Religious Leaders to Meet in Moscow

More than 100 religious leaders from about 40 countries will meet Monday in Moscow to draft a statement on religion, the state and society in advance of the G8 summit.

The three-day meeting, hosted by the Russian Orthodox Church, will offer G8 leaders at the St. Petersburg summit ideas about the interaction between faith and politics and will steer clear of theological differences, said Metropolitan Kirill, spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchate.

Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Islam are the four traditional faiths officially recognized by the state; all four will be represented at the meeting.

The G8 summit takes place July 15-17.

Barred from the meeting are Muslim leaders from Iraq. Organizers said they “found it impossible” to extend an invitation after the recent kidnapping and murder of four Russian diplomats in the war-torn country.

Two other religious leaders who will be absent from the meeting are Pope Benedict XVI and the Dalai Lama. Five cardinals will represent the Vatican.

“The pope’s visit would be an historic event, and it would be wrong to combine it with another historic event: the religious leaders’ summit,” Kirill said.

The Orthodox Church repeatedly resisted efforts by the late Pope John Paul II to visit Russia. After his death in 2004, there was a warming of relations between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Vatican.

Inviting the Dalai Lama, a hugely popular Tibetan leader, could strain Russian-Chinese relations, another patriarchate spokesman, Father Vsevolod Chaplin, suggested in a recent interview with Itar-Tass.

Buddhist groups and senators from the Buddhist republics of Kalmykia, Buryatia and Tuva last week sent an invitation to the Dalai Lama and a request to the Foreign Ministry that he be allowed to enter the country for the summit.

Also, Buddhist leaders issued an open letter to President Vladimir Putin asking him to grant the Dalai Lama an entry visa and lashing out at the Foreign Ministry for having denied him entry for more than a decade.

“New religions” will not be represented at the summit because of theological conflicts between them and traditional religions, Chaplin said.

“It would be difficult for us to sit at the same table as Jehovah’s Witnesses, who strongly distort the teaching of Christianity,” Chaplin said.

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The Moscow Times, Russian Federation
July 4, 2006
Nabi Absullaev

Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday July 4, 2006.
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