Ekaterinburg, July 3, 2020
The ecclesiastical court of the Ekaterinburg Diocese found Schema-Igumen Sergei (Romanov), founder of the Monastery of the “She Who Ripens the Grain” Icon of the Mother of God in Sredneuralsk, guilty of violating his priestly oath and monastic vows during its session today and resolved to defrock him.
Today was the third time the court convened to consider his case. On June 15, Fr. Sergei simply read a pre-prepared statement and left without answering the panel’s questions. On June 26 and again today, he declined to show up at the hearings, though dozens of parishioners were outside the court today to show their support for Fr. Sergei.
“The court has ruled. First: to find Igumen Sergei guilty of violating his priestly oath and monastic vows. Second: in connection with the violation of his priestly oath, monastic vows, and the enumerated sacred canons, to expel Igumen Sergei (Romanov Nikolai Vasilievich) from sacred orders,” Archpriest Nikolai Maleta told journalists after the session, reports Interfax-Religion.
The court will also ask His Eminence Metropolitan Kirill of Ekaterinburg to appeal to the Patriarch to approve the decision to defrock Fr. Sergei.
The head of the Information Department of the Ekaterinburg Diocese, Archpriest Maxim Minyailo, also told reporters that the monastery in Sredneuralsk, where Fr. Sergei has been holed up since the middle of June despite being ordered to retreat to the nearby Skete of St. John the Theologian, “will return under the administration of the Ekaterinburg Diocese.”
Fr. Sergei previously served as spiritual father at the monastery that he also founded.
Abbess Barbara (Krygina) and several sisters left the monastery last month in an attempt to deescalate the situation surrounding Fr. Sergei, while the diocese appointed Archpriest George Viktorov, a cleric of the Novo-Tikhvin Convent, to serve at the monastery in place of Fr. Sergei, though the schema-igumen’s supporters were blocking Fr. George from entering.
The former Igumen Sergei has long been controversial, often issuing bold, sometimes extreme statements on a number of issues. He has voiced a number of conspiracy theories, including that Russia is presently ruled by a double of Vladimir Putin who is a “false messiah” and “antichrist,” educated in schools where they study the Torah and Kabbalah and “give satanic knowledge.” He has also spoken of the “yoke of the Jews” and often speaks of plots involving “Jewish masons.”
He is also said to be the leader of the “Tsarebozhnikov” sect within the Church that excessively venerates Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, considering him a Tsar-Redeemer for the sins of the Russian people, which was expressly condemned by His Holiness Patriarch Alexei II.
Most recently, he has caused waves with his strong opposition to the coronavirus quarantine measures adopted by the Russian Church. In his various statements and homilies, he has called the pandemic a myth, called on people to disobey the hierarchs and to go outside and go to church, cursed those who closed the churches, and he has warned about the creation of an “electronic camp of Satan” through vaccines and chipping.
While the former igumen is certainly not alone in the Russian Church in his skepticism of the pandemic and quarantine, he has placed himself at the center of the controversy with his repeated public statements and his disobedience to his hierarch.
At the same time, he has a significant following of devoted spiritual children who believe he is being persecuted by Church and state authorities.
Romanov, who has also spoken about overthrowing the government, also faces a possible $430-$1,430 fine (30,000-100,000 rubles) from civil authorities under the article of the penal code for knowingly spreading false information online under the guise of reliable reports, thereby endangering human life.