Cat calendar featuring Russian orthodox clergymen runs viral

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Bearded clerics attain rare foray into pop culture to pose with their pets for a glossy 2016 calendar

A calendar featuring Russian Orthodox priests posing at home with their feline pets has gone viral in Russia.

Priest+ Cat is published by an association of Christian artists, who commissioned a photographer to capture 12 smiling clergymen in traditional robes.

Aimed at promoting modern Orthodox culture, the calendar starts with archpriest Oleg Batov and his cat Apelsin. Mr February archpriest Pyotr Dynnikov, who also operates an animal shelter is photographed with his two pets Angola and Vasik.

An Orthodox priest poses with his cat for glossy calendar. Photo: Anna Galperina/ AFP/ Getty Images

While the latest issue of the famous Pirelli Calendar might have signalled a cultural shift by foregoing its usual provocative nudes, the makers of Priest+ Cat is expected to be challenge the idea that traditional Orthodox calendars must depict saints and icons.

The projects coordinator, Xenia Loutchenko of Pravmir religious news website, said Priest+ Cat should be considered as the Russian Orthodox answer to the annual Italian Calendario Romano, featuring handsome Catholic clergymen, and the I gatti di Roma calendar, featuring Romes city cats.

Loutchenko says the casting process for the calendar was spontaneous: It was whoever had a cat and was ready to pose for a photo, she said.

She said the calendar is not officially supported by the Russian Orthodox Church, and was inspired by a photography volume about the everyday lives of Russian clergy.

I dont see a big sin here, Russian Orthodox Church spokesman, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, said of the calendar. Priests have cats, cats have clergymen, sometimes cats even live in a church. I wouldnt set such a calendar up on my wall though.

The portraits are good, the priests are cheerful, but the idea is strange. Photograph: Anna Galperina/ AFP/ Getty Images

Popularity

While the reaction to the calendar was largely positive, some Russian internet users said they thought project was kitsch.

I got some comments from those who are far from the church,[ who said] Nothing can help these priests, their image cant be improved even with cats! Loutchenko told the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper.

Users commenting on the religious website Pravmir, where Loutchenko works, also had differing reactions to the project.

One anonymous user wrote: The portraits are good, the clergymen are cheerful, but the idea is strange. The clergymen are not pop starrings to be depicted on a calendar. Neither are they close relatives. It is possible that someone orders a calendar featuring their relatives. But this one is a strange enterprise.

User Elena Gatchinskaya countered the criticism. Whats the issue here? This is a normal calendar for an upcoming year. The clergymen will remind you of Christ, and the cats are anti-stress. And they will also reminded participants of Christ.

The Priest+ Cat calendar had an initial print running of 1,000 copies but now seems set to print more as demand surges.

A version of this article first seemed on Global Voices

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