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By SOPHIA KISHKOVSKY
c. 2011 Religion News Service

MOSCOW (RNS/ENInews) Russian and Greek Orthodox leaders are objecting to plans in both countries to introduce electronic identity cards intended to streamline bureaucracy.

Church officials are demanding close study of the cards, and asking that authorities make them optional. The personal and financial information embedded in the cards could be manipulated to discriminate against believers, they fear.

In a recent interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta, an official government newspaper, Metropolitan Hilarion, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department of External Church Relations, said: “Credit cards … are one thing, but a personal card in which all the information about a person’s life and activities will be entered … is a different matter.”

Conservative and nationalist wings within the two churches have held demonstrations in Athens and Moscow, and fear the cards will compromise national and religious identity.

Segodnia.ru, an online publication that often covers religious and nationalist issues, said the cards could help build “an unheard of, super-totalitarian electronic dictatorship, in which each individual person becomes … a robot with a bar code on his body or a microchip implanted under his skin.”

Following massive rallies in Athens in March, the Synod of Bishops of the Church of Greece met with government officials in April. Metropolitan Prokopios said the church was assured that the numerals 666 — the nefarious “mark of the beast” from the Book of Revelation — would not appear in the cards in any form.

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