Slain priest Father Pavel was role model

File Photo of Russian Orthodox Cathedral with Man in Religious Garb in Foreground

(Moscow News – themoscownews.com – Natalia Antonova, Acting Editor-in-Chief – August 12, 2013) Pavel Adelgeim, an outspoken Orthodox priest, was stabbed to death last week. His death was a tragic end to an equally tragic life.

Father Pavel, as he was known to many, was the son of parents who suffered grievously from repressions in the Soviet Union. In the 1970s, he himself did prison time for daring to criticize the government. While imprisoned, he lost his leg and became disabled for life.

His willingness to criticize clergy in modern Russia won him few friends within the establishment. Father Pavel was particularly critical of top-down control of individual parishes. As celebrated deacon Andrei Kurayev put it, Father Pavel was “the last free priest in the Moscow Patriarchate.”

Father Pavel was also one of the few people within the church who openly criticized the imprisonment of the Pussy Riot punk rockers after they belted out an anti-Putin song in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. “You shouldn’t break the rules in a house of worship,” he wrote in his blog. “But these rules have been broken for centuries – by prophets, by the poor, by the possessed, by the holy fools… Christians attempted to make sense of their deeds.”

It has been said that it was Father Pavel’s belief in kindness that ultimately cost him his life. He was ministering to a disturbed man who violently attacked him. The man in question rather predictably claimed that “Satan” made him do it.

Kurayev has pointed out that this death was sadly fitting for a priest who was not afraid to open his home to people who were ill.

Most of us are tempted to walk away from the sick. We treat mental illness as a punchline and are then shocked to discover that the consequences of such an approach can be catastrophic.

I can only hope that what happened to Father Pavel can shed more light on the problem of neglect and abandonment of the mentally ill.

I also hope that his legendary outspokenness will serve as an example to others. This was a man who had the courage to point out systemic problems within the church and the courage to call for mercy at a time when few others were willing to do so. May he rest in peace – and may he be remembered.

[featured image is file photo not directly related to subject matter of article]