Russian Orthodox Church allowed to enter politics

Thu Feb 3, 2011 3:07pm EST
 
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By Alexei Anishchuk

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's Orthodox Church has allowed its clergy to enter politics in certain cases, in the latest sign of its growing presence in Russia's secular society.

Endorsed by Kremlin leaders as Russia's main faith, the Church has grown increasingly powerful since communism fell two decades ago. Its role has drawn criticism from human rights groups who say it undermines Russia's constitution.

On Thursday, President Dmitry Medvedev backed a decision by the Church to allow clergy to enter politics in certain cases.

"The Russian Orthodox church is the largest and the most respected social institution in the modern Russia," Medvedev told top clergy visiting the Kremlin.

The Church, which made the announcement on Wednesday, said it had made some exceptions allowing clergy to enter the political arena in cases where the Church encounters hostility from other faiths and factions. It did not elaborate.

"Exceptions to this rule can be made only in a case when the election (to government) of clergy ... arises from the need to counteract forces...," a statement posted on Patriarch Kirill's official website mospatriarchia.ru said.

Although Russia officially separates church from state, Medvedev said the two should work more closely.

"In order to strengthen social stability today ...(the state and the Church), probably like never before, need to act together," he said.   Continued...