04/15/2019, 11.11
RUSSIA
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Orthodox priest in trouble: his wife performs Brazilian dance during Lent

by Vladimir Rozanskij

His wife participated in a beauty contest and posted the photos on social media. As a punishment, the diocese transferred her husband a priest to a remote village in the Urals. The family crisis also affects the Uxorate clergy. Patriarch Kirill denounces the lack of education of seminarians in marriage. The drive to get them married quickly, before ordination, creating fragile and improvised unions.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - A Brazilian dance in carnival costumes, during Lent: this is what Oksana Zotova, the wife of priest Sergy Zotov, performed in a beauty contest. What’s more, she posted photographs of the competition on social networks. As a result, the Russian Orthodox eparchy of Magnitogorsk, in the Ural region, punished the priest by sending him to a remote village.

On  April 12, the diocese's secretary, Father Lev (Baklitskij) explained the diocese's reasons to the Ria Novosti agency. Fr Lev said the priest was summoned and was told that, due to his wife's behavior, as a punishment he would have to temporarily move to the village of Fershampenuaz, in the province of Nagajaksksk, at least until the story is forgotten.

For orthodox Uxorate (married) priests, transfers are usually rare and agreed upon, so as not to upset family life, but in this case - according to Fr. Lev - "the scandal could not be ignored," even though we know Father Sergius as a good priest ". The priest, he added, have no particular limitations in public behavior, "they can also go to the sauna or to the beach with their wife, but not put the photos on social media".

The case of Father Sergij and Oksana fits into a rather worrying picture for the families of Orthodox priests. The same Patriarch of Moscow Kirill (Gundjaev), on March 20 at a meeting of the Superior Council of the Diocese of Moscow, underlined: "The crisis of family values, which has infected the whole of contemporary society, has touched the life of the priests, even if not to the same extent as the laity, and yet we note many situations of crisis in the families of our priests, starting with our diocese of the city of Moscow ".

The dynamic indicates a clear deterioration compared to 10-20 years ago, according to Kirill "to the totalitarian spread of morally doubtful representations of relations between men and women".

The head of the Russian Church has insisted on the importance that priests live the family dimension fully, without being justified by pastoral commitments, which force them to be often absent from home. This is especially true for country towns and villages, where people's lives are more visible than in cities, and the priest is called to be even more an example to everyone. Kirill also recalled that "there are still many exemplary families, both priestly and lay, where the house is really a small Church, but this Church must be built with difficulty and with the help of God".

The patriarch also insisted on the importance of the education of seminarians in the various diocesan institutions, where together with studies and various spiritual exercises "we must teach them to be ready, at least theoretically, to face the problems of family life".

In the Russian Church, seminaries are widespread, but many are still underdeveloped, and family issues are left to the personal experience of priests. Often the only attention given to the issue is to require that seminarians decide on the question of marriage, which must precede priestly ordination, with the consequence of rather fragile and improvised unions.

According to Orthodox ecclesiastical canons, if a priest's wife asks for a divorce, he is reduced to the lay state. The role of the wife or "pretense" (in Russian popular: the popadja), is often confined to the service of cleaning the church and ritual assistance, singing in the choir or responding on their own to priestly invocations, and of course to bear the burdensome home commitments almost entirely alone. The priests' families are traditionally the most fruitful, with numerous sons and daughters, mostly destined to become priests or the wives of priests.

The bishops, who are instead chosen among the monks, are often not very attentive to the family questions of their priests, leaving them at the mercy of the difficulties highlight by the patriarch Kirill.

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