03 November 2020, 12:16
People illegally held in village church parish in Russia's Ivanovo Region, criminal case opened
Ivanovo, November 3, Interfax - Investigative authorities have opened a criminal case into the illegal detention of people on the premises of the Orthodox parish of the St. Nicolas Church in the Ivanovo Region, the press service of the Russian Investigative Committee's regional branch said on Monday.
"Investigators believe that from July 2018 and until October 2020, as yet unidentified persons illegally held people in the territory adjoining the Orthodox parish of the St. Nicolas Church in the village of Chikhachyovo in the Verkhny Landekh District of the Ivanovo Region as part of Kineshma Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church, after misleading them about the presence of terminal diseases in them and persuading them that they could not stay outside this territory without endangering their life and health," the press service said.
Thus, these people were deprived of the possibility to move from one area to another of their own volition and communicate with their relatives, according to investigators.
The criminal case was opened on a count of "illegally holding two or more people."
Investigators carried out searches both on the premises of the St. Nicolas Church's Orthodox parish in Chikhachyovo and in the adjacent area. Documents were seized from the house of the parish's former senior priest, including documents dealing with the alienation of real estate property in his favor and in favor of persons affiliated with him who are not related with the Russian Orthodox Church.
Apart from that, investigators also seized two non-lethal weapons that the former senior priest kept without the relevant permit and around two million rubles in cash that did not belong to the parish.
The Russian Investigative Committee director earlier instructed the committee's central office to look into the circumstances surrounding the illegal detention of people there.
According to information available on the website of the Kineshma Diocese of the Ivanovo Metropolitanate of the Russian Orthodox Church that the senior priest of the St. Nicolas Church was relieved of his duties after pastoral and canonical violations came to light.
"Due to the uncovered multiple pastoral and canonical violations in the organization of the parish's life, which had an immensely negative impact on the St. Nicolas parish of the village of Chikhachyovo in the Verkhny Landekh District of the Ivanovo Region, as well as the violations of the norms of the Charter of the Russian Orthodox Church and the priest's oath, Schema-Archimandrite Ioanniky (Yefimenko) was relieved of his duties as senior priest of the parish," it said.
He was also banned from conducting religious services pending consideration of his case by an diocesan court.
The eparchy, in turn, said that Bishop of Kineshma and Palekh Hilarion "does not bless pilgrimages to Chikhachyovo."
Bishop Hilarion is personally overseeing eparchial commissions' inquiry into the situation in the St. Nicholas Church parish.
"No tourist firms or other organizations that arrange pilgrimages to the community of Chikhachyovo village do not have the ruling bishop's blessing to conduct these activities," it said.
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