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'Have You Been To Church Today?' Or How To Avoid A Traffic Ticket In Ukraine

"Have you been to church today? Think about your soul, then you can ask me questions," Metropolitan Pavlo tells the flustered cops.
"Have you been to church today? Think about your soul, then you can ask me questions," Metropolitan Pavlo tells the flustered cops.

To be fair, the 10 Commandments do not say "Thou shalt not violate traffic rules."

So one can understand the frustration of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate's metropolitan, Pavlo, when Kyiv police stopped his luxury sedan just as he was entering the holy workplace.

According to traffic police, his black S-class Mercedes, with driver Petro at the wheel, ignored a sign that prohibits driving on the street that leads to the Pechersk Lavra monastery complex.

A video of Pavlo confronting police and leaving the scene without a fine shows the clergyman invoking God as a witness to his innocence -- or at least as proof of the greater guilt of others.

The clip, which had nearly 1 million views by September 8, shows a seemingly vexed police officer asking the visibly irritated metropolitan for the license of his driver.

"Have you been to church today? Think about your soul, then you can ask me questions," Pavlo fires back.

When the officer asks if the metropolitan's 22 years of service allows him to violate traffic rules, Pavlo repeats his response. "Have you violated the rules today? Have you been to church?" he says again.

To a final police reproach the metropolitan answers: "That's alright, glory to God." He then shuts his car door and the vehicle drives away.

When the video emerged online, Kyiv police published a statement on their Facebook page explaining why the officers hadn't detained Pavlo or his driver.

“Given the presence of a large number of believers, the patrol decided not to escalate the conflict and not to take measures to arrest the offender," the statement reads. "The heads of the patrol department have looked into this."

In an interview with Ukraine's Channel 17 TV, Pavlo said he had taken the same road without any problems for the past 22 years. "I never violate traffic rules, because I know what the implications are. I always say, 'When you drive fast, they will carry you slowly,'" Pavlo said.

But some have asked the police to fine Pavlo after the fact, saying there is video evidence of a violation. "If he won't pay the fine ... just take away the license plates," Vitaliy Sych, chief editor of Novoye Vryemya magazine, wrote on his Facebook page.

Social-media users also poked fun at Pavlo's "Have you been to church today?" line, speculating that it could be a lifesaver.

Journalist Azad Safarov imagined a few useful conversations: "'Son, why did you beat up Vova?' 'Why, have you been to church today?'" or "You're drunk again, you scoundrel!' 'But Zina, have you been to church today?'"

Elsewhere was a satirical graphic with a priest standing next to a Lamborghini Diablo, or "Devil." The caption reads, "This morning Diablo was exorcised from father Yenakenty's Lamborghini."

As for his fancy car, Pavlo told Channel 17 that he "didn't look into it" but it is "two or three years old."

"It's not a beatitude, it's a means of transportation," the metropolitan said with a smile.

Pavlo explained that he had a few cars but they all work for the Pechersk Lavra. They are used to "drive sick people to hospitals" or help orphanages, he said.

In 2012 Ukrainian media reported that the metropolitan was given a Lexus LS 460 for his 51st birthday.

Anna Shamanska is a correspondent for RFE/RL's Current Time TV

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