01/29/2020, 09.17
RUSSIA
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Father Chaplin, champion of Orthodox fundamentalism, has died

by Stefano Caprio

 

His death (at just 51) somehow leaves a void in the Russian Orthodox community. It is unknown who will want to fill this space, especially those who will be able to combine the most explicit intolerance with the ability to forge relationships across the board, to provoke reactions and  take advantage of them to inaugurate new diplomatic paths, to wish for rupture (also with the other Orthodox Churches) and then negotiate new opportunities for encounter.

 

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Protoierej Vsevolod Chaplin died unexpectedly on January 26, just 51 years of age, due to an unexpected stroke that led to cardiac arrest.  For many years the priest, one of the main collaborators of the patriarch of Moscow Kirill (Gundjaev), collapsed on the ground in the churchyard  of St. Theodore Studita at the Nikita Gates, in the center of Moscow, where he had been parish priest for four years;  the ambulance that arrived a few minutes later was only able to ascertain his death.

After serving for more than twenty years in the Patriarchate's Department of Foreign Affairs, as head of relations with society, Father Vsevolod was relieved of the office in 2015, when the patriarch decided to dismiss representatives of the most radical tendencies inside the central structures, such as the journalist Sergej Chapnin, exponent of the more "pro-dialogue" wing, and precisely Chaplin, a point of reference for the most radical and uncompromising Orthodox.  His death has aroused very contradictory and passionate reactions, being for years one of the best known protagonists in the public debate on the issues of national identity and the opposition between Russia and the liberal and "morally degraded" West.

Patriarch Kirill has avoided expressing himself about the death of one of his first collaborators since the 1990s, when the young Vsevolod began already as a seminarian to make his presence felt in developing the social doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church.  In the Synod of 2000, this work produced an important document on the relationship between the Church and society, which somehow served as an ideological program for the newly begun presidency of Vladimir Putin.  Chaplin enthusiastically supported the 2014 Putinian campaign in Ukraine, which brought Orthodox sovereignty to a much more extreme and aggressive level, and this provoked disagreement with Kirill himself, who did not share this political-religious ideology.

In his youth Fr. Chaplin was not quite so radical, on the contrary he showed himself very favorable to the ecumenical dialogue and international relations of Orthodox Russia, as a member of the department led by the then Metropolitan Kirill and together with the current director of the same, Metropolitan Ilarion (Alfeev).  In 2009, with the appointment of Kirill as patriarch, Chaplin became the best known face of the patriarchate, intervening in the media to illustrate the guidelines of the idea of ​​an Orthodox Russia capable of standing up to the secularist and globalist decline imposed by the  politics of the West.

Since 2015 the protoierej worked in the parish as a simple parish priest, but he continued to intervene above all on social networks with increasingly threatening and apocalyptic proclamations, inciting the "Orthodox crusade" against Islamism and secularism, even inviting followers not to fear a nuclear war between  Russia and America: “Unlike the Americans, we are not afraid of the destruction of big cities: what should people who already live in the dimension of eternity have to fear?  The deep Russia of the countryside will survive even without the metropolises with all their temptations, indeed they will live a purer life ”.

In truth, those who knew Father Vsevolod closely, like this author, did not have the impression of a gloomy obscurantist, nostalgic for medieval civilization.  He was good-natured and jovial, capable of sitting down to converse and share a meal even with his worst "enemy", cultured and sharp in his observations.  He was also capable of helping anyone in need, spiritually and materially.  Another great Russian publicist today, the deacon Andrej Kuraev, said that Chaplin had managed to build a model of "atomic orthodoxy", based on a "theology of death and hatred" that fascinated those looking for a strong identity  in the disintegration of the contemporary world, of which many feel the need today.

His death somehow leaves a void in the Russian Orthodox community. It is unknown who will want to fill this space, especially those who will be able to combine the most explicit intolerance with the ability to forge relationships across the board, to provoke reactions and  take advantage of them to inaugurate new diplomatic paths, to wish for rupture (also with the other Orthodox Churches) and then negotiate new opportunities for encounter. Many of his faithful mourn him at the church where he celebrated his last years, and Russia today seems less able to explain itself, without the tremendous and fascinating prophecies of Vsevolod Chaplin.

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