Three and a half years in prison for the spiritual leader of the Russian Covid deners and no-vaxers. Accused of inciting his "disciples" to suicide. His supporters denounce the sentence as an attack on personal freedom. Patriarch Kirill: "We must vaccinate against these antics".
Moscow (AsiaNews) - The court in Moscow's Izmailovo district has sentenced the former "skhiigumen" (arch-abbot) Sergij to three and a half years in prison. Born Nikolaj Romanov, former superior of the women's monastery of Sredneuralsk near Yekaterinburg, the largest city in the Ural Mountains, the judges found the monk - by now reduced to a lay state - guilty of incitement to suicide, abuse of power and obstruction of Orthodox liturgical celebrations.
A year ago the authorities had arrested Sergij after a forced evacuation of the monastery, where the "starets" (religious guide) of the anti-Covid deniers, no-vaxers and renegades to any ecclesiastical or civil directive had locked himself up with the nuns loyal to him and about a hundred diehard followers. In front of the courthouse, under the snowflakes and the icy wind of the Moscow winter, a group of disciples of Sergij waited for the sentence, displaying icons, crucifixes and rosaries together with signs with the image of the holy man, improvising a prayer vigil "for the salvation of Russia.
The igumen's best-known spiritual daughter, deputy and former Crimean prosecutor Natalia Poklonskaya, was unable to attend the protest vigil as she was sent to Cape Verde as ambassador. The transfer is a measure to stop the publicity that politics gave to the leader of the most extreme Orthodoxy. Leading the protesters was another well-known activist, Elena Rokhlina, daughter of the legendary General Lev Rokhlin, hero of many Soviet and Russian wars, who was killed in 1988 under mysterious circumstances.
Commenting on the ruling on RusNews, Rokhlina said that "it is ridiculous to consider homilies as incitement to suicide, the truth is that with vaccines and Qr-Code [Green Pass] they want to close us all in a big lager; it is a pity that liberals are all silent, it should be their theme, freedom of speech and opinion".
The court session was not broadcast or reported by journalists, who were denied access as a health precaution, Russia still being in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. The same Sergij had incited the revolt against the "chipping" (the insertion of microchips with the vaccine) imposed by the "power of the godless, secular and ecclesiastical, who want to close the churches for the pseudo-pandemic".
Moscow Patriarch Kirill (Gundjaev) anticipated the court's ruling last month, addressing the former igumen by stating that "the important thing is that our Church possesses a vaccine against all these antics, against these distortions of ecclesial life... we have overcome schisms and divisions, we are united and firm in the faith." The Patriarch recalled that "this kind of people every now and then appears on the horizon, possessed by delusions of grandeur, with bombastic slogans that exalt their charisma with weak souls, to propose experiences that inevitably slip into forms of totalitarianism."
One of Sergij's devoted nuns, Elena Zhukova, who had taken the name of Sergina, was heard in court as a witness and tried to defend her spiritual director: "Father did not encourage us to do anything extreme, they were only conversations with his disciples... he gave himself totally to his disciples, with great spiritual energy and without ever sparing himself. He encouraged us to welcome pilgrims and the sick, even the most seriously ill, who often left healed, or at least spiritually heartened".
The former igumen reacted to the sentence with the words reported by some witnesses: "I give my life for you, and for all of Russia".