Western countries apply their principles only when they suit their interests, and Russia should have the ability to resist attempts to make it subservient to the West, said Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, the deputy head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations (DECR), in late August on a Russian television channel (Interfax, Sept. 2).
There have been a number of statements from Russian Orthodox public figures in recent years asserting Russia’s right to develop its own model, instead of adopting Western lifestyles or political and social models. In 2005, the influential DECR chairman, Metropolitan Kirill, had blessed the release of a “Russian Doctrine”, written by some 70 Orthodox conservative thinkers. They stated that Russia is entitled to its rightful place in the current world (dis)order and should at the same time strive to promote its “spiritual sovereignty,” proposing what they described as “tradition-based modernization.”
This cannot be reduced to a simple alignment along the Russian government’s lines: while such cooperation is strongly in evidence, the Russian Orthodox Church also attempts to put its own concerns forward. Several of its leading members see the Western model as morally flawed and tending toward materialism. Beside geopolitical concerns related to U.S.–European influence and the perceived need to counterbalance the trends toward global dominance by the West, the Moscow Patriarchate is also concerned about the spread of secularism in Europe.
At a dialogue meeting that took place on July 24 in Kiev (Ukraine) between representatives of the Orthodox Church and of the Europeans People’s Party (Christian Democrats), the secretary for church and society relations at the DECR, Fr. Georgy Ryabykh, claimed that the spirit of “aggressive secularism” in Western Europe was “similar to the Soviet course in [the] religious field,” though in a liberal variant (Interfax, July 31). Such views explain why some high-level churchmen in the DECR, while wary of alleged Roman Catholic penetration on Russian territory, have been proposing a “strategic alliance” with the Roman Catholic Church in order to counter secularizing trends in Europe.