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MOSCOW, March 19 (Itar-Tass) — Chairman of the RF Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights Mikhail Fedotov considers unacceptable criminal prosecution of journalists providing coverage of the so-called punk-prayer service held by members of the Pussy Riot group in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour on February 21.
“It is inadmissible to bring to criminal responsibility journalists who in good faith give coverage of what’s happening in the country, they just do their job. But the people who involve in the conflict thousands of people should think if they incite hatred in the society by their activities,” he told Itar-Tass, commenting on the collection of signatures under a petition to the Prosecutor’s Office that was held in a number of Moscow churches on Sunday. It calls, inter alia, for bringing criminal charges for inciting religious hatred against “persons involved in the dissemination in the media of materials and information about the blasphemous action.”
“This story (Pussy Riot action) is worthy of discussion, but this should be done in a calm atmosphere,” the head of the Human Rights Council said.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Synodal information department Vladimir Legoida told Itar-Tass on Monday that numerous appeals have been coming to the Moscow Patriarchate with requests to ask the Prosecutor’s Office to find the masterminds of the action staged in the Christ the Saviour Cathedral on February 21 and another escapade in the Epiphany Cathedral in Moscow staged by the same punk group on February 19.
“In addition to the actions, there is also a video clip that is still available on the Internet - a blasphemous escapade in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour that is put into the form of a singing art,” Legoida said.
“Many people that are outraged by what happened have been turning to the patriarchate, priests, hierarchs. Letters are coming with signatures, requests to collect signatures, and the collection of signatures was held in many churches in Moscow on Sunday,” the head of the Synodal information department said. He stressed that “there have been no general church circulars from the top, from the patriarch” in this connection. Legoida drew attention to the fact that “believers have the right to protect their sacred sites and demand from the state to find the main organisers of the blasphemous acts of provocation.”
Vladimir Legoida at the same time recalled the position of Patriarch Kirill expressed by him in a sermon in St. Daniel Monastery on March 17. “We should very clearly assess the sin, not to whitewash what happened, but we must remember the prayer for the sinner. This is the position of the Church,” the chairman of the information department of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) said.
On Sunday, the collection of signatures under a petition to Moscow Prosecutor Sergei Kudeneyev was held in a number of churches in Moscow. Believers request to find those involved in the preparation of the action and dissemination of the video and other materials about it and to prosecute them for inciting religious hatred and enmity and humiliation of human dignity.
Three of the Pussy Riot punk group’s five members were arrested on charges of “hooliganism” for indecent, insolent behaviour in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. On February 21, five masked girls in brightly coloured clothes appeared in the Christ the Saviour Cathedral, ran onto the ambo before the altar, where only the clergy are allowed, and began to parody the praying people. The church security guards pushed them out in several minutes. A video clip appeared on the Internet soon in which this escapade was presented as “a punk prayer.” Images of musicians, playing the electric guitars, were superimposed on the background of the church interior.