Church-State Relations Under Review in Russia

Wide-Ranging Session Looks at Taxes, Privacy and Bioethics

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MOSCOW, FEB. 3, 2002 ( Religious leaders in Russia hope to hold discussions with state institutions in order to improve the financial situation of religious confessions.

That was one conclusion of the session of the Christian Interconfessional Consultative Committee Board (CICC), held Jan. 24 at the Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate.

The session focused on the Russian Federation Tax Code, which presupposes taxation of the activities of religious organizations.

Conferees emphasized the need to improve the mechanism of dialogue between the state and religious organizations and to work with state bodies in the matters of taxation. To that end, the group adopted and sent a letter on the topic to President Vladimir Putin, state Duma Speaker G. Seleznev and Federation Council chairman S. Mironov.

Religious leaders also voiced serious concerns about the threat to human dignity, rights and freedoms posed by the new opportunities of electronic control over citizens´ lives. A round table scheduled for April 17 will probe the issue. Scholars, state representatives and religious organizations will participate.

A conference on bioethics was scheduled for next autumn. It will look at the problems and impact of cloning, genetic engineering, abortion and artificial intelligence.

Conferees at the Jan. 24 event included Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad; Catholic Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz; and V.S. Pudov, chairman of the Moscow Representation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Central Asia.

Also present were the Reverend I. Alisov, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia; V.M. Murza, of the Union of Christians of the Evangelical Faith in the Russian Federation; and V.V. Vitko, of the western part of Russia Chapter of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

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