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Orthodox Church calls for calm during probe of priest in Orenburg sexual misconduct case

The priest's daughter and her husband are also defendants in the case

MOSCOW, September 26. /TASS/. Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Synodal Department for Public Relations Vladimir Legoida has called for emotional restraint in order not to impede the investigation into Nikolai Stremsky, the rector of the Holy Trinity Convent in Orenburg, who is accused of pedophilia.

In a decree by Metropolitan Veniamin (Zaritsky) of Orenburg and Saraktash, Stremsky was suspended from ministering on Wednesday, pending the outcome of the investigation.

"The reaction of the diocese was timely and only possible in this situation. During the probe, the priest is suspended from ministering, all further decisions will be made after the court’s decision," Legoida told TASS.

"I, for my part, want to remind you of the presumption of innocence, since only a court can find a person guilty or innocent. That is why, I believe it is very important at the moment to refrain from any unnecessary emotional remarks and not to interfere with the work of the investigation," the church official stressed.

On Wednesday, Stremsky, a priest, was accused under three articles of the Criminal Code, among them raping an underage girl, sexual abuse of two and more minors and dereliction of duty in bringing up children. His daughter and her husband are also defendants in the case. All three have been taken into custody. The Orenburg Region’s Investigative Department declined to give any comment on the matter.

The Holy Trinity Convent of Mercy was founded in 1990 in the Orenburg Region’s settlement of Saraktash nestled in Russia’s Urals. The convent has a Sunday school, a house of charity for lonely and infirm, elderly people. The family of Nikolai Stremsky adopted children from orphanages, bringing up more than 70 adopted minors. An Orthodox secondary school and a religious school are functioning at the convent. A sisterhood and a community of monks were set up there. The convent also has a sewing workshop, a bakery and a small farm.