Thaddeus Baklinski

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Russian Orthodox bishop: ‘society should rally to prevent the extinction of our population’

Thaddeus Baklinski
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Correction: The headline of this article originally referred to Metropolitan Hilarion as the Patriarch of Moscow. This is incorrect. We apologize for the error.

MOSCOW, May 19, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk told an ecumenical meeting in Moscow that stopping the demographic crisis in Russia must be a priority for all Christians, as well as the state.

Speaking recently at the assembly of the Christian Inter-confessional Council of the Community of Independent States and Baltic Countries, Metropolitan Hilarion said that to deal successfully with the population problem, the Church and other religious communities, the state, and the mass media and artists should unite their efforts.

Demographers have estimated that Russia’s population has been declining at about 0.5 percent per year, or about 750,000 to 800,000 people per year during the late 1990s and most of the 2000s. The drop is due to the aging of Russia’s population, below-replacement birth rate, and staggeringly high rates of abortion. A UN report warned that Russia will lose about a third of its population by 2050 unless the current trends are halted.

“All the healthy forces in society should rally to prevent the extinction of our population. It is necessary to reverse the alarming population tendency which has come to prevail in the last decades,” said Hilarion, who is President of the Moscow Patriarchate’s department for external church relations.

“We need a policy aimed to support the family and traditional moral values. It should be carried out on the governmental level through the systems of healthcare and primary, secondary and higher education. Both the mass media and religious communities should help realize it.”

The Orthodox leader noted that modern culture openly opposes Christian values, and leads society, and especially young people, to egotism and excessive liberty because it creates a moral vacuum.

“We must learn to translate our positive message in to the language of contemporary culture,” explained Hilarion.

“Positive values should no longer be formulated as abstract categories but be inserted in the fabric of the language of art, cinema, music and painting. This way of announcing positive values can not only rehabilitate them but also make them more easily assimilated, giving them a living and existential dimension.”

Metropolitan Hilarion reminded conference attendees, which included Archbishop Paolo Pezzi, ordinary of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow, and Vitali Vlasenko, director for external affairs of the Russian Union of the Evangelical Christians-Baptists, that before the 20th century, most families in Russia and Europe, regardless of the income and social status, were large.

“But large families have become a rarity while now the norm is a family with one or two children. There is an evident change in the very culture of founding a family and raising children,” Hilarion said. He stated with regret that sometimes members of Christian Churches and communities also fail to give an example of creating a large family.

“One can speak much about the obligation of the state, a cultural institution or the mass media but one should begin with oneself. First of all it is important to remind people of moral truths, to create a favorable atmosphere and to create social conditions necessary for extended families.”

“I know of parishes in Moscow,” Hilarion said, “in which concern for large families is a priority in the pastoral work. They are given special attention, and parish leaders even try to find resources and means to improve their living accommodation. Conditions are created for children to feel comfortable during divine services and beyond the liturgy.”

He urged more attention be given to this aspect of parish life. “Social aid should be one of the priorities in our parish and pastoral work,” he said.

Metropolitan Hilarion also reminded the audience of the work carried out by the Synodal Department for Charity and Social Service to develop programs for aid to large families and for support of motherhood and childhood, but concluded, “For population growth to begin there must be economic and financial incentives but there must also be the preaching of the word of God.”

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