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Patriarch's Swiss Watch Does Disappearing Act

The original (right) and the doctored picture of Patriarch Kirill at a meeting with then Russian Justice Minister Aleksandr Konovalov in July 2009. Note the watch's reflection still visible in the table top in the doctored photo.
A luxurious Breguet watch has come back to haunt Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill.

Three years after the 30,000-euro ($39,000) watch was first spotted on Kirill's wrist, sparking an uproar, the Russian Orthodox Church is once again under fire for airbrushing the watch from a 2009 picture.

The church has apologized profusely for the "foolish mistake" of its website's photo editor, who erased the Swiss watch but overlooked its reflection on a polished table top.

The original photo was dated July 3, 2009. The doctored version appeared on the church's website this month and was quickly spotted by bloggers.

The Patriarchate claims Kirill's watch, whose case is reportedly made from white gold and the wristlet from crocodile leather, was a gift from a wealthy parishioner. Kirill himself insists that he never wears the timepiece and prefers to keep it in its box.

The explanation has failed to convince critics, who say Kirill would do well to follow his own admonitions against rampant consumerism.

The controversy comes just months after an undercover investigation on Russian television revealed that an Orthodox priest in Kazan owned a BMW, a Mercedes, three flats, and a country house. Father Grigoriyev was secretly filmed bragging about his own prohibitively expensive Swiss watch and his penchant for Italian designer clothes.

The Russian Orthodox Church was also criticized for a recent court ruling ordering former Health Minister Yury Shevchenko to pay a staggering 20 million rubles ($690,000) to the keeper of an elite apartment in central Moscow owned by Kirill. The court said dust from the renovation of Shevchenko's apartment had drifted upstairs and ruined the patriarch's precious furniture.

The lavish apartment was a gift, too, by the way. Probably just like the two Cadillacs that Kirill reportedly owns.

-- Claire Bigg

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