Voices from Russia

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Patriarch Kirill Encourages Us to Ponder the State of Our Society in the Wake of the Murder of Fr Aleksandr Filippov

Exterior of Ascension church in the village of Satino-Russkoye in Podolsk raion in Moscow oblast, where Fr Aleksandr Filippov was rector.

Here is a link for a video in Russian, for those with facility in that language:



Another murder of a priest, this time, the rector of a parish in Podolsk raion near Moscow, is a serious warning to society, sources in the MP said. “Human reason is just numbed by such evil, when someone becomes a victim of blatant outright anger. Everyone should reflect on the events of recent months very seriously”, Vladimir Legoida, the head of the Synodal Information Department, told Interfax-Religion. This was in comment on the murder of 39-year-old Archpriest Aleksandr Filippov, rector of Ascension church in the village of Satino-Russkoye in the Moscow suburbs. On Tuesday night, thugs shot Fr Aleksandr in the heart at the entrance to his house. He had criticised several people for urinating at the entrance of his house, and, in response, they shot him. Mr Legoida told us that a special group of investigators was on the crime scene shortly after the incident, and that they were helping to assist the family of the deceased. Fr Aleksandr left a wife and three daughters. “Of course, everybody in the Church will now pray for the soul of Fr Aleksandr. It’s terrible to realise that someone killed a man, orphaned his children, and destroyed his family out of pointless spite“, he said.

For his part, Hieromonk Filipp Ryabykh, the deputy head of the MP Department for External Church Relations, believed, “Another terrible event has happened in Russia. In this case, it indicates that the social relations have deteriorated so badly that people are not able to respond in a normal and civilised way to the comments of others. It’s significant that a priest was involved in this situation. In modern Russia, the clergy and active laity fight indifference. They show active citizenship and seek to improve our lives, to make it more beautiful and brighter”, Fr Filipp said to our Interfax-Religion correspondent. He went on to say, “However, as a result, it appears that such attempts and desires meet with resistance, and, moreover, can result in death for these people”.

Ascension Church in the village of Satin-Russkoye, where the murdered Archpriest Aleksandr Filippov was rector, has wonderworking icons that can heal alcoholism and drug addiction. Every Saturday, Fr Aleksandr served a molieben before the icons of the Mother of God “of Akhtyrsky” and Martyr St Boniface to bless holy water and pray for healing people of the ills of alcoholism, drug addiction, smoking, and other passions, a spokesman for the Moscow diocese told Interfax. The first wooden church in the village was built in 1627. However, it repeatedly burnt down, and the present stone building was built in the early 19th century. In Soviet times, the church suffered the usual fate. It was closed in 1941, the church property was confiscated, and the building was used as a warehouse. In July 1996, Fr Alexander became rector, and, on 18 August of that year, the church held its first service.

Exterior of the crime scene on 25 Narodnaya Street

Yevgeni Gildeyev, the Head of Information and Public Relations of the Moscow oblast GUVD (criminal police), told Interfax that the killing of the priest resulted in a hot pursuit. “We detained two suspects, a local resident born in 1974 and a resident of Vladimir oblast born in 1981”, he said. According to Mr Gildeyev, the killing, according to preliminary information, was a senseless and loutish act. “The detainees were intoxicated”, he added.

Fr Aleksandr Filippov was killed by a gunshot wound to the back from a pistol, a source in the police told Interfax on Wednesday. The murderer shot the priest in the back in front of his house. His wife and daughter “immediately closed the entrance door, and, this, possibly, may have saved their lives”, he said.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Investigation Committee at the RF Procurator’s Office announced that the killing of Fr Aleksandr was a murder. “Within hours, investigators in collaboration with beat cops managed to uncover a cowardly crime”, SKP spokesman Vladimir Markin said on Wednesday to Interfax. “We established the circumstances of the murder, the suspects, and who witnessed the crime. Consequently, police arrested Oleg Shekhov, born in 1970, who had previously been convicted and served time for murder. At approximately 21.00 on the evening of 22 December, an unknown vagrant came to the entrance of the house on the street in Podolsk in Moscow oblast. He fired at Fr Aleksandr, who came out of his house to upbraid a group of drunks who were violating public order. Fr Aleksandr died from the resulting gunshot wound on the spot. The assailant picked up the spent case, and, together with friends, fled the scene. Trying to divert suspicion from himself, the man who shot the priest tossed the murder weapon in a friend’s car”, he said. The SKP RF of Moscow oblast has opened an official investigation into the murder of the priest. The investigation is continuing.

On Wednesday, the annual meeting of the Moscow diocesan clergy in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour began with the singing of “Eternal Memory” for Archpriest Aleksandr Filippov, killed overnight in Podolsk. “I would like to ask us to start our meeting with a proclamation of ‘Eternal Memory’”, Patriarch Kirill said to the assembled representatives of the clergy, and, after these words, personally intoned the Eternal Memory “for the newly-reposed murdered Archpriest Aleksandr”. After that, the more than a thousand priests gathered in the hall rose from their seats and sang the Canticles for the Reposed. Patriarch Kirill called the deceased Fr Aleksandr “a bright man who was not indifferent to human degradation, as his duty demanded”.

Interior of Ascension church in Satin-Russkoye, Podolsk raion, Moscow oblast

Patriarch Kirill thinks that the recently murdered Frs Daniil Sysoev and Aleksandr Filippov are exemplars for all Orthodox pastors. “These priests died a martyr’s death; they should be our heroic exemplars. They proved their faithfulness to the Lord not only in their lives, but, also, through their deaths”, His Holiness said on Wednesday at the conclusion of his speech at the annual meeting of the Moscow diocesan clergy in the conference centre at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. He expressed his conviction that “the vast majority of those sitting in this room are willing to do the same”. He drew an analogy by comparing pre-revolutionary times with the years of [the Soviet era], when there were many martyrs in the ranks of the Russian Orthodox clergy. In the words of the patriarch, many of the priests and bishops who, throughout their lives, had withstood attacks from the liberal intelligentsia completed their lives as martyrs. “Please, God, grant that all of us should, in word and deed, through our life and death, demonstrate our loyalty to Him to whom we have dedicated their lives, our Lord Jesus Christ”, Patriarch Kirill said.

Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias expressed his condolences in connection with the murder of Archpriest Aleksandr Filippov. “What has happened can not be described simply as mere chance. A tragic series of crimes in recent months raises questions about the diabolical malice that the enemy of mankind manages to sow in the hearts of men”, in the words of His Holiness’ condolences, published on Wednesday on the MP official website. According to patriarch Kirill, “We cannot consider any society where such crimes occur as mentally healthy. The causes of this moral illness are associated with the distortion of true concepts of good and evil, with a shift in values toward egotism, selfishness, and indifference. Our best people give their lives in confronting this anger and indifference; their keen sense of justice leads them to courageously and sincerely stand up to it,” the condolences say. The patriarch called on the Church to pray for the soul of the reposed priest and expressed hope that “a speedy investigation into the incident would lead to the triumph of justice”. He also asked God “to give us all the strength to survive such incidents, to strengthen our faith, to prevent further multiplication of evil, and to hold back the triumph of immorality and lawlessness”.

The place in the corridor of 25 Narodnaya Street where Fr Aleksandr Filippov was murdered

The Podolsk city court indicted the suspect Oleg Shekhov in the murder of Archpriest Aleksandr Filippov, and ordered him held without bail, Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the RF SKP, told Interfax on Wednesday. “Currently, we’re searching Shekhov’s apartment. We confiscated a shotgun, cartridges, knives, and an electric cattle prod”, he said. According to Mr Markin, investigators are conducting forensic and ballistic tests of the evidence and are questioning witnesses. The court is opening criminal proceedings in connection with the murder of Fr Aleksandr because it is a crime under Part 1 of Article 105 of the Criminal Code (murder).

According to the SKP RF, last night, police found the body of the priest with a gunshot wound to the chest in the corridor of an apartment at 25 Narodnaya Street in Podolsk. As Mr Markin told us, during an inspection of the crime scene police found cigarette butts, fingerprints, and a bullet of 9 mm calibre in the entrance of the house. “As the result of an intelligently-planned and well-designed search operation, we arrested a 38-year-old resident of Podolsk, Oleg Shekhov, on suspicion of murder, a man who was previously convicted of murder”, he said.

Mr Markin went on to say that, on the previous evening, Oleg Shekhov and two friends went into the entrance of 25 Narodnaya Street in Podolsk to “take care of” his cohabiting girlfriend, because she had complained about them. “The men were drunk and creating a public nuisance. At that time, Fr Aleksandr stepped into the entrance and made a remark to Shekhov. In response, Shekhov insulted the priest, and, precisely when the priest opened the front door of the apartment, he shot at him with a pistol. Shekhov then picked up the spent cartridge case and, together with his friends, fled the scene”, he said. Furthermore, on his way home, Shekhov telephoned an acquaintance and suggested that they meet. “Whilst they were drinking vodka, Shekhov, knowing that his friend’s car lacked an alarm, went out and tossed his pistol in the glove compartment of the car. Shekhov’s weapon was a starter’s pistol altered to fire live ammunition”, Mr Markin told us.

23 December 2009










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