"silences" critical voices within the Russian Church
Ban on talking to
the press and blogs for priests who "are unable to serve the interests of the
Church." Kirill asks one of the priests who were in favor of forgiveness to
Pussy Riot to "avoid giving interviews".
Moscow (AsiaNews) - A 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
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."
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
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.
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