04/22/2020, 09.31
RUSSIA
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Moscow, parish priest of the patriarchal cathedral dies from coronavirus

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Aleksandr Agejkin was 49 years old. He lost consciousness suddenly on April 20 around midnight, and on the morning of April 21 he passed away. His illness and death increase the health concerns for the patriarch himself, a friend of Fr. Alexandr. In Moscow, 31 priests test positive. In the country, cases of infection have risen to 50 thousand. The population is panicking.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The pastor of the Cathedral of the Epiphany in Elokhovo, Aleksandr Agejkin has died of the coronavirus in the capital. Aleksandr was 49 years old. His death was communicated by the same patriarchate commission on the coronavirus: the parish priest lost consciousness suddenly on April 20 around midnight, and on the morning of April 21 he passed away.

The Epiphany church is actually the true patriarchal cathedral, which remained open even during the Soviet period, the official seat of the patriarch until 1991. The reconstruction of the cathedral of Christ the Savior, the large church next to the Kremlin spectacularly destroyed by Stalin in 1931, was rebuilt in 1994 and then resurrected as a symbol of the new Russia of post-communism. Most solemn liturgies are held here as well as the synodal assemblies and the great manifestations of the Orthodox Church. But in collective consciousness, the Epiphany church, in the ancient Basmannoe district, remains the true patriarchal church.

Aleksandr started serving as pastor in Elokhovo in 2013, wanted directly by the patriarch Kirill (Gundjaev), to whom he was very close. In 2017 he became the vice-administrator of the secretariat of the patriarchate of Moscow, and at the same time he was the president of the ecclesiastical-civil council with the patriarch for the development of Russian ecclesiastical chant. His illness and death increase the health concerns for the patriarch himself and many senior officials of the patriarchate.

Already in early April the priests of the Epiphany had all been quarantined, according to communications from the patriarchal commission. In 15 churches in Moscow and two monasteries cases of infection were detected, in all 31 priests tested positive.

Another historic church in central Moscow, that of the Annunciation of the Resurrection on the River of the Assumption, is also without priests because of the coronavirus. The was reported by parish priest Nikolaj Balashov, also very close to the patriarch, and deputy head of the external affairs department of the patriarchate.

The cases of coronavirus in Russia have exceeded 50 thousand, and there is a palpable growing panic in the country. The statistics of previous epidemics reveal that in similar cases the birth rate in the country falls by 15-20%, accentuating the deep demographic crisis in Russia, which already loses over 300 thousand people per year in overall numbers. The Russian population, currently around 144 million, is in danger of falling rapidly below 140 million. The most pessimistic forecasts are mitigated by a relative drop in the number of abortions in recent years, although it is still among the highest in the world.

In recent days, the Russian population has also shown increasingly marked signs of impatience with isolation measures, accompanied by fears of the consequent economic crisis. On-line protests are taking place in the main cities of Russia, asking the authorities for effective directives and assistance to the most needy sections of the population, and greater freedom of movement and work. The protests take place through posts on the virtual maps of the major websites, containing requests to the authorities. Major companies such as Yandex have warned that they will be forced to remove the reporting features on their sites.

Similar protests are taking place in many Russian-speaking countries of Central Asia, to contest the measures decided by the authorities, or the lack of necessary measures. A non-virtual protest took place on the night of April 20 in a mining village in Kazakhstan, in the Atyrau region, where some coronavirus-positive workers were sent to work with everyone else. About 500 workers refused to go to the mine for fear of the virus.

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