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Patriarch Accuses Missionaries

November 17, 1999

MOSCOW (AP) _ Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Alexy II accused foreign missionaries on Wednesday of feeding psychedelic drugs to young people as a tool for winning converts, a news agency reported.

Alexy II frequently speaks out against foreign missionaries in Russia, who he feels are winning souls from his traditional flock of followers.

The patriarch, speaking at a congress for Orthodox missionaries, said their main task should be countering the work of missionaries from other faiths.

``I am convinced that foreign missionaries who arrive in this country are anxious to divide Russians,″ the ITAR-Tass news agency quoted him as saying.

In his comment about psychedelic drugs, the news agency quoted him as saying foreign missionaries ``often″ use the substances as recruiting tools.

Alexy II was an outspoken supporter of a law passed in 1997 giving full recognition only to three religions _ Orthodoxy, Judaism and Islam. Other faiths must prove they have had a presence in Russia for 15 years before they are given full legal status, and in the meantime face restrictions that discourage missionary activities.

The patriarch refers to many other established churches as ``sects″ and says they brainwash members and should be banned.

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