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5 Sep, 2009 05:35

Orthodox priest enlightens financial sector

Religion and roubles don't often go hand-in-hand in people's minds, but one man has managed to unite both. Veniamin Simonov, or Father Philip, is the only priest in Russia who also monitors the country's banking system.

Father Phillip is man of many talents: not just a clergyman, but a civil servant and a university teacher also. This mix makes him unique. He is one of the rare few in Russia who works for both the State and the Church at the same time.

Veniamin Simonov is the head of Russia’s Audit Chamber Inspection for control over the banking system and credit institutions, and the monitoring of financial markets. He makes sure that the budgetary funds are used properly.

“I simply do my job – the only job I can do, as I'm an expert in it. And the reason I do it? One should be of benefit not only to himself, but also to society. Otherwise, you are useless for God too,” he said.

Hegumen Philip hears confessions and gives communion at Nikolsky Cathedral in Moscow. He says his religious path started in his childhood and naturally coexisted with his economic education and career. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, he took the monastic vows, but his career path never stopped.

“There was never any confrontation. My diocesan blessed my professional steps and even the [deceased] Patriarch during our short meetings never objected what I do. I've never been told ‘give up everything and leave’. So I don't feel any inner discord,” he explained.

His congregation doesn't seem to mind their spiritual leader working with such a unexciting thing as auditing.

“I've been coming here since the first day Father Philip started serving here and we are used to it. In fact we're quite happy that a member of the clergy works at the Audit Chamber. It gives us hope that there are decent and religious people in power who will bring in some basic religious principles into our state,” said one of Father Philip’s parishioners.

In addition to being a meritorious economist, Father Philip also moonlights as Professor Veniamin Vladimirovich at the Moscow State University.

“I was surprised to learn that our teacher graduated from the history faculty and has an economic degree but teaches history of the Church. It feels these subjects are absolutely incompatible,” said one of his students. “But I think that's what makes him unique.”

According to Father Philip, quoting a recent opinion poll, the majority of Russians are Orthodox believers. The Orthodox Church has become for many a place to share their hardships and take the weight off their shoulders. The priest says if there is anything he can do to help, he will continue anyway he can, regardless of how tiring it becomes.