While reading the news this morning, I came across an encouraging article:
In the daily news, I frequently come across gems like this one. Unlike America, where religious leaders occasionally ask their followers to vote or to call their congressmen, hoping to influence politics in some marginal way, Russian headlines constantly remind me just how well connected the Russian Church is to the political process. In the above article, Fr. Fyodor Lukyanov says it clearly:
“it is encouraging that the voice of the Church is heard today in the corridors of power and is seriously listened to when important documents and decisions are adopted.”
Fr. Fyodor is head of the Patriarchal Commission for the Family, a politically influential group directly connected to Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Church. I have met Fr. Fyodor and have talked personally with several members of this commission, including personalities such as Fr. Maxim Obukhov, Pavel Parfentiev, and the late Fr. Dmitry Smirnov.
These are not men who merely opine from the pulpit, hoping that their listeners will vote for better congressmen. These are men who speak directly to the Russian legislature (Duma), encouraging them to enact better laws. They regularly write proposed new laws, sending them to the Duma, always working to make Russia a better place for traditional Christian families. And the wonderful, stunning thing in Russia is that the government frequently listens to them.
The greatest religiopolitical powerhouse in Russia is Patriarch Kirill, as the following article eminently demonstrates:
Notably, he works in close harmony with the Russian government. Having rejected the anti-Christian concept of “separation of church and state” so popular in Western nations, Russia has revived the Orthodox idea of "symphony", i.e. close cooperation, as was practiced in the Byzantine Empire. “Thus, when it wants to make a diplomatic point, the government can send the Patriarch on a diplomatic mission, or the Patriarch can raise political themes in his public pronouncements and sermons.” This is a big step up from earlier decades, when his grandfather spent time in Stalin’s prisons. Today, the Russian church is an important and influential partner of the government, but is not subordinate to it.
The article continues with this juicy tidbit:
In reality, the Patriarch has more power than most ministers and governors. To begin with, the President can neither nominate, appoint, nor fire a Patriarch, whereas in Russia, both ministers and governors serve at the pleasure of the President. Even the President has to consider the wishes of the Patriarch, because publicly disagreeing with him could be politically lethal. The Patriarch operates at the very top of Russian political power, often in a ceremonial function, and is imbued with the respect society has for religious authority.
Truly, in what other nations of the world do you normally see religious leaders show up in headlines like these:
- Head of Russian Church Makes Major Address to Russian Senate
- Urgent Need for Gov't Subsidies and Encouragement of Large Families - Head of Russian Church
- Teaching Orthodox Christianity in Public Schools is Important, Says Head of Russian Church
Patriarch Kirill’s political influence is so strong that he draws international attention. What other religious leaders are sanctioned by foreign governments?
The Russian Church is also frequently in the news for its charity work on an international level, even providing humanitarian aid in foreign nations.
The Russian Church has its own foreign affairs department, often working in close relationship with the ministry of foreign affairs of the Russian Federation. In this sense, Metropolitan Anthony is the Church’s counterpart to Sergei Lavrov. Both men are high profile Russians who regularly meet with powerful, influential personalities from nations around the world.
If the Russian government has made a lot of good decisions in recent years, pushing back against the liberal tide and strengthening support for traditional Christian families, then it’s worthwhile to consider the underlying influences and motivations. If actions speak louder than words, and if the abundance of news reports are any indication of actions, then it would appear that the Russian Orthodox Church continues to be a major player in the Russian political sphere.
May God’s will be done . . . on earth as it is in heaven.