In the Russian Orthodox Church, social life is an integral component of their spiritual formation and growth.
The Church’s position regarding her role in politics is determined by a longstanding tradition in church-state relations. Nonetheless, she recognizes the presence of differing political convictions among her episcopate, clergy and laity – so long as these do not lead to actions contrary to her beliefs or norms.
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The Bases of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church
The Church has long recognized that an integral part of its social mission involves collaboration with both state and secular society. Particularly, it is engaged in resolving human rights issues, political reform, social and economic conditions establishment and strengthening.
Laity members of the Church can actively engage with legislative, executive and judicial authorities as well as political organizations if these activities are conducted according to Church teachings, moral norms and official positions on public issues.
However, mere participation in the activities of such organizations without clergy does not confer a special blessing from the Church.
When church-public organizations or individual Orthodox politicians or statesmen take positions that differ from the Church’s general position on public issues, the Hierarchy publicly announces this to prevent embarrassment and misunderstanding among believers and the wider public. Such a declaration should prompt participants to reevaluate whether they wish to continue membership in said political organization.
The Church’s Relations with the State
During the Soviet era, Russian Orthodox Church suffered intense suppression, harassment and church closures. But in the 1990s it gained both membership and political influence again.
The Church has had a thousand-year legacy of spiritual and political influence on Russia, sustained by her salvific mission.
She has also achieved this through her good works, aimed at improving the spiritual-moral and material condition of those around her. In such a context, the state, despite its secular nature and non-religious commitments, is obliged to cooperate with her on the basis of mutual non-interference in her affairs.
The Church’s relations and collaboration with state authorities are conducted directly or through representatives who have authority confirmed in writing. Diocesan bishops carry out these contacts and collaborations with regional governments, while deaneries and parishes act with blessing from their diocesan bishops when dealing with self-government bodies or local authorities.
The Church’s Relations with Secular Bodies and Organisations
The church and various secular bodies and organisations should establish clear regulations governing their relationships that are easily understood by the public.
These rules should not be based on personal preferences or family history, but rather the need to protect citizens’ rights without discriminating against other religions (Ryabykh 2010).
The Russian state is increasingly using the Church as a strategic resource to advance its policy and image. This is evident in a 2010 law which seeks to cement an informal alliance between the Church and State. The law gives financial relief to the Church while keeping it loyal to both domestic and foreign policy initiatives of the Russian state.
The Church’s Relations with the Media
Media play a pivotal role in today’s world. They provide people with news about global developments, helping them to navigate today’s complex reality.
The Russian Orthodox Church firmly holds to the principle that journalists, who are charged with informing society at large, should do so with a commitment to truth and an awareness of their audience’s moral condition.
To this end, the Church has its own media channels within various mass media types (printing, radio-electronic and computer). Furthermore, it engages with secular mass media through institutions and empowered representatives.
The Church’s relationship with media has evolved into an important arena where religious institutions, together with other players, express moral values and work to shape social norms and identities. Patriarch Kirill recognized this potential early on and created a comprehensive media strategy designed to further spread his mission and reach wider audiences.