Interview with Andrey Zolotov
Russia Today: Which points of the Patriarch's speech do you think are the most important?
A.Z.: First of all, this is a very important event in itself – the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, the Head of the Russian Orthodox Church, addressing the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which is the main human rights watchdog organisation in Europe. Why? Because we’ve heard quite a lot of criticism in the past years from the PACE on various aspects connected with human rights in Russia. It has also been the arena for intense debate on some of the post-modern, so to speak, human rights issues, such as gay rights, or the issues which have to do with the integrity of churches.
So this is a very important event as an attempt to establish a dialogue between a traditionalist religious Christian worldview, represented in this particular case by the Russian Orthodox Church, and the modern secular society, an attempt to see where the traditional Christian values coincide, and where they do not coincide with what are considered to be European values today.
RT: Apart from that, what is the political significance of the address at this particular forum?
A.Z.: The most important political significance here is that he did express very clearly what he described as the disconnection of human rights and morality which can doom European civilisation. This has been an important theme in the Russian Orthodox Church's external policy in recent years.
He also stated a debate on the Christian understanding of human rights – in part because recently the whole human rights debate has, to a large extent, been based on what is seen by Christians as the freedom to sin, not as freedom to do good. And the whole notion of sin has entirely disappeared from the Western scale of values, from what they are talking about, or what they use in their political language – or moral language, for that matter.
I think it’s an important call to re-introduce the traditional Christian values into the debate, to foster this debate at a very civilized level, to remind Europe where it came from – the path of enlightenment – because there is a very clear unwillingness today, as we have seen from the debate over the Constitution of the European Union – the unwillingness to proclaim Christianity as one of the sources of European civilization. And that appears to be total nonsense from of not just the Orthodox, but any traditional Christian viewpoint.
RT: Aleksy II says there are no fixed plans for a meeting with Pope Benedict the Sixteenth. But could this visit to predominantly Catholic France be a sign of warming relations between the two traditions?
A.Z.: France, actually, is predominantly secular. France is historically Catholic, but saying that today France is predominantly Catholic would be a mistake. It’s not just secular, but very strongly secularist.
I think that today the meeting between the Patriarch of All Russia and Pope Benedict is closer then ever. My prediction is that within a year or two we’ll see such a meeting in a third country. Relations have been improving gradually over the past years, and that is certainly a sign in that direction.