MOSCOW (AP) — A group of Christian enthusiasts has released a calendar showing an unexpected face of the Russian Orthodox Church: cat-loving priests.
The Priest and Cat calendar released earlier this month by photographer Anna Galperina and editor Ksenia Luchenko shows 12 Orthodox priests at their homes posing with their cats.
Luchenko said the idea was totally spontaneous but it can now be viewed as a Russian Orthodox answer to the annual Italian Calendario Romano, featuring handsome young priests of the Roman Catholic Church, and the Gatti di Roma calendar filled with Rome's cats.
Luchenko told The Associated Press some of the priests they approached refused to be photographed, fearing that the project would be too "pop."
"To be honest, it feels a bit strange, when you call priests and ask: 'Father, tell me please, do you have a cat? Oh, you do? Great!" she said. "So the initial reaction was a bit wary."
Father Pyotr Dynnikov who posed as Mr. February alongside his adopted shelter cats Angola and Vasik said he liked the idea because the calendar lends the church a lighter and less official dimension.
"Love is the main thing about the church," Dynnikov said. "Those who made this calendar, I think they have succeeded in showing that people are moved by love, including the love for these creatures who also understand the language of love. So I think they have shown a slightly unexpected, ordinary face of the church."
Senior Orthodox priests faced accusations from some quarters of showing a harsher face for not calling for mercy for three women from the Pussy Riot punk collective were sentenced to prison time for what they called a punk prayer in a Moscow cathedral in 2012. Two of them served nearly two years in prison.