MOSCOW, August 16 - RAPSI. The Russian Orthodox Church must call for mercy and observance of human rights prior to Pussy Riot sentencing. If it doesn't the church will be making a huge mistake, in the opinion of Andrei Kurayev, a prominent Russian Orthodox Church theologian and blogger.

On February 21, five girls wearing brightly colored masks stormed the altar of downtown Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral to perform a protest song entitled, "Holy Sh*t." A video with their performance that was posted on the Internet incited a public uproar.

Group members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich have remained in pretrial detention since their arrest in early March after an incident that some have lauded as a valid exercise of free speech, and others have lambasted as blasphemous. The prosecution has demanded a sentence of at least three years in prison. The sentence is expected to be passed on August 17.

Meanwhile, many people have expressed their desire to hear the opinion of Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill about the Pussy Riot trial. The patriarch's press-service said he would comment after the court decision.

"I see only one constructive approach: before the sentence is handed down, an opportunity should be found to express some words calling for the observation of human rights, for a just proceeding, for mercy and the fact that we are not after revenge," Kurayev wrote in his blog on Wednesday.

He believes that the church's position, against protracted custody of the band members, did not effectively reach the public.