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Russian Orthodox Church Ousts Outspoken Critic Chaplin

The Russian Orthodox Church has sacked an outspoken critic who pushed the church to take a more aggressive role in public life.

Father Vsevolod Chaplin, who headed the Moscow Patriarchate's department for cooperation between church and society since 2009, was released from his duties and his department was disbanded. The church explained its decision December 24 by citing the need to increase efficiency.

Following his ouster, Chaplin leveled sharp criticism at the church's Patriarch Kirill, saying on Dozhd TV that the two men had "seriously disagreed" over the church's role. He said the church should be more independent and not ingratiate itself with government officials. He also said it should publicly condemn official corruption.

The 47-year-old Chaplin described his dismissal as an attempt to purge the church of independent voices.

Chaplin has attracted attention with outspoken statements on topics ranging from spiritual matters to fashion. He famously said once that women should dress more modestly to avoid provoking rapes.

He recently said that Russia was waging a "holy war" against extremists in Syria, drawing strong criticism.

Based on reporting by AP and Interfax