Patriarch Kirill to Make
Kremlin Official Residence

His Holiness Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia .

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The former patriarchal residence was seriously damaged when the Bolsheviks shelled the Kremlin in October 1917.
Subsequently the church was restored in order to accommodate the applied arts museum.

Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, has moved into the Kremlin following his 65th birthday – sparking renewed discussions on the separation of church and state in Russia.

Prior to the 1917 Revolution, the Orthodox Patriarch resided within Kremlin’s walls, and this return to tradition is being read in several ways.

Although Russia is by law a secular state, many have noted the increasing public links between the Orthodox Church and the current government.

Vladimir Putin often went beyond attending religious services, and regularly met with the late Patriarch Alexei during his presidency – and Putin has continued this tradition as prime minister, regularly meeting with Patriarch Kirill.

Current president Dmitry Medvedev has also attended most Orthodox religious celebrations during his four years in the office and met with Patriarch Kirill when the latter became the head of the Church in January 2009.

The influence of the Russian Orthodox Church has grown tremendously in recent years, with top officials often seeking advice from Patriarch.

“I don’t think that strategic decisions will be taken by getting advice from the Church from now on, but I do believe that there will be continued interaction between the Patriarch and the ruling tandem,” Maksim Shevchenko, a journalist and a member of the Public Chamber, told The Moscow News.

According to Shevchenko, Patriarch Kirill happens to be politically savvy – which is why officials gravitate towards him. “People in power also just have the right to ask him for advice,” Shevchenko said. “But to think that strategic and political decisions will be made together with the Patriarch is absurd.”

Some of the representatives of other religions practiced in Russia believe that the state has a tendency to use the Orthodox Church as a way to gain political capital, and that the Church is doing the same. “The Patriarch moving into the Kremlin brings him more political capital, which makes him more legitimate [as a religious leader] in a secular state,” Damir-Khazrat Mukhetdinov, member of the Russian Council of Muftis, told The Moscow News.

“The politicization of religion and the desire of many confessions to influence power, not only civil society, will always exist in Russia,” Mukhetdinov said.

Mukhetdinov said that many ordinary Russians, be they Christian, Muslim, or otherwise, are nowadays irritated by the behavior of some religious figures. “It’s seen as irritating, because these [religious figures] who ostensibly work to serve the public good are instead trying to influence power,” Mukhetdinov said.

Yet according to Mukhetdinov, Russian Muslims see the presence of the Patriarch in the Moscow Kremlin as nothing out of the ordinary – because in Kazan, the capital of the republic of Tatarsta, the Kul- Sharif Mosque sits inside the Kazan Kremlin. “This Mosque has a big significance [to Russian Muslims],” Mukhetdinov said.

Some believe that the Patriarch’s presence in the Kremlin merely reflects the revival of an old tradition. “The Patriarch took the place that belonged to him in the first place, as it always did [before 1917],” Yevgeny Nikiforov, chairman of the Radonezh Orthodox Educational Society, told The Moscow News.

Maksim Shevchenko also said that there is nothing odd about the Patriarch moving to Kremlin. “This doesn’t contradict the concept of a secular state, because these specific chambers were built for the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in the first place,” Shevchenko said. “It’s like Vatican that is in the center of Rome – no one complains about it.”

Nikiforov said that the muted reaction to the move is to be expected – as most people’s religious concerns have to do with issues such as the christening of children and the general presence of religion in family life. “For the moment, Patriarch Kirill moving to the Kremlin is not a big deal to Russians,” Nikiforov said. “Some time will pass before they realize the significance [of this event].”

According to Nikiforov, the Russian Orthodox Church is enjoying the best period in its history. “There was no period like that in history, when the Church was so free and independent,” he pointed out, citing the fact that while the Orthodoxy was oppressed under Soviet rule, patriarchs were also constrained by the czars, due to the fact that the czars were considered to derive their rule from divine authority.

Nikiforov believes that the Patriarch will not spend much time interacting with the ruling tandem at the Kremlin. “They certainly will not have tea parties together,” he said.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia consecrated the Patriarchal Chambers in the Moscow Kremlin located on the ground floor of the Granovitaya Palata (Russian for the Faceted Chamber)."The chambers are given to the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia for use by President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev and after restoration works are resumed they will be used for conducting official events with the Primate of the Russian Church, talks, receptions," the patriarchal press service reports.Representatives of local Orthodox Churches who arrived in Moscow to celebrate Patriarch Kirill's 65th birthday have become the first visitors of the Patriarchal chambers.

Source & Copyright: The Moscow News and Interfax
25 November, 2011