Bishop of Elphin and Russian diplomat in cold war of words
The Bishop of Elphin has his eye on Putin's Russia, and the Kremlin doesn't like it.
An extraordinary correspondence has emerged between the Most Reverend Kevin Doran, of the western diocese, and the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Ireland, His Excellency Maxim Peshkov.
The bishop, who ministers to 70,000 Catholics across Roscommon, Sligo, Galway and Westmeath, challenged Russia (population 146 million) over its involvement in the Syrian conflict. But his letter, written on October 13 to the Russian ambassador, provoked an undiplomatic response from Putin's man in Dublin who accused the cleric of "ignorance" and falling prey to "preconceived western propaganda".
In his epistle, the bishop said he was writing to "express my abhorrence of the manner in which the Russian Federation has become engaged in the conflict in Syria. I am aware that many factions and nations are involved directly or indirectly in the conflict and that Syria is being used as a theatre for the fighting of proxy wars, just as other countries have been used by the 'great powers' in the past.
"All of these warring factions have some responsibility for the conflict and for the untold suffering that it brings to the ordinary citizens of Syria.
"What sets the Russian Federation apart is the daily bombing of the innocent civilian population of Aleppo, which, like many people, I regard as a crime against humanity. I am quite certain the God who created all of these men, women and children in his image is not blind to what is being done to them or deaf to their cries".
On October 19, Ambassador Peshkov responded, tartly: "You expressed your abhorrence of the manner in which the Russian Federation has become engaged in the conflict in Syria. I wonder what do you feel when [you] learned that the US-led coalition launched its military assault on Mosul (Iraq) with about two million population, including children, thousands of whom already doomed to die? Are you going to write a denunciative letter to [the] US Ambassador to Ireland?"
Later in the lengthy letter stoutly defending Russia's involvement in Syria, Ambassador Peshkov added: "We don't resent your remarks. It seems the cause of your ignorance is one-sided preconceived western propaganda... the western mass media deliberately demonises Russia, labels it a killer nation of civilians in order to conceal the West's crimes, including their support [of the] terrorist machine used as an instrument in western hands to oust the legitimate president of Syria."
Ambassador Peshkov, a direct descendant of the Nobel Prize-nominated writer Maxim Gorky, whose coffin was carried by Stalin, concluded his letter to the bishop: "If you happen to be in Dublin and interested in another point of view, you're welcome in the Embassy of the Russia Federation to exchange views."
Of course Stalin in his early life was enrolled by his mother to train as a priest in the Greek Orthodox Church but abandoned his religious studies.
The great essayist Christopher Hitchens observed with deep irony: "Indeed he was considered one of the more promising of the Tbilisi ordinands."