*** DEBUG END ***

Citizen and churchman

27 June 2011

Xenia Dennen reflects on the thought of the Moscow Patriarch

Freedom and Responsibility: A search for harmony — human rights and personal dignity
Patriarch Kirill of Moscow
DLT £12.99
Church Times Bookshop £11.70

AN ENGLISH edition of addresses and articles by Patriarch Kirill, head of the Moscow Patriarchate, should have been an exciting event, but, alas, those published in Freedom and Responsibility all date from before his election as Patriarch in January 2009, and thus do not set out his current vision for his Church.

He presents two world-views that to him are irreconcilable: a Western liberal model that he sees as the product of the Renaissance, Reforma­tion, and Enlightenment, in opposition to what he calls a traditional religious model, which promotes spiritual rather than materialistic values and can happily co-exist, he believes, with other “traditional religions” such as Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism.

This West-East division has been the bugbear of much in the history of ideas in Russia, while some of Patriarch Kirill’s language is remin­is­cent of Huntington’s views on the clash of civilisations. How refresh­ing it is, in contrast, to listen to the voices of such sophisticated Russian men of letters as Alexander Pushkin and Pyotr Vyazemsky, who, in the first half of the 19th century, made no such division, but valued the learning produced by the West’s Renaissance and Enlightenment, while at the same time loving their own Russian culture and religion.

Patriarch Kirill strongly supports the need for absolute values and religious faith within a polity, but his arguments lose their potency by being frequently repeated. Much of the blame for this, however, should be directed at the editor who com­piled this collection. It has not been adapted for an English readership, and is simply a translation of the orig­inal Russian text published in 2008.

Patriarch Kirill claims to speak for the whole of Russia — “we the citizens of Russia” — although only a small percentage of citizens in the Russian Federation regularly attend the Orthodox Church (even for the Easter liturgy), and in Lipetsk, for example, there are as many Protest­ants as Orthodox, while in the Far East of Russia the Orthodox have to keep a low profile as Charismatic groups gain in size and influence.

Be that as it may, he nevertheless raises a number of important subjects for Christians in relation to the contemporary world: for ex­ample, the nature of Christian free­dom and responsibility in the light of current human-rights legislation; individual dignity as understood in the Orthodox tradition; the need for religious tolerance and interfaith dialogue; the place of religion in the socio-political sphere, and its marginalisa­tion; and the need for a multi-polar world and a common morality. He speaks as a world religious leader, and much of what he says needs to be taken seriously.

Xenia Dennen is a Russian specialist, and chairman of the Keston Institute, Oxford.

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events


Church Times/RSCM:

Festival of Faith and Music

26 - 28 April 2024

See the full programme on the festival website. 

Early bird tickets available


Intercultural Church for a Multicultural World

28 May 2024

A Church Times/Church House Publishing webinar

Tickets are FREE


Church Times/Modern Church:

A Political Faith?

Monday 3 June 2024

This panel will explore where Christians have come to in terms of political power and ask, where should we go next?

Online tickets available


Church Times/Modern Church:

Participating in Democracy

Monday 10 June 2024

This panel will explore the power of voting, and power beyond voting.

Online tickets available


Green Church Awards

Closing date: 30 June 2024

Read more details about the awards


The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)