Moscow scientific university announces chair in theology

One of the most prestigious scientific schools in Russia, the National University for Nuclear Studies, also known as “Mefi”, is about to open a new department dedicated to theological studies. Announced by Forbes magazine, the news has quickly spread on the internet causing some controversy. The initiative, reportedly, was undertaken by the university, but there are those who will see yet another “pitch invasion” of the Russian Orthodox Church in society, in a climate of tension in relations between the Moscow Patriarchate and civil society, after the Pussy Riot case.

The Department will be chaired by the Metropolitan of Volokolamsk, Hilarion, chairman of the Synodal Department for External Relations of the Patriarchate. Archpriest Vladimir Shmaliy, Vice Chancellor of the University’s postgraduate church studies, explained that the idea of a theology department belongs solely to the university and dates back to 2010, during a visit by Patriarch Kirill. In the past Mefi hosted courses for Orthodox seminarians on physics, astronomy and chemistry and now Christian scholars “reciprocate” with courses on the history of the Church, dogma and religious culture. They are, however, voluntary lessons and the university said it would not prohibit students expressing different and contrary views and religious beliefs will not be a discriminating factor for access to courses.

As reported by Izvestia, the Church is preparing a document entitled “The balance between faith and science” and the new theology department should help to provide students with a less Manichean vision of reality, “in which faith and reason are not necessarily at odds”, explained the Patriarchate.

Nina Achmatova

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