2013-02-04 10:01:00

Patriarch Kirill: milder penalties for Pussy Riot musicians must go with repentance

Moscow, February 4, Interfax - Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia argued on Saturday that it would be wrong to soften the sentences for the convicted members of the Pussy Riot punk rock band if they don't repent of their scandalous performance in Russia's main Orthodox Cathedral nearly a year ago.

"The judiciary has made a legal assessment of the notorious blasphemous act in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, qualifying it as a crime," Patriarch Kirill said at an assembly of Orthodox bishops in Moscow on Saturday.

"The Church, which commiserates with any sinner, has asked the state to show clemency for the convicts. However, it must be remembered that clemency and forgiveness are particularly effective if they are combined with repentance and determination not to commit the same crime in the future. Otherwise, instead of correction, they may give rise to a sense of all-permissiveness, which would cause new crimes," he said.

"Some of those who fell victim to technology of manipulation were sobered up after a while, and they were horrified with what they had perpetrated," the Patriarch said.

The young men who smeared the walls of the Sea Cathedral in Baltiysk with graffiti and set fire to it on August 20, and the teenagers who cut down a wooden Christian cross in Arkhangelsk on August 25 apologized to the Orthodox community and repented, he said.

He also attacked the current "anti-church campaign." Its organizers apparently think that "their madness" will have public support, he said, expressing surprise at this.

Over the past few months, the Moscow Patriarchate has received "a tremendous number" of letters from individuals and organizations that were expressing indignation at "the obviously organized, libelous and militant character of the anti-church campaign," the Patriarch said.

At the same time, "what has happened over this year and a half was sent to us by the Lord as a test for us all," he said. "Out of delusion, or maybe out of ill will," some members of the clergy and some ordinary people "have accepted the unjust accusations against the Church."

"There is only one thing that is worse than sin - trying to justify sin," the Patriarch said. A sin can be repented, "but attempts to justify sin close the doors of repentance, and a vice that is seen as a virtue begins to freely spread and take root in people's minds."