While the Russian liberal community is accustomed to lamenting yet another “drain of protest,” the Moscow opposition summer of this year is sprouting a large fruit in a place completely unexpected for this public. On September 17, the Orthodox site Pravmir, which had escaped from the control of the patriarchy, published an open letter to more than 40 clergymen of the Moscow and 1 clergyman of the Patriarchates of Constantinople condemning the violence of the authorities against peaceful demonstrators in Moscow. This bold moral protest against the inhumanity of the regime, finally formulated by a still living, not crushed part of the Russian clergy, became a breath of fresh air and took on a scale that was absolutely threatening for the patriarchal bureaucracy. By the morning of September 19, 117 signatures were already in open letter!
Who are these people? The organizers of the action decided not to take it outside the class-clerical framework – among the signatories there are no laity or at least psalmists, only priests and deacons. But it is precisely this environment that is most compromised in the eyes of the opposition-minded part of society by its servility to the authorities, false justifications “from the gospel point of view” of any crimes of the regime. Only a few representatives of the clergy decided in 2012 to stand up for the participants in the punk prayer service “Blessed Virgin, Drive Putin!”, Recalling that the church is an institution of forgiveness and love, not repression and hatred.
Stigmatized by the patriarch as "traitors in the cassocks", these individual representatives then suffered severe punishment, having lost their parishes …
The “best people” of the church were silent when the Russian “ichtamnets” invaded the territory of fraternal Ukraine to kill “for the Russian language”, when territories of at least fraternal Georgia were torn away, when hundreds of Crimean Tatars were detained in the occupied peninsula, or when criminal proceedings were massively brought against Jehovah's Witnesses (banned in the Russian Federation – approx. ed.) and tortured them for one “wrong” confession of faith.
After decades of compromises with criminal and far from any morality, especially evangelical, regimes, it will be very difficult for the spiritual estate in Russia to “restore its honest name”. But it still took the first step – God forbid, so that it would not be the last.
Photo: Alexander Ryumin / TASS
Among the signatories of the open letter there are pastors well-known and respected among the church people: Archpriest Alexander Borisov, rector of the Church of Saints Cosmas and Damian opposite the Moscow City Hall, where protesters were rescued from riot batons on July 27; prominent biblical scholar Archpriest Leonid Griliches, who left to serve in Brussels; Archpriest Andrey Lorgus; Director of the Institute of Christian Psychology, a popular spiritual writer from Belarus, Archimandrite Savva (Mazhuko); Hong Kong missionary archpriest Dionisy Pozdnyaev; Archpriest Alexy Uminsky, famous among the Moscow intelligentsia; Protopriest George Edelstein, member of the Moscow Helsinki Group …
But there are also so-called simple priests from city and rural parishes of different dioceses of Russia and Ukraine, about 15 signatories are from countries of far abroad. Given the mass movement, the church authorities will no longer be able to expose its participants to direct repression. Now it, and not the press service of the patriarch or the “propaganda department” of Vladimir Legoyda, will express the “point of view of the church” on problems that really trouble society.
The authors of the open letter are repelled by the ancient concept of “grief”, which is mentioned in the modern ROC Charter as “the duty of the patriarch”. This phenomenon arose in medieval Russia with its harsh customs, when the word of the Moscow Metropolitan, and later the patriarch, said in time to the Grand Duke or Tsar, softened the fate of the innocently convicted. In fact, this is a sermon of the gospel forgiveness and love of enemies – in real political conditions.
There are no well-known cases when modern patriarchs (Alexy II or Cyril) would recall their “duty of sadness”, no.
The authors of the open letter return “sadness” to its original meaning: “Trial,” they write, “should not be repressive, the courts cannot be used as a means of suppressing dissent, the use of force should not be carried out with unjustified cruelty.” Clergymen note the systematic intimidation of Russian citizens by the authorities and the absolute disproportion of politically motivated sentences of the real gravity of the offenses.
The first reaction of the patriarchy to the “impudence” of the clergy was quite predictable. On the night of September 18, Vakhtang Kipshidze, deputy chairman of the Church-Society and Media Relations Department of the Moscow Patriarchate, called the letter a “political declaration” and exposed the signatories that they took the “easy way” of mixing political rhetoric and gospel quotes.
On the same day, the answer came from the former professor of MGIMO, Andrei Zubov, whose student was once Kipshidze. Recalling some facts from the biography of the church official, Andrei Zubov states:
“You could not overcome the temptation, you succumbed to it. This temptation is to live not in conscience in Christ, but at will to please the authorities, the authorities of this world …
Do not buy at the cost of temporary prosperity of dishonor already here in the Church of the earth, and deprivation of part in the church of heaven. ” Kipshidze’s answer to his former mentor was short and tough: “I never had any“ mentors ”in the academic environment!”
Photo: RIA Novosti
A more flexible position was taken by the press secretary of the patriarch Vladimir Legoyda. His position probably reflects the patriarch’s understanding of the seriousness of the situation and the mass movement. On the one hand, he condemned the presence of open signatures of clerics living "in Austria, Belarus, Hong Kong, Spain, Russia (!) Or in Ukraine." On the other hand, he said that the Human Rights Center of the World Russian National Council was entrusted with the task of studying the materials of the cases of the persons mentioned in the above statement and other persons regarding the possible violation of their rights during the trial and, if necessary, provide them with qualified legal assistance ” .
This pseudo-human rights center has never done anything like this before, being created to lobby for the interests of the Moscow Patriarchate, in particular, in the construction of new churches in park areas, and for "fighting sects." The head of this center, Roman Silantyev, spoke about the instructions given to him even more sharply than Kipshidze: “We must first understand the situation, and then make harsh statements …
Our priest in Hong Kong does not comment on local unrest, but on Moscow. I would like to hear his position on the clashes between police and protesters there. ”
Obviously, with such a mood it will be impossible to engage in real protection of political prisoners, especially in the form of Christian “sadness” to the authorities. (Incidentally, the head of the World Russian National Council is personally Patriarch Kirill.)
The Moscow Patriarchate as an institution remains a derivative of the Kremlin. But there is no moral unity in its ranks. And for this is a huge gratitude to the authors of an open letter, which will undoubtedly go down in history as a stage of spiritual resistance to the repressive regime.