KOMMERSANT

"We're Not Clowns!"- Russian Patriarch Orders Clerics To Stop Going Viral

Patriarch Kirill isn't amused
Patriarch Kirill isn't amused
Olga Kalinina and Natalya Romashkova

MOSCOW - Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, is calling on all members of the clergy to carefully watch what they say and how they live their lives, especially in light of the way modern information travels fast.

Without naming names, he referred to some recent cases where the actions of clergy members have reflected badly on the Church, and the Patriarch particularly urged clergy members to refrain from jokes or “outrageous statements,” noting that certain statements could have double meanings or be misconstrued.

The Patriarch continued by saying that inappropriate remarks from clergy members often stemmed from a lack of responsibility on the part of the gaffe-maker.

“We have to be responsible for everything we say, especially things said in the public sphere. Sometimes things get too emotional and we lose control,” he said during a forum on faith and words at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, where representatives from 155 dioceses were assembled.

“People are tired of outbursts - of sharp words that don’t make much sense but are spoken just to get a reaction and to promote oneself,” Kirill said to the gathered clergy.

“We have been witness to ridiculous statements made by clergy members - not just to their village or city. They stupidly blurt something out and then it buzzes around the Internet for two months, with people parsing all of the dumb jokes. And all that time the Church is trying to make important announcements about family and marriage, but all anyone is interested in talking about is the dumb little jokes made by a priest,” Kiril continued. "We're not clowns."

He added that clergy members are hereby banned from participating in talk shows, because the whole point of shows is to encourage guests to joke and in some cases make fools of themselves.

The Patriarch also called on Orthodox journalists to “look at the world through the prism of your Christian faith.

“You shouldn’t be looking at the world though rose-colored or black-colored glasses - you should only have the prism of your faith in front of you, and you should look at the world through it,” he said.

Digital masses

There have been three recent events where the Church caused an Internet sensation, but not in exactly the way it would like.

Last April, a well-known Orthodox deacon and religious scholar Andrei Kuraev suggested that young believers should break up a concert by Madonna by telling police that there was a bomb in the concert hall.

Later the priest announced that his suggestion had been a joke, but repeated that his point was that the concert had to be cancelled because Madonna’s appearance violated laws against homosexual propaganda.

Kuraev also said in August, that the members of Pussy Riot would be certain to win their appeal if they were willing to call the actions of the Ukrainian feminist group Femen “blasphemy.” In solidarity with Pussy Riot, Femen’s members had taken down an Orthodox cross in the center of Kiev.

In terms of living a sin-free life, the Orthodox Church has refused to take responsibility for the priest who caused a major traffic accident while driving drunk. The Church complained that if the drunk driver had had any other profession, no one would have been talking about it. But since he was a priest, people were using the drunk-driving accident as ammunition against the Church.

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Society

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel

-Essay-

BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.


Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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