The tragedy of the Russian Church hit by Covid-19 continues
by Vladimir Rozanskij

The parish priest of the Dormition church in the center of Moscow has died. One of the most controversial starets, the 93-year-old Archimandrite Petr (Kucher), from the Bogoljubovo monastery also died: he exalted Stalin and Ivan the Terrible. On the advice of the doctors, Patriarch Kirill renounces public celebration of Pentecost Mass. Pilgrims in Velikoretsk rejected by the population for fear of infections.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Despite the optimism with which Russia also opens up to Phase 2 of the quarantine for Covid-19, the pandemic does not seem to lose strength, showing further peaks of infection: in the last 24 hours almost 9 thousand people have tested positive. Deaths are also growing, on which official information is clearly in short supply.

In the Orthodox Church there are further cases of death from the coronavirus. One of these concerns another Muscovite parish priest, the 65-year-old protoierej Mikhail Vasilev (photo 1), of the Church of the Dormition in the Sloboda of the Cossacks, in the center of the capital. The church, like other Russian churches, had been reopened for faithful since June 6, albeit with masks and distances. Father Mikhail was a spiritual assistant to the Army General Chief of Staff, and was in charge of the military base outside Moscow for the strategic artillery regiments.

On June 6, one of the oldest and most controversial starets of Russia, the 93-year-old archimandrite Petr (Kucher, photo 2), also died He was the spiritual father of the historic Bogoljubovo monastery in Vladimir, where the palace of Andrej Bogoljubskij, one of the most important princes of Kievan Rus in the 12th century, still stands. Petr was one of the most symbolic leaders of "patriotic orthodoxy", openly supporting monarchical and anti-globalist theses, exalting the "spiritual conquests of the Soviet era" and the greatness of Josif Stalin, "a guide given by God". In his church he regularly displayed the icon of Ivan the Terrible, whose canonization he sought.

In the diocese of Cherkasy in Ukraine, one of the youngest clerics of the patriarchate of Moscow died on June 5, the protoierej Dionisij Grunin (photo 3) only 34 years, after a few days of hospitalization in intensive care. At first the diocese had spoken of oncological disease, but in reality the young priest was victim of a virulent form of the coronavirus. Father Dionisij was pastor of the Church of the Mother of God "Joy of all the afflicted", at the clinic for the disabled in the city of Cherkasy. 18 of the 22 resident nuns have also become infected in the Alatyr monastery in the Chuvashja region, and thus also a substantial part of the male monastery in the same city. A few days ago the elderly metropolitan of Chuvashja Varnava (Kedrov) died of the virus. The Chief Rabbi of Russia, Berl Lazar, also fell ill with coronavirus, and was hospitalized.

The same patriarch of Moscow Kirill (Gundjaev) has renounced the celebration of the solemnity of Pentecost last Sunday 7 June, on the advice of the doctors, and "not to compromise the solemn consecration of the church of Victory on 22 June", as stated in the statement of patriarchy. Until then the patriarch will celebrate only privately; on social media, several people are starting to propose appointing a "patriarchal lieutenant", given the prolonged absence of the head of the Russian Church from pastoral service.

The great pilgrimage of the miraculous icon of St. Nicholas ended in Velikoretsk, in which several thousand pilgrims from all over Russia participated, despite formal prohibitions for the danger of infection. Many villagers along the way refused to welcome them, quench their thirst and feed them, as would be the tradition, by hanging the notice "Quarantine - Entry forbidden to pilgrims" on the gates and gates (photo 4). The doctors from the town of Velikoretsk, the final destination of the procession, also refused to assist the pilgrims, and the grocery stores remained closed, leaving the faithful without food.