Russian Priest Killed in Church
MOSCOW — The Rev. Daniil Sysoyev, a priest in the Russian Orthodox Church who was known for promoting missionary work among Muslims, was shot and killed in his parish church late Thursday night, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.
Father Sysoyev, 35, died at a Moscow hospital of gunshot wounds to the head and chest, RIA Novosti said. The Web site of the Moscow patriarchate confirmed his death. The parish’s choir director was wounded in the shootings at the Church of St. Thomas by the unidentified assailant.
A Moscow Patriarchate official called Father Sysoyev a “talented missionary” whose work among Muslims, including Tatars, might have been the motive for the shooting.
“I don’t exclude that the murder is connected to the fact that he preached among and baptized those who belong to Muslim culture,” the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk with the news media, said in a telephone interview.
Father Sysoyev had spoken out in opposition to Islam and had warned Russian women against marrying Muslim men.
Anatoly Bagmet, an official of the prosecutor’s office, said there was reason to believe that the shooting took place “on religious grounds,” the news agency reported.
Kirill Frolov, a prominent Orthodox missionary activist, said that Father Sysoyev had said that he had been receiving threats for several years.
“Over the course of two, three years Father Daniil, who was famous for his active missionary work, periodically received e-mails stating that if he didn’t stop his theological polemics with Islam, then he will be dealt with like an infidel,” Mr. Frolov told the Interfax news agency.
Missionary work and outreach to young people and non-churchgoers has become a keystone of the Moscow Patriarchate since Patriarch Kirill I became its leader 10 months ago. The church has been organizing rock concerts and trying to reach out to people through blogs.
Officials of the Russian Orthodox Church have complained in recent years about violence directed against churches and priests.