Staunton, July 20 – Most people in Russia and the West accept the Moscow Patriarchate’s own explanation for why so few Russians attend its churches – the latest figures show only about three percent of Russians do. According to the church, this is the result of the same social trends that have driven down attendance at churches in Western countries.
That explanation is not necessarily wrong, but it is very much incomplete, Moscow commentator Yevgeny Trifonov says. In fact, the church itself by its increasingly outrageous statements about some subjects and its inexplicable silence about other issues is playing a major role in driving Russians away (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5D32B978C67C9).
Since Ukrainian autocephaly, the Moscow Patriarchate has made only “rare public statements,” the commentator says; but what it has said officially in public is ever stranger and offensive, something that is doing nothing to attract more Russians to its churches and likely is driving some who have been attending away.
First, there was the declaration by Metropolitan Ioann of Belgorod that baptized Christians had won the war against Hitler while those who had died were atheists, implicitly suggesting they had it coming.
Then, Archpriest Dimitry Smirnov, the head of the Patriarchal commission on the family and the defense of motherhood and children, opined that women are weaker and less capable than men.
And finally, most recently, Vakhtang Kipshidze, the vice president of the Synod Department for relations between church and society, declared that electronic passports were a threat to the freedom and rights of Russians.
This last, Trifonov says, recalls the church’s opposition to trains and steamships 150 years ago when its leaders said that the steam these things released came from the devil; and it also highlights the fact that the Moscow Patriarchate has been anything but vocal in supporting human rights causes.
The church didn’t say anything about the Golunov case or about the trash dump controversies. It hasn’t reacted to denigrating comments by officials about the Russian people or to the decision of the Moscow authorities to block candidates from opposition groups from having the chance to be on the ballot. And it hasn’t talked about torture in Russian prisons.
As everyone is aware, the churches of the Moscow Patriarchate have been emptying out in recent years with fewer and fewer Russians choosing to attend services. If the hierarchy continues to make such declarations or alternatively not speak out when it should, the denomination’s churches will empty “still more rapidly in the future.”