Dismissed Orthodox aide predicts calamity in Russia by 2017 if problems not discussed

(Photo: Russian Orthodox Church)Russian Patriarch Kirill and Russian President Vladimir Putin light a candle in 2015.

Father Vsevolod Chaplin, a high profile Russian Orthodox Church official dismissed this week, believes the absence of ideological freedom and a broad public debate may cause a catastrophe in Russia by 2017.

Chaplin had since 2009 been head of the church's department for cooperation with society and was relieved of his duties on Dec. 24, Russia's Interfax news agency reported.

The ousted priest sharply criticized Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill for failing to listen to critical voices and predicted that Kirill would be replaced soon, The Associated Press reported.

Chaplin had called for the church and the Russian government to take a more active role in east Ukraine, and recently referred to the Russian military intervention in Syria as a holy war in one of his controversial utterances.

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However, he had criticized the current Russian political elite for corruption, the Guardian reported.

"Some people believe that public debate should be minimized, that what is going on in people's minds, in the sphere of communication between people should be ignored and in that way we can calmly live to 2017 or 2018," Chaplin told a press conference in Moscow on Dec. 25.

"The conservatism, which is trying to cleanse the sphere of ideas, close the key issues to the present and future of the country and the world, people who think and act in this way commit political suicide - they will be gone," he said, according to Interfax.

Chaplin was dismissed from the post of the Synodal Department for Church and Society Relation's head in a shake up for the sake of efficiency..

The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church said it was reorganizing the administrative functions of the church and the new structure is led by Vladimir Legoyda, the head of the Information Department.

However, Archpriest Chaplin said he links his dismissal to differences with Patriarch Kirill who has close links to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

PUTIN AND THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH

Underr Putin, the Russian Orthodox Church has enjoyed a renaissance in power and authority, but essentially functions as an arm of the State, the Guardian commented.

"In the past three or so years I've more than once voiced my disagreement, both orally and in writing, with the decisions adopted by the Church," Chaplin said at the Dec. 25 news conference, Tass news agency reported.

"Also, I don't agree with the way that relations between the church and the government [are conducted]."

"I've always insisted that church should not smile to the authorities but rather take a position of faultfinding solidarity," he said. "Namely, we shouldn't be enemies with anyone but we should give out straightforward, personal, public assessments to the activity of certain government officials."

The dismissed church official said, "I realized I would be compelled to quite someday."

The Russian Orthodox Church is a member of the World Council of Churches, which represents more than 550 million Christians worldwide.

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