PATRIARCH KIRILL of Moscow has praised the armed forces of Russia under President Putin’s leadership, during the dedication of a new military cathedral in Moscow. The event coincided with government officials’ pledge to support the Serbian Orthodox Church in its conflict with neighbouring Montenegro.
“For our historical development to progress, we need to keep our powder dry: the armed forces should always stand at the height of their vocation,” Patriarch Kirill said.
“Besides the necessary technical equipment, our warriors need to maintain a striking and unbreakable spirit; so the idea of laying down one’s life for the motherland stays in the mind and heart of every person who takes the oath. Only such resolve, courage, and loyalty, multiplied by technical capabilities and powerful modern weapons, will guarantee our country’s security.”
The Patriarch spoke at an opening ceremony for the €38-million Resurrection of Christ Cathedral, built with government backing in the Kubinka suburb of Moscow. The appeal was endorsed by President Putin, who praised Russian military personnel for their “commitment to tradition and the unbreakable inheritance of a generation of victors”.
“These unquestionable values help the Russian armed forces stay vigilant, aligning with our country’s thousand-year history,” the President told the cathedral congregation.
“The armed forces are being modernised with new hardware and broadened combat capacities. Yet valour, devotion to duty, honour, and boundless love for the fatherland will remain the basis for the military profession.”
A foundation stone for the cathedral, known as the “Church of Victory”, which commemorates Russia’s part in defeating Nazi Germany, was laid in September 2018 by the President and Patriarch Kirill, who also praised the new building in early June as a “symbol of Russia’s return to faith”.
The cathedral can accommodate 6000 Orthodox worshippers beneath its 100-metre cupola. An adjoining multimedia centre will include names and photographs of millions of Soviet soldiers who fought in the Second World War.
The dedication ceremony coincided with pledges from the Russian government of support for the Serbian Orthodox Church in its dispute with Montenegro, where a new law, last December, required Serbian Orthodox clergy to hand over lands and properties taken from the Montenegrin Church when it was outlawed by Yugoslav occupiers in 1918.
The 83-year-old Serbian Orthodox Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro was twice detained by police, with other clergy, during June protest processions against the law and the re-established Montenegrin Orthodox Church, which is supported by the Adriatic country’s government, but not recognised by other Orthodox Churches.
Visiting Moscow in late June, the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, said that the Serbian Orthodox Church was now “in jeopardy” in Montenegro, and that he had requested Russian help in the dispute. Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, confirmed, during a stopover in Belgrade, that he believed that the Serbian Church’s position in Montenegro, which became independent of Serbia in June 2006, could be strengthened “through the unity of Orthodox peoples”.
The assertion, however, was angrily rejected by the President of Montenegro, Milo Djukanovic, who accused the Serbian Orthodox Church, in a TV interview last week, of supporting “greater Serbian nationalism”. Defending the new law, he said that Serbian Orthodox assets in the country — which has 622,000 inhabitants — had been subsidised with public funds, and should therefore be state property.
President Putin is to attend the dedication of a new Orthodox cathedral in Belgrade in December, co-financed by the Serbian and Russian governments.
On Wednesday, Russian referendum voters were widely expected to approve a revised constitution, confirming the priority of Russian law over international norms, and enabling President Putin, who has been in power since 2000, to seek two further terms as ruler, in 2024 and 2030.
The constitution, supported by Russian Orthodox leaders, will also refer to Russia’s heritage of “belief in God”, while enshrining marriage “as a union of man and woman”, and protecting the right of parents to bring up children in line with their “religious and philosophical beliefs”.
Russia’s coronavirus lockdown was relaxed in Moscow and other cities two weeks ago, to encourage public support for the changes.