Russian Orthodox Church supports raising drinking age for strong alcohol

Moscow, September 12, 2019

The Russian Orthodox Church supports the idea of raising the legal drinking age for strong alcohol to 21, according to Vladimir Legoida, the head of the Synodical Department of the Moscow Patriarchate for Relations with Society and the Media.

Legoida’s statement comes in support of a Ministry of Health draft law that would raise the drinking age for all drinks with 16.5% alcohol or higher. The initiative was also supported by a number of other Ministries.

September 11 marks the national Russian day of sobriety, an initiative intended to take note of the destructive nature of alcohol abuse. During the feast day of the Beheading of John the Baptist, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, made a speech in support of sobriety and pious moderation:

Beloved in the Lord, Eminent Archpastors, Pious Fathers, Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today, on the feast of the Beheading of John the Baptist of the Lord, when strict fasting is prescribed in the ustav, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church has decided to recognize the Day of Sobriety. This date was chosen as a reminder of the special spiritual significance of a sober lifestyle and the tragic consequences of alcohol abuse.

St. John Chrysostom warns us that wine is not bad, but immoderation is ruinous; wine is a gift of God, but immoderation is the invention of the devil (Discussion on Martyrs). Proof of the truth of these words is evident, when at the feast in honor of his birthday, King Herod, whose consciousness was clouded with intoxicating drinks, forgot how the nation honored John the Baptist, forgot about the respect that he himself had for this righteous man, and gave the insane order to behead this great man before the Lord (Luke 1:15).

The church encourages every Christian to set an example of temperance and moderation. It is gratifying to note that in recent years more and more people are giving up bad habits and addictions and choosing a sober lifestyle. The number of diocesan and parish organizations helping non-sufferers to overcome alcohol and other addictions, has increased significantly. However, unfortunately, this problem is still relevant. Therefore, it is important to continue to make Church-wide efforts to resolve it.

By the prayers of the honest glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord John, may God help us all to live our lives in abstinence, in all piety and purity (1 Tim. 2: 2).

Sobriety Day events included lectures, free expert advice, workshops, conferences, flash mobs, festivals, and sports events in cities throughout Russia.

Sobriety Day was first established by the Holy Synod in 1913, and alcohol was not sold on that day. The holiday was interrupted in Soviet times, but reestablished in 2014, reports the Synodal Department for Charity and Social Services.

There are more than 600 Orthodox organizations and projects to help alcoholics in Russia. The Synodal Department has operated a Coordinating Center for Combating Alcoholism since 2011.

Matfey Shaheen

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