Church distances itself from priest who consecrated Stalin monument

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Thanks to the Soviet leader’s repressions the Orthodox Church got many new martyrs, the cleric had argued

The Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) has distanced itself from a priest who consecrated a new monument to Joseph Stalin unveiled in the northwestern town of Velikiye Luki earlier this week.

The priest acted on his own and his actions did not represent the official position of the ROC, the local eparchy said in a statement on Thursday. Members of the church present at the ceremony did not get “blessing and permission” to participate, it noted, adding that an inquiry would be made into the affair.

The deputy head of the Moscow eparchy, Archbishop Savva, condemned the ceremony, describing the consecration of the monument as “outrageous.” The central church authorities are investigating the situation as well, Savva said in a Telegram post on Friday. 

The towering, 8-meter monument to the late Soviet leader was unveiled in Velikiye Luki on Tuesday. The statue was consecrated by a local priest, Fr. Antoniy, with video from the ceremony promptly going viral. The clergyman made controversial statements during the ritual, arguing that thanks to Stalin-era political repressions, the church had received “many new martyrs and confessors.”

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The comments were received poorly by church hierarchs, with Archbishop Savva stating that such a take on Stalin’s misdeeds was particularly “blasphemous.”

“Yes, the Lord turned evil into good, having shown steadfastness in the faith of many Christians during the days of persecution, who now serve as an example for us and pray for us before His heavenly throne. But atrocities do not become a lesser evil thanks to that, and in no way should one feel a sense of gratitude towards persecution and persecutors,” Savva explained.

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