Dec 25, 2015 1:18 PM

Ousted Russian Orthodox Church cleric assails Russian elites

The Associated Press

MOSCOW (AP) A conservative priest who lost his high-level job at the Russian Orthodox Church assailed Russia's "immoral elites" Friday and predicted a national catastrophe if the country fails to allow free public discussion.

Father Vsevolod Chaplin, who headed the Moscow Patriarchate's department for cooperation between church and society, was relieved of his duties Thursday and his department was disbanded. The church's Holy Synod explained the move by citing the need to increase efficiency.

Chaplin sharply criticized Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill for failing to listen to critical voices and predicted that Kirill would be replaced soon.

Chaplin hadn't issued any public criticism of Kirill before being relieved of his duties, and in the past had staunchly defended the Patriarch against accusations of indulging in luxury.

Chaplin told a news conference Friday that Russia would face an "inevitable catastrophe" if the authorities fail to allow "live discussion and live public process."

He said that "immoral elites are hampering the nation's development," adding that "to prevent a revolution, we need to actively offer models of peaceful reforms," according to the Interfax news agency.

Speaking to RBC news portal, Chaplin said that his view that the Russian government and the Russian Orthodox Church should have taken a stronger action in support of pro-Russian insurgents in eastern Ukraine had caused tensions between him and the patriarch.

The 47-year-old Chaplin has long attracted public attention with controversial statements. He said once said women should dress more modestly to avoid provoking rapes.

Chaplin declared recently that "we in Russia should fulfill the best ideals of the Holy Russia, caliphate and the USSR, the systems that cast a challenge to injustice and diktat of narrow elites."

He recently has drawn strong criticism with his statement that Russia was waging a "holy war" against extremists in Syria.

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