On Friday, June 16, the Kostroma diocesan court considered the case of Priest John Burdin. Last year he was fined under the article on “discrediting the army”; for the church investigation, the reason was the publication of the priest in his Telegram channel. There he condemned the position of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) on the special operation and doubted the validity of the canonization of some saints. Church authorities reproached Fr. John for “heretical” pacifism, acknowledged the violation of the priestly oath, and forbade him to serve until public repentance. He himself “does not understand” what he should repent of, and intends to continue his pastoral ministry.
The rector of the Church of the Resurrection of Christ in the village of Karabanovo, John Burdin, became known outside the Kostroma Region in the spring of 2022. Then, before the service, he condemned the “fratricide” between Russia and Ukraine and warned that at the liturgy he would ask God to “end the war.” Some of the parishioners complained to the police; against the priest, they drew up a protocol on “discrediting the army” (part 1 of article 20.3.3 of the Code of Administrative Offenses). The court imposed a fine on Father John, after which he continued to serve in his parish. At the same time, he ran a Telegram channel, in which he spoke about what was happening in the country and in the Russian Orthodox Church.
In September last year, Father John thought about moving to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. “I was invited there by a very good man, Archimandrite of the Giginsky Monastery of Cosmas and Damian. He helped find the metropolitan, who became interested in me, received me in Bulgaria last year and still helps, ”Ioan Burdin told Kommersant. The Bulgarian Synod agreed to receive the Kostroma priest and sent a corresponding letter to the Russian Orthodox Church. But in March of this year, instead of responding to a request for a transfer, John Burdin received a decree on a temporary ban on ministry. A new, now ecclesiastical, investigation began against him. Moreover, the reason was not the “anti-war sermon” of 2022, but the publications of the priest on the temple’s website and in the Telegram channel.
The Kostroma diocesan court conducted a “research on the activities” of Father John.
The secretary of the court, Hieromonk Nikon, concluded that pacifism, “with which Priest Burdin is trying to hide behind accusations against him, is not compatible with the actual teaching of the Orthodox Church.”
At the same time, he considered that Fr. John Burdin ever spoke publicly about this.” The hieromonk compared Father John with the excommunicated Leo Tolstoy and declared the connection of pacifism with Christian heresies: “Pacifism in different eras of church history was present in heretical doctrines – among the Gnostics, Paulicians, Bogomils, Albigensians, Tolstoyans, revealing, like other utopian ideologies, a connection with ancient chiliasm. It should be noted that although the author of the reference devoted several pages to pacifism, he was never mentioned in the final list of claims against Father John.
The publications of Father John critical of the church became the subject of consideration by the diocesan court.
In particular, the priest wrote that the Russian Orthodox Church is “a church serving not Christ, but the state,” and Patriarch Kirill “made a big strategic, political and ecclesiastical mistake” when he did not oppose the special operation.
Father John also expressed doubts about the validity of the canonization of a number of Orthodox saints: he called the life of the Matrona of Moscow “pagan”, and the glorification of Dmitry Donskoy, Fyodor Ushakov and other “holy warriors” – “church remake”. Here the secretary of the court compared Mr. Burdin with Martin Luther and reproached the hierarchies for “disobedience”, for discrediting the church and its representatives, and also for blaspheming the saints.
“Kommersant” appealed to the Kostroma diocese with a request to allow the correspondent to the church court, but was refused: “The court decision will be posted on our official website. I think Father John will post everything later on his blog, as usual.” Mr. Burdin himself did not appear at the court, having agreed to hold the meeting in his absence.
On Friday, the diocesan court concluded that Father John denies the “holiness and saving powers” of the Russian Orthodox Church, doubts the unity of the church and the holiness of some saints. In addition, the priest was found guilty of activities “sowing mistrust of the Church among believers, and as a result, aimed at tearing believers away from the Church of Christ.” “All this was regarded by the court as a violation of the priestly oath,” the diocese’s website says. “Considering all this, the court suggested that the administrator of the Kostroma diocese, Metropolitan Ferapont of Kostroma and Nerekhta, ban Priest John from serving until the last public repentance.”
Father John told Kommersant that he allowed such an outcome of the case. He stressed that he did not agree with any of the charges and did not understand what he should repent of.
“What is the “saving forces of the real historical Local Church”, I am afraid, the author of these words himself does not understand. Nevertheless, I do not deny, moreover, I even testify to the holiness of the Russian Orthodox Church and consider it a part of the Ecumenical Church of Christ,” said the priest. “As for Dmitry Donskoy and Matrona, who are mentioned in the decision, I see nothing wrong with that these canonizations seem doubtful to me.”
Priest said that he would challenge the ban on serving in that instance, which “can make a balanced and impartial decision,” but did not specify which instance he had in mind. Also, John Burdin does not give up the idea of moving to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and does not intend to leave pastoral work: “As long as there are people who need me as a pastor, I will try to say what I consider necessary to say to them. Now there are many opportunities for preaching. It does not begin at all in the temple, although it should end in it.”
Kommersant turned to the deputy chairman of the Synodal Department for Church Relations with Society and the Media, Vakhtang Kipshidze. He said that the ROC has not yet commented on the decision of the Kostroma diocesan court.