Church's presence in Moscow hospitals formalized

Moscow, Russia - The head of the healthcare department for Moscow and the Moscow region Andrey Seltsovsky and Archbishop of Istra Arseny have signed a cooperation agreement.

"This agreement, in a way, sums up the results of major work that was conducted by the city and the church over the past decade. It is the beginning on the path toward the development of relations between medicine and the church," Seltsovsky said after the signing ceremony.

The document makes the church's presence in Moscow's medical institutions official, Archbishop Arseny said.

The agreement is intended to facilitate the operations of Orthodox health visitors (11 services in Moscow), charity groups (48) and sisterhoods (9), which work in city hospitals and help the disabled, the elderly, sick people, patients with psychiatric diseases and addicts.

"Previously, everything was built based on personal relations. Even if a patient asked [the hospital] to invite a priest to him, the hospital's head doctor could have prohibited it. Today [the hospital administration] must allow a priest to visit a patient, should it prove necessary," Archpriest Arkady Shatov said.

The agreement also envisions steps to expand the network of hospitals, medical centers, maternity welfare centers, pharmacies and other institutions founded by the Russian Orthodox Church.