A priest who went public with his faith in 2014 has been given the moniker “the exorcister priest” in his community in Russia.
The Russian Orthodox Church in Canada has adopted the name in response to a demand from its members.
“This is a name I’ve always had in mind,” said Father Sergei Vozrokhov, the priest at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in the St. James’s area.
“I’m not sure how many years I’ve been living without it.
I’ve had this name since I was a little boy, and I always wanted to give it to the faithful in our country.”
The priest was part of a group of Orthodox priests who gathered in Canada last summer to hold a liturgy at the St James Cathedral, the seat of the church, which has a chapel, a crypt and a small convent.
The ceremony, held in a room in the chapel, involved the laying of a liturgical cross on the altar.
“I’ve always felt a special bond with the cathedral,” said Vozrock, who now leads the Russian Orthodox Diocese of Toronto.
“There is an immense importance in the cathedral for all Orthodox Christians.”
The diocese is one of a number of Orthodox dioceses that are trying to modernize the image of Orthodox Christianity, and the priest’s name has become an example of the efforts.
“The people of the diocese are very appreciative of the work that we’re doing,” said the Rev. Alexander N. Kozlov, the Russian-born president of the Canadian Orthodox Association.
“We want to see Orthodox churches grow in numbers, and it’s a very exciting time for us.”
The Diocese said it had been approached by members of the Russian community to rename the priest.
“This is the first time that the name of a priest in Russia has been used in a public context,” said Bishop Anatoly Krasnov, a senior associate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church who is in charge of the Anglican Church in Russia in Canada.
“It’s important to understand that there are many Orthodox communities in the world that don’t use the name ‘the exorcism priest,’ which has been the official title of the Orthodox Church since at least the 15th century,” Krasnovsky said.
“The name has to be changed because it is not a suitable one for our society.”
The name change comes as Orthodox communities around the world grapple with the increasing visibility of gay people and the ordination of women.
Russian officials have also said they plan to add women to the priesthood in a bid to end discrimination against women.
The Anglican Communion, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, said it would soon be adding women to its ranks.
“With the growing awareness of sexual minorities, we see the importance of making the Church a safe place for people to come together to pray and share the Gospel,” said Archbishop Joseph Tobin of the United Methodist Church in St. Louis.
The church in Canada is known as the Diocese for the Promotion of Religious Life, or CRIHL.
Its membership swells each year to about 150,000.
The diocese also has a small congregation in the capital city, Ottawa, and two diocesan parishes in Edmonton, Alberta and Vancouver, British Columbia.
Vozrock is one such parishioner.
In a letter to his congregation last week, he said he felt “so proud of the Church and the work it has done for so many years” in “supporting and teaching the Orthodox faith in Canada and the wider world.”