Patriarch Kirill, head of Russia’s Orthodox Church, urged followers to take in orphans after President Vladimir Putin signed a ban on U.S. adoptions.
“There shouldn’t be orphans in our country,” Kirill said today in a televised address marking Orthodox Christmas. “Those without parents should find them among the kind, the honest and the sympathetic.”
A halt on adoptions of Russian orphans by U.S. parents, including 46 that were about to be placed with new families, came into effect Jan. 1. The U.S. said the decision was “politically motivated” following the imposition of visa bans and asset freezes on Russian officials accused of having a role in the 2009 death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who’d sought to expose alleged corruption among Interior Ministry officers.
Putin signed the law Dec. 28 and ordered the government to promote domestic adoptions and improve conditions for orphans.
In an interview yesterday with the Interfax news service, Kirill also urged that free speech be preserved amid government efforts to protect religious sensibilities.
Laws protecting religious sites and imagery “should be meticulously drafted so they can’t be used to arbitrarily limit freedom of speech or artistic expression,” he was cited as saying.
Lawmakers have proposed toughening legislation against actions deemed offensive toward religions after female punk band Pussy Riot’s protest in Moscow’s main cathedral and a U.S.-made film insulting Islam. While calling for restraint, Kirill also said current laws protecting religion don’t go far enough, Interfax reported.
“A fine of a few hundred rubles for blasphemous writing in churches, mosques or synagogues shows that our society doesn’t fully recognize the importance of defending human dignity, including protecting the feelings of the religious,” Interfax cited him as saying.
Kirill, 66, became patriarch in February 2009. The Russian Orthodox Church and other Christian confessions deserve “deep gratitude and respect” for their social work, Putin said in an e-mailed Christmas greeting.
The holiday “unites us around traditional spiritual and moral values, which have played a particular role in Russian history and serve as the foundation of our society,” said Putin, who attended a midnight mass at a monastery in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.