2017-10-03 10:00:00

Russian Orthodox Church welcomes softened U.S. stance on freedom of conscience in Russia

Moscow, October 3, Interfax - The Russian Orthodox Church is seeing progress in the assessment by the United States of the real situation around the freedom of conscience in Russia.

"Unlike in previous years, the document [the U.S. secretary of state's report on the freedom of conscience] does not posit that the Russian Orthodox Church is getting closer to the status of becoming a state one, nor does it see the introduction of the 'Principles of Christian Orthodox Culture' module at general-education schools as a threat to religious freedom. It does not, as it did previously, cite the unfair accusations that the Church had inspired persecution of religious minorities," Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations, said, the Church's press service said.

This and other assessments of the U.S report on the freedom of conscience for the past year were set out by Metropolitan Hilarion in a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the statement said.

At the same time, the report contains a number of assertions based on non-objective information, the Russian clergyman said.

For example, the situation around construction of a church at Torfyanka Park in Moscow was presented only from the viewpoint of those who opposed the construction and nothing is being said of the reconciliatory position of the Russian Church, he said.

Metropolitan Hilarion also disagreed with the document's negative assessment of the Church's participation in the state grant distribution system.

The report's strength is in having registered a significant number of violations by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of believers' rights, Metropolitan Hilarion said. Nevertheless, many facts remained unnoticed, while some were either set out inaccurately or based on unfaithful data, such as religious demographic statistics in Ukraine, he said.

"The Russian Orthodox Church, probably like no other major religious community in the world, knows full well what a violation of religious rights and freedoms is. This year we are remembering the centenary since persecution began against believers in our country on a scale unseen in global history," Metropolitan Hilarion said.

That is exactly why the Russian Orthodox Church is defending the right of Christians, especially in those countries where they constitute a religious minority, to profess their faith freely and the right to peaceful co-existence in their ancestral land, the Russian clergyman said.