Wednesday, February 9, 2011

COMMENTARY: Does the Russian Government Overextend Itself for Patriarch Kirill?

The Russian Constitution says that the church is separate from the state in Russia.

Nonetheless, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia is treated as a state official, because the Russian government provides him with free protection by the Federal Guard Service.

Moreover, Patriarch Kirill, the head of Russia's Orthodox Church -- the largest religious community in Russia -- has also been granted the use of a car by the Russian government. Strange as it may seem, the state-owned car that the Patriarch has been allowed to use has a flashing blue light that he can also use.

The major reason for Patriarch Kirill having a car with a blue light is to prevent the vehicle he is using from being stuck in Moscow traffic jams. I find this Russian government benefit for Patriarch Kirill to be incredible, since it "crosses the line."

Is it not the purpose of a flashing blue light on a vehicle -- usually allowed only on police and fire vehicles -- to permit that vehicle to rush to an emergency scene in order to save lives?

Is Patriarch Kirill's time so critical that he should not have to drive through traffic jams in Moscow like all other non-emergency vehicles? True, Patriarch Kirill is the head of Russia's largest religious community, but does that justify his use of a car equipped with with a blue light that he is free to use to avoid traffic?

The Jewish, Islamic, Catholic and other heads of religious communities in Russia are not provided by the Russian government with cars or with free protection by Russian security guards.

I can understand the Russian government's reasons for providing Patriarch Kirill with security protection -- especially in view of the fact that several Orthodox priests in Russia have been assassinated during the past two years.

But I believe that allowing Patriarch Kirill to use a state-owned car equipped with a flashing blue light to avoid traffic jams makes a mockery of the real purpose of such a vehicle; namely, to save time by rushing to the scene of a vehicular accident, a fire, or chaos, in an effort to save lives and to minimize the effects of a dangerous occurrence.

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