By Kostas Onisenko
Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk warned Russian priests not to take part in anti-government demonstrations. The Chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church spoke to Russia24 on the occasion of the “dismissal” of a Russian priest from the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, who had been arrested for participating in a demonstration on Jan. 18. The priest was sentenced to 20 days in prison by the authorities.
Hilarion clarified that every priest, like every Russian citizen, can have his personal opinion and express it. However, participation in such mobilizations, as in the case of the specific priest who was convicted, creates problems in the performance of their ecclesiastical duties, said the Metropolitan.
He even said that according to church practice, if a priest wants to carry out “active acts” he must ask for a blessing from the high priest.
At first glance, these statements sound logical, but given the legal status and the practices used by the Russian authorities in connection with the demonstrations, it is clear that this is an immediate warning to the priests not to take part in any demonstrations.
In Russia, any demonstration must be authorized by the authorities to be considered legal. As the authorities do not usually grant such permission, almost all demonstrations are illegal and all those involved can be arrested and convicted only because they were there.
It is common for tens or even hundreds of people to be arrested at any demonstration.
“We do not have a general ecclesiastical prohibition on people expressing their opinion somewhere. But if a person participates in illegal demonstrations, if he ends up in prison accused of a criminal or civil offense, this can have canonical (ecclesiastical) consequences.
Even because the priest has to perform a service according to the program. If he is in prison what will happen to the parish? Who will work in the parish? ” said the Metropolitan of Volokolamsk.