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Church leader warns Russian lawmakers against Western `pseudo values`

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church on Thursday delivered a historic first address to parliament in which he urged lawmakers to guard against Western "pseudo values".

Moscow: The head of the Russian Orthodox Church on Thursday delivered a historic first address to parliament in which he urged lawmakers to guard against Western "pseudo values".

Speaking to the lower house of parliament, the State Duma, Patriarch Kirill also warned Russians against interfering with "God`s plan" by having abortions or using surrogate mothers.

Patriarch Kirill`s address was the first time the head of the Russian Orthodox Church had delivered a major address to the State Duma in post-Soviet Russia.

"The idea of the absolute priority of freedom -- freedom of choice -- and the renunciation of the priority of moral norms have become a timebomb of sorts for Western civilisation," said the black-robed cleric in the speech repeatedly interrupted by applause.

He slammed Western countries for legalising same-sex marriages and euthanasia, saying the pattern of behaviour seen in some countries contradicted common sense and the instinct to preserve the human race.

"Our country`s ability to withstand the pressure of modern pseudo values, which are harmful for man and human civilisation on the whole, will depend to a great degree on the active stance of Russian lawmakers," he said.

He also poured scorn on the high number of abortions carried out in Russia and reproductive technology such as surrogate motherhood.

"There are things one cannot joke with," Patriarch Kirill said. "Don`t joke with God`s plan," he said, adding that those women who cannot have children should adopt. 

"That`s what our people always did."

More than a million legal abortions were carried out Russia in 2013, according to official statistics.

Patriarch Kirill urged the state to stop financing abortions by covering their costs through compulsory health insurance. 

He praised the current make-up of the Kremlin-controlled State Duma and expressed hope that Thursday`s meeting would strengthen ties between church, state and society.

Lawmakers gave the church leader a standing ovation at the end of his speech.

The Russian Orthodox Church was suppressed under Communism but has staged an astonishing revival in post-Soviet Russia to become one of the country`s most powerful institutions.

The Church has offered unstinting support to President Vladimir Putin throughout his years in power, including during the crisis with the West over Ukraine, where Patriarch Kirill also has jurisdiction over Orthodox Christians. 

Conspicuously, Patriarch Kirill avoided issues like the economic crisis at home and fighting in the neighbouring ex-Soviet state which has pitted Russia against Ukraine and claimed more than 5,000 lives.

But he said a search for justice should not split society.

"It`s necessary to renounce the civil war of memories," he added, in a reference to Russia`s past.

Tensions are mounting as international isolation is growing and the country is sliding into a crisis under pressure from falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine.

Some expressed surprise that the head of the church was offering spiritual advice to the parliament. "Isn`t our Church separated from the state?" said one online user.

Since returning to the presidency for a third term in 2012, Putin has promoted an unflinchingly conservative agenda in a move aimed at cementing his support among blue-collar workers and elderly Russians, his core backers.

Even though Russia is a secular state, many critics have pointed to the blurring of the line between church and state.

Patriarch Kirill has over the past years imparted advice on everything from politics to anti-Putin protests to the economy.

As the country celebrated Orthodox Christmas on January 7, the church leader urged Russians not to worry about the beleaguered ruble which had lost half its value against the dollar.

"Who knows the value of the dollar anyway?" he said in televised comments. "Many are under the impression that it has a symbolic value."

Patriarch Kirill`s predecessor, Alexy II spoke to lawmakers in 1990, before the Soviet Union`s collapse the following year.

Alexei Beglov, a researcher at the Institute of World History of the Russian Academy of Sciences, called Patriarch Kirill`s Duma address "a new format in modern Russian statehood."