MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s dominant Orthodox Church unveiled its own channel on YouTube on Monday to attract young followers to a faith which has grown increasingly powerful since the fall of communism.
The Orthodox Church has been endorsed by Russia’s leaders as the country’s main faith, leading to criticism by rights groups that this undermines Russia’s secular constitution, while the country’s large Muslim minority say it excludes them.
“We are doing this so the word of God, God’s wisdom and the divine law comes closer to the life of modern, especially young, people,” Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, said in a video address on youtube.com/user/russianchurch.
The channel will regularly post short clips of Kirill’s appearances on the video-sharing website which will be subtitled in English, German and Japanese, Interfax news agency reported.
“Let God’s blessing be with all those... who visit the Russian Orthodox Church on YouTube,” added Kirill, dressed in a flowing black cloak and a white and gold crowned hat.
The Russian patriarch also presides over the biggest branch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
The Orthodox Church has undergone a revival since the fall of the Soviet Union almost 20 years ago ended decades of communist repression.
Interfax said 165,000 users have visited the site over the last three months while it was being created.
The trend toward consolidation of the church as a national force has worried Russia’s 20 million Muslims -- one seventh of the population -- as well as those who believe church and state should be strictly separated.
Reporting by Amie Ferris-Rotman, editing by Tim Pearce