A scandal over a timepiece on the Patriarch’s wrist rocked the Russian blogosphere after a watch “miraculously” vanished from one of his photos. The embarrassed Patriarch’s press service has already said it was “a ridiculous mistake.”
On Wednesday watchful online observers noticed a photo on the Church’s official website, in which Kirill was shown sitting at a table with a shiny polished surface. There was a reflection of a watch in the surface while no timepiece was visible on Kirill.
Bloggers were quick to find a cached version of the same image with the Patriarch’s watch intact. The conclusion they drew was that they had either found a documented miracle or the Patriarchy was not honest, stating that every image on its website was original and unedited.
Further data mining produced a few more photos with Kirill’s watch disappearing in transition between an older and a more recent version of the website. The incident naturally brought plenty of sarcastic comments from Church critics, who accuse the clergy of enjoying luxury lifestyles and preferential treatment from the Russian government.
On Thursday the Patriarchy came up with an explanation, saying the disappearance was “a ridiculous mistake” made by a secular employee responsible for the website’s content. The 24-year-old woman “acted out of stupid unjustifiable and unauthorized initiative” in editing the controversial images, they said.
Intense public interest over what model of watch Patriarch Kirill wears was first sparked in July 2009 during his visit to Ukraine. At the time the senior Russian Orthodox cleric preached austerity and honest labor as key features needed to resolve the ongoing economic crisis.
But in a sharp contrast to his words, some media published a photo of the Patriarch showing a luxury Breguet watch with an estimated price tag between 28,000 and 36,000 euro.
Commenting on the scandal, Church officials said the watch was either a gift – the high value of which was not known to the Patriarch – or a hoax.
While the timepiece brand was not identified, its visibility only in reflection was clear evidence of 'reverse vampiric qualities', journalists note ironically.