Belarusian Leader Lukashenko Calls for Orthodox Church Reform

MINSK, July 26 (RIA Novosti) – Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Friday that the Orthodox Church was due for reforms to make practicing religion more comfortable for believers.

“I support gradual reforms of our Church, starting with the [use of Old Slavic] language and prolonged services, as there are many elderly women [among churchgoers] and they often simply cannot stand through prayer services,” Lukashenko told reporters in Minsk.

He said the services should be “brief, compact and more modern,” and the believers should be able to take a pew rather than stand for hours through a prayer.

He also spoke against the construction of “imposing gigantic” churches, insisting that a house of worship “should be comfortable and pleasing to the soul.”

The Belarusian leader said the Orthodox Church must develop in step with society, carefully responding to social trends whether they are good or bad.

“The whole world is changing, deviating from the path that we and Orthodox Church would want it to go,” Lukashenko said. “As the world is changing, the Church must change as well.”

According to 2010 statistics, 50 percent of Belarus’ population, or about 4.5 million people, are Orthodox believers. Catholics make up 12-15 percent.

The Orthodox Church this year celebrates the 1025th anniversary of the Christianization of Kievan Rus, a medieval state comprising parts of modern-day Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.