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)