Russian Orthodox Church embroiled in corruption scandal

Author: Andrew Osborn
Date Published: 09/26/2011

A Russian Orthodox provincial priest was revealed to have amassed a collection of luxury cars and to keep hundreds of thousands of pounds of cash in his safe.

An undercover investigation on Russian TV into Archpriest Mikhail Grigoriev of Kazan has raised wider questions about the propriety of the country’s clerics and their relationship with wealthy donors who contribute to restoration work.

In the case of Father Grigoriev, he was shown to own a BMW jeep, a Mercedes jeep, and a Mercedes saloon as well as three flats and a country house. To add insult to injury, a secret camera filmed the priest bragging about his £60,000 Swiss watch, his £12,000 phone, while talking about his love of Italian designer clothes and fine dining. In an indication of how much wealth the priest had amassed, he complained of recently being robbed of the equivalent of £300,000 from his safe.

The undercover investigation into Father Grigoriev has prompted church elders to banish him to a small rural church in the same region as punishment. Yet it seems church elders are concerned by his attitude rather than how he came into such wealth.

“The problem is not wealth,” Archpriest Alexander Pavlov, a senior cleric in the area, was quoted as saying. “The problem is the priest’s attitude to it. Now we have given him a chance to toil not for his own enrichment but for the church’s benefit.”

It is not the first time Russian priests have been accused of graft. Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Orthodox Church, has been photographed wearing a Swiss watch worth £30,000. Clerics batted away that criticism, saying the watch was a gift from a wealthy parishioner.