A bishop from Russia's Arctic region of Chukotka who attacked the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church for its ties to the Kremlin and for its involvement with other churches in the ecumenical movement has been demoted to a rank-and-file monk - writes Sophia Kishkovsky from Moscow.
The church's Synod of Bishops made the decision on 6 October 2008. Four clergymen and a monk who were followers of demoted Bishop Diomid were defrocked, for "disseminating lies and slander against hierarchs, for being in communication with a banned bishop, and for participating in schism".
Diomid, aged 47, had served as bishop in Chukotka from 2000. He came to prominence during the past 18 months with a series of attacks against Moscow Patriarch Alexei II and other church leaders.
The demoted bishop had called for the elimination of the Moscow Patriarchate's department of external church relations, saying it was polluting Orthodoxy with ecumenical ideas. The department liases with international bodies such as the Geneva-based World Council of Churches, which includes the Russian Orthodox Church as a member.
The Russian media has closely watched Chukotka, which is across the Bering Strait from Alaska, since the billionaire Roman Abramovich became governor of the region in 2001. Abramovich resigned earlier this year.
In June, when the bishops' council last met, supporters of Diomid clashed with activists from Nashi, a pro-Kremlin youth group, outside Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, where the meeting was taking place. That bishops' council meeting gave Diomid a final chance to repent before making his demotion final.
Instead, Diomid declared that he was placing church leaders, both dead and alive, under divine condemnation, including Patriarch Alexei, and Metropolitan Kirill, chairperson of the external relations department.
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]