Russian Orthodox Church leader bemoans decline of Christianity in Europe

The head of Russia's dominant church lamented the "erosion of Christian identity" in Europe on Tuesday, citing "The Da Vinci Code" as an example of traditional morals coming under attack in the name of freedom.

"It is impossible to watch the erosion of the Christian identity of European peoples without alarm," Moscow Patriarch Alexy II, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, said in televised comments during a meeting with visiting Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa.

"We are afraid that Europe, losing its link with Christianity, will be unable to mount an adequate response to the challenges posed by the modern world," said Alexy, whose church has close ties to the government and claims about two-thirds of Russia's population of 143 million as followers. "We have complete mutual understanding with the Roman Catholic Church on these issues."

Alexy listed the Prophet Muhammad cartoon scandal, the case of a Swedish pastor who was prosecuted for denouncing homosexuality and "the film based on Dan Brown's novel and insulting Christians" as "vivid examples of disrespect for traditional moral standards being disguised as defense of freedom," according to the Interfax news agency.

The deeply conservative Alexy, whose church has enjoyed a major revival since the collapse of the Soviet Union, has repeatedly said that Europe is threatened by liberal values he has identified with the West. While the Russian Orthodox Church's relations with the Roman Catholic Church are tense, he has sought common ground with the pope on the issue of morality, reports AP.

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