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MOSCOW, November 27. /ITAR-TASS/. The lower house of Russian parliament discusses an initiative to enshrine a special role of Orthodoxy in the Constitution, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports.
The debate was triggered by an initiative submitted to legislators and the Russian president by a working group of the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies set up soon after the conference entitled The Triumph and Collapse of an Empire: Lessons from History that took place in Moscow on November 10. Petitioners stressed the need “to strengthen Russia’s spiritual sovereignty” recognizing the special position of Orthodoxy in the Constitution.
The petition refers to foreign experience. “Practice of enshrining a special role of one or another religion is widely spread in constitutions of modern European states. It is enough to remind of Denmark, Norway, Ireland, Poland, Greece and Finland,” the document read.
Since 1937 the Irish Constitution has contained the article saying “the State recognizes the special position of the Holy Catholic Apostolic and Roman Church as the guardian of the faith professed by the great majority of the citizens.” That article empowered the church to control the education system, marriage and family relations. However, it was cancelled at the 1972 referendum. The modern Constitution of Ireland speaks about an equal status of all religious organisations as well as Poland’s Constitution adopted in 1997 does.
At the same time the Constitution of Denmark since 1849 and up to now has stated that the Evangelical Lutheran Church is the state-supported church. Lutheran churches of Sweden (until 2000), of Finland and Norway (until 2012) enjoyed the status of state churches. The authorities even appointed archbishops. The Constitution of Greece calls the Greek Orthodox Church as dominating.
Following differences in the status of churches in different countries authors of the EU Constitution underline that the European Union observes and does not encroach on the status used by churches and religious associations or communities in its member-states.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta wonders “how recognition of the special position of one of religions in Russia will be translated into practice - in payment of state wages to clergymen as in Greece; collection of a church tax from citizens as in Sweden or Finland; a concordat with the Church as in Poland or authorization of subsidy payments and public preferences that the Russian Orthodox Church gets from different levels of power in Russia.”
Russian Orthodox Church spokesman, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, said “the church gave no impulses to this initiative.” Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill has emphasized the church’s independence from the state twice over the past week.
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