World Bulletin/News Desk
The Russian Orthodox Church has established rules for priests seeking elective office despite a ban on almost all political activity by religious in a country that considers itself secular, a church representative was quoted as saying on Friday.
Analysts said Russia's biggest and most influential religious organisation, whose leader has portrayed a protest by punk band Pussy Riot in a cathedral as part of an attack on the church, is seeking to increase its influence on public life.
Rights activists said it could blur the lines between the government and the Russian Orthodox Church, which have a long tradition of close ties that critics say are tightening again despite the constitution saying Russia is a secular state.
At a meeting on Thursday, the church's Holy Synod reaffirmed rules set last year allowing priests to contest elections in cases when "schismatic" forces, or those of another faith, are seeking to use elective office to fight against the church.
Such a case could arise, for example, if "a political force declares that it is running in elections and that one of its aims is to fight Orthodoxy and the Russian church", Vladimir Legoida, a church spokesman, said in comments posted on the Internet.
Those rules are not new, Legoida said, but the church also set out "a clear mechanism" for priests or other church representatives who believe they should run for office or a legislative seat.
They must apply to the church leadership for permission, explaining their reasoning, he said.
Priests are still barred from joining political parties, even if they run in elections, Legoida said, and he said such had been tightened.
Despite the restrictions, the move indicates that "the church ... wants more involvement in politics," said Ksenia Sergazina of the Sova think-tank.
She said another example was legislation submitted to parliament last month that could set jail terms of up to three years for offending the religious sensitivities of the faithful.
Interfax news agency quoted Lyudmila Alexeyeva, a prominent human rights activist, as saying priests running in elections would be "another step in the direction of the clericalisation of our system".
"All these steps mean that the Russian Orthodox Church is becoming a state religion," she was quoted as saying.
The need for humanitarian aid is rising, particularly in the eastern region of the country
Mob lynching is becoming a serious issue in Nigeria, with many people being killed by what is often described as "jungle justice."
Signaling a possible shift in the peace negotiations, new FARC guerrillas have arrived in Cuba.
Zambia, now seen as a model of African democracy, won independence from the United Kingdom on October 24, 1964.
John Kerry says allegations are "extremely serious."
Kenya and China signed a $3.8-billion deal for the construction of the railway in May
Arrawa Hammad, 14, was shot in the head with live ammunition by an Israeli sniper during clashes in Silwad village
An explosion rocked an army checkpoint in Egypt's restive Sinai Peninsula, leaving 25 soldiers dead and 20 wounded, a military source said.
Mali's Health Minister Ousmane Kone told state television that the patient in the western town of Kayes was a two-year-old girl who had recently arrived from neighbouring Guinea,
Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic says other European countries are preparing to recognize Palestine as well
European Union calls on Turkey to ‘respect’ the Greek Cypriot administration’s 'sovereign rights’ in waters which it claims as its territory.
A reporter covering fighting between Myanmar's army and Karen rebels said to have been shot dead after arrest
Court extends detentions of three people, while five suspects released
Frelimo, which has ruled Mozambique since its independence in 1975, also maintained its majority in the 250-seat parliament.
"It is not acceptable, it an appalling way to behave," a visibly angry Cameron told a news conference in Brussels
The child died from birdshot injuries after security forces dispersed a pro-Morsi rally in the Al-Matarya district northwest of capital Cairo