Staunton, November 13 – Many have noted that the current Moscow patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church is more a politician than a religious figure, but such comments are often dismissed as simply carping. But now a Belarusian priest has come up with numbers that make the case conclusively.
Father Aleksandr Shramko on his Facebook page yesterday presented the results of his investigation of Patriarch Kirill’s speech at the World Russian Popular Assembly this week. In that speech, the nominal religious leader spoke a lot about Russians and the state but never once referred to God (risu.org.ua/ru/index/all_news/community/religion_and_policy/58177/).
Kirill’s speech has attracted widespread attention for its political messages. (See, among others, sova-center.ru/religion/discussions/society/2014/11/d30637/, ruskline.ru/news_rl/2014/11/12/russkoe_nacionalnoe_samosoznanie_vystupaet_glavnym_garantom_edinstva_strany/, interfax-religion.ru/?act=print&div=17957, ruskline.ru/news_rl/2014/11/12/schitaem_poleznym_normativnoe_zakreplenie_statusa_russkogo_naroda_kak_gosudarstvoobrazuyuwego/, and interfax-religion.ru/?act=documents&div=1249).
But none of these has pointed out just how absent religion was. Now Father Shramko has filled in that blank. In his speech, the priest says, Kirill referred to nation, national and international 28 times. He mentioned Russia or Russianness 47 times, unity 15 times and the state eight times.
Kirill did mention the church twice and Christianity and holiness once each. But he did not make a single reference to God, to Christ, to the Saviour or salvation, sin, repentance, or justice.
In so doing, he overfulfilled the plan of his Soviet-era predecessors who at least would refer to the divine when they spoke on behalf of a godless regime, a pattern that highlights both the degeneration of the patriarchate as a religious institution and the nature of that body in Putin’s Russia of today, a state that builds churches but doesn’t encourage faith.