The Russian Orthodox Church, hinting at leniency, urged Pussy Riot to repent Sunday, on the eve of an appeals court ruling on the band’s  sentences for performing an anti-Putin song in a Moscow cathedral.

The three performers of the "punk prayer" criticizing the church hierarchy’s close ties to President Vladimir Putin were convicted of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" by a district court on Aug. 17 and sentenced to two years.

Vladimir Legoida, a senior church spokesman, said their act "must not remain unpunished whatever the justification," but that any repentance, if expressed, should be taken into account, Reuters reported.

"The church sincerely wishes for the repentance of those who desecrated a holy place. Certainly it would benefit their souls," Legoida said in an official address.

"If any words of the convicts indicate repentance ... we would wish that they are not left unnoticed and those who violated the law get a chance to mend their ways."

A church statement after the August verdict indicated that the clergy would back a pardon or a reduced sentence, but that would have required Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, to admit their guilt, something their lawyers say they will not do.

"If they mean repentance in the sense of a crime ... it definitely won't happen. Our clients won't admit guilt. A call for that is pointless," lawyer Mark Feigin told independent television channel Dozhd on Sunday.

The trio's legal team and relatives hold out little hope that the sentences will be quashed or reduced at the hearing scheduled for Monday, whether they repent or not.

"The sentence is predetermined; their repentance will not affect it in any way," Stanislav Samutsevich, father of one of the jailed women, told Reuters.

"The fact the church is calling for that is nothing but a public relations move to sustain their reputation in the eyes of the public, as the church says it is separate from the state."

Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, has called Putin's 12-years-and counting rule a "miracle of God" and backed his presidential election campaign this year.

Kirill dismissed criticism of his backing for the Kremlin on Friday, telling students that close ties between the church and state helped protect and develop society.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said keeping the women in prison any longer would be ‘‘unproductive,’’ which encouraged hopes the appeals court could set them free, the Associated Press reported. But skeptics said that ahead of the band members’ conviction, Putin himself said the women should not be judged too harshly, raising similar hopes for their release that proved vain.

Violetta Volkova, another of the three lawyers for the women, said Friday after visiting a prison where they are being held that she had little hope for a fair sentence in a country where courts bow to the authorities.

‘‘There is always at least some minimal hope for common sense and that the court will act in accordance with the law,’’ she said. ‘‘But given the political situation in Russia, we can’t depend on a legal sentence.’’

Meanwhile, Konstantin Goloskov, a leader of the Kremlin-created youth movement Nashi, claims to have identified what he calls the remaining six members of the band, the Daily Beast reported Sunday.

Last week, Goloskov offered $1,600 for the names of Pussy Riot members said to be hiding from police. He did not have to wait long for replies; within a few hours, Goloskov received the first email with a list of names, addresses, and even passport information of the remaining six women. Dozens of other lists with names from those willing to help Nashi hunt down the musicians followed.

Yesterday Nashi delivered the list to police in an effort to lock up all “inadequate hooligan girls.”