No Drunk Driving or Flashy Cars, Russian Patriarch Tells His Clergy

Patriarch Kirill

Patriarch Kirill

Source: The Wall Street Journal

By Andrey Ostroukh

The head of the Orthodox Church in Russia, the country famous for its penchant for expensive cars and an unsafe driving culture, called on his clergy to choose their vehicles “with modesty” and not to drink “holy sacraments” before driving.

The Russian Orthodox Church has been marred by scandals in 2012, some of which were vehicle-related. Social networks, popular with the Russian opposition and the country’s politically active middle class, have been inundated with photos of the clergy’s expensive cars.

In August, a monk identified as Ilya crashed into road workers in Moscow while driving his Mercedes SUV. He killed two people in the incident, leaving the scene without calling for help, said the police, according to state-run news agency RIA.

In July, Abbot Timofei, of the Church of Elijah the Prophet, got on the news after roadster BMW (BMW.XE -0.72% Z4) he was driving, carrying Maltese diplomatic number plates, crushed into two cars. He refused to take an alcohol test when police arrived, the police said. The Church later said he was driving the roadster as “a private person.”

Both accidents provoked widespread criticism of the Church in social networks and opposition media.

The head of the Church, Patriarch Kirill, called on Moscow’s diocesan assembly to be more moderate and less wasteful in vehicle purchases.

“Let’s think of using vehicles which ill-wishers won’t use as a cause to discredit the clergy,” the patriarch said, according to RIA agency.

“I don’t want to make any recommendations but there are Japanese and Korean cars, some European cars, that yield to none neither in comfort nor in safety, but these makes will never appear in the news,” the patriarch said.

Kirill, who became the head of Russia’s Orthodox Church in February 2009, said that he uses cars from the state car pool and, as a guarded official, cannot use any other vehicles. The highest officials of the state in Russia mostly use armored Mercedes limos.

The spiritual leader also said that priests should not drive after consuming “holy sacraments”, which include sweet wine symbolizing Christ’s blood, and that every parish was responsible for the safe delivery home of clerics who have had some wine.

Write to Andrey Ostroukh at andrey.ostroukh@dowjones.com.

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