vKontakte, Russia's leading social network, has announced the opening of an official group "Your Priest Online" (Áàòþøêà Îíëàéí) where users can directly communicate with the clergy.
The group, headed by a postgraduate student from Ulyanovsk State University, has received the blessing of Procles, His Eminent Highness Archbishop of Simbirsk and Melekess (Dimitrovgrad). Dubbed as unique, the project addresses all Orthodox users of the social network who may run into a problem, need solace or advice, or are just interested in something that the priest is supposed to know better.
Questions can be asked either in a forum where each participating priest curates his specific topic, or via a personal message. Currently participating in the project are priests from Ulyanovsk, Vladivostok, Moscow, and Samara. There are over 4 thousand members in the group.
The group's administrator, Nadezhda Zemskova, stresses that its mission is to protect young people against the evils of the Internet, educate them in the true values, and welcome them to the Orthodox culture. The press office of Simbirsk and Melekess See confirmed the plans to subsequently move the project to its own domain and to give it the all-Russia resonance.
In the last 20 years Russia has seen what could be called a religious revival: churches and cathedrals have been reconstructed, re-erected, and reopened, priests hosted special TV programmes or were invited as participants to the traditional media, while people have been openly visiting churches and being happy to be religious. At the same time, the Orthodox Church upholds certain views and measures that are unlikely to be popular among people, among them - the staunch disapproval of abortion, contraceptives, and sex before marriage. Although it is the early days of the group, the initiative is likely to attract criticism and sceptical remarks.
What is interesting, is the possibilities of interpretation of the group's name. Although it is supposed to mean "a priest online" (or "an online priest"), "online" is often used as a synonym to the word "Internet". In such case, the meaning becomes slightly different: "Internet, A Priest".
Which rather confirms the state of things as it is.
Author: Julia Shuvalova