Voices from Russia

Friday, 27 June 2008

Russian Church Tells Rebel Bishop: Repent or Leave

Bishop Diomid of Chukotka and Anadyr (1961- ), deposed today by the MP Archpastoral Council unless he recants and repents of his heretical opinions

The Moscow Patriarchate ruled on Friday that a bishop who has accused the church’s leaders of forming an unholy alliance with the Kremlin shall be defrocked unless he repents. At a gathering of senior clerics, the church said Bishop Diomid, who has also spoken out against the church’s ecumenical ties with other Christian faiths, had to be disciplined because he was trying to split the church. Many Russian Orthodox believers are sensitive about any sign the church is compromising its independence from the Kremlin, especially since under Soviet rule senior MP clerics were co-opted by the Communist authorities.

Patriarch Aleksei, the head of the MP, does not publicly criticise the Kremlin, and has in the past invited Vladimir Putin, the former president who is now prime minister, to join him in the altar area during religious services. “Bishop Diomid is expelled from holy orders”, the church said in a statement. “With his appeals and statements, he is cultivating the spirit of schism in the church and destroying its unity”, the statement said. Diomid is bishop of Chukotka, a sparsely-populated region of Russia across the Bering Strait from Alaska. Roman Abramovich, the billionaire owner of London’s Chelsea soccer club, is governor of the region. Fr Vsevolod Chaplin, a spokesman for the MP, said the church’s decision would only come into force if Diomid refuses to repent. If there is no repentance, he will be stripped of the right to identify himself as a priest or conduct religious services, Fr Vsevolod said.

In an appeal he issued last year, Bishop Diomid attacked as heretical the practise of holding joint prayer with representatives of other Christian faiths, and building closer relations with other religions. He also wrote that the leaders of the MP were guilty of “spiritual compromise, subordinating church power to secular … power, at the expense of God-given freedom”. Diomid attacked what he described as the church’s “silent consent, instead of denouncing the anti-human policies of the current authorities that are leading to the break-up of the country”. He has found support among a small group of Russian Orthodox clerics and worshippers, as well as among nationalist and ultra-conservative political groups. Speaking to senior clerics earlier this week, Patriarch Aleksei said there was space for diverging views inside the church, but, it should not endanger church unity.

27 June 2008

Christian Lowe


Quoted in Yahoo! UK & Ireland News



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