Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Radical Priest Protests Orthodox Defrocking

Father Gleb Yakunin, one of Russia's leading radical reformers, on Thursday denounced the Russian Orthodox Church's decision to defrock him, calling it a "personal" attack by Patriarch Alexy II.

The Holy Synod announced Wednesday that they had defrocked Yakunin, on grounds of "conscious disobedience to the Church", for his intention to run in the Dec. 12 parliamentary elections.

"I have the impression that the document was aimed personally at me", Yakunin, 59, told reporters.

"I have continuously annoyed our - excuse the rude expression - 'Church nomenklatura'", he said, suggesting that the Church hierarchy resembled the much-hated Soviet elite.

Yakunin argued that a Church ruling drawn up in 1918 allowed priests to take part in political activities as long as they did not do so in the name of the Church.

The sharp-featured priest, dressed in a black robe with a large silver crucifix dangling on his stomach, said he would not take off his cassock although the patriarch had insisted he do so.

Yakunin who served five years in Soviet-era jails and internal exile for religious and human rights activities, has been one of the most radical leaders of the Democratic Russia movement, which supports President Boris Yeltsin.

"I am convinced that I will stay with the Russian Orthodox Church", said Yakunin, adding that he was sure his priesthood would be officially restored and that the "hasty, unjust decision" would be corrected.

He told reporters that he had been summoned by Patriarch Alexy II, which had "shocked and surprised him".

Yakunin said that during their meeting, Alexy II had recounted with horror how he himself had been a Soviet deputy and that this task had been a burden to his soul.

"Why did His Holiness not condemn the all-encompassing powers of the KGB and the Communist Party when he was a deputy? " said Yakunin. "Maybe that is why his soul was troubled".

Yakunin added that the Church was actively blocking his attempts to unmask former KGB collaborators in the Church, whose ties date back to the 1940s.

Yakunin agreed the Church should not meddle in political affairs, but he argued that the Oct. 3-4 White House uprising had called for "a public statement" from the patriarch supporting Yeltsin and that it was not forthcoming.

"The fate of a young democratic country was under threat from the forces of communism which has killed millions of peasants and believers", he said.