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Russian Orthodox Church bars priest for gay wedding

September 5, 2003

MOSCOW — Russia's Orthodox Church Thursday barred one of its priests from his duties after he wedded two homosexuals in a sensational ceremony the Church slammed as "sacrilege".

The homosexual wedding, held Monday in western Russia's city of Nizhny Novgorod, came as a shock to the Orthodox Church, which, like many other leading religions, condemns homosexuality.

"This act cannot by any means be considered a proper matrimonial union," the Nizhny Novgorod's bishopric said in a statement quoted by the ITAR-TASS news agency.

The statement added that the priest – identified as Father Vladimir – "was barred from conducting rites for committing a sacrilege".

Father Vladimir appeared unfazed at the request of the two homosexuals and blessed the unprecedented wedding for a fee of 15,000 rubles ($500), Denis Gogolev, one of the newlyweds, told the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily.

"There were no explanations that what we were doing was wrong.

He only spoke of marrying us without witnesses. I myself was surprised he did not flinch at the idea," Gogolev recalled.

Meanwhile, the news of the homosexual wedding drew the ire of other major religions in Russia.

"It is impossible to imagine that one of our priests would agree to such a rite," secretary general of Russia's conference of Catholic bishops, Igor Kovalevsky, said.

"This is a great sin that is always followed by punishment from the Most High," agreed Abdussamad Khazrat of Russia's Muslim central spiritual administration. –Sapa-AFP

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