The Russian Orthodox patriarch has warned that the popularity of smartphones is paving the way for the coming of the Antichrist.
In an interview on state television for Russian Orthodox Christmas on Monday, Patriarch Kirill warned that the widespread use of gadgets connected to the Internet has opened the possibility for “universal control over humanity”. The “devil acts very wisely” in offering people such a “toy”, he said.
"Such control from one place forebodes the coming of the Antichrist,” Patriarch Kirill said. “The Antichrist is the person that will be at the head of the world wide web controlling all of humanity. That means that the structure itself poses a danger. There shouldn’t be a single centre, at least not in the foreseeable future, if we don’t want to bring on the apocalypse."
The patriarch maintained he wasn’t categorically against gadgets, but warned that people should be careful not to “fall into slavery to what’s in your hands”.
“You should remain free inside and not fall under any addiction, not to alcohol, not to narcotics, not to gadgets,” he said.
The Russian Orthodox church has been trying to attract young believers, in part through the web. At a press conference featuring B-movie action star Steven Seagal in October, church officials announced they would create a council for youth affairs with a strong digital presence.
But its leader, an outspoken opponent of feminism and gay rights, has remained suspicious of the Internet, which he previously criticised as the “enslavement of consciousness and volition” and a “marketplace of human vanity”.
Twitter users mostly laughed off Patriarch Kirill’s latest warning.
“Well, they’ll ban international Internet in Russia so the ‘Antichrist doesn’t come through it,’ but where’s the guarantee that he won’t come through Gundyayev’s Breguet watch?” wrote one, referring to the patriarch by his surname.
The Russian Orthodox church website photoshopped a Breguet watch worth at least £24,000 off of the patriarch’s wrist in a 2012 picture, but it remained clearly visible in the reflection of his arm on a well-polished table. Last month, the church again came under fire over a priest who repeatedly posted photographs of himself with Gucci and Louis Vutton luxury bags and shoes on Instagram.
The patriarch would seem to have bigger problems to worry about than iPhones, most notably a schism in the church. The top Orthodox leader in Istanbul signed a decree this weekend recognising a new independent Orthodox church in Ukraine, which will challenge the Russian Orthodox church’s sway over the tens of millions of believers in that country.
The Moscow church has broken off ties with the Constantinople patriarchate over the “blasphemous” decision.
The decree on independence was displayed to the faithful at a Kiev cathedral on Monday.
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