The Russian Orthodox Church is seeing the highest numbers ever training for priesthood , according to an independent Russian news agency.
The sharp rise in seminary admissions across the church’s 261 dioceses, known as eparchies, means 1,593 ordinands are expected to begin studies this summer, a 19 per cent increase from last year, Interfax reported.
Another 827 young men will also start the church’s preparation course, or propaedeuticum, 25 per cent more than last year.
On top of that 5,877 seminarians are currently preparing for ordination, according to the Tablet.
After enduring systematic persecution under Soviet rule, Vladimir Putin has made the Russian Orthodox Church emblematic of the socially conservative values his rule promotes.
Around 70 per cent of the population are now members of the ROC and it has grown to be the largest and most powerful of the 14 Orthodox denominations with 144 million members, 368 bishops and about 40,000 priests and deacons.
By contrast to the ROC’s dominance, the Roman Catholic church is Russia has just four dioceses with a membership of about 773,000 – just 0.5 per cent of the population – according to the Vatican’s 2017 Annuario Pontificio.
The startling levels of growth are demonstrated in the dramatic increase in Orthodox places of worship in Russia. At the end of Communist rule in 1991, just 6,000 existed but now there are 36,000 – an average of three new places of worship every day.