Every now and then, I lose a URL to a story that I really intended to address here at GetReligion.
This happens in my daily tsunami of email. I am sure this also happens to lots of journalists and news consumers. In this case, we are talking about a BBC story from earlier this summer that ran with this headline: “Coronavirus: Covid-denying priest Father Sergiy Romanov seizes Russian monastery.”
Let’s face it. The degree-of-difficulty rating on covering this particular story is sky high.
For starters, controversies in Eastern Orthodoxy can be really complex and the participants often use images and terms that can be read on several layers. In this case, those terms were also spoken in Russian.
But let’s assume that the BBC correspondents in Russia all speak fluent Russian or work with skilled translators who help them navigate the verbal minefields. I’ll state right up front that I don’t speak Russian (although I go to church with several folks who do). However, GetReligion has a faithful reader who is an editor in Moscow and I will share his comments on this piece.
Let’s start with the overture:
An ultraconservative Russian priest who denies coronavirus exists has taken over a women's monastery by force.
Father Sergiy Romanov entered the Sredneuralsk convent outside the city of Yekaterinburg. … The mother superior and several nuns have left and armed guards are patrolling the site.
Fr Sergiy has stated church authorities "will have to storm the monastery" if they want him to leave.
Police visited the site on Wednesday but made no arrests.
The controversial cleric was barred from preaching in April and then stripped of the right to wear a cross in May after he encouraged the faithful to disobey public health orders. Fr Sergiy helped found the Sredneuralsk Convent in the early 2000s, and hundreds of supporters have flocked there over the years to hear his sermons.
What, pray tell, does “stripped of the right to wear a cross” mean?