Deacon seeks a virtual saint

December 24, 2004

Russia's Orthodox clerics tend to view the internet as a potential weapon of Satan, but Andrey Kurayev, who is also a lecturer at Moscow State University, wants to find the web a patron saint.

Mr Kurayev, who combines his academic role with that of deacon in the Orthodox Church, favours St John Chrysostom, a 4th-century archbishop of Constantinople renowned for his preaching as an appropriate patron for communication skills.

Mr Kurayev is known for campaigning against unconventional sects and for his work among Moscow's bikers. He maintains that use of the internet is "typically monastic work".

"I am hidden from the public, there is no personal attribution - in other words, no laurels for personal popularity - and yet I can take part in various discussions," he told Moscow's REN TV.

He said that the thousands of Russian Orthodox internet users needed a patron saint, as well as a prayer against viruses, hackers, and the temptation to enter "sinful sites".

New technology is entrenched in the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church. Its ruling body, the Moscow Patriarchate, is planning the world's largest virtual library of Christian literature, while the Moscow Spiritual Academy at the Monastery of the Holy Trinity and St Sergius, includes computer skills in its curriculum.

The Patriarchate's choice for web patron is St Feofan the Hermit, who acted as a spiritual guide to hundreds of people by correspondence. A final choice is expected early in the New Year.

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