Pope Supports Russian Church’s Position on Vandalism

Russian Orthodox Cathedral Moscow file photo

MOSCOW, October 18 (RIA Novosti) – Pope Benedict XVI has agreed with the Russian Orthodox Church’s position regarding acts of vandalism in downtown Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral, the Church said.

“Pope Benedict XVI has expressed solidarity with the Russian Orthodox Church’s position on the issue and perplexity over the reaction of a number of media to these events,” the church said on its website on Wednesday.

It said the head of the Roman Catholic Church also expressed his “words of support to the Russian Church in connection with the blasphemous act in the Christ the Savior Cathedral in February.”

The issues were discussed at a meeting between Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Russian Church’s Department of External Church Relations, and the Pope in the Vatican on Tuesday.

In September, a man poured ink on an icon in the central Moscow cathedral. Earlier, vandals sawed down crosses in three Russian regions. In March a man chopped 38 icons in the Vologda Region with an ax. The events followed February’s “punk prayer” by the Pussy Riot punk band in the Christ the Savior Cathedral.

An edited clip of Pussy Riot’s protest in late February posted online showed the group alternately high-kicking near the entrance to the altar of the Christ the Savior Cathedral, accompanying the “Holy S**t” song urging the Virgin Mary to “drive [Vladimir] Putin out.” The song contained words insulting to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and to believers.

Three band members were found guilty of hooliganism aimed at inciting religious hatred and jailed for two years each on August 17. The prison term for one of them was later replaced with a suspended sentence. The trial and sentences attracted unprecedented media attention and international criticism, which Moscow dismissed as “groundless” saying the band’s act was not an issue of artistic performance but was “insulting to millions of Orthodox [Christian] believers.” The band said their performance was not aimed at insulting believers’ feelings.