A DISSIDENT priest in the
Russian Orthodox Church, described by one theologian as "the last
free priest of the Moscow Patriarchy", was stabbed to death on
Fr Pavel Adelheim
(above) was found dead at his house in Pskov,
north-west Russia, and his suspected killer has been detained. It
is reported that a young man living with Fr Pavel and his wife had
murdered him, before turning the knife on himself.
Born in 1938, Fr Adelheim
was ordained priest in 1959. He spent three years in a prison camp
after he was convicted of slandering the Soviet state.
In recent years, he spoke
out against the Russian Orthodox Church's relationship with the
state. Of the Pussy Riot protest, he wrote on his blog: "Dancing in
the Church of Christ the Saviour was a dys-functional reaction to
the illegal activities of the titular religion in a secular
Russian websites quoted a
blog entry written by the theologian Deacon Andrei Kurayev: "The
last free priest of the Moscow Patriarchy has been killed. What
priest, es- pecially one with a family to feed, will now be able to
say openly and publicly [to the bishop he is reporting to]: 'Your
Eminence, you are wrong!'?"
A spokesman said that the
Patriarch of Moscow, Kirill I, was mourning Fr Adelheim's death,
and praying for his soul.
The Revd Dr Michael
Bourdeaux writes: Fr Pavel Adelheim never refused counsel or
hospitality to anyone. A few days ago, he invited a young man to
spend time in his house in Pskov, and on Monday evening this person
seized a kitchen knife, cried out that the Devil had ordered him to
kill the priest, and stabbed him in the chest. The ambulance
delayed its arrival, and had to be summoned a second time, by which
time Fr Pavel had bled to death.
Nothing more is yet known
of the circumstances, but Fr Pavel is not the first priest to have
been murdered since the collapse of Communism. My Russian contacts
have not suggested that the hand of the authorities lay behind this
act; yet it is an inescapable fact that Fr Pavel was one of the
highest-profile former religious dissidents.
He never knew his father,
who perished in Stalin's terror. Born in 1938, Fr Pavel learnt the
faith from his mother, only to be expelled from school for his
Christian beliefs. After many difficulties, he gained entry to one
of the few theological seminaries, and was ordained priest in 1959,
to serve under the great Bishop Yermogen, in Uzbekistan. In the
remote village of Kagan, he built an Orthodox church, disguising
what it was during its construction.
This was too much for the
authorities. A life of persecution began. He lost a leg in a fracas
in the prison camp, when a logging truck ran over him - probably
the first attempt on his life.
In the camp he studied
law, in order to help prisoners with their appeals. On his release,
he served in the diocese of Pskov. His bishop, Metropolitan Evsevi,
took against him instantly, because he wrote a critique of the
hierarchy, accusing them of being dictatorial.
In his ministry, he
focused on youth work with great success, until the Metropolitan
removed him from office. The brakes of his car were tampered with;
the resulting crash was the second attempt on his life. He had
support from the UK, however, and in particular from the Anglican
parish of Tring, Hertfordshire. I met him on one of his visits to
the UK, and felt that here was the very essence of all that was
good in the Russian priesthood.
Fr Pavel clung on as an
assistant priest in Pskov, no doubt protected by the support he
received from the thousands he influenced, and from his British
friends. The internet is buzzing with shock at the murder of one of
Russia's most dedicated priests.
Dr Bourdeaux is the President of Keston Institute in