Moscow, Mar. 26, 2008 (CWNews.com) - Mikhail Gorbachev has denied reports that he has embraced Christianity.
Responding to a series of reports that circulated last week, after he made a visit to the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi, the former Soviet leader said that "I have been and remain an atheist."
Gorbachev said that the reports of his conversion stemmed from a misunderstanding of his motives for the trip to Assisi. He visited the saint's tomb, he said, as a tourist rather than a pilgrim.
Gorbachev's statement to the Interfax news service, denying any religious conversion, directly contradicted a quotation that had been attributed to him after his March 19 visit to Assisi. "It was through St. Francis that I arrived at the Church, so it was important that I came to visit his tomb," the former Soviet leader allegedly told reporters. Witnesses testified that durng that visit, Gorbachev spent about 30 minutes in silence, seemingly in prayer, at the saint's tomb.