The Russian Orthodox Church has been caught airbrushing a $30,000 watch off Patriarch Kyrill’s wrist, and doing so badly. More:

Russian bloggers have published rumors that the patriarch has a large country house, a private yacht and a penchant for ski vacations in Switzerland, though none of this has been proved.

The watch, on the other hand, has been an object of fascination for years, and there is little question of its existence. It was first sighted on the patriarch’s wrist in 2009 during a visit to Ukraine, where he gave a televised interview on the importance of asceticism. [Emphasis mine — RD]

A Breguet watch “is virtually a sine qua non of any depiction of the aristocracy, the bourgeoisie or, quite simply, a life of luxury and elegance,” the company says, noting that its products have been worn by Marie Antoinette and Czar Aleksandr I and cited in works by Dumas and Hugo.

A Russian emigre friend who is devoutly Orthodox told me last year he has no use for the Russian hierarchy because of its wealth and connections to state power. This, I suppose, is a small but telling sign of what he was talking about.