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Foreword by the publishers

FOREWORD

The book ‘Freedom and Responsibility: A Search for Harmony - Human Rights and Dignity’ by Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, was first published in 2008, when its author was Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kalingrad and Chairman of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Department for External Church Relations. It was composed of articles and speeches that he had given up to that time on the subject of Human Rights and Dignity, as he and others sought to clarify and expound the Russian Orthodox Church’s distinctive stance in this area, ending with the approval by the Bishops’ Council and publication in 2008 of the text ‘The Russian Orthodox Church’s Basic Teaching on Human Dignity, Freedom and Rights.’

The book was translated into Spanish and German in 2009, the year in which its author became Patriarch. In 2010 it was published in Italian and Polish, followed by English, Arabic and Greek. 2012 brought translations into Estonian, Latvian, Bulgarian, Lithuanian, Japanese, Chinese and Hebrew. To date, this book by the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church has been translated into sixteen languages.

Patriarch Kirill has lived through crucial, often tragic, pages of Russian history. He experienced the severity of the Soviet era and its godless regime. He played an active role in the revival of the Church after the end of the atheistic era, and made an enormous contribution to the development of inter-Orthodox, inter-Chris-

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tian and inter-religious cooperation. He has visited more than a hundred countries around the world, worshiping and meeting with religious, political and public figures. The breadth of his experience of the church, and of social life, has contributed to His Holiness’ understanding of the fundamental notions of human freedom, responsibility and dignity. His thinking in this area constitutes the basis of this book, in which the primary idea is the connection between the individual’s freedom and his responsibility before God, society and himself. The responsibility imposed by freedom originates in the moral nature of man, not in his philosophical or political views. Moral nature remains unchanged as a constant given to us by the Creator. Accordingly, moral standards cannot be overwritten for today.

According to His Holiness, the book was written to say one thing: Freedom to sin is not freedom. During one of the presentations of his work, Patriarch Kirill, speaking about the doctrine of St. Paul on freedom, emphasized: ‘The freedom to sin turns humans into slaves of instinct. If such freedom forms the basis of human civilization, then we create a civilization of instinct; an unsustainable civilization.’

Today we are witnessing the distortion of human life associated with a false understanding of freedom. People are hoping to be convinced that they should themselves determine the moral postulates of life. Moral relativism imposed on modern society becomes the cause of many phenomena unacceptable for the believer, such as same-sex ‘marriages’, prostitution, abortion and euthanasia. The concept of sin is banished from such a system of values.

If morality becomes relative, freedom turns into permissiveness, because only morality is able to restrict and guide the individual, with his free will, towards good.There is no neutral freedom: there is either freedom from sin or freedom to sin.

The First Hierarch of the Russian Church sets out in this book the thesis of the absolute nature of moral values laid down by God in human nature. He states that it is from the religious tradition - in the Divine Commandments - that man is called to draw ideas of

 

 

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morality; a morality that reflects the highest value of human personality.

We hope this book will contribute to discussions of the relationship between freedom and responsibility in human life. The ideas forming the basis of the writings by Patriarch Kirill can be the subject of an intellectual dialogue among theologians, philosophers, public figures, politicians and ordinary believers around the world.

The Publishers


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