Hegumen ARSENY (SOKOLOV), Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow)

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Heg. Arseny (Sokolov)

Hegumen Arseny (Sokolov), a well-known biblical scholar, and a representative of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia to the Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, signed an open appeal of the priests of the Russian Orthodox Church against the war; his signature under the appeal was the first. On 28 March, he launched a Telegram channel where he wrote: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20). Woe to those who call a fratricidal war a peacekeeping operation!” He also wrote that, in his opinion, «prayer ‘for the glory of Russia’ or any other country (and not for the glory of God) is simply idolatry.» On 29 March, he was forced to delete his earlier channel entries; he noted that “The Motherland is being driven into a camp. So far, this is ‘just’ a colony settlement. But it seems that a general regime will be introduced soon, followed by a strict regime, and so on. Who will we, the pastors of the Church, be in this camp? Prisoners or guards?» This message was also deleted; instead, a quote from the prophet Amos about the need for silence appeared and soon after the channel became unavailable.

On 27 May was dismissed from the post of the representative of the Moscow Patriarch to the Patriarch of Antioch.

Сommenting on the request of the church authorities to offer a special prayer for Vladimir Putin in honour of his birthday, Sokolov wrote on his Facebook page on 6 October 2022: “One should not pray for Tsar Herod.”

On 1 November 2022, Vakhtang Kipshidze, Deputy Head of the Synodal Department for Relations of the Church with Society and the Media, in an interview with the RTVI channel, accused the clergy who signed the appeal of the priests of the Russian Orthodox Church against the war of trying to “introduce into the Church territory the conflict that the Church has no relations with«. Kipshidze recalled that the European Parliament referred to the appeal in a special resolution on Russia and the Federal President of Germany Walter Steinmeier – at the general assembly of the WCC in Karlsruhe. He described the appeal as opposition activity, a manifestation of disloyalty to the state and assistance to unfriendly Western forces: «Magically, this began to be used by those political forces that, as we have all seen in recent months, do not wish any good to our country, our people

On 10 November 2022, the priest announced the release of his translation of the Book of the Prophet Micah with his own commentaries. This book is known for the anti-militarist statement: “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore” (Micah 4, 3). On 11 November 2022, it became known that Hegumen Arseny (Sokolov) was dismissed from the General Church Postgraduate and Doctoral School where used to be head of the Department of Biblical Studies.