Today, the State Duma of the Russian Federation in the first reading adopted amendments to the law "On freedom of conscience and religious associations", according to which the pilgrimage activity will receive legal status and will be separated from tourism. The document assumes that only religious organizations will be able to engage in this activity. The bill was initiated by the Russian Orthodox Church, whose representatives told Kommersant that the corresponding amendments would be made to the law “On the Basics of Tourist Activity”.
The bill was submitted to the State Duma by deputies Sergei Gavrilov, Dmitry Vyatkin, Alexander Bryksin, Maxim Ivanov, Ramzil Ishsarin and Dmitry Sablin (all members of the committee for the development of civil society, issues of public and religious associations). "The main purpose of the bill is to establish a special legal status for pilgrims and pilgrimage activities," reads the explanatory note. “Taking into account the specifics of pilgrimage activities, the draft law provides that the activities of religious organizations in organizing pilgrimage trips, in particular in organizing accommodation, meals, transport, excursion and other services for pilgrims, as well as activities to establish, maintain and develop international relations and contacts for the purpose of organizing pilgrimage trips ", - the authors specify.
According to the document, religious organizations have the exclusive right to carry out pilgrimage activities both on a reimbursable and gratuitous basis. According to the drafters of the document, "the adoption of the bill will protect the rights of believers to visit places of religious worship, including protecting them from unscrupulous organizers of such trips."
“We are interested in making pilgrimage activities as transparent and understandable as possible for ordinary citizens, so that fraudulent schemes do not apply to them,” Sergei, Chairman of the State Duma Committee on the Development of Civil Society, Issues of Public and Religious Associations, told Kommersant Gavrilov. - We legislate the idea that pilgrimage is not a tourist activity. With the adoption of the law, the responsibility of religious organizations for the implementation of the pilgrimage will be introduced, we hope this will help to exclude any manifestations of extremism. We do not want propaganda of extremist views to be carried out under the guise of pilgrimage. "
"The bill was initiated by the Russian Orthodox Church in order to ensure legal regulation of the pilgrimage activities of religious organizations," said Abbess Ksenia (Chernega), head of the legal service of the Moscow Patriarchate. Currently, Art. 16, art. 20 of the federal law "On freedom of conscience and on religious associations" contains a mention of pilgrimage. At the same time, Abbess Ksenia noted, the law does not disclose the content of this concept and does not determine the procedure for carrying out the pilgrimage. "In our opinion, the individual pilgrimage of citizens to holy places does not require legislative regulation, since it belongs to the sphere of freedom of religion," explained the head of the legal service of the Moscow Patriarchate. "In turn, the pilgrimage activities of religious organizations certainly need such regulation."
Services required to achieve the goals of the pilgrimage are provided by religious organizations without the involvement of third-party tour operators. However, religious organizations have the right to attract tour operators for these purposes according to the rules stipulated by the legislation on tourism activities.
According to Abbess Ksenia, it is assumed that "by the second reading the bill will be supplemented by amendments to the law" On the Basics of Tourist Activities in the Russian Federation "in terms of legal regulation of religious tourism." “At present, the aforementioned law provides for the concept of“ religious tourism ”without disclosing its content,” explained the representative of the Russian Orthodox Church. “In order to prevent religious tourism from being identified with pilgrimage in practice, it is planned to introduce additional legal regulation of religious tourism. Unlike pilgrimage activities, religious tourism will be carried out with the aim of visiting places of religious worship and other religious sites for recreation. At the same time, religious organizations will be involved on a contractual basis for the performance of religious rites by tourists or for their accommodation in monastery hotels. "
"The Council of Muftis of Russia and the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of the Russian Federation undoubtedly support the initiative to amend the law" On freedom of conscience and religious associations "concerning the issues of pilgrimage, which also came with our religious organizations, - said" Kommersant "Rushan Abbyasov, First Deputy Chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia and the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of the Russian Federation. - Pilgrimage is a religious activity, and, accordingly, this issue should be dealt with exclusively by religious organizations. Unfortunately, there have been cases when non-religious organizations have dishonestly approached the organization of the pilgrimage. In this regard, the pilgrims lost considerable sums of money, and sometimes property. We are confident that with the adoption of the amendments, the situation will improve and competent organizations will be involved in organizing the pilgrimage. "
Rabbi Zinovy Kogan called the bill "very necessary": "Pilgrimage is a religious feat that carries a certain sacredness, and this cannot be compared with tourism." "When a Jewish believer visits the Western Wall, he communicates with the Almighty, he cannot be called a tourist, he is a pilgrim, unlike a person who came to Jerusalem to admire the beauty of the old city."
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