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Russian physics students will study theology

October 17, 2012, 15:11 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

The Russian Orthodox Church, which last summer hailed the discovery of the Higgs boson – the last missing element in the standard model of particle physics, sometimes referred to as God Particle, has confirmed once again that physics for it is a very special science. A department of theology will open at the national nuclear research university MIFI. The ROC is certain that this will help physicists overcome religions ignorance and contribute to the dialogue between religion and natural sciences. The news has drawn a number of very caustic comments in the Russian segment of the world web.

MIFI is one of the leading Russian universities training personnel for the nuclear power industry and other high-tech branches of science and the economy. Its teaching staff includes nine members of the Russian Academy of Sciences and twelve associate members of the RAS.

The newly-appointed head of the theology department is the head of the external relations department of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Synodal Biblical and Theological Commission, Metropolitan Hilarion, of Volokolamsk. On Tuesday he addressed the members of the MIFI science council with a report to have outlined the shape of a future theology department.

The science council unanimously approved of the opening of the theology department at the university and of the candidature of Metropolitan Hilarion as its head. MIFI rector Mikhail Strikhanov has expressed the hope the theology department at the MIFI university may become a leading one in the system of secular higher education in Russia.

“Some may even say that this is a sign of ‘society’s clericalization,’ a merger of the Church and the state, which the media have been writing about a lot these days,” Metropolitan Hilarion said. He tried to shatter this delusion. He is certain that a scientist should not be incompetent in religions matters and that overcoming Soviet religious ignorance “is number one simple task of the theology department.”

Quite often even the most educated people display amazing incompetence as soon as it comes to religions matters, and time is ripe for putting an end to this. Besides, the theology chair will help the individual identify priorities in life and also formulate the meaning of life for oneself. Metropolitan Hilarion expressed the opinion a person who has graduated from a natural sciences university and received the most general ideas of philosophy, social sciences and the history of cultures, but who knows nothing of religious traditions, the Christian thought and culture “can hardly be considered an educated person.”

Instruction at the theology chair will be expected to overcome religious ignorance and will be addressed first and foremost to young people who have no idea, as Metropolitan Hilarion put it, “what they study for and what they should work for.” He said theological studies will be voluntary and help promote a dialogue between religion and natural sciences.

“I do hope that the MIFI University, where there is an Orthodox Church already, will also become a place of free academic discussion and fruitful cooperation between Orthodox theologians and modern science,” Metropolitan Hilarion said. He recalled that services at MIFI’s church were regular. It is a center of diversified activities – from lectures on Orthodoxy to pilgrimages and charity activities.

Metropolitan Hilarion was born in 1966. He studied at the composers’ department of the Moscow State Conservatory. Later he entered the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Vilnius, Lithuania. In 1989 he graduated from the Moscow Theological Seminary. In 1993 he took a course of instruction at Oxford University, where he worked on his doctorate entitled St Symeon the New Theologian and Orthodox Tradition. In 1995 he graduated from Oxford University with a doctoral degree in theology.

In 2009 he was ordained archbishop.

The Russian segment of the Internet today is brimming with caustic remarks by bloggers.

“Before students’ heads were stuffed with one sort of crap (scientific Communism). Now they are about to begin to be staffed with a different sort of rubbish… All this is being done instead of propelling our education to a world level,” says blogger Dart 19.

“I am a devout believer, but I find the obtrusiveness of our clerics annoying,” says Fantazerkat. “Imagine how it feels being an atheist or agnostic these days…All this is very sad. How very right are those who say that one should always know where to stop…”

“How can religious traditions help the development of science is anyone’s guess,” says blogger Ilyaz, who sees no sense in injecting religion into science. “The way I see it, they are VERY different matters.”

MOSCOW, October 17