05/22/2020, 11.21
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Scandals and power struggles in the Russian Church, the Patriarch suspends two bishops

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Kirill has also decided to intervene to resolve a sexual harassment scandal involving two young bishops. However, many accuse the patriarch of "abuse of power", and of having waited for the pandemic crisis to operate a "settlement of accounts" within the hierarchy.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The pandemic in Russia seems to have entered "phase-2" in decreasing infections, even if the number of positives in the last 24 hours remains quite high (8849, for a total of over 300 thousand infected and about 3 thousand deaths). There are no reports of other Orthodox priests who died of Covid-19 infection in the past two days, although the number of clerics and monks infected and under intensive care remains quite high.

The Patriarch of Moscow (in the photo) Kirill (Gundjaev) in relation to the pandemic crisis has tightened the canonical assessments and sanctions, especially against clergymen who preach "Covid-denial" and do not respect the indications on the closure of churches. In this climate, Kirill also decided to take rather abrupt action to resolve a sexual harassment scandal involving two young bishops.

Without even waiting for the verdict of the ecclesiastical tribunal, the patriarch suspended the bishop of Armavir and Labinsk, 47-year-old Ignatij (Buzin), (photo 2), and the bishop of Kostomuksha and Kem 46-year-old Ignatij (Tarasov). The patriarchal decree mentions "communications received, containing documented and reasoned charges" against the two young prelates, who have been "confined" in cities far from their dioceses, under the responsibility of the local metropolitans. In fact, at the beginning of May scandalous images of the conduct of the two bishops began to circulate on social media, with rather embarrassing and particular photographs on the homosexual activity of various priests and lay people together with them.

The scandal divided the faithful, especially those in favor of the accused, who in turn reproach other ecclesiastics for organizing the intrigue for personal reasons and conflicts of power within the Orthodox Church. The accusers speak of alcoholic fueled parties and the manipulation of various characters related to the accused, with all financed by money belonging to the Church. The Patriarch reportedly lost all patience when confronted by the photograph of Bishop Ignatij (Buzin) naked, drunk and in embarrassing poses.

However, many also accuse the patriarch of "abuse of power", and of having waited for the pandemic crisis to operate a "settlement of accounts" within the hierarchy. Already on 23 March the bishop of Cherepovetsk and Beloozersk, Flavian (Mitrofanov), 44, resigned following a scandal. A police search on his apartment revealed that he had been living with a young Italian. Before that, on 11 March, Metropolitan Ioann (Roscin), 45 years old, was retired after a year in which he went from the Russian diocese of Italy to the European metropolis of Paris, to be downgraded to the metropolis of Vienna, and then finally liquidated without any explanation.

The scandals and sudden changes or suspensions in the career of the "rampant bishops" make us reflect on the policy of the last decade implemented by Patriarch Kirill, who tried to multiply dioceses and other patriarchal structures in a short time, putting various young people close to him in charge, as he used to do even before becoming patriarch, in obviously more restricted areas. The climate of confrontation with the most intransigent monks, who during the pandemic manifested much hostility towards the patriarch, is leading to a drastic redefinition of the internal balance of the Russian Orthodox Church.

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