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Russian court rules Church can settle $3,000 debt with prayers

AFP  |  Moscow 

A Russian court has ruled that the Orthodox Church can settle more than USD 3,000 of a debt to an engineering firm by saying prayers.

The arbitration court in the city of Nizhny Novgorod on the Volga River made the ruling after the Era company sued the Church for failing to pay USD 6,200 it owed for a new heating system.

The court came up with a settlement under which the Church agreed to pay less than half its debt, but pledged to pray for the firm's staff.

"The defendant... Promises to offer prayers for the health of God's servant Ivan Arsenyev and God's servant Sergei Lepustin," said the decision signed by judge Yelena Nazarova.

The decision referred to the director and sales manager of the creditor company.

The Church also agreed to pray for "their families, and for their well-being in all their good works and deeds."

The court said that the settlement, reached in October but published online this week, "does not violate the law" and that both sides were satisfied.

In Russian Orthodox churches it is common to make a financial donation in return for a priest praying for a loved one.

Legal websites called the decision a historic first for Russia, a nominally secular but majority-Orthodox country where the Church has managed to boost its role in many areas from the education system to the armed forces.

"This is abnormal from the point of view of all the religions existing in the world," said Boris Falikov of the religious studies centre at the state university of humanities in Moscow.

"But we are so used today in Russia to paying for religious rites that people see nothing untoward about paying off a debt with a prayer.

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First Published: Fri, February 12 2016. 23:13 IST