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"ASIANEWS.IT": Monk jailed, Orthodox Patriarchate fears "a huge scandal"

Hieromonk Iliya, sentenced to three years in prison, found guilty of killing two people while he was driving a 120 thousand dollar SUV. The incident is just the latest in a series of scandals that is undermining the image of the Orthodox clergy. AsiaNews sources: there is the potential for a scandal of enormous proportions.

An Orthodox monk has been sentenced for causing a fatal accident that kleft two people dead while driving a luxury car.  This is only the latest in a series of scandals for the Russian Orthodox Church. On June 26, the Patriarchate suspended from all service Hieromonk Iliya (Pavel Siomin), condemned the day before to three years in prison for causing the accident, where on 15 August two people were killed.

The priest was driving a Mercedes G-class SUV (with value on the Russian market of about 120 thousand dollars), when he lost control of the car and crashed into three construction workers who were working on a site along the Kutuzovski Prospekt in Moscow. The monk was arrested the following day. The judges have deemed him guilty of "grave breaches" of the rules of the road, which caused the death of the two men. Prosecutors had requested six years, while the Moscow court has sentenced him to half. According to the victims' families, the sentences is "too light". According to one of the defense lawyers, Liudmila Aivar, in August, Ilya may submit a request for parole and out of jail.

Websites and blogs are awash with critical posts accusing the judges of being unfair and unbalanced when comparing the case of Hieromonk Iliya with that of Pussy Riot. The girls of the feminist punk band who had staged an anti-Putin performance in the cathedral of Moscow were sentenced to two years in a labor camp for "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" and denied conditional bail, even though they are both mothers of young children.

The site of religious blogsite door-credo.ru - always very critical of the Patriarchate - presents the story as "the latest in a series of similar incidents, a mirror of the Russian clergy's misconduct, who are always certain to go unpunished." Just last summer, another priest, the abbot Timofei, caused an accident driving a BMW with diplomatic plates.

The controversy over the luxurious lifestyle and the excesses of the Russian clergy has been on the boil for at least two years and has even enveloped the Patriarch, who according to some media owns luxury apartments in Moscow and was discovered to possess a watch worth at least 20 thousand dollars.

Anonymous AsiaNews sources within the Patriarchate, argue that " sooner or later, scandal of enormous proportions will explode". "For now, though, only the intelligentsia are indignant - the source adds - that part of society that is informed and realizes the gravity of the situation, while the rest of the population is still unaware".

by Nina Achmatova,

"ASIANEWS.IT", 28.06.2013

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