Patriarch Kirill urges prayers for rain amid Russian heat wave

Patriarch Kirill I of the Russian Orthodox Church has offered prayers for rain to relieve a drought that has destroyed crops and led to thousands of forest and peat bog fires.

"I am urging all the faithful sons and daughters of the Russian Orthodox Church to unite in one prayer to God that he send rains to our scorched soil," the Interfax news agency quoted the patriarch as saying while visiting the Nizhny Novgorod region, one of the badly hit areas.

Russia is in the grip of a second month of unprecedented heat, with some of the worst fires in Nizhny Novgorod.

When Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited the region on 2 August to monitor the fire fighting effort he threatened regional officials with repercussions if they did not improve their response to the emergency.

Kirill was in Nizhny Novgorod to visit the Holy Trinity St Seraphim Diveyevo convent, which was built in the 18th century in a village where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared in a vision to a nun. St Seraphim, who served at the convent, was known for his close communion with nature and his life as a hermit in the forest.

In an appeal to Russian Orthodox Christians, Patriarch Kirill called on them to aid victims of the fire, and warned against ascribing blame for the disaster.

"Many are asking the question right now, why God allowed this tragedy to fall on poor people, who often did not have even small savings. For what is this punishment?" Kirill stated.

"Of course human sin is the cause of all earthly misfortune," he said. "But called by God to love, we must not blame each other or look in others for the cause of the misfortunes that have fallen on us, because this disaster now affects us all."

The heat wave was also a topic at a media conference on 30 July about a recent visit by Patriarch Kirill to Ukraine.

The Rev. Vsevolod Chaplin, who chairs the Moscow Patriarchate's department on church and society, said the heat and its consequences are grounds for questioning whether modern society, with its focus on big cities, is properly structured.

The heat has also highlighted changes in Russians' once very formal style of dress. Now shorts are the clothes of choice for many and can even be seen in churches, a trend which has led to debate.

Source: ENI By Sophia Kishkovsky