19 January 2015, The Tablet

Russia's Orthodox Church unveils its own financial system

Russia’s Orthodox Church has unveiled a new “Orthodox financial system” to counteract Western sanctions, as Patriarch Kirill appealed to citizens not to “dramatise” the current decline of the rouble.

“We realised we couldn’t stay dependent on the Western financial system, but must develop our own,” explained Dmitri Lubomudrov, an Orthodox legal adviser. “As with the Islamic system, the Orthodox one will be based not just on legislation, but on Orthodox morality as well, and will be an invitation to businessmen seeking security at a time of crisis.”

The lawyer was speaking after the launch of the system, which will restrict interest charges, and investment in non-Orthodox sectors such as gambling. He told journalists a similar network in Muslim countries had amassed capital within just four years of £1,300 billion, and said he believed Orthodox participants, with an initial collective investment of 400 million roubles (£4m), would achieve a similar success.

Russian church leaders have backed a ban of food imports from the European Union and United States, imposed by President Vladimir Putin in retaliation for a tightening of Western economic sanctions over Russian actions in Ukraine. However, Russia’s stock market and rouble exchange rate have fallen sharply in the face of Western disinvestment and an accompanying drop in world oil prices.

Speaking last week, Patriarch Kirill urged Russian manufacturers not to hike prices in response to the problems but to concentrate on “changing the economy for the better”.

“There’s no need to dramatise this sudden change in the exchange rate - it cannot radically impact on the welfare of most citizens,” the Russian Orthodox leader told the Rossiya-1 TV channel in an interview. “Without it, we wouldn’t have switched to diversifying our economy. But it’s time now to create a real economy, producing value through a genuine consolidation of our country’s economic power.”

Only 4 per cent of Russians currently approve of Patriarch Kirill, according to a survey by the country's VCIOM state research institute, compared to 15 per cent during his 2009 first year in office. Public approval of President Vladimir Putin grew, by contrast, from 66 to 81 per cent during 2014.

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