Solovki: no-vax igumen tests positive for Covid, Kirill cancels pilgrimage
by Vladimir Rozanskij

Moscow patriarch forced to cancel traditional summer visit to monastery that was turned into a lager by the Soviets. Bishop Porfirij a few weeks ago had caused embarrassment for a no-vax sermon.



Moscow (AsiaNews) - Patriarch Kirill (Gundjaev) of Moscow has cancelled the traditional summer visit to the historic monastery of the Savior of the Transfiguration on the Solovki islands, in the great Russian north beyond the Arctic Circle.

Since the monastery is difficult to reach in other seasons, the patriarch used to go there for the feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God, which is celebrated on August 19 according to the Julian calendar of the Orthodox Church. Those days also commemorate the founders of the monastery, Saints Zosima and Savvatij (August 21) and the "Council of Solovki Saints" (August 22).

The patriarchal visit was suspended, according to the official communiqué, because of the coronavirus infection of the Hygumen of the monastery, Bishop Porfirij (Šutov), who also bears the title of patriarchal vicar, and "the possible spread of the virus in the community of monks."

The Patriarch, therefore, "with sorrow was forced to cancel the visit that had been planned for so long". The tone of the statement does not hide Kirill's deep disappointment with his vicar Porfirij, one of the most vocal anti-Covid and no-vax deniers among Orthodox hierarchs.

The Hygumen-bishop has been in isolation in his monastery rooms since August 14 due to a non-serious form of viral infection. The patriarch himself has been living in isolation since the first lockdown in 2020 in Peredelkino, on the outskirts of Moscow, with the fear of contagion, going out very rarely for particularly significant meetings.

Porfirij is the superior of the Solovki since 2009, and he is also the director of the historical-architectural and naturalistic museum linked to the monastery.

The Solovki Monastery is situated on a small archipelago in the White Sea and has been through all the great events of Russia from the period of liberation from the Tatar yoke in the 15th century to the tragedy of the Soviet years, when it was transformed into a lager for bishops and priests. Many Orthodox and Catholic martyrs have died here, from the theologian Pavel Florenskij to the Greek-Catholic exarch Leonid Fedorov.

Even the particular flora and fauna of the archipelago is the object of keen interest on the part of visitors, who reach the islands by boat and helicopter in the summer.

Bishop Porfirij has been in charge since Kirill's election as patriarch, and he has always interpreted his projects. For example, to remove the Solovki from the activity of the various historical-cultural associations such as the Memorial, the center for the memory of martyrs and those persecuted by the Soviet regime, to make it an "exemplary" center of Russian Orthodoxy, open only to the true believers and pilgrims.

Kirill's visit was supposed to represent in some way the rebirth of the Church and of the faith after the long months of the pandemic, in the place-symbol of the religious rebirth of the last thirty years.

Porfirij, however, had aroused much resonance a few weeks ago, with a heated sermon against the vaccination campaign, which in his opinion is aimed at changing the genetic code of people and deprive them of the divine image received with the creation.

The patriarch had forced the Hygumen to publicly apologize for his out-of-control statements. By falling ill, he further attracted the ire not only of Kirill, but also of President Vladimir Putin, himself obsessed with the danger of infection and very dissatisfied with the denialist excesses of the Orthodox clergy.