Russian priest demoted after holding Navalny memorial service

A Russian priest who held a memorial service for the late opposition leader and Vladimir Putin critic Alexei Navalny has been suspended from clerical duties for three years by the head of the country’s Orthodox Church.
Mr Navalny, one of Mr Putin’s fiercest Russian critics, died suddenly on 16 February in the remote Arctic penal prison where he had been serving a 19-year sentence on extremism charges widely seen as politically motivated.

Dmitry Safronov presided over a service by Mr Navalny’s grave in Moscow on 26 March to mark 40 days since the politician’s death, an important ritual within Russian Orthodox Church tradition.
Earlier last month, Mr Safronov spoke at the grave, saying Mr Navalny had urged Russians not to give up.

Image: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny appears via a video link from the Arctic penal colony where he died. Pic: AP
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He said: “We will indeed remember Alexei, remember his testament to us and we will pray for him and hope he will pray for us at the throne of the Lord.”
On Tuesday the Moscow diocese where the cleric worked said he had been demoted from priest to psalm-reader and could not give blessings, wear a cassock or carry the church’s priestly cross for three years.

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He was also being moved to a different church in the city, the diocese said in a statement on its website.
“At the end of the period of penance, based on feedback from the place of obedience, a decision will be made on the possibility of his further priestly service,” the statement said.


No reason was given for his punishment, which was signed by Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church and a key ally of Mr Putin.

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Navalny’s funeral held in Moscow

The cause of Mr Navalny’s death remains unexplained although his allies have blamed the Kremlin, something the Putin regime has denied.
His death certificate said he died of natural causes.

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Russian authorities initially refused to release Mr Navalny’s body, citing the need for further investigations.
The politician’s team later said that they had struggled to find a hearse to transport Navalny’s body after funeral directors had received threats from unknown individuals.

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Mr Safronov was among the clergymen who previously signed a public letter calling for Navalny’s remains to be returned to his family.
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During his more than two decades in power, Mr Putin has massively boosted the Russian Orthodox Church’s standing, increasing its prestige, wealth and power after decades of oppression or indifference under Soviet leaders.
In turn, its leaders, like Patriarch Kirill, have supported his initiatives, including the war in Ukraine.

Source : Sky News