Moscow (AsiaNews) - Excess wealth, as well as the extreme poverty among
the clergy should be viewed as both bad for the Russian Orthodox Church, this
according to Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate
Department for Coordinating Church and Society. He spoke as the controversy
over the lifestyle of Russia's Church hierarchy heated up following a series
of accidents involving clergymen driving luxury cars.
"Of course, most emphatically, the clergy mustn't
succumb to the consumerist notion
that we see today," Chaplin said at a public meeting
on the public perception of the Russian Orthodox Church's image in society.
"Affluence and access to material goods can
cause stratification within the clergy, dividing them into rich and poor. This
is very bad," he warned. Indeed, ordinary people "internally rebel when they
see an affluent clergyman", he added.
At the same time, however, Chaplin doesn't
believe that "it's beneficial to the Church if the clergy become marginalised
outcasts". This might lead to the "diminution of the clergy's status" as
is the case among Catholics and Protestants, due to the fact that "secular
forces squeezed them out and made them social outcasts."
"The same thing could happen with us... . It'll drive priests crazy or
force them into the labour market if we allow the notion that clergy should
live in miserable poverty to settle amongst us."
"In Russia, Greece and all Orthodox territory," he explained, "priests
had a standard of living usually slightly higher than the average of the
According to Chaplin, a priest living in need constantly forced to beg
brings "shame to his flock and to the community of the faithful."
The meeting, held last Friday, also saw the presentation of survey results
from the independent 'Sreda' centre indicating that most Russians believe that
the Orthodox clergy lives in luxury and that they would prefer to see their
priests more open to their fellow man, and less attached to material things.
On Saturday, a day after Chaplin spoke, Pope Francis told a meeting of
thousands of seminarians from around the world that "It really hurts, I tell you, when I see a priest or a nun
in the latest model car. That cannot be!"
There are, within the Orthodox Church hierarchy, growing fears that the 'lifestyle'
of the clergy might be to the Patriarchate what the paedophile clergy issue is
to the Vatican, anonymous sources told AsiaNews.
Still, Pope Francis's calls for a more sober lifestyle have appeal in
Russia. After he was elected many in
media wondered when Patriarch Kirill might pronounce similar words.