MOSCOW (Reuters) - The head of the resurgent Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, said on Tuesday feminism was a "very dangerous" phenomenon offering an illusion of freedom to women who should focus on their families and children.
Some three quarters of Russians consider themselves Russian Orthodox and Kirill has fostered increasingly close ties with President Vladimir Putin who has portrayed the church as the guardian of Russia's national values.
"I find very dangerous this phenomenon, which is called feminism, because feminist organizations proclaim a pseudo-freedom of women that should in the first place be manifested outside marriage and outside the family," Kirill was quoted by Interfax news agency as telling a meeting with an Orthodox women's group.
"Man turns his sight outward, he should work, make money. While a woman is always focused inwards towards her children, her home. If this exceptionally important role of a woman is destroyed, everything will be destroyed as a consequence - family and, if you wish, the homeland," he said.
Kirill and Putin have both criticized a protest by the all-female Pussy Riot punk band last year that saw women dressed in colorful mini-skirts and balaclavas performing at the altar of Russia's most sacred Orthodox cathedral.
In their impromptu, noisy "punk prayer" they were calling on the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Putin, an ex-KGB spy.
Three members of the collective were sentenced to two years in jail for hooliganism motivated by religious hatred over their stunt, though one has since had her sentence suspended.
In Germany on Monday, members of the women's rights group Femen, which has protested around Europe against Russia's detention of Pussy Riot, disrupted Putin's visit to a trade fair with a topless protest.
Putin laughed off the protest by the trio, stripped to the waist and calling him a "dictator", saying he had liked what he had seen.
Kirill once likened Putin's rule over Russia to a miracle of God and the president has said the Orthodox Church should play a bigger role in the country where faith runs deep after the fall of the officially atheist Soviet Union.
Russian legislators on Tuesday gave initial approval to a law that would make offences against religion punishable by up to five years in prison.
Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska