The Russian Orthodox Church does not aim for the state status, said Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Alexei II when commenting on the strong criticism coming from PACE. At the last week's session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the European Council some members voiced their concerns that the Russian Orthodox Church was looking for ways of making Orthodoxy the state religion. Alexei II insisted that 'before the 1917 Revolution, Russia had already been through every possible negative consequence of the Orthodoxy being the state religion when the Church was just another governmental institution.' He stressed that the Church should be separated from the State so that it can ethically assess any event occurring in the country and society. 'If our Church were to become a part of the State, it would be nothing more that just another pro-governmental speaker, while over the last ten years there have been a number of occasions when we felt compelled to condemn the government's actions, like we did in 1991 during Vilnius operations or in 1996 during Chechnya crisis,' the Patriarch pointed out.
As November 4 approaches (on this day, Russia and Belarus are to sign union programs), disputes between supporters and opponents of the integration become increasingly heated