A campaign of "targeted silencing" is underway in the Russian Orthodox Church against priests who publicly criticize positions taken by the Patriarchate.
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.
year, the priest had taken a dirfferent stance, compared with Church leaders, to
the Pussy Riot case.
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.
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."
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."
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."
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
Even father Vigilianskii confirmed
that an official ban has not been issued, but that there are "individual
who blogged too openly about Church issues - he said - were asked to close them
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.
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.
journalist Konstantin von Eggert, of radio Kommersant,
said responses such as these to alleged attacks on the Patriarchate are counterproductive.