Russian Orthodox Church head urges followers to adopt children

Mon Jan 7, 2013 7:37am EST
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By Steve Gutterman

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The head of Russia's Orthodox Church urged citizens in a Christmas address on Monday to adopt Russian children after President Vladimir Putin signed a law last month barring Americans from doing so.

The ban retaliates for U.S. legislation designed to punish Russian human rights violators which Putin said is poisoning relations. Critics of Russia's legislation say Putin has made the welfare of children trapped in a troubled orphanage system hostage to political maneuvering, dimming their chances of finding loving homes or adequate medical care.

Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, a strong supporter of Putin, paid special attention to the issue in a Christmas message, lending support to the president's promises that Russia will take care of its own.

"It is very important for our people to adopt orphans into their families, with joy and a special sense of gratitude to God, giving them not only shelter and an upbringing but also giving them their love," he said.

Opponents of the new law are planning a protest rally against it on January 13 and have already won backing from some artists and the liberal party Yabloko.

The number of adoptions by Russian families is modest, with some 7,400 in 2011 compared with 3,400 of Russian children by families abroad - nearly 1,000 of those by Americans.

More than 650,000 children are considered orphans in Russia, including those rejected by their living parents or taken from dysfunctional homes. Of that total, 110,000 lived in state institutions in 2011, according to government figures.

In signing the legislation, Putin echoed Russian lawmaker allegations that American parents who have been accused of abusing their adopted Russian-born children have been treated too leniently by U.S. courts and law enforcement.   Continued...

Patriarch Kirill (L) leads a Christmas service attended by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (2nd L) in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow January 7, 2013. REUTERS/Alexander Astafyev/RIA Novosti/Pool