Church and civil societyPublished on 23.08.2019

In Moscow with the Foreign Minister of Germany

At the invitation of German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, Prof. Barbara Hallensleben accompanied the delegation of the Minister on 21 and 22 August 2019 during a visit to Moscow.

A report published KNA-Ökumenische Informationen (in German):

Berlin / Moscow. During his visit to Moscow on 21 and 22 August 2019, the German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) - in addition to the bilateral talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov - also met representatives of the civil society (in the Sakharov Center) and of the Russian Orthodox Church. In the Novospassky Monastery he was received by its head, Bishop Dionissi (Porubaj), accompanied by the Chairman of the Department of Church Relations with the Society and Media of the Moscow Patriarchate, Viktor Legoyda, as the director of the Study Center for Eastern Churches of the University of Fribourg / Switzerland, Barbara Hallensleben, reported. The German theologian took part in the trip as an advisor to the minister's delegation, after she had participated in April in a meeting with diplomats in Berlin, giving a statement on the importance of the Orthodox Church for German foreign policy. As a second theologian, Regina Elsner from the Center for East European and International Studies in Berlin, specialized in the socio-ethical aspects of the Russian Orthodox position, accompanied the German delegation.

Legoyda stressed that the Russian Orthodox Church is not the Church of the Russian Federation, but of the historical "Rus'", which today comprises 16 countries. Church developments in Ukraine are therefore an "internal affair" for the Church. First and foremost, the church wants to lead people to God, not fight political struggles. Those involved in society - including leading politicians - had often been educated by the Church. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Church has built up a new, productive relationship with the state. Relations with the state are, according to Legoyda, intense but often not public. At the moment, they are constructive, though arduous.

At a subsequent meeting with participants in the German-Russian Youth Forum, Maas inquired on the background of his visit to the monastery: Are churches really growing, are more churches needed, and are more people coming? "Yes, of course," said a student from Tatarstan, "the churches were destroyed, and the faith forbidden. But my grandmother was always a believing woman. Now more and more people are publicly identifying with the faith again. Mosques are also being rebuilt. "

According to the Resümé Hallenslebens, the journey was a rich experience and opened up new perspectives. Maas set a signal to the Russian state with the "civil society" part of his trip: we are in dialogue not only with the politicians, but with all groups of society, not least with those who otherwise have no voice. "A model for the path of the Russian Orthodox Church in the future?" - she added.