Bearded clerics smiling while holding cats has become the latest symbol of the Russian Orthodox Church, after a calendar has gone viral for its depictions of priests with their pet cats.
A group of Christians created the annual calendar that shows the softer side of the Orthodox Church, as priests are photographed at home holding their pet cats. Released at the start of the month by photographer Anna Galperina and editor Ksenia Luchenko, the Priest + Cat calendar was the Russian response to the famous Italian Calendario Romano, which depicts handsome priests posing around Rome’s beautiful historic sites.
Luchenko spoke to AP about persuading the priests to do the calendar. “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,” she said.
The response they received was mixed, with many priests saying they feared the calendar was too ‘pop’ and would take away from the seriousness of the subject.
The creators of the calendar however wanted to present a lighter side to the modern Orthodox Church that challenged its reputation for seriousness. The calendar is not officially sponsored by the Russian Orthodox Church.