Russian consumer rights watchdog seeks to defrock Orthodox Patriarch

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia (RIA Novosti / Sergey Pyatakov)
The Society for Consumer Rights’ Protection has addressed the top board of the Russian Orthodox Church with a request to defrock Patriarch Kirill over alleged violations of the church canon.

The chairman of the watchdog Mikhail Anshakov disclosed the move in an interview with the Russian online daily Gazeta.ru and also published the text of the address in his blog, asking all those interested to amend and support it.

According to Anshakov, he had earlier studied the media reports about Patriarch Kirill and came to a conclusion that Russia’s top cleric had allegedly committed enough violations of the church rules or canons to be deprived of his high religious title.

In particular, the activist claims that the head of the church is guilty of extortion, of conducting trade in the house of God, of seeking lush life and decorating his body, and other things.

Anshakov quoted the canonic rules approved by medieval and modern-day church congresses and compared them to recent media reports of Patriarch Kirill’s alleged wrongdoings.

Among others he mentions the scandal with the Breguet wristwatch worn by the Patriarch and removed from official photos by his press service and the US$1 million lawsuit against neighbors who allegedly allowed dust from their apartment to spoil the rare books stored at Patriarch’s home.

Anshakov says that the regulations of the Church Court allow the initiation of a case by anyone who has legal capacity, is baptized and without history of false complaints or proven sinful lifestyle. Therefore, the activist said he understood that he personally was in the full right to do this.

The activist added that he expected the Church to discuss the question at the Hierarchs’ Congress due in February 2013.

Earlier, the Society for Consumer Rights’ Protection has sued the Russian Orthodox Church for allegedly conducting illegal trade inside the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.

In mid-September the Moscow City Court ruled that the selling of goods and services inside the cathedral was legal as all payments in the church must be recognized as voluntary donations of the parishioners.

After that the executive director of the Foundation of the Christ the Savior Cathedral asked the prosecutors to start a criminal case against the consumer watchdog and its director over slander and the head of the Association of Orthodox Christian Experts asked law enforcers to check if Anshakov is a member of an extremist organization.

In earlier comments to the media Patriarch Kirill acknowledged that the Church is suffering an attack which he called a test of people’s faith. The church leader noted that the latest events had already showed the masterminds of provocations that Russians are not a “faceless, quiet mass,” but people who are capable of protecting their shrines.

In a separate but equally strange move, the Russian Order of Knights Templar has addressed the parliament with a request to tighten the punishment for insulting the believers’ feelings. The Knights Templar also addressed the State Investigative Committee with a demand to find and punish those who had allegedly ordered the scandalous “punk prayer” by the band Pussy Riot in Moscow’s main cathedral. If the authorities take no action, the Order threatened to make its own probe, find those responsible and make them answer for what they did.

However, the head of the order, well- known attorney Igor Trunov, played down the threat in press comments, saying that the punishment could also be of a moral kind.

The Knights Templar also stated in their address that the Church was a victim of a pre-planned and coordinated campaign that started with the punk concert. Trunov then suggested in his comments that the contract for the anti-church campaign originated in the United States as its citizens, in his view, usually pose as some sort of schismatics on the international political arena.