Bishop Panteleimon: “the Priest in the hospital – an ally of the doctor”

International conference “the Care of the Church of the insane” was held at the Department for external Church relations

Questions of pastoral work with people suffering from mental illness, as well as the dialogue between the Church and medicine in the field of mental health discussed at the international conference “the Care of the Church of the insane”, which was held in Moscow from 13 to 14 November, according to Diakonia. In it took part about 70 priests, doctors, psychiatrists, researchers and representatives of theological schools from Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Cyprus, Spain, great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands and other countries. During the conference experts spoke about the true and distorted religiosity from the mentally ill, the features of pastoral work with different contingent of mentally ill people, about practices of teaching pastoral psychiatry for priests and theological students. With a salutatory word to participants addressed the Chairman of the Synodal Department for charity Bishop of Orekhovo-Zuevo Panteleimon.

“Modern life is not conducive to mental health, but on the contrary it is often frustrating. Remoteness from nature, forgetting about God, life and modern technology often harm the soul of man – said the Bishop of Orekhovo-Zuevo Panteleimon. – Our duty to help in these difficult trials to preserve peace in the human soul and the stable equilibrium of his psyche”.

The Archbishop noted that the participation of clergy in helping people suffering from mental illnesses, imperative, and consultations of doctors-psychiatrists can help priests to Orient correctly in relation to patients. “Interaction of Church and medicine it is very important, and the conference is designed to help priests with attention to the recommendations of doctors and physicians with respect and understanding for the work of the priests. The priest in the hospital – an ally of the doctor,” said the Rev.

In his opening remarks, the Chairman of the working group on pastoral care of the mentally ill the Commission on Church education and diakonia since the presence of the Metropolitan of Voronezh and Liski Sergiy noted that the development of knowledge about psychiatry, a change of view on the causes of mental disorders and their treatment are subject to controversy among specialists, but also pose in front of the Church questions for reflection how, in terms of theological positions, and with opticii daily pastoral practice. The clergy, according to the Archbishop, and often ubiquitous with mental ill people, as the rapid development of society is not accompanied by the same intense moral perfection of man.

“In today’s world, the society loses its connection with God and the Church, which often becomes a source of mental illness – said Metropolitan Sergius. – Taking into account the data about the steady increase in the number of mental illnesses, Christians consider the mental health of the population as the space of shared responsibility of the clergy and medical workers”.

However, the Archbishop noted that the idea of the need of joint work of the clergy and representatives of the mental health services do not always find support among medical professionals, patients, their families, and sometimes among the clergy. “One of the problems is that public prejudices, myths and prejudices about psychiatry and mental patients cause patients, ignoring the doctor, apply only to the Church and mistakenly trying to replace the psychiatrist’s priest,” said Metropolitan Sergius.

He also noted that among the mental illness can meet a distortion of the spiritual life, a kind of pathological religion that must be taken into account in the practice of pastoral work. “The pastor is not always able to distinguish symptoms of mental illness from the manifestations of religious piety. Therefore one of actual problems of modern theological education is to prepare pupils of theological schools on issues of pastoral psychology and psychiatry,” – said Metropolitan Sergius.

In the conference took part about 70 priests, doctors, psychiatrists, researchers and representatives of theological schools from different countries

During the conference, the presentations and discussions discussed the distortion of the spiritual life in mental disorders and criteria for a healthy faith, and the impact of religious life in the mentally ill: the perception of Church ordinances, requirements, shrines, and pilgrimages. Also at the meetings discussed the views of the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches on mental illness and obsession. Special attention was paid to pastoral work with different contingent of the mentally ill and the priests persons with suicidal behavior. Also in the reports a question was raised about which methods of psychotherapy are not compatible with Christian doctrine.

Report Olga Borisova “Pathological religion from mental patients”

The conference was attended by Director on scientific work of Scientific center of mental health Gregory kopaka, Professor of practical theology, St. Tikhon’s University Vasily Kaleda, leading researcher of the division of special mental health Research mental health centre, Olga Borisova, the chief psychiatrist of the Ministry of defence of the Russian Federation Vladislav Shamrey, Professor in the Department of psychiatry of the Military medical Academy Evgeny Kurasov, rector of St. Tikhon Orthodox humanitarian University Archpriest Vladimir Vorobiev and others. Among the foreign experts in the care of the Church of the mentally ill was made Professor of phenomenological psychopathology at the University of Milan, expert-psychiatrist of the court of Milan, Dr. Maria Teresa Ferla, master of theology, doctor of endocrinologist monk Dositheus (Gorbachev), Professor Emeritus of psychogerontology at the University of Southampton, master of the University of Oxford and a member of the British psychological society Dr Peter Coleman, a psychiatrist and theologian Dr. Peter Verhagen and others.

The conference is organized with the blessing of his Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kirill at the initiative of the Commission on Church education and diakonia of the inter-Council presence of the Russian Orthodox Church. Its co-organizers are the Department for external Church relations (DECR) of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Voronezh Metropolia of the Russian Orthodox Church. The differentiation of spiritual and mental disorders has been and remains a very serious problem for priests. In the modern world, where, according to the world Health Organization, 14% of the population have mental disorders, and depression threatens to become the leading cause of mortality in the coming decades, the active participation of the clergy in helping people suffering from mental illnesses, and their families. And this requires a theological understanding and study of all aspects of this issue, the training of clergy to work with different categories of the mentally ill, the close cooperation of pastors and doctors.

The importance of cooperation between the Church and doctors to help people suffering from mental illness, was noted repeatedly. In the section of the Christmas readings “Pastoral psychiatry: the challenge of modernity”, held in the Synodal Department for charity on January 22, was attended by the priests serving in psychoneurological boarding schools, scientists, psychiatrists and specialists in Christian psychology.

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