Orthodox Church Forms New Caucasus Eparchy


The Orthodox Church has formed a new entity covering  the predominantly Muslim North Caucasus regions of Chechnya,  Ingushetia and Dagestan.

The Makhachkala Eparchy was set up by the Holy Synod,  the church’s supreme governing body, church spokesman Vladimir Legoida said  late Wednesday, after the two-day session ended, Interfax reported.

The new eparchy, which will be cut out from the existing  Vladikavkaz Eparchy, comprises the country’s most unstable regions  and will pose a challenge to the church, an analyst  said.

Dagestan and Ingushetia have been at the epicenter of a  violent insurgency by Islamic extremists. Chechnya has been relatively  quieter but has also seen attacks by suicide bombers recently.

It will be headed by Bishop Varlaam, who hitherto headed  a monastery in Murom, a city east of Moscow.

The move is consistent with the policy of Patriarch Kirill  of bringing the church’s territorial makeup closer to the  country’s political divisions, said Roman Lunkin, an expert with  the European Center of the Academy of Sciences.

Lunkin added that moving bishops into traditionally Muslim regions also  poses risks. “Now it will be easier to accuse the church  of proselytism,” he said.