Moscow (AsiaNews) - For people who knew him inside and outside the Russian Orthodox, Fr Pavel Adelgheim was a "priest of dialogue," yet a thorn in the side of the Orthodox Church because of his openly criticism of the Moscow Patriarchate. He was found dead Monday evening at his home in Pskov, allegedly stabbed by a man who was his guest.
The press office of the regional Interior Ministry Department said that the murder suspect was in police custody and that an investigation was underway.
A lawmaker from the Pskov region, Lev Shlosberg, told Dozhd TV that the suspect, Sergei Pchelinzev, a 27-year-old man with mental problems from Moscow, was staying at the priest's house in Constantine and Yelena Parish on the request of an acquaintance.
As he was chatting in the kitchen with the priest's wife, the young man stabbed the clergyman, mortally wounding him. As he was being arrested, he inflicted stab wounds on himself, and was taken to hospital.
Friends and relatives of the alleged killer have a different version of events. His former classmates at the Institute of Cinematography in Moscow portray him as a young man with a sunny disposition who was "perfectly healthy."
His mother explained that her son had gone to Pskov to prepare for his upcoming wedding.
The clergyman, 75, was known for his support, among other things, for the Pussy Riot singers who were sentenced to two years in prison for an anti-Putin performance inside Christ the Saviour Cathedral.
Fr Pavel signed a petition calling on the Patriarch Kirill to show compassion towards the members of the feminist punk band.
"The women," he wrote on a blog, "have unmasked the lie of the Russian Orthodox Church and its unnatural bond with the Russian Federation," he wrote.
Many people who knew Fr Pavel remember him as a man of courage and integrity. Ordained a priest during Soviet times in 1964, he was arrested five years later for distributing samizdat (self-published) religious literature.
In 1970, he was sentenced to three years in a labour camp for defaming the Soviet regime. During his confinement, he lost the use of his right leg and was released in 1972, disabled.
In 1976, he began working in the Diocese of Pskov, but quickly began to get into trouble with the Church hierarchy.
In recent years, he was highly critical of the Moscow Patriarchate for its top-down structure and Orthodox bishops for their corrupt behaviour. Still, he never took the extreme decision of leaving the Church.
Lawmaker Shlosberg compared Fr Pavel's "martyrdom" to that of Aleksander Men, a famous Orthodox priest and theologian, who was critical of those in power, killed 9 September 1990, on the outskirts of Moscow, in mysterious circumstances.
Pravmir.ru, a religious information site, remembered Fr Pavel as a thorn in the side of the Russian Orthodox Church.
"He spoke his mind and stood by his words, even in Soviet times, when homilies did not bring golden mitres but years of detention."
"He was a man who was not afraid, who could not be wished away, whose words and existence were meaningful," Bible scholar and commentator Andrei Desnizki wrote.
A spokesman for Russian Patriarch Kirill said the latter would pray for Fr Pavel's soul.