28 December 2009, 10:12
Finnish priest may be defrocked for supporting Rimma Salonen
Helsinki, December 28, Interfax - Finnish Lutheran priest Juha Molari could be defrocked and deprived of his job for having made several public statements in defense of Russian woman Rimma Salonen, against Russophobia, and in support for better relations with the Russian Orthodox Church.
"On the eve of Christmas, Juha Molari received a letter from the chapter of the diocese of the town of Espoo, which notified him that his case would be considered at a chapter meeting. He may be deprived of his office and defrocked for defending 'a convicted criminal,' the Russian woman Rimma Salonen, and for a number of other sinful deeds," Johan Backman, a prominent and controversial Finnish legal sociologist and an adjunct professor at the University of Helsinki, told Interfax.
Molari earlier described as "diplomatic lawlessness" the Finnish authorities' support for diplomat Simo Pietilainen, who helped smuggle Rimma Salonen's five-year-old son Anton to Finland from Russia in the trunk of his car, Backman said.
The priest has also been accused of repeatedly criticizing manifestations of Russophobia in Finland, standing up in defense of a local Orthodox parish of the Moscow Patriarchate, taking part in a demonstration against the showing of a reportedly anti-Russian film titled The Soviet Story in Finland, and criticizing the organization Pro-Karelia, which campaigns for Karelia's reincorporation into Finland.
"Molari has been married to a Russian woman for fifteen years, they have two children, who are Russian citizens, and people of Russian descent living in our country often come to him for spiritual consolation. He has very warm feelings toward Russia, which some in Finland don't like," Backman said.
Molari himself said in his blog that the chapter's meeting would take place on January 12. He said the chapter had decided to hold the meeting behind closed doors and in a secretive manner, which in his view violates human rights.
It was reported earlier that the Tampere City Court had given Rimma Salonen 1.5 years of suspended sentence and a fine of about 25,000 euro for abducting her own child. Salonen filed an appeal, and a higher court should hold new hearings soon.
Salonen had been charged with smuggling her son Anton to Russia in 2008, soon after divorcing her husband and the boy's father, Paavo Salonen, and without his consent.
On April 12, 2009, several people, including Paavo, abducted the boy from Rimma in the Nizhny Novgorod region. Aided by Simo Pietilainen, the father smuggled the boy out of Russia in the trunk of a diplomatic car. This prompted the Russian Foreign Ministry to declare Pietilainen persona non grata.
Finland officially supports Pietilainen's actions. On May 14, 2009, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov declared a protest in a telephone conversation with his Finnish counterpart, calling the boy's smuggling out of Russia without his mother's consent "a gross violation of Russian law."