Cleric Describes "Beware, Religion!" Art Exhibit as Downright Provocation

Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, who is in charge of the Moscow Patriarchate's external relations department, has described the art exhibit "Beware, Religion," unveiled in Moscow Friday, as "downright provocation" aimed at creating societal tensions.

Speaking Monday to reporters in the RIA newsroom, the senior Russian Orthodox cleric pointed out that any provocation leading to interethnic or interfaith strife must be qualified as crime.

As was reported earlier, the display's venue, the Sakharov Center, was attacked by a group of six Saturday. The attackers broke into one of the exhibition halls, pouring paint onto the walls and the pictures and smashing the windows. All the six ended up in police custody.

Valery Gribakin, spokesman for the federal Interior Ministry's Moscow branch, says the detainees are facing hooliganism charges. They have now been temporarily released from custody, but a travel ban has been imposed on them, he says. An investigation is currently underway to establish the motives and the objectives of the offense.

Metropolitan Kirill expressed bewilderment at the fact that the exhibition, so offensive to the religious feeling of the faithful, had been permitted at all. This provocative event was not prepared on the sly, but with ample preview material available online, and it could have therefore been easily prevented by authorities, the clergyman believes.

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