"Nativity of Christ Cathedral – Russian Orthodox Church in Riga, Latvia" by Scotch Mist / CC BY-SA 4.0

COVID-Denying Father Sergei Is Just The Latest Example Of The Russian Orthodox Church’s ‘Holy Man’ Problem

Aug 19, 2020

By Katie Kelaidis

It’s a weird story, even in 2020—and that’s saying something. Father Sergei, a COVID-denying conspiracy-spewing Russian monk, had, with the help of an ad hoc personal army that includes veterans of the recent conflicts in Ukraine, seized control of the women’s monastery in the Ural mountains he’d founded. Now, he’s been excommunicated. But the story isn’t over.

There’s plenty of reason to believe that the official Russian Orthodox Church won’t be able to rein him in, even now. The civil authorities have proven ineffective against him; a police visit to the monastery turned up no violations of the secular law. It’s understandable that a Western audience would find this story thoroughly bizarre. Peak 2020, if you will.

But within the Eastern Christian tradition it’s just not that weird. It is, in fact, quite unsurprising as there’s a long history of renegade holy men within the Eastern Christian world. This tradition is largely unknown in the West, but it’s a practice that is very much alive from the halls of the Kremlin to the deserts of Arizona.

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