The Russian Orthodox Church has been criticised for photoshopping an image of its supreme head, Patriarch Kirill, after it removed a £25,000 Breguet timepiece from his wrist but failed to delete a reflection of it from the image.
Patriarch Kirill was first spotted wearing the white gold and crocodile leather watch back in 2009. He claims it was a gift from a wealthy parishioner but was slated by members of the public for wearing it despite his own warnings against “rampant consumerism”.
Three years on the watch has once more caused problems for the church after it released a doctored photograph of Patriarch Kirill with the watch airbrushed out, but its reflection left on the polished table at which he sits.
The church is said to have apologised for the "foolish mistake" of its photo editor, who removed the Swiss watch from the image, originally taken in July 2009.
The press service of Patriarch Kirill apologised last Thursday for the image’s poor editing. It said: “At the moment the photo in question has been posted in its original quality. We apologize to all visitors for this technical error.
“Photo editing is always only about colour and other technical parameters. The reason for this blatant violation of our internal ethics will be thoroughly investigated and those guilty will be severely punished."
The deputy head of the patriarch’s press service, Alexander Volkov, said that the photo was airbrushed by a 24-year-old female employee “on her own personal inexperienced initiative.”
Volkov told the Russian News Service radio station: “Unfortunately, this person showed pointless personal initiative without getting an approval from her supervisors. Clearly, this is a folly, a misunderstanding; of course, we don’t want to conceal anything. There is nothing to be ashamed of, we don’t study every photograph in search of anything that might seem weird to our compatriots."
Kirill has said that he never wears the timepiece and prefers to keep it in its box. He is also said to own two Cadillacs.
The Breguet bombshell comes shortly after Russian television investigated a number of Orthodox priests amid claims of their luxurious taste. One, based in the north-west city of Kazan, was found to own a BMW, a Mercedes, three flats, and a country house. Father Grigoriyev was secretly filmed talking excitedly about his own Swiss watch and a “penchant for Italian designer clothes”.
The image of Patriarch Kirill was spotted by a number of bloggers who scour the internet for badly photoshopped images.