Legal service of the Moscow Patriarchate, commented on the bill on pilgrimage activities

    

Deputies S. Gavrilov, D. F. M. Vyatkin, A. Y. by Braccini, M. A. Ivanov, R. R. by Issuenum, D. V. Sablin to the state Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation submitted the draft Federal law № 514138-7 “On amendments to the Federal law “On freedom of conscience and religious associations” in the regulation of the pilgrimage activities.

The bill initiated by the Russian Orthodox Church in order to ensure legal regulation of the pilgrimage activities of religious organizations.

Currently in articles 16, 20 of the Federal law “On freedom of conscience and on religious associations” contains the mention of the pilgrimage. However, the law does not reveal the content of this concept and determines the procedure of the pilgrimage.

In our opinion, individual citizens pilgrimage to Holy places does not require legislative regulation, as it relates to the area of freedom of religion.

However, the pilgrimage activities of religious organizations certainly needs no such regulation.

The bill gives religious organizations the exclusive right to carry out pilgrimages as paid and free of charge. This provision means that all other legal persons who are not members of religious organizations, individual entrepreneurs, may not perform the pilgrimage activities.

Among the pilgrims the bill include the perpetrators of the journey (trip) to visit places of religious veneration (of pilgrimage) and religious facilities and participation in religious rites and ceremonies. Thus, making a journey (travel) pilgrim, unlike a tourist, is not the intention of recreation and entertainment, as well as activities associated with the receipt of income from sources in the place of temporary stay.

Under the bill, the participation of pilgrims in worship services, other religious rites and ceremonies in places of religious veneration (of pilgrimage) will be carried out in accordance with the internal regulations of the religious organizations. Thus, this area will not require additional legal regulation.

Pilgrimage activities, the bill recognizes the activities of religious organizations:

  • on the organization of pilgrimages to visit places of religious veneration (of pilgrimage) and religious facilities located on the territory of the Russian Federation and abroad, to participate in religious rites and ceremonies;
  • for the establishment, maintenance and development of international contacts for the organization of pilgrimages.

From this definition, pilgrimage activities, it follows that such activities may be domestic and international.

Organization of pilgrimages, according to the bill, may include the organization:

  • location (residence) of the pilgrims;
  • supply the pilgrims with the requirements stipulated by the internal regulations of the religious organizations;
  • transport services for pilgrims;
  • accompany the pilgrims, including the services of guides, guides-interpreters, instructors of conductors;
  • other activities to achieve the objectives of the pilgrimage.

Thus, the services necessary to achieve the objectives of pilgrimage, can be provided by religious organizations without the involvement of third-party tour operators. However, religious organizations have the right to employ and tour operators according to the rules provided by the legislation on tourist activity.

It is expected that the second reading of the bill will be complemented by amendments to the Federal law from November 24, 1996 № 132-FZ “About bases of tourist activity in the Russian Federation” in the part of legal regulation of religious tourism. Currently the Federal law provides for the concept of “religious tourism”, without revealing its contents. In order to practice religious tourism is not identified with the pilgrimage is expected to introduce additional legal regulation of religious tourism.

In contrast to the pilgrimage activities, religious tourism will be visits to places of religious worship and other religious facilities for recreation and entertainment. At the same time to making tourists religious ceremonies or for their accommodation in the monastery hotel will be on contractual basis to be engaged in religious organizations.

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