(AFP) — The Russian Orthodox Church has agreed to send priests to help bailiffs “shame” debtors and men dodging their alimony payments, the Kommersant newspaper reported on Wednesday.
“Representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church will exercise spiritual influence over the debtors to teach them about the unacceptability of living in debt,” Russia’s chief bailiff, Artur Parfenchikov, was quoted as saying.
A deal signed on Sunday between the Church and the federal bailiffs service came after a test programme in the northern city of Saint Petersburg saw “fabulous” results, a spokesperson for the service told the daily.
“One of the men due to pay alimony ran to get money right after speaking with the priest. Another two decided to return to their families. The rest promised to pay their debts at the first opportunity,” the spokesperson said.
Under the agreement, the priest’s official role will be “to remonstrate with and to shame” debtors, Kommersant reported.
The Orthodox Church has also agreed to preach that “not paying back debt, according to the precepts of the Church, is equivalent to taking what is not yours — that is theft,” it said.
Religion is kept separate from the state under Russia’s constitution but the historically dominant Orthodox Church has emerged as a powerful political force since the collapse of the officially atheist Soviet Union.
Russian bailiffs have not stopped at recruiting help from the Orthodox Church. In regions where Buddhism or Islam are the dominant faiths, bailiffs are working with representatives of those religions, the paper reported.