2009-12-23 13:03:00

Priest’s murder should not offer reason to revive death penalty in Russia – Patriarch Kirill

Moscow, December 23, Interfax - Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia believes that even the most dangerous criminals like the murderer of an Orthodox priest, who was killed in the Moscow region on Tuesday evening, do not deserve the death penalty, and they should be given a right to repent their crimes while serving their prison sentences.

Archpriest Alexander Filippov was shot dead in Podolsk, outside Moscow, on December 22 after he reproached a group of drunken men who were behaving inappropriately, Russian prosecutors' Investigative Committee said.

Patriarch Kirill told about the tragedy at a meeting with Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland at Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior on Wednesday.

The priest's suspected murderer has already been detained.

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church described Father Alexander as a "modest man."

"He [Father Alexander] simply stopped a man who was doing something very bad. That person pulled out a pistol and fired at the priest," he said.

Patriarch Kirill said he had information that the detained man had a lengthy criminal record.

"Imprisonment probably worsened the state of such a person. Nevertheless, our priests have been working in prisons very actively, because the abolition of the death penalty allows them to work even with the most dangerous criminals," he said.

The Church protects each person's right to life and right to protect his life from any dangerous interference, Patriarch Kirill said.

"There should be no reasons that could force one person to terminate someone else's life," he said.

The Russian Orthodox Church applauds the Russian Constitutional Court's recent decision to abolish the death penalty, he said.

"The work of the Church is guided by traditions that do not rule out the death penalty in principle. Holy Scripture does not contain any condemnation of the death penalty, either. But in reality, the Church, at least in Russia, has always asked the authorities to show mercy for people sentenced to death," Patriarch Kirill said.