By Yulia Ashcheulova
The Russian Orthodox Church believes that provocations and criticism against it have frequented in the Russian society.
On February 21, a girls’ punk rock band called Pussy Riot set an unexpected and unsanctioned show in Moscow’s main cathedral – the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Many Russians found this show provocative and offensive to believers.
Besides, several attacks on Orthodox churches took place in Russia and Belarus within the last few months.
On March 6, a man with an ax rushed into a church in the Russian city of Veliky Ustyug and furiously chopped several icons.
On March 18, unidentified people wrote blasphemous inscriptions and drew Satanist symbols on the walls of a church in the Belarusian city of Mosyr.
Two days later, a man cut several icons with a knife and attacked the priest in a church in the Russian city of Nevinnomyssk.
Besides, several critical publications concerning the Church appeared recently in the Russian media.
This Sunday, the Church held services in a number of Russian cities, praying to God to protect it.
In Moscow, a religious procession was held around the Cathedral of Christ the Savior with two icons, one of which was perforated by a Bolshevik bullet in the 1920s, and the other hit with an ax in Veliky Ustyug several days ago.
About 65,000 people took part in this procession.
Addressing the believers, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill said:
“The enemies of the Church probably don’t realize themselves that by attacking Orthodox Christianity, they are attacking the very fundamentals of the centuries-old Russian culture. But please don’t take our action as a rally. The Church doesn’t hold political rallies.”
In the 1930s, the Cathedral of Christ the Savior was blown up by the Bolshevik regime. The current cathedral is a replica of the old one, built in the 1990s.
“We gathered here to pray to God so that He doesn’t let churches to be blown up ever again,” His Holiness Kirill said. “We all know very well what happened to Russia when its people rejected Christianity. Let’s pray for this to never repeat again!”
A woman participant of the procession says:
“We came here to pray for the souls of these sinners – but we came here to purify our souls as well. Everyone takes a shower every day – but people should keep not only their bodies, but their souls as well, clean.”
The initiators of this action want to consolidate the Russian society and to show that the Church is a force which can consolidate it.
Analyst Alexey Makarkin says:
“The hierarchs of the Russian Cyhurch seem to be worried that secular ways of life may start to dominate in Russia, like they do in Western Europe now. At present, the Christian Church, in fact, doesn’t play any noticeable role in social life in the West. The role of the Church is locked within the sphere of people’s personal life – praying at home and going to a church on Sundays. The Russian Church does not want its role to be limited. It wants to be the spiritual leader of the Russian people.”
This is probably the most large-scale nationwide action of the Russian Orthodox Church within the last few years.