Moscow, April 27, Interfax - The Russian Orthodox Church's chief public relations officer has condemned a plan to hold a group prayer at Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior for Vladimir Putin's departure from presidential office, for which he has been re-elected.
"Neither a prayer that sounds like a pro-government slogan nor a prayer that sounds like an anti-government slogan is appropriate in church. I hope that this will come home to the people who are planning to come to the church and they will first of all think what they have to say to God and not to TV reporters or to bloggers," Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, head of the Synodal Department for Church and Society Relations, told the Interfax-Religion in comments on the plan of the My (Russian for "We" - IF) opposition group.
Earlier, My leader Roman Dobrokhotov, who is also a senior executive of the Solidarity party, offered assurances that the planned prayer would conform to Orthodox canons.
The Pussy Riot punk rock group, which performed an anti-Putin song at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in February, "is accused of breaking the canons of the Orthodox Church," Dobrokhotov told reporters. "We are planning a prayer that would meet all church canons. No political slogans or propaganda are being planned."
"I believe that the theme of the prayer 'For the Salvation of Russia' has not been fully elaborated on. The shortest path to the salvation of Russia is the departure of Putin. And that is what we are going to pray for," Dobrokhotov said, adding that more than 100 people had expressed a desire to take part in the event.
Father Vsevolod said, on the other hand, that collective prayers that are said aloud in an Orthodox church must have strict canonical text and that they differ from private prayers in the sense that they can unify many people "through the wise Divinely inspired words that are offered to people for joint prayer by the entire Church and have been received through Divine revelation."
Under church regulations, "which, by the way, are respected by the state as well, no non-canonical services or prayers are to be conducted in church," he said.
A comment on My's plan that the cathedral's sacristan, Archpriest Mikhail Ryazantsev, gave to Interfax-Religion was: "Everyone has their own way of going crazy."