By Kostas Onisenko
The case of the occupation of a women’s monastery in the central Ural area by the Great Schema monk Sergei, whose secular name is Nikolai Romanov, is becoming a serious problem for the Moscow Patriarchate and the country’s political leadership.
He was responsible for the construction of the monastery and was its spiritual leader. The monk Sergei became “famous” when on April 26, in one of his sermons, he challenged the pandemic by describing the virus as a “myth” while Patriarch Kirill of Moscow called on the faithful not to come to church because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the same sermon, which soon became very popular on social media, the monk assailed the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church on the occasion of the pandemic while expressing extreme anti-Semitic views. He called on the faithful to disregard the quarantine measures.
Shortly after the video was released, the monk was banned by church authorities in Yekaterinburg from preaching in public while he was expected to go to an ecclesiastical trial on June 26. In the first sitting of the ecclesiastical court, Sergei read out his views from a paper, in which there were no answers to what was being accused of him, and then left the courtroom.
Since June 15, the monk Sergey, along with his supporters, has been locked inside the monastery and has stated that Metropolitan Kirill of Yekaterinburg and Verkhoturye will only be able to get him out with a police raid. The Abbess of the monastery, Nun Barbara, left the monastery along with the other nuns.
According to Russian media, the monk Sergei has several supporters, including those who fought against the Ukrainian army in Donetsk, Ukraine. Russian media estimate that there are several people throughout Russia who are ready to support the extremist monk and that the incident could turn into a big wave of opposition against the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church.
As reported by Russian media, the monk’s past is quite dark. The monk Sergei was born in 1955 in a small village. After completing his military service he graduated from the police school and worked as a police officer. In 1985, he was convicted of a number of offenses, including misappropriation of public property and homicide. After serving 13 years in prison, he joined the Moscow Theological Academy in 1998, hiding his criminal record. The path taken later by Sergey has many black spots, such as accusations of land encroachment and sectarianism with his parishioners. Until his case is heard, he has been barred from performing services and wearing the engolpion, but he has not complied with.