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Russian Orthodox
Church breaks with Church of Sweden over same-sex unions

Russian Orthodox
Church breaks with Church of Sweden over same-sex unions

The Russian Orthodox Church said Wednesday it has broken off relations with the Church of Sweden over the latter's recognition of same-sex unions. Metropolitan Kirill, who heads the Russian church's external relations department, said in a statement that the church's synod "expressed its categorical condemnation of these actions." The Swedish government has recognized same-sex civil unions since 1994, and the Church of Sweden this year approved special blessing ceremonies for such unions, although it does not recognize them as weddings. The Church of Sweden, a Lutheran denomination, counts 7 million of the country's 9 million residents as members, although many of those are nonobservers who became members when it was the state church. The leader of the Swedish church expressed surprise at the Russian church's vehement condemnation but said it was not clear what the ramifications would be. "We know that the Russian Orthodox Church and other orthodox churches dislike the church council's decision. But we don't know why they feel the need to emphasize it this way," Swedish archbishop Karl Gustav Hammar said via his spokeswoman Ewa Rollgardh. "And we don't know what it will mean practically since we don't have a direct cooperation with them." Rollgardh said the Russian Orthodox Church has not yet contacted the Church of Sweden directly but is supposed to have sent a letter that is expected to arrive after the New Year. (AP)

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