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Pussy Riot reveals rift in Russian Orthodox Church

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Aug. 15, 2012, 11:39 a.m. | Russia and former Soviet Union — by Reuters

TOPSHOTS Members of a female punk band "Pussy Riot" Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (L), Maria Alyokhina (C) and Yekaterina Samutsevich (R), sit inside a glass enclosure during a court hearing in Moscow on August 8, 2012. Members of the all-girl band Pussy Riot who were charged with hooliganism for staging a "punk prayer" against Vladimir Putin were due Wednesday, Aug. 15, to deliver final statements on the last day of their trial. The controversial hearings raced toward a verdict with prosecutors seeking a three-year sentence and global calls mounting among stage stars and top Western officials to win the young women's release.
© AFP

MOSCOW - An anti-Kremlin protest by three women on the altar of Moscow's main cathedral has united many Russian Orthodox believers in outrage, but their trial has exposed deep rifts over the Church's role in politics.

On her way out of the Church of the Resurrection in a leafy neighbourhood of central Moscow, Nina Lefshukova pulled off her blue headscarf and sighed that the three members of the punk band Pussy Riot should just be freed.

"I would let them go and leave them in peace, but everyone knows it has more to do with politics than religion. It has more to do with the authorities," she said, folding up her blue Orthodox headscarf into a black bag.

Maria Alyokhina, 24, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, stormed into Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral on Feb. 21 and belted out a 'punk prayer', asking the Virgin Mary to "Throw Putin out!" They were charged with hooliganism motivated by religious hatred. A judge will deliver her verdict in a Moscow court on Friday.

The Church has called for "divine retribution" against the women.

The three say the protest was a way to fight President Vladimir Putin's tightly controlled political system and draw attention to the strengthening relationship between the Kremlin and the Russian Orthodox Church.

Today half of Russians believe the Church, which is led by Patriarch Kirill, has a hand in domestic politics, according to an opinion poll released on Tuesday by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center, and 43 percent feel it interferes in foreign affairs.

The poll showed three quarters of respondents believe it should stay out of politics.

Many were disturbed when Kirill, speaking before the March 4 presidential election, called Putin a "miracle of God".

"When the patriarch supports a political cause, he loses something. He loses his authority as a spiritual leader. He is perceived as being on Putin's team, and the case with Pussy Riot shows how close the patriarch is to Putin," said Alexei Malashenko, an expert on religion at the Carnegie Moscow Centre think tank.

"The Church is at a crossroads ... and believers are divided," he said.

UNDER SCRUTINY

Believers and analysts say the Church may have gained some support for its harsh stance against the protest, especially in the regions outside of Moscow, though the three women insist it was not aimed against the Church.

Sitting in a frescoed recess of the Kazan Cathedral, only steps away from the Kremlin on Red Square, Archbishop Igor Fomin said the protest had insulted churchgoers, but he likened their response - on a smaller scale - to the defiance shown by believers during decades of Soviet Communist rule.

"Persecution always makes people stronger, and it will cause a Russian's faith to rally during times of trouble," he said. "Our numbers and our congregation have increased. We have a full church of people."

Christianity is by far the most popular religion in Russia, with some 70 percent of the population saying they are Russian Orthodox Christians, though far fewer regularly attend church.

Soon after the Pussy Riot protest on Feb. 21, the Orthodox Church organised a day of solidarity in mid-April when at least 40,000 worshippers attended a day of prayer led by Kirill, who said the faith was "under attack by persecutors".

Those words ring true for some believers angry about a protest they say went too far in a sacred place of worship.

"It's disgusting what they did. Our priests can talk about forgiveness, but I don't have to," said Lyudmila Tarasova, visiting Moscow from the city of Murmansk in the Arctic Circle.

"They should be sent out of Russia. They spat on us. They're not Russians, they're swine."

Kirill himself is not without his critics. He has been accused in the media of leading a lavish lifestyle, and the Church apologised in April for doctoring a photograph of him to remove what bloggers said was a luxury wristwatch.

He has also come under scrutiny over a dispute linked to a Moscow apartment he owns, although he denies any wrongdoing and dismisses talk of a lavish lifestyle.

"I wasn't as offended by those girls as much as I am by some of our Church officials, who drive around in fancy cars and drop $1,000 for dinner at a fancy restaurant next to Christ the Saviour," said Dmitry Zykov, 45, outside of the Kazan Cathedral.

"There is political pressure involved here, either political pressure, or pressure from the regime straight from the top."

For some, a negative view of the Church survives since the fall of the Soviet Union, when it was given rights to import and sell cigarettes without paying import tax.

CHURCH UNDER SIEGE

Putin has walked a thin line between promoting Russian Orthodox Christianity and celebrating a secular state of many religions.

Despite the Patriarch's promotion of Putin before the election, the Church denies being involved in politics.

"Although they try to accuse us of advocating for the authorities, we're not trying to call on people to vote for the authorities, but for the path, the direction in which we must move," Archpriest Fomin said.

Others see the Pussy Riot protest as part of a plot against the country and Putin's 12-year rule.

"I think (the demonstration) was aimed at weakening Russia, whether from within or without. It follows a pattern in which the leadership of several countries is being toppled. Look at Syria," said Yekaterina Vasina, 28, an English and Chinese teacher at Moscow State University.

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AL BALA Aug. 15, 2012, 3:11 p.m.    

People in plainclothes dispersed campaign supporters Pussy Riot in Moscow

People in plainclothes dispersed campaign supporters Pussy Riot in Moscow

According to activist Timur Khoreva, after a group of supporters Pussy Riot stood on the steps of the temple with the poster "Blessed are the merciful," it came to employees of the church in civilian clothes and attacked several participants flashmob.

http://tsn.ua/svit/lyudi-v-shtatskomu-rozignali-akciyu-prihilnikiv-pussy-riot-v-moskvi.html

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AL BALA Aug. 15, 2012, 3:34 p.m.    

claimed that Christ the Savior Cathedral had become a tax haven for a variety of for-profit businesses.

In previous court filings, the watchdog group noted that only 7% of the Cathedral space was used for religious purposes, the other 93% being used for a dizzying array of businesses, including a scientific research center, an employment agency, an auto body shop, political consulting agency, and a seafood market.

http://nftu.net/watchdog-group-nominates-patr-kirill-for-nobel-prize-in-economics/

!!

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AL BALA Aug. 15, 2012, 3:35 p.m.    

links, though the Constitution clearly defines Russia as a secular state. In a recent example cited by Simon Shuster in Time magazine on Aug. 2, Patriarch Kirill told Putin during a meeting at Moscow's St. Daniel Monastery in February that Putin's decade-long rule was a "godly miracle." Putin returned the favor by saying, "We must move away from the primitive notion of separation of church and state."

Read more:

http://www.themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/the-laughingstock-of-the-world/466354.html#ixzz23R8GIURK

The Moscow Times

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Mykhayl Aug. 16, 2012, 7:11 a.m.    

Слава Ісусу Христу!

Under the tsar agents in vestments, now priests in suites.

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AL BALA Aug. 15, 2012, 4:27 p.m.    

Tolokonnikova said that in the great scheme of things this was not their trial but a trial of the Russian judicial system as a whole. “Christianity, as I understand it after studying the Old and New Testament, supports the search for the truth. Christ was with sinners not by a chance. He said that He is with those who stumble and that He forgives them. But we haven’t seen it during this trial. I think that the prosecution violates Christianity,” said Tolokonnikova, the first to speak. “Like Solzhenitsyn, I believe that words will crush concrete. We sit in a cage but we haven’t lost. Just like the dissidents did not lose. Disappearing in psychiatric wards and jails, they convicted the regime.”

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AL BALA Aug. 15, 2012, 4:28 p.m.    

“Many people say that our political gesture was correct, that we uncovered sores of this system, stirred up a hornet’s nest, which then rushed at us,” continued her final statement Tolokonnikova. “With each day more and more people realize that if this political system throws itself against three girls, who sang for 30 seconds in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, it shows that this political system is afraid of them.”

Maria Alekhina, who spoke second, said: “The authorities will blush with shame for a long time for this trial. A trial like this is simply not possible in a healthy society… Without the blessing of the patriarch we uncovered the visual image of Orthodox culture and protest, we declared that the Orthodox culture does not belong to the patriarch and Putin and might be on the side of protest and rebellion.”

“It is obvious that these young ladies do not deserve criminal prosecution. It is also clear that the church, soliciting for criminal punishment and for making it more severe goes beyond the scope of its powers and, most importantly, beyond its Christian nature. I am absolutely convinced that if Jesus Christ was in the position of the patriarch and in the position of the present day church he would act completely differently.”

http://www.day.kiev.ua/233162

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Mykhayl Aug. 16, 2012, 7:15 a.m.    

Слава Ісусу Христу!

Political prisoners

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kpxoxol Aug. 15, 2012, 9:52 p.m.    

"The western hypocrisy in action - "do what we say, not what we do", heh, heh, heh :D

"Helsinki, Finland - A number of prominent public and culture figures and human rights activists in Finland have filed suit with the Helsinki police against Teivo Teivainen, a professor of the University of Helsinki, for an attempt to replay a stunt of the Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot near the Orthodox Assumption Cathedral in Helsinki.

"A criminal case has been initiated under two Finnish Criminal Code articles concerning the violation of religious tolerance rules," Johan Backman, a prominent Finnish human rights activist and an adjunct professor of the University of Helsinki, told Interfax on Wednesday.

"The Finnish Criminal Code bans even an attempt to obstruct a religious service (Article 17-11) and any kind of humiliation of another person's faith in writing or in other forms (17-10). Wearing a mask at a public place and unsanctioned rallies are also prohibited. It is necessary to notify police beforehand in Finland," Backman said.

"Teivainen's punishment now depends on the Finnish Prosecutor General's Office, which makes decisions on pressing charges on anti-religious crimes. If the Prosecutor General's Office presses charges against the professor, he will face up to 2 years' imprisonment," he said.

The suit has been signed by Backman representing the Finnish Anti-Fascist Committee, prominent Finnish playwright Jussi Parviainen, musician Tommi Lievemaa, Evgenia Hilden-Jarvenpera, a member of the education committee in the city of Pori, and others."

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AL BALA Aug. 16, 2012, 12:10 a.m.    

Kremlinoids refrain from mentioning that Moscow bombed the civilian women and children in Helsinki - without a declaration of war - in 1939, because those facts are not included in the homo-sovieticus Soviet Encyclopedia.

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