Translated by Andrey Bystrov
July 8, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The supreme governance and administrative body of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Bishops' Council, which is held every four years, was opened on June 24th in Moscow, presided over by His Holiness Alexy II, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia.
In his report to the Council on the opening day, in the section "Orthodoxy and Family Care", his Holiness spoke on the crisis of the family in modern society.
In particular Alexy II pointed to the increasing practice of casual sexual liaisons and licentious cohabitation, the high rate of divorce, and the large number of incomplete and unsuccessful families as evidence that the crisis exists.
The majority of divorces occur in the very first years after the creation of the family, he said, and as a result a significant number of children live without fathers. The statistics show that the majority of so-called "difficult" teenagers are coming from such broken families.
It was pointed out by his Holiness that the spreading of cohabitation without the conclusion of marriage testifies to the unwillingness of couples to accept responsibility both to each other and to their future children, whose birth frequently is not even expected in such unions, which rarely last.
Addressing the clergy, the Patriarch specified the need to explain to their congregations why such unions cannot be considered as marriage at all, and, at the same time, to explain the importance of witnessing to the meaning and traditions of Christian marriage, which grants happiness and fulfillment.
He pointed to the need to resolutely resist attempts to dilute the concept of family, which can only be the lawful union of a man and a woman, which creates the proper conditions for raising children.
On divorce and the dissolutions of marriages blessed by the Church, his Holiness emphasized that the Church can only register a family break-up, stressing that under no circumstances can there be a good reason to bless a divorce - "What God has joined together, man must never separate" (Matthew, 19, 6).
Addressing the problem of the extremely high rate of abortion, the Patriarch stated the unalterable viewpoint of the Church: abortion is murder and is subject to moral condemnation as a serious sin.
Russia's demographic crisis is related to the pitiable status of family and marriage and low level standards of morality and spirituality, His Holiness said.
He also pointed out to the assembly that any attempts to overcome the demographic crisis by economic means only, without taking into account a spiritual component, are doomed to failure - since the sources of the crisis are not in purses, but in the souls of people. He said it is not accidental that believers have more children than non-believers in identical economic conditions.
Demographic problems do not arise in poor countries that have kept their religious traditions, he observed. Thus Russia should be looking for a way out of the demographic crisis in a spiritual and moral transformation of the person and society.
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