A Russian Orthodox church in Ukraine has denied a report by the country’s state-run RIA Novosti news agency that the church had openly gay priests.
“The church is not a homophobic institution,” said the church’s spokesman, Vitaly Churkin.
“Our priests, both male and female, are well-known for their fidelity to the church and the Church in general.”
The story of the church in Yerevan that has attracted attention for its overt gayness and the growing number of Russian Orthodox Christians that have left the country is one that has become a hot topic in the United States.
Earlier this month, the United Nations passed a resolution calling for Russia to cease funding and aiding pro-Russian separatist groups in Ukraine.
The United States has also warned that the Russian military could be deployed in Ukraine if it does not reverse its support for the separatists.
“We’re very concerned about the expansion of the Ukrainian military into areas that are controlled by the separatists, and we’re not going to allow the separatists to go unchallenged,” said Vice President Mike Pence in his first interview with Russian state-owned television station RT.
“This is a Russian military base in eastern Ukraine, a base that is controlled by pro-Russia separatists,” he said, adding that the United State was not planning to pull its embassy from the country until the Russian government began to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
“As we’ve said before, we will work with the Ukrainian government to ensure that the military is not operating in those areas,” Pence added.
In recent weeks, several Russian-language media outlets, including RT and Sputnik News, have published articles claiming that gay priests were among the church members, and that the LGBT community in the Russian Orthodox community is growing rapidly.
On Monday, RT reported that in September the Russian bishops conference of the Russian Church in Ukraine called for the reopening of a gay church in the country.
The article claimed that the first priest in the Moscow Patriarchate to be openly gay was appointed to the post in January 2017.
“A group of gay priests are now in the priesthood,” Patriarch Kirill II said in a televised sermon.
“There’s a priest now in this church who is openly gay, and he is a member of the congregation.
They have started the ordination of gay people.
This is the beginning of the spiritual and theological development of the LGBT people in the church,” he added.
The Church of Christ in the East, which is the main body of the Moscow Metropolitan Cathedral, said in an emailed statement that it did not comment on the rumors.
“In fact, we have no idea whether any of our priests have ever been active in a gay congregation,” the statement said.
The church has also been criticized for failing to protect its clergy from homophobic and misogynistic attacks, which have prompted calls to reform the church.
The Russian Patriarchate of Constantinople has called for more openness within the church, and the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta recently published an editorial that argued that the Patriarchate needed to take a more active role in its clergy.
“It’s not only about whether priests are homophobic or sexist,” the article said.
“Their sexual conduct and behaviour should also be protected, especially from their peers.
Otherwise, our church’s spiritual and moral foundations are going to be irreversibly damaged,” the editorial added.