Tolstoy's Excommunication Can't Be Reversed, Russian Orthodox Church Says

November 18, 2010

Leo Tolstoy’s excommunication from the Russian Orthodox Church in 1901 can’t be overturned because the writer never publicly renounced his “tragic spiritual aberrations” a church official said.

“The decision of the Most Holy Governing Synod merely stated an accomplished fact,” said Archimandrate Tikhon Shevkunov, executive secretary of Patriarch Kirill’s council on culture. “Count Tolstoy excommunicated himself from the church, he broke with it entirely. He not only didn’t deny this, but emphasized it vigorously at every opportunity.”

Shevkunov was responding to an open letter to the patriarch from Sergei Stepashin, a former prime minister, on the occasion of the centenary of Tolstoy’s death on Nov. 20. Stepashin, as head of the Russian Book Union, asked the patriarch to explain the church’s position on Tolstoy and to make a “public display of compassion in some form.”

Shevkunov’s and Stepashin’s letters were published today by Rossiiskaya Gazeta, the government’s newspaper of record.

Tolstoy was Russian literature’s most “tragic personality,” whose attacks on the church were “horrifying for the Orthodox consciousness.”

In the last decades of his life, Tolstoy’s activities were “truly destructive for Russia, which he loved,” Shevkunov said. “They brought misfortune upon the people whom he so wanted to serve.”



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