Sergius, the 'Rasputin of the Urals' excommunicated
by Vladimir Rozanskij

The ecclesiastical court of Ekaterinburg has laicized the starets for accusing Church and the State of having caused a "pseudo-pandemic". Testimonies of child abuse under guise of spiritual education. The starets’ monastery surrounded by the police and guarded by "voluntary militias" of loyalists. Covid-19 spreading in Russia and Central Asia.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The ecclesiastical court of the Russian Orthodox eparchy of Ekaterinburg, in the Ural Mountains, yesterday decided to condemn and laicize the rebel starets Sergij (Romanov). The Verkhoturja monk had cursed the political and ecclesiastical leaders, who imposed protection measures from Covid-19, which Sergij termed the "pseudo-pandemic", and above all he refuses to recognize the authority of the patriarch and the Orthodox bishops.

As a result, the ecclesiastical and political leaders nicknamed him "the Rasputin of the Urals", named after the charismatic monk of the time of the tsars.

The excommunication was communicated to journalists by the president of the court, the senior protoierej Father Nikolaj Malet, parish priest of the cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity (see photo).

The decree declares that the condemnation of Romanov is due "to the violation of the priestly oath, monastic vows and numerous canons of the Orthodox Church", listed in the document. The Orthodox Church does not have a code of canon law, but recognizes the canons of the ecumenical councils of the early centuries.

Furthermore, Father Nikolaj revealed that in the court sessions numerous testimonies were also discussed that speak of violence against children who are educated in the territory of the Sredneuralsky female monastery, of which Sergij is the spiritual director; to "obtain heaven" children would be regularly whipped and harassed with various other corporal punishment.

Regarding the violence against minors, the ecclesiastical court also sent the documents to the local prosecutor's office, which in turn could make very drastic decisions, including the imprisonment of the now ex-igumen. The decision to excommunicate and laicize him was sent for confirmation to the patriarch of Moscow Kirill (Gundjaev). The sentenced starets will have the opportunity to appeal to the central ecclesiastical court in Moscow.

The leaders of the Ekaterinburg eparchy also expressed the hope that the igumenja Varvara, driven out by Sergij, will return to his monastery. The abbess is the only person who maintains the canonical status necessary for the leadership of the community of nuns. The monastery could suffer punitive measures; it is still in the hands of the excommunicated Sergi, surrounded by "voluntary militias" of his loyalists.

The Metropolitan of Ekaterinburg Kirill (Nakonechnyj) has promised to "bring the monastery under the control of the Orthodox Church, in a spirit of peace and in compliance with canonical laws" together with the other communities and properties controlled by Romanov.

Most of the nuns expressed their intention to remain faithful to their starets and their refusal to hand over the monastery to others. The place is also controlled by large police forces, but so far there have been no incidents. Sergij's devotees asked ecclesiastical leaders to "convene a local Council of the Russian Church" to settle the issue, as at the time of the schism of old believers in Russia in the mid-seventeenth century.

Despite the protests and curses of the "Rasputin from the Urals", the situation of the coronavirus in Russia continues to cause concern; new outbreaks of infected cases occur in the northern regions of Russia and in the "northern capital" of St. Petersburg. Official data are 667 thousand infected (almost 7 thousand new cases in one day); with 9859 deaths. No less serious are the waves of the pandemic in the countries of Central Asia, especially in Kazakhstan and Kyrgystan, not far from the Russian region of Ekaterinburg.