Monday, June 27, 2005. Issue 3195. Page 3.
By Oksana Yablokova
The Russian Orthodox Church has for the first time officially come out in favor of welcoming HIV and AIDS sufferers into the church and offered guidance to priests on helping believers with the disease. Health officials and non-governmental organizations praised the statement as evidence that the Church had shifted its stance and is prepared to face up to the issue.
Posted on the Church's official web site, www.mospat.ru
, the statement called for Orthodox priests and lay believers to do their best to welcome HIV/AIDS patients seeking the Church's support so that they would not feel "the cold of indifference, contempt and condemnation."
The World Health Organization and UNAIDS have said Russia potentially faces the biggest AIDS epidemic of any country in Europe and Central Asia, with the possibility of hundreds of thousands of people dying from the disease over the next few years.
"Diseases and the suffering related to them, including the feelings of alienation and rejection an HIV/AIDS patient experiences from others, are the consequences of sin and disdain for God-given moral values," the statement said. But it called on believers "to hate and resist the sin, rather than transfer hatred and rejection onto the sinner."
"A person with HIV/AIDS should find in the Church a home and a caring family," the statement said, adding that priests and parishioners should offer moral and material support to HIV sufferers and pray for their recovery.
(PART II TO FOLLOW)