Pope Benedict XVI Condemns Pussy Riot in Solidarity with Orthodox Church

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By Gianluca Mezzofiore | October 18, 2012 3:56 AM EST

Pope Benedict XVI has condemned the feminist punk band Pussy Riot for their anti-Putin performance in Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow.

He told the Russian Orthodox Metropolitan, Illarion, that the Vatican echoed the Orthodox Church's words that Pussy Riot's "punk prayer" was offensive to believers.

"Pope Benedict XVI expressed his solidarity with the position of the Russian Orthodox Church on this issue and its surprise by the reaction of some media organisations to these events," the Orthodox Church's synodic department reported on its website.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23, Maria Alekhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29 were sentenced to two years in prison by a Russian court for  hooliganism motivated by religious hatred or hostility 

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny said in the aftermath that President Vladimir Putin "wrote the verdict".

However, prime minister Dmitry Medvedev said after the verdict that the group should be freed from prison. Their imprisonment was not in the public interest, he added.

Even the Orthodox Church asked for clemency - providing that the women showed "penitence and reconsideration of their action".

Samutsevich was released  after a Moscow appeal court accepted her new lawyer's argument that she was pulled out of the cathedral by security guards before she took part in the performance.

The two jailed band members are due to be transferred to a penal colony far from Moscow.

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