The President of the European People’s Party and former Prime Minister of Belgium Mr Wilfried Martens visits the Russian Orthodox Church

On the invitation of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia, Mr Wilfried Martens, President of the European People’s Party and former Prime Minister of Belgium, visited Russia. The President was accompanied by Mr Kostas Sasmatzoglu, the Party’s vice-president for international affairs, and Mrs Galina Fomenchenko, member of the President’s cabinet.

On 25 February Mr Martens and his colleagues attended the Divine Liturgy at Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow. After the service their short meeting with the Patriarch took place. On the same day they visited the Holy Trinity Sergious Laura and the Moscow Theological Academy.

On 26 February Mr Martens and his colleagues visited the churches and palaces of the Moscow Kremlin and attended the reception at Christ the Saviour Cathedral on the occasion Patriarch Alexy’s namesday.

On 27 February a round table with Mr Wilfried Martens took place at the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, moderated by the Department’s chairman Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad. Mr Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the State Duma’s Committee for international affairs, took part in the discussions.

In his introductory remarks Metropolitan Kirill underlined that the Russian Orthodox Church stands for the primacy of moral law in private, public and political life of the European continent. “The Russian Orthodox Church is concerned with the future of Europe. It is our duty to state: lack of centuries-proven models of righteous life suppresses human dignity,” said the Metropolitan.

According to him, only economically profitable things are allowed to public space and profitable is to slave a person to his passions and exploit his instincts. “It is s always easier to deprive a person of his money if he is intoxicated with passions and moved by instincts rather than if he strives to live in compliance with moral ideas,” Metropolitan Kirill stressed.

The Russian Church’s representative is convinced that slavery to passions is “the most serious threat for human dignity,” as it makes happiness impossible for Europeans, destroys their freedom and makes public problems insoluble. “Europeans should revise the role of their spiritual heritage for the continent’s future in order to escape these dangers,” Metropolitan Kirill said. He pointed out that Europe’s moral idea is expressed in traditional Christian values and that “civilization will exist so long as humanity manages to tell good from evil, truth from lie, sin from righteousness.”

Representative of the Russian Church to the European Institutions Bishop Hilarion pointed out to another contemporary problem of the Western Europe which is Christianophobia. The bishop explained that it not only drives Christian values away from social life, but also has external manifestations. Referring to the criminal punishment on the one hand and abortion on the other, the bishop pointed out that European society is more anxious to protect criminal’s life than lives of unborn children. He also noted that when a homosexual couple’s right to adopt children is discussed, they seldom question if children have right not to be adopted by such families.

At the conclusion of the round table, the latest issue of the “European View,” a periodical published by the European People’s Party, was presented to the participants. It is dedicated to the relations between politics and religion. Among other contributions, it contains an article written by His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia (see above).

On the same day official talks between the leadership of the European People’s Party and the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church took place at the Patriarchal residence in Danilov monastery.

“I am convinced that the Christian heritage and its presence in the life of society can provide a solid foundation for relations between Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova on the one hand and the European Union on the other,” said Patriarch Alexy II in his opening remarks. The Patriarch further noted that the Orthodox peoples of these states “cannot and do not deem it possible to merely remain onlookers in the processes in Europe, but, guided by their own historical and cultural traditions, must play their role in strengthening the Christian values in the European Union.”

Alexy II also welcomed the aspiration of the European People’s Party, which unites Europe’s Christian democratic parties at a pan-European level “to work on the basis of Christian values.” According to the primate of the Russian Orthodox Church, “this approach can only be welcomed by our Church.”

We can remember that it was under the government of Mr Wilfried Martens, in 1985, that the Orthodox Church was officially recognised by the Belgian state.

Sources:, Interfax