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Popular Russian Theologian Banned for Insulting Priest Who Died From Coronavirus

Protodeacon Kurayev has been described as an informal spokesman for the church’s liberal wing. Pavel Smertin / TASS

The Russian Orthodox Church on Wednesday banned popular theologian Andrei Kurayev from holding services over his criticism of a church official who died from coronavirus last week.

Protodeacon Kurayev referred to Alexander Ageykin, the head of a central Moscow cathedral who died from Covid-19 on April 21, as “a dumb careerist.” Ageykin's death marked the highest-level coronavirus-related death within the Russian Orthodox Church.

“Because you publicly insulted the memory of Archpriest Ageykin… and given your previous acts that I have received complaints about, you are prohibited from serving,” Church leader Patriarch Kirill said.

Kurayev will remain banned until an ecclesiastical court rules on whether to excommunicate him, Patriarch Kirill said in a statement published on the Moscow Patriarchate’s website. 

Kurayev described his ban as a “minor trifle.”

“You can’t call me a defrocked priest because that’s a priest who’s been defrocked, and I’m not one of them,” he told Moscow’s Podyom news channel.

Kurayev, who has openly criticized the Church in the past, has been described as an informal spokesman for its liberal wing.

Ageykin’s successor was hospitalized Tuesday with an as-yet-unknown ailment.

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