Kirill surrenders: Russian Orthodox Church in quarantine
by Vladimir Rozanskij

The patriarch justifies the u-turn by citing Saint Mary the Egyptian, "who lived for 47 years in the desert in absolute isolation, observing fasting". But the most intransigent Orthodox accuse him of giving in to the "phobias of the godless". Protoierej Georgij Mitrofanov: People have no faith in state power. Officials are "ready to spread any lie" to save themselves. Putin as "miraculous healer". The invention of a test that gives results within 2 and a half hours.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The patriarch of Moscow Kirill released a statement yesterday advising believers not to go to church, due to the coronavirus epidemic, and to strictly comply with the health regulations of the authorities.

After refusing to close the churches for several days, the Russian Orthodox Church has also decided to implement containment measures. Meanwhile, the number of positive coronavirus cases in Russia has exceeded 1,500 people, with 8 dead.

The most intransigent Orthodox see the Patriarch’s change of stance as a surrender to the "phobias of the godless". To justify himself, the patriarch cited an example of ancient Christianity: "I would never have said such a thing if I had not remembered the wonderful and holy example of Mary the Egyptian", Kirill commented during the homily in Christ's Cathedral Savior, pointing to the 4th century hermit "who lived for 47 years in the desert in absolute isolation, observing fasting", and is particularly revered by the Orthodox and Coptic Churches. "We too take the podvig [heroic vow] not to leave our homes, like the saint who remained in her desert, even when she died of thirst".

The patriarch said that the threat of the pandemic is "very serious" and can also spread to Russia; for now citizens do not realize the seriousness of the situation, which however is evident when looking at many other countries in the world.

In St. Petersburg, Governor Aleksandr Beglov ban attendance of places of worship for the days of "forced vacation" decided by the central government, that is until April 5, despite protests from local Orthodox priests who appealed to the law on freedom of conscience, opposing the ban.

The protoierej Georgij Mitrofanov (photo 1), professor of history and theology at the Theological Academy of St. Petersburg, explained the reluctance of the faithful and the clergy to respect the indications of the authorities with the low levels of trust that the population has in them.

"State power has always been indifferent to people's needs, especially in recent decades" - explained Father Georgij to Radio Svoboda - "They have always lied to us, and they lie even today, this is evident. As far as we are concerned every official fears only the official who is above him, not the people, and they are therefore ready to spread any lie, if it serves to protect themselves. This is our biggest difference with the situation in Italy and in many other countries: they know how to lie better".

One of the most spectacular news items circulating in the Russian media these days, for example, concerns the "miraculous healing" of a young man at the Kommunarka hospital, which apparently came about after his meeting with President Vladimir Putin. The young orthopedist Dmitrij Garkavi, head physician at the Sechenov clinic in Moscow, ended up on March 19 in the infectious disease department of Kommunarka, the hospital on the outskirts of Moscow, intended for coronavirus patients. On March 24 Putin had visited the sick, asking if everything was going well and if they were satisfied with the medical treatment. After that Garkavi began to heal suddenly, and the Moscow traumatologist Andrej Volna (Garkavi's friend) released a Facebook post, stating that it is not possible to heal pneumonia so quickly. The same Garkavi, however, denied the miraculous interpretations of his recovery, saying he was continuing the course of the treatments and waiting for the third negative test for the coronavirus.

The Social Observatory of Russia states that about 20% of the positive cases in Russia have had no contact with abroad, neither traveling, nor meeting people from other countries. In the meantime, a testing system has been developed to check for the virus in just two and a half hours.

The Prime Minister, Mikhail Mishustin, is proposing to apply the most severe measures nationwide, following in the footsteps of those applied by the Mayor of Moscow Sergei Sobjanin, who has decided to control Muscovites through smartphones. The leader of the capital is emerging as the most authoritative figure among Russian political leaders (left in photo n.02)