Canon Dr Paul Oestreicher says Christians with a vision of a reformed church that has learned from history will quietly have to bide their time
Clearly, as Giles Fraser correctly states (Loose canon, 27 October), Soviet communism failed to kill off religion in Russia, even though innumerable priests and nearly all the bishops were killed. After all, from earliest Christian times the martyrs have been the seeds of the church. However, it is a lot more complicated than Giles suggests. For millions in Russia, Stalin had become the infallible god, just like Hitler in Germany. When Stalin had to fend off Hitler’s aggression, he needed all the help he could get. He reopened many churches and appointed loyal bishops. Khrushchev later made an attempt to put down religion. Once again, he closed churches. To little avail. The new Orthodox leaders, loyal as ever to the state, simply awaited their time. With Putin it has come. The new self-appointed tsar knew that giving new life to Orthodox tradition would help to secure his rule. Vast riches have been returned to the church, new cathedrals built, “Holy Russia” is back on course. The church is there to bless Putin’s every move and, of course, his military. Once more, church and state are in perfect harmony. Western decadence is the enemy. All is back to before 1917. The murdered Tsar Nicholas is now a saint. Today those Christians with a vision of a reformed church that has learned from history will quietly have to bide their time.
Canon Dr Paul Oestreicher
Former east-west relations secretary, British Council of Churches
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Link : Religion in Russia is a complicated matter | Letters