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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Church Has Moral Duty In Tsar Issue

In the furor over the burial of the remains of the family of the last tsar, Nicholas II, the Russian Orthodox Church has asked the government to check up on whether the royal murder was part of a ghoulish Jewish ritual.

The request is pretty bizarre. How do you disprove this sort of paranoid myth?

But in asking this extraordinary question, the church is responding to a very serious current of anti-Semitic belief that goes back well before the Revolution and remains alive today.

Theories of Jewish ritual murder were encouraged by the tsarist regime, which incited pogroms as state policy and published anti-Semitic tracks like the fake Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

For many anti-Semitic Russian Orthodox believers, the Bolshevik Revolution was just the incarnation of an evil jewish plot. After all, many of great revolutionaries such as Trotsky and Kamenev were of Jewish parentage.

The Bolshevik murder of the tsar, the anointed head of the Orthodox Church, was grist for the mill of anti-Semitic believers.

It would probably be wrong to accuse the church's leadership of anti-Semitism over its bizarre request. The church should be believed when it says it only wants the issue laid to rest.

But the church can rightly be accused of showing a lack of moral leadership.

No official inquiry should be needed to discount this evil theory. The church, which is now deliberating over whether to canonize Nicholas II and his family, has already concluded that the murder had nothing to do with a Jewish conspiracy.

It is up to church leaders to condemn anti-Semitism and promote tolerance. They cannot pass the responsibility of inculcating these values onto the government.

After all, prejudices like anti-Semitism cannot be scientifically disproved. They can only be combatted by the moral courage of community leaders.

Unfortunately, the newly reborn Russian Orthodox Church leadership still lacks this courage because of internal battles between its liberal and reactionary wings. This uncertainty showed in the debates on the controversial law on religion, resulting in a compromise between liberals and those in the church pushing for the status of an official state religion.

Reactionaries led the shrill campaign against the screening of the "Last Temptation of Christ" by NTV television. More seriously, they are taking vocal positions on everything from contraception to ecumenicalism. The church leadership must define its own views and where necessary have the moral courage to defend them.