Russian Orthodox Church Breaks With Swedish Lutherans Over Gay Unions

|TOP|The Russian Orthodox Church has broken contact with the Lutheran Church of Sweden after the Swedish Church voted to introduce a service of blessing for same sex civil partnerships, reports Ecumenical News International.

“It is with great disappointment and sorrow that we learned that the Lutheran church of Sweden not only failed to oppose the so-called same-sex marriages, but also issued a decree to establish an official blessing rite for those marriages," the Russian church's Holy Synod said in a statement issued at the end of December.

The Russian church official for external church relations, Metropolitan Kirill, also told the Russian television station NTV that the Synod had voted in favour of the “suspension of bilateral relations with the Church of Sweden”.

|QUOTE|“Approving the shameful practice of same-sex marriages is a serious blow to the entire system of European spiritual and moral values influenced by Christianity,” said the Russian Synod in a statement.

The Church of Sweden has not yet received formal notification of the decision by the Russian church to suspend relations, Johan Dalman, the Swedish church’s ecumenical officer, told ENI.

Mr Dalman defended the Church of Sweden to the Russian church, saying: “Maybe they are not correctly informed about the act we established. We do not talk about marriage, but of an act of blessing.”

|AD|The Swedish church added that it wanted Kirill to expand on his comments about the “suspension of bilateral relations”.

The Church of Sweden expressed its hope that the contact between the two churches in "Theobalt”, an international church network, would not be hindered.

“We really hope that this important cooperation is not threatened,” Dalman said, adding that the Church of Sweden would initiate a dialogue with the Russian church over the issue of same sex blessings.

“I am afraid we will not come to an agreement...but it’s better if our differences are based on knowledge,” he said.

The Russian church said, however: “Such novelties undermine the moral foundations of European civilisation and cause irreparable damage to its spiritual influence worldwide."