(Photo: Reuters/Yana Lapikova)
The Russian Orthodox Church has released a strong-worded statement on Tuesday claiming it is under attack by strong oppositional forces that do not support the Church's backing of president-elect Vladimir Putin.
"The antichurch forces fear the strengthening of Orthodoxy in the country; they are frightened of the revival of national self-conscience and mass popular initiative," the statement reads, revealing that these "antichurch forces" are using financial, informational and administrative resources and are trying to alienate people from the Church.
The Church notes it is its support of traditional Christian ideals in contrast to "anti-Christian phenomena," such as same-sex marriage, and the "propagation of permissiveness and fornication" that has led to many misunderstanding its message.
Most recently, five members of the all-female punk group called "Pussy Riot," wearing bright balaclavas and clothes, protested by performing in Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow without authorization, singing a song with a profanity-loaded message against President-elect Putin. The liberal-idealist group also insulted Patriarch Kirill, the Russian Orthodox Church's leader, and performed next to the main altar, which is held as sacred, with only priests normally allowed near.
Patriarch Kirill is well known for his support of Putin, having called Vladimir Putin's political career "a miracle of God" before Russia's presidential elections on March 4, with some observers claiming Kirill's remarks helped get Putin re-elected.
He also has been frequently shown on state TV in the company of Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev, serving de facto as policy adviser on a number of social issues.
The Orthodox church argued that it was this support of Putin and Russia's ruling government that have led to it being targeted by some liberals.
"The confrontation between the Church and the anti-Christian forces becomes even more obvious and acute. The attacks were particularly noticeable in the pre-election and post-election periods, showing their political hidden motive, including an anti-Russian one. Various means are employed, and a planned campaign of systematic defamation is launched."
The Church also shared of a number of other recent instances where its ministries have been attacked. One occurrence involved a man who on March 6 damaged thirty icons of great spiritual, historical and artistic value in the Cathedral of St. Procopius in Velikiy Ustug. Also on March 18, the Church of St. Sergius of Radonezh in the city of Mozyr was defiled by blasphemous inscriptions. According to the report, a man rushed into the Cathedral Church of the Intercession in Nevinnomyssk with a hunting knife on March 20, where he beat up a priest and drove his knife into the veneration cross.
"It is in this context that a slanderous informational attack is being made on the Primate of the Church. All these incidents are components of the campaign against Orthodoxy and the Russian Orthodox Church," the church commented.
Despite all these attacks, the Orthodox leadership insisted they were ready to accept all those who asked for forgiveness.
"The Lord and the Church are willing to gladly accept all repentant sinners. We remind those who give way to despair and mourn over the mentioned events of the words of the Lord Jesus Christ: 'In the world ye shall have tribulation. But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world!'" (John 16:33)
The Orthodox Church also called on Russian Christians to come to cathedrals and churches on April 22 for a nationwide prayer "in defense of the faith, desecrated sanctuaries, the Church and its good name."