation in the place of God or reduce faith to one of
      the aspects of national self-awareness (II.4).

      In examining the problem of war and peace, the Church states that any
      war is a result of human sin. It also distinguishes between defensive
      and aggressive war. The Church does not call its faithful to refuse
      military service and participation in military action. In other
      words, it does not proclaim pacifism as a fundamental principle:

      While recognizing war as an evil, the Church does not forbid its
      members from participating in military action if they are aimed at
      defending one's neighbors or restoring justice that has been
      violated. In such cases war, though undesirable, is considered a
      forced means of action (VIII.2).

      The document also speaks of the desirability of abolishing capital
      punishment, although it does not directly call on authorities to do
      this. The Church is of the view that this question should be resolved
      in accordance with the moral level of each nation and society. The
      document states:

      A special method of punishment - capital punishment - was recognized
      in the Old Testament. There are no direct indications for its
      abolishment either in the New Testament, Tradition or the historical
      legacy of the Orthodox Church. At the same time, the Church often
      took upon itself the duty of petitioning secular authorities on
      behalf of those condemned to the death penalty, asking them to have
      mercy and soften the punishment. Moreover, Christian moral influence
      nurtured among people a negative attitude toward capital punishment.
      The abolishment of the death penalty accords more possibilities for
      pastoral work with criminals and for their own repentance. In
      addition, it is obvious that the death penalty cannot have the
      necessary significance for the moral correction of criminals, makes
      judicial errors irreversible and causes discord among people. Today
      many countries have formally abolished capital punishment or do not
      carry it out in practice. Remembering that mercy toward the fallen is
      always preferable to vengeance, the Church welcomes such steps taken
      by state authorities. At the same time it acknowledges that the
      question of abolishing or not carrying out the death penalty should
      be decided freely by society, taking into account the state of
      criminality, law-enforcement and judicial systems and, most of all,
      consideration for protecting the lives of good-willed members of
      society (IX.3).

      The section of the document devoted to questions of personal and
      family ethics speaks in detail about the Church's attitude toward
      marriage. As the document stresses, the Church recognizes civil
      marriages, which should not be equated with fornication. Second and,
      in exceptional cases, third marriages are also recognized. The
      document also states the following regarding marriages with non-
      Orthodox Christians and people belonging to other faiths:

      In accordance with ancient canonical regulations, the Church today
      does not perform the sacrament of matrimony for those marriages
      between Orthodox and non-Christians, at the same time recognizing
      such unions as lawful and not considering those who have entered them
      as being in a state of fornication. As a matter of pastoral
      dispensation the Russian Orthodox Church both in the past and present
      has found it possible to perform the sacrament of matrimony for
      marriages between Orthodox Christians and Catholics, members of the
      Ancient Oriental Churches and Protestants who confess their faith in
      the Trinitarian God, on the condition that the marriage be blessed in
      the Orthodox Church and that the parents raise their children in the
      Orthodox faith. Most of the Orthodox Churches have adhered to this
      practice over the course of the last centuries (X.2).

      The section on bioethical problems is also of special interest. For
      the first time the Orthodox Church has examined and analyzed these
      problems in detail and expressed the official Church position on
      them. For example, the document speaks of the Church's categorical
      rejection of abortion, which canon law equates with murder. At the
      same time it states that

      in case of a direct threat to the life of a mother if her pregnancy
      continues, especially if she has other children, it is recommended to
      be lenient in pastoral practice. A woman who has interrupted
      pregnancy in this situation shall not be excluded from Eucharistic
      communion with the Church provided that she has fulfilled the canon
      of Penance assigned by the priest who hears her confessions (XII.2).

      Speaking of contraception, the document does not equate it with
      abortion. It points to the fact that

      some contraceptives have an abortive effect, artificially
      interrupting the life of the embryo at the very first stages of its
      life. Therefore, the same judgements are applicable to the use of
      them as to abortion. But other means, which do not involve
      interrupting an already conceived life, cannot be equated with
      abortion in the least. In defining their attitude to non-abortive
      contraceptives, Christian spouses should remember that human
      reproduction is one of the principal purposes of the divinely
      established marital union. The deliberate refusal of childbirth on
      egoistic grounds devalues marriage and is a definite sin (XII.3).

      Reproductive manipulations involving the donation of germ cells,
      surrogate motherhood and all forms of extra-corporal fertilization,
      which require the preparation, preservation and intentional
      destruction of 'extraneous' germ cells, are viewed as morally
      inadmissible from the Orthodox standpoint. While maintaining a
      negative stance toward the genetic therapy of germ cells, the Church
      also welcomes the efforts of scientists aimed at curing hereditary
      diseases, including infertility. The Church also considers prenatal
      diagnostics morally justified 'if their aim is to treat illnesses
      detected at an earliest possible stage and to prepare parents for
      taking special care of a sick child.'

      Human cloning is unquestionably condemned since it, according to the
      document, 'is a definite challenge to the very nature of the human
      being and to the image of God inherent in him, the integral parts of
      which are the freedom and uniqueness of the personality.' However,
      the cloning of isolated cells and tissues is allowed, an action
      which 'is not an encroachment on the dignity of the personality and
      in a number of cases has proved helpful in biological and medical
      practice.'

      Euthanasia is condemned as morally inadmissible, since the Church
      sees it as a violation of God's commandment 'Thou shall not kill'
      (Exodus 20:13). The document states that

      the request of a patient to speed up his death is sometimes
      conditioned by depression, preventing him from assessing his
      condition correctly. Legalized euthanasia would lead to the
      devaluation of human dignity and the corruption of the professional
      duty of the doctor, called to preserve rather than end life...
      Euthanasia is a form of homicide or suicide, depending on whether the
      patient participates in it or not (XII.8).

      The document also negatively evaluates homosexual relations, in which
      the Church sees 'a depraved distortion of God-created human nature.'
      Homosexual unions cannot be equated with the marital union of a man
      and woman. The authors write: 'While treating people with homosexual
      inclinations with pastoral responsibility, the Church is resolutely
      against the attempts to present this sinful tendency as a 'norm' and
      even something to be proud of and emulate' (XII.9).

      Regarding sex-change operations, the document stresses that they are
      a 'revolt against the Creator.' One who has undergone such an
      operation may be admitted to the sacrament of Baptism, although one
      must be baptized as belonging to that sex in which one was born. The
      ordination of such people and their marriage in the Church is deemed
      inadmissible.

      The final section of the 'Bases of the Social Concept' examines the
      problems of international relations, as well as those of
      globalization and secularization. According to it, the process of
      globalization 'facilitates communication between people,
      dissemination of information and more effective production and
      enterprise.' But the Church also turns its attention to the inner
      contradictions and dangers inherent in this process:

      Firstly, globalization begins to change, along with the conventional
      ways of organizing production, the conventional ways of organizing
      society and exercising power. Secondly, many of the positive fruits
      of globalization are available only to nations comprising a smaller
      part of humanity but having a similar economic and political system.
      Other nations, to whom five-sixths of the global population belong,
      have found themselves on the margins of world civilization. They are
      mired in debt, dependent on financiers in a few industrial countries
      and cannot create dignified living conditions for themselves.
      Discontent and disillusionment are growing among them. The Church
      raises the question concerning the need to establish comprehensive
      control over multinational corporations and the processes taking
      place in the financial sector of the economy. This control, aimed at
      subjecting all entrepreneurial and financial activity to the
      interests of man and people, should be exercised through all
      mechanisms available to society and state. The spiritual and cultural
      expansion leading to total unification should be opposed by the joint
      efforts of the Church, state structures, civil society and
      international organizations for the sake of asserting in the world a
      truly equitable and mutually enriching cultural and informational
      exchange combined with efforts to protect the identity of nations and
      other human communities (XVI.3).

      The 'Bases of the Social Concept,' accepted by the fullness of the
      Russian Church in 2000, caused widespread reaction both in Russia and
      abroad. Following the example of the Orthodox Church, representatives
      of other traditional religions also compiled similar documents. The
      Orthodox faithful of Russia are pleased to know that Muslims, Jews
      and Buddhists are totally in agreement with them on many socio-
      political questions. The 'Bases of the Social Concept' were highly
      evaluated by politicians, diplomats and workers of government
      agencies, the majority of whom welcomed the document as a forum for
      constructive dialogue between the Church and state, as well as
      between the Church and society.

      I have decided to examine the 'Bases of the Social Concept' because
      this document, in my opinion, is the most obvious expression of the
      socio-political relevance of the Russian Orthodox Church today. The
      Church in Russia has taken its due place among the nation's social
      and political powers. Being separated from the state, it is no longer
      separated from society, and being free from the control of secular
      authorities, it is able to exert spiritual and moral influence on
      socio-political processes. A unique situation of partnership between
      the Church and state has been created, characterized by mutual
      respect while strictly maintaining the principle of non-interference
      in each other's affairs.

      Do these statements signify that all fundamental problems of church-
      state relations have been solved? Can one say that the Church enjoys
      the possibility of carrying out its service to society unhindered?
      Not quite. An entire array of interior and exterior problems still
      must be resolved. I shall mention only a few serious problems facing
      the Church in the Russian Federation, leaving aside the other post-
      Soviet countries.

      The Orthodox Church in Russia now enjoys the right to carry out
      charitable activity. However, the scale of church charity is
      incomparable with the scale of social calamity that demands the
      response of the Church. To a significant degree this situation can be
      explained by the fact that the Church does not yet have a stable
      financial base that would enable it to carry out charity on a wide
      scale. Until 1917 the Church was a major landowner and possessed
      colossal amounts of real estate. All of this property was
      nationalized during and after the revolution, and no restitution has
      ever been effected. The state does return many church buildings, but
      they are given over for use, not returned to the ownership of the
      Church. In practice this, as a rule, means that the Church must
      restore at its own cost those buildings which the Soviet government
      turned into ruins, but even these restored buildings remain state
      property.

      Thus, unlike those countries in which church property was not
      nationalized or where it was returned, the Church in Russia owns no
      property which it might use as a source of income. Unlike in
      countries with a church tax, the Church in Russia is itself obliged
      to pay various taxes. Just as in Soviet times, voluntary
      contributions of the faithful still comprise the Church's main source
      of income. However, it is impossible to develop wide-ranging
      charitable activities based exclusively on such contributions: only
      individual projects realized by the donations of private sponsors are
      possible.

      Another set of problems is connected with the Orthodox Church's
      educational activity in Russia, carried out, like its charitable
      activities, on a much smaller scale than otherwise possible. The
      recent debate over the teaching of the 'Fundamentals of Orthodox
      Culture' in secular schools has shown that a certain part of society
      is still not ready for the direct influence of the Church on their
      children, fearing that it would violate the secular character of the
      state or lead to inter-religious conflict. However, there exists a
      complete mutual understanding on this issue among representatives of
      traditional religions: the leaders of the main non-Christian
      confessions in Russia have spoken in favor of teaching the
      fundamentals of Orthodoxy in those regions of the country where it is
      the religion of the majority. This dissatisfaction with the Church's
      desire to teach religion to children can be observed only among non-
      religious people, who, according to various statistics, comprise
      about twenty per cent of Russian society.

      After a long and intense debate the government finally acknowledged
      the right of schools to teach the 'Fundamentals of Orthodox Culture'
      as an elective course. An educational standard for teaching theology
      at institutions of higher education was also worked out
      simultaneously. All of this opens up new horizons for the Church's
      educational activities. However, a different question faces the
      Church now: does it have enough strength to take advantage of these
      new possibilities? Until the present time this strength was obviously
      lacking, a sad fact which was sharply criticized by His Holiness
      Alexy II, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, in his address to the
      Moscow clergy in March 2003:

      The missionary and catechetical activities of the parishes remain
      just as in Soviet times, confined almost exclusively within the walls
      of churches or in parish schools, while there are many other
      possibilities for convincingly bearing witness to Orthodox faith and
      culture. In addition to the usual places of catechetical and
      educational activities there are also secular educational
      institutions of all levels, where one can and should organize, even
      outside the framework of the main study programs, elective courses on
      Orthodox Christianity, cycles of lectures and pastoral talks, in
      accordance with the management of these schools. Due to our inertia
      and laziness we do not fulfill the direct commandment of the
      Lord: 'Go ye therefore, and teach all nations. teaching them to
      observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you' (Mt. 28:19-20).
      As is well-known, a holy place does not remain empty, and sectarians
      and members of other confessions have persistently filled the vacuum
      created by our indecisiveness and laziness, people whom we can see
      everywhere, from children's homes to nursing homes, from middle
      schools to universities and academies.

      In speaking of problems within the Church, I would like to add that,
      just as before, the problem of the educational level of our clergy is
      a very burning one. The sharp increase in the numbers of theological
      institutions, of which I spoke at the beginning of this paper, has
      not at all signified an increase in the quality of teaching. The low
      standards of education at some theological schools have brought about
      a situation in which their graduates, having become priests, are not
      able to communicate with members of the intelligentsia at an
      appropriate level, a fact which causes the social significance of the
      Church to be diminished.

      Although it would be possible to say much more on the problems
      connected with the socio-political relevance of the Russian Orthodox
      Church at the present time, I believe that the main point is that we
      are still at the beginning of a long and difficult path after seventy
      years of repressions and a decade of freedom. The Church has yet to
      accomplish many things on this path. It will continue to work for the
      moral revival of society regardless of government support for this.
      But experience shows that when the state is ready to cooperate and
      work as a partner, the socio-political relevance of the Church and
      its efficacy in solving society's problems grows many times.

      *

      I shall conclude this paper with the words of His Holiness Patriarch
      Alexy II of Moscow and all Russia from the above-mentioned address to
      the Moscow clergy:

      The restoration of churches and monasteries is undoubtedly a miracle
      of our times. But the most important thing is not just that cupolas
      of restored churches shine or that services are held in them, but
      that peoples' souls be reborn, so that they might be able to examine
      their lives and those things whose value has been diminished by time,
      and understand that the one thing the world cannot give to people is
      given to them in all its fullness by the Church, which raises the
      soul to a special, radiant and joyful state, uniting it with God in
      the sacraments. Every church, every monastery is an attempt at
      creating on earth a special, higher and grace-filled city in which
      goodness and love reign and where there is no place for evil. It is
      our main duty to build this grace-filled city.

      Translated by William Bush
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