Monday, January 28, 2013

Patriarch Kirill "silences" critical voices within the Russian Church campaign of "targeted silencing" is underway in the Russian Orthodox Church against priests who publicly criticize positions taken by the Patriarchate. 

The news has been reported by Russian media, such as Novaya Izvestia newspaper and the Interfax-Religia newsagency, who have spoken to the priest Georgi Mitrofanov (see photo), professor at the Ecclesiastical Academy of St. Petersburg. 

Last year, the priest had taken a dirfferent stance, compared with Church leaders, to the Pussy Riot case. 

In February, the feminist punk band had staged an anti-Putin performance in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, attracting the ire of Patriarch Kirill who has never been in favor of their release, even though they are both mothers of young children. Thanks to that exhibition, two of the five girls are serving two years in a labor camp.

As reported by Mitrofanov, the church hierarchy did not like his comments to the press, and in November he was asked not to speak with reporters. 

"Maybe the situation will change after Easter," he said. Last spring, the priest had termed the Church's reaction to the performance of Pussy Riot "political" and had called for their release on bail. At the time the girls were in custody pending trial, which in August led to charges of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred." 

Mitrofanov had suggested, talking to a radio station in St. Petersburg, it the Patriarchate set up bail "so that these feminists who have forgotten how to be mothers, can return to their children." 

The priest went further, denouncing a widespread "Soviet-style" behavior among the representatives of the Russian clergy and had questioned whether, with such uncompromising positions towards society, it could raise the authority of the Church in the country.

The press service of the Moscow Patriarchate said that there was no official provision against Mitrofanov and that it was only a " private recommendation made to him by the Patriarch."
As Archpriest Vladimir Vigilianskii, pastor of St. Basil the Great in the village of Zaitsevo, Moscow region, told Novaya Izvestia in a recent diocesan meeting the Patriarch repeatedly stressed that some priests "are incapable" of making statements to the press, so it is better to abstain in order to avoid misunderstandings and damage to the Church.

Even father Vigilianskii confirmed that an official ban has not been issued, but that there are "individual cases". "Priests who blogged too openly about Church issues - he said - were asked to close them down."
In mid-January, also, the Diocese of Moscow suspended Father Dmitry Sverdlov, who had defended Pussy Riot asking for forgiveness for them. According to the Ria Novosti newsagency, the Church has stated that the decision according to which Fr. Dmitry can not celebrate mass for at least five years, is not related to his position in the case, but an ''absence'' without permission from his church.

The Patriarchate's concerns about its image in the media and public opinion are mainly related to the thesis of an alleged press campaign underway against the Russian Church. On January 20 the controversial documentary "No way" aired, broadcast on NTV network, already known for several documentary films made on purpose to discredit the political opposition in Russia. 

The film attempts to prove, with hidden cameras and suspect editing, that the attacks on the Patriarch - who was the target of press last year over scandals that denounced a lavish lifestyle - are the work of forces hostile to the Church, which are concentrated in Ukraine.

The documentary, of dubious quality, has attracted critical comments, even from many of the faithful. But it is also critical to the reactions of the Patriarchate. 

The journalist Konstantin von Eggert, of radio Kommersant, said responses such as these to alleged attacks on the Patriarchate are counterproductive.

1 comment:

Absalom said...

Don't forget how Patriarch Kirill, in his previous post as Head of the Church's Department for External Church Relations, crushed the free dissenting Orthodox voice of the Diocese of Sourozh in the United Kingdom. As a result its Bishop left with half the clergy and the great majority of the active lay people. Kirill then engineered a legal process, using funds provided by Oleg Deripaska, to prevent the people who left having any of the property of the Diocese.