The scandal around the incident of the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Kirill has led to the predictable consequences. First the leading clerics tried to unconvincingly explain the litigation, then “big guns” were used to disclaim Kirill’s cupidity. The patriarch had a talk with the famous TV host Vladimir Solovyov who is close to the Russian authorities. Solovyov told about their conversation during the program “Full Contact” at the radio station Vesti FM.
Typically, the patriarch has dissociated himself from the claim concerning his appartment saying that he received it from Boris Yeltsin and later privatized it. It was done on legal grounds since in 1988 the church statute was amended and allowed priests to acquire personal property and real estate.
The situation with the apartment has clearly shown the nature of many leading clerics of the Russian Orthodox Church. Since they could not explain the developments around the patriarch they started substituting concepts.
When talking to Vladimir Solovyov the patriarch gave a very interesting explanation about the golden watch. “Yes, I wear a watch. This watch was given to me by Dmitry Medvedev. This is our Russian watch with the national emblem, it is small and compact. When I saw that photo I could not understand it since when we wear our priestly vestments for the service we cannot wear a watch. I was looking at that photo and suddenly I realized that it was a collage. We do not wear watches at the service... When this photo appeared I started looking at presents since a lot of people come and donate. There are boxes that we do not open and do not know what is inside.”
“I looked into one of them and saw the watch Breguet, this why I did not give any comments that the patriarch does not have this watch. There is a box with the watch that has never been worn.” Then there was a universal problem. “When I saw it I thought what to do with it. Certainly, I could have given it to someone else but what would people have thought about the patriarch? How does the patriarch live if he can afford to give such expensive presents? It can bring shame upon me and, of course, I did not buy any watch for 30,000 dollars. I did not wear this watch to any service or any other watch... It is unethical not to accept presents from those who bring them. However, I do not use this watch.”
In the abovementioned program Vladimir Solovyov quoted the patriarch. “He said that, according to the canon, the patriarch can possess all the property he had before being ordained, for example, inherited father’s flat or books. Being a citizen of the Russian Federation, the patriarch can devise it. Everything received by the patriarch after being ordained is the property of the church. It is not my personal possession.” Does it mean that before becoming the patriarch Kirill did not belong to the church? Did his father have an apartment in the “House on the Embankment”? The president Yeltsin could have given it as present but it could not belong to the patriarch. Neither before being ordained patriarch nor after. It does not add up. Every his word only aggravates the suspicions.
Patriarch’s property problems reflect the problems of other priests. The priest-oligarch from Kazan Father Mikhail unscrupulously demonstrated his expensive cars, villas, phones, and watches. He was dismissed, but his case was not unique. In Naberezhnye Chelny parishioners blamed father Oleg for his immoral behavior and financial inaccuracy. The parish priest father Nikolai from the village of Susanino, Ivan Susanin’s homeland in Kostroma oblast, said on the television channel Ren TV: “sometimes it may seem that the church has turned into a commercial structure, a magic shop. People come, light candles, and leave. There are fewer and fewer donations because of people’s negative moods.” It all depends. The patriarch, for one, cannot complain about it.
When everyone, starting with the patriarch got confused and only aggravated the suspicions with their lies that the leading clerics and inferior priests have problems, there started the political part of the story about the golden dust.
Secular power understands perfectly well that the attack against the patriarch because of his, so to say, unethical behavior threatens to shake the cornerstone of the whole chain of command. That is why they started professionally substituting concepts. Good grief! They lifted their hand not only against the patriarch, but against the Russian Orthodox Church. As Anatolii Kucherena, a lawyer and member of the Public Chamber of Russia, said on Ren TV, “there is the church behind the patriarch, the millennial culture of the Russian Orthodox Church. If someone tells me that the fact that the patriarch is attacked does not threaten our culture, I will disagree.”
Another member of the Public Chamber Maksim Mishchenko in the interview to Nezavisimaya gazeta related the recent attacks against the Russian Orthodox Church to the desire of the liberal opposition to shake the political situation in the country. “They realize that they will not be able to swallow Russia as Ukraine or Serbia. That is why they applied the technologies with an aim to drive a wedge between the society and the Church.”
According to the expert, over 80 percent of Russians are positive about the Russian Orthodox Church. The opponents of the current Russian authorities stake on shattering this tradition. In his opinion, this is the origin of Pussy Riot’s trick and the scandal around the litigation. Deputy Director of the Institute for Political Studies Grigory Dobromelov thinks that “there is a fight taking into account that Vladimir Putin’s conservative-patriotic electorate partially relies on the authority of the Russian Orthodox Church, that is why the attack against the church can be considered the attack against the power.”
This is why all Putin and Medvedev’s people call everyone who dared doubt the patriarch’s actions enemies not only of the church but also of the state. The point is not in patriarch’s behavior, but in shaking the whole Russian orthodoxy. Patriarch Kirill is not discussed anymore and is protected from criticism. Those who dare are the enemies funded by the state department. Meanwhile, the so-called orthodox public is getting more and more aggressive. Somebody’s influence can be easily felt in this. We know whose.
The Day’s COMMENTARY
Patriarch Kirill’s declaration that the journalists put a Breguet watch on his wrist has a direct relation to The Day. The photo published by many newspapers was made by the participant of the annual photo competition, famous Kyiv photographer Vladyslav Musiienko.
We know the story of this photo perfectly well. Musiienko told it in the interview to The Day just after the photo competition of 2009 opened. However, regarding patriarch’s declarations we called Musiienko to ask about his reaction and to remind us how he saw the expensive watch on Kirill’s arm.
“Certainly, it is not a collage. This photo was taken accidentally,” the photographer emphasized. “During the first Kirill’s visit to Ukraine as patriarch he was received by the leading clerics of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church at the Russian Patriarchate in the yard of Kyiv Cave Monastery. There was an ancient icon there and the clerics were taking turns to kiss it. When Kirill bent to kiss the icon his patriarch’s cowl slipped down and the patriarch raised his hand to set it straight. The Breguet peeped out of the sleeve of his soutane. It happened so that I took a photo of it at that moment though I did not hunt for his watch.”