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Russian ‘Gucci’ priest causes outrage posting luxury items on Instagram, says sorry for ‘sin’

Russian ‘Gucci’ priest causes outrage posting luxury items on Instagram, says sorry for ‘sin’
These days one can make a career out of posting photos of designer clothes and accessories on Instagram. But combining this with serving as an ordained priest may be tricky, as one Russian cleric found out.

The ‘Gucci priest’ was one of Russia’s biggest viral stories last week. An Instagram account attributed to cleric from the city of Tver sparked outrage with many images of expensive luxury items, including shoes, slippers, luggage bags and accessories. The author apparently had a soft spot for Louis Vuitton, although Gucci was a favorite too.

The photos were months old, but last week the account was highlighted by a popular Russian online fun board, Pikabu, sparking a wave of outrage and puzzlement. “This is the clergy we get,” said the headline of the post, and many commenters agreed, saying the man bragging about his posh lifestyle hardly qualifies to be a spiritual guide.

Others thought the account was too outrageous to be genuine. They suggested it must be some anti-clerical project meant to satirize priests that think too much about body and too little about soul.

“Look at what’s written under this photo of an iPhone case from Montblanc. ‘Recommended by the Holy See’. It’s a Catholic term, while the priest is supposed to be Eastern Orthodox,” one such skeptic wrote.

The viral notoriety apparently was not what the Instagram poster expected, because he soon deleted the page. But not before online sleuths credibly identified him as Vyacheslav Baskakov, an actual archpriest from Tver.

On Sunday, Baskakov published an open letter, acknowledging that he was behind the inappropriate Instagram account and asking forgiveness for his sin. But he insists that the sin was vainglory, not avarice, as critics would presume.

He claims most of the brand items seen in the photos did not belong to him and were shot in shops. “No priest can afford such things. And why would he? Now I consider those photos stupid, childish and even sinful,” he wrote, adding that his boasts were an attempt to be “an open person”.

And those shoes he is shown wearing nowhere near a shop? Baskakov insists they are counterfeit. “I fixed buckles on almost all of them myself. Those shoes are cheap, but they look festive. I wanted some festivity in my clothes to cheer up after services,” the priest said.

The cleric said a doctor told him once that changing things in his life was good for wellbeing, so that’s what he did. And now, “my fame is in my shame”.

We’ll see if the church disciplinary probe into his love for posh things is convinced.

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