Orthodox priest protected protesters from Putin's thugs!

The Man

Former Staff
Jul 2011
On Saturday, there was a brutal, violent crackdown by security forces in Moscow on a peaceful protest demanding that opposition candidates be allowed to take part in a municipal election, see my thread on that: Police brutality at election protest, 630 arrested

Neither the unfair electioneering, nor the police brutality are unprecedented over there.

But one event that unfolded DURING the protest certainly was...

At some point, groups of protesters, as they were being chased and beaten up by the security forces, fled towards the nearby St. Kosma & Damian Cathedral of the Russian Orthodox Church; the cathedral was closed at the time, and the protesters began to climb over it's fence to get away from the riot police.

On duty inside the cathedral, at the time, was Hieromonk Ioann (Ivan), born Giovanni Guaita, in Italy, Sardinia, in 1962 (he has lived in Russia since the 80s, speaks Russian fluently, as I saw in subsequent interviews, converted to Orthodox Christianity there, and eventually, imagine that, became a member of the Russian clergy!); in an indeed previously unheard of move, Father Ioann proceeded to unlock the gate and give the protesters sanctuary inside the cathedral

(Although, in the spirit of, I suppose, diplomatic neutrality, he also apparently later handed out bottles of cold water from the cathedral's fridge to the thirsty riot cops outside; it has been very hot weather over there lately; but did NOT allow them to enter after the protesters).

This behavior surprised many people over there.

In neighboring Ukraine, Orthodox priests had placed themselves between protesters and state security forces, during the Maidan in 2014

but the Russian Church, OTOH, has NEVER been known, certainly in modern times, to challenge government authority, on the contrary, under Patriarch Kirill, they have become only too close to the state, if anything

St. Kosma & Damian, however, is unique, in a way, it does have own quite rebellious history; it's head, Protopriest Alexander Borisov

was among those who led the demonstrations in Moscow in 1991, to overthrow the Soviet Commies and restore Russia to freedom

At that time, Borisov was actually among a group of priests, who,at one point, approached the heavily armed Soviet Army troops (brought into the City by an attempted coup by a group of high level Communists trying to save the USSR by force) and handed out Bibles to them and told them not to raise their weapons against their own people...

So, yeah, certainly a very unique parish there ;)

It's unclear whether Fr. Ioann called or otherwise consulted Fr. Alexander, about letting the protesters into the cathedral. But Alexander seems to be supporting his decision now, after the fact.

A Church spokesman hours ago attempted to explain Fr. Ioann's actions as normal Christian behavior for a member of the Orthodox clergy. But that's not true, again, vast majority of Russian priests wouldn't have done what he did on Saturday... He himself says he simply did his duty, as a cleric, to prevent violence and people getting hurt.

IMHO He is an example of what a true Orthodox Christian, and true Christian, period, must be like :)
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