International Herald Tribune
The Associated Press Thursday, March 1, 2007
Russian Orthodox bishop lashes out at church leaders over what he calls retreat from faith
MOSCOW: A Russian Orthodox bishop is lashing out at church leaders, accusing them of retreating from the "purity" of the Orthodox faith and launching an unusual protest campaign.
A spokeswoman for the Moscow Patriarchate on Thursday refused to comment on an open letter by Bishop Diomid, of the far eastern province of Chukotka, and four of his subordinates in which they criticized the church's central office.
The letter, which was posted on several Orthodox Web sites, accused the Moscow Patriarchate for what it called inappropriate striving for unity with other faiths, supporting democracy and globalization and the "anti-people policies" of President Vladimir Putin's government.
"At the present time, in the Moscow Patriarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church, of which we are members, there are a number of retreats from the purity of Orthodox teachings," Diomid wrote.
The ongoing "growing spiritual accommodation that subordinates the power of the church to secular power, which is often iconoclastic, harms God-awarded freedom," he said.
The letter marked a rare statement of protest within the Church, which has experienced a major resurgence after the 1991 Soviet collapse that ended decades of state atheism.
Senior Patriarchate spokesman Vladimir Viglyansky said the statement demonstrated "ignorance" because the questions raised in it have long been and are being discussed and addressed by the Church, RIA-Novosti news agency reported. Viglyansky also insisted that the letter did not represent a schism within the Church, the report said.
In his letter, Diomid also charged that a summit of religious leaders organized last summer by the Orthodox Church resulted in their pledges to protect peace in the name of the Almighty, which he interpreted as attempts at unification of all religions. "We don't believe that we have a common Almighty with the Jews, the Muslims and other religions and teachings," he wrote.
The bishop also renewed criticism of assigning personal identification numbers to Russians, such as for filing tax reports and other purposes, saying that was against Orthodox teachings.
Diomid concluded the letter by asking all Church officials to show "repentance" and calling on all "children of the Russian Orthodox Church" to support his call.
Some experts said the statement was part of the ongoing debate over the upcoming reunification between the main Church and its breakaway church-in-exile, which has raised similar issues in the religious community. Their formal reconciliation is to take place in May and will end a split that dates back to the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.
"This is part of the discussion ... on reuniting with the foreign church," said Andrei Zolotov, the chief editor of the Russia Profile magazine who has written extensively on cultural and religious issues.
The emigre church cut all ties with its parent in 1927, after Patriarch Sergiy issued a declaration of loyalty to the Soviet Union's atheistic communist government. Talk of re-establishing ties began after the Soviet collapse in 1991.
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