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Patriarch Kirill at Mass in Kazan on May 21

Photo: Sergey Vlasov / Russian Orthodox Church Press Service / AP

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, has dismissed the archpriest responsible from his expert post for allegedly "obstructing" the transfer of the icon of the Holy Trinity from a Moscow museum to the Church. Leonid Kalinin will also be excluded from the priesthood, according to a message on the church's website.

Almost a century ago, in 1929, the icon of the Holy Trinity was brought to Moscow's Tretyakov Gallery – it is arguably the most revered icon of the Russian Orthodox Church and was created by Andrei Rublev in the early 15th century. In the summer of 2022, it was brought to the Trinity Monastery – at that time still exceptionally and temporarily – for anniversary celebrations, against the protest of the restorers that the church did not have the competences and conditions to preserve the artwork.

Nevertheless, Vladimir Putin has now decided that the icon will be finally returned to the church, as it became known a few days ago. Archpriest Kalinin, previously head of the ecclesiastical expert council on ecclesiastical art, architecture and restoration, told the Russian news agency Interfax this week that the dialogue between the museum and the church would be conducted in a spirit of trust after experts determined that the icon needed to be restored.

Apparently, this attitude led to Kalinin's dismissal. "Apparently I made a mistake," Kalinin said, according to the Tass news agency.

The Russian Orthodox Church and its leader, Patriarch Kirill, are among the main institutional supporters of President Putin and the war he ordered against Ukraine.