Conservative Orthodox believers demonstrating in Moscow in May 2006 (epa)
March 2, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- A Russian Orthodox bishop has criticized the church hierarchy for abandoning the "purity" of the faith, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported.
Bishop Diomid, from the far eastern region of Chukotka, posted a letter on the Internet on March 1 criticizing the church for excessive openness to dialogue with other faiths.
It also criticized the church for supporting democracy, globalization, and President Vladimir Putin's "anti-people policies."
Nikolai Mitrokhin, a religious historian specializing in the Russian Orthodox Church, told RFE/RL the letter recalls a battle in the late 1990s between Patriarch Aleksy II and a group of nationalist church officials. Mitrokhin said the church co-opted some of the rebels and banished others.
"Such actions were very common among bishops between 1997 and 2001," Mitrokhin said. "They simply escaped the attention of the secular media, but whole dioceses, dozens of monasteries, hundreds of priests signed similar letters to the Holy Synod. The way that story ended was that some of the leaders of such rebellions became part of the church's ruling authority while others were banned from service."
Metropolitan Kiril, the church's top spokesman, called Diomid's letter a provocation, AP reported. Kiril said a group of unidentified people "in the shadows" were responsible for the letter.
(with material from AP)