Russian Orthodox apologise for photo after bloggers rap Patriarch Kirill over watch

By Reuters Staff
April 5, 2012

(Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill at Saint George Orthodox Cathedral in Beirut, November 14, 2011. REUTERS/ Jamal Saidi )

The Russian Orthodox Church apologised on Thursday for doctoring a photograph of Patriarch Kirill to remove what bloggers said was a luxury wristwatch following accusations that he lives a lavish lifestyle.

It responded after eagle-eyed bloggers said an archive photo of the Patriarch on its website showed the reflection of a Breguet watch worth about $30,000 in the polished surface of a table where his arms rested during talks.

The Church has been under close scrutiny since clearly backing Vladimir Putin in March’s presidential election despite protests and accusations of widespread fraud benefiting his party in a December parliamentary poll.

The Church made no reference to a watch in a statement, but said a “rude violation of our internal ethics” had been made and removed the doctored 2009 photo from its Website, replacing it with a version showing a watch on his wrist.

“Employees of the press service’s photo-editing desk made a silly mistake while working with the photo archives,” the statement said, promising they would be punished.

“We apologise to all the users of the website for the technical mistake,” it said. “One of the basic principles of our work is the fundamental rejection of the use of photo editing programmes to alter images.”

The Church issued a statement on Tuesday saying it was under attack from “anti-Russian forces” that wanted to erode its authority because of its backing for Putin.

It urged Orthodox Christians to come to churches on April 22 for a nationwide prayer “in defence of the faith”.
Read the full story by Alissa de Carbonnel here.
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