In Tula province preparations for the visit of the patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus are proceeding apace.
It is expected that the primate of the Russian Orthodox church, Alexis II, will visit the Tula diocese no later than September. His Holiness' visit here is awaited eagerly not only by clergy but also representatives of the secular authority of the province. Our sources within the administration of the local government say that the September schedule of official events in which Governor Vasily Starodubtsev will participate has been drawn up with careful attention to the patriarch's work schedule, as if the head of Tula province and member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Russia intends to accompany Alexis personally on his trip about the province. Two years ago, when the patriarch made his first visit to Tula, he bestowed on Starodubtsev the order of St. Daniel in a ceremony before a large assemblage of believers and simply curious persons. So now the decorated governor simply has to show his guest a warm welcome.
Meanwhile the appropriate services of the provincial government have taken on a "full schedule" for the primate of the Russian Orthodox church and a real "church boom" has begun throughout the province. Local newspapers are filled with reports about the start of construction of churches and chapels everywhere. The enterprises and institutions of the province have, to everybody's surprise, begun contributing to pious causes.
Quite recently the leadership of the provincial administration of the Ministry of Taxes and Duties declared that Tula tax collectors had decided to assume patronage of the church of the Nativity of the Mother of God in the village of Obidimo, which is a monument of seventeenth-century architecture. According to the official account, the rector of the church, Fr Igor Koreisha, appealed to the chief tax inspector, Valery Resha, with a request to participate in the restoration so as to complete the basic work before the patriarch's visit. It was suggested that Alexis had to visit the Nativity church. The tax collectors did not give it a second thought and went right to work transferring the charitable funds. The amount of financial aid has not been reported to the general public. It is known only that the restoration work on the church and surrounding grounds has begun with taxpayers money.
The believers had not managed to finish rejoicing over the Tula tax collections when employees of the Aleksinsk Correctional Colony turned to Tula's elite. The colony houses juvenile offenders from Tula, Riazan, Moscow, and Yaroslavl provinces. The leadership of the colony had decided to erect a church on the grounds of the penitentiary. The construction was blessed by Bishop Kirill of Tula and Belevsk. We have learned that the church will be a log construction. The administration of Aleksinsk district financed the laying of the foundation, along with local enterprises. But according to reports from the colony there is not enough money allotted in order to complete construction by the time of the patriarch's visit. They have to depend on help from commercial banks.
Incidentally, a church also is being constructed on the grounds of the Tula Military Artillery Institute. Two years ago Patriarch Alexis visited the shop of the artillery personnel and placed a capsule in the foundation of the future chapel, which contained the text of his blessing. A service was held on this occasion but then, it seems, everything was forgotten. Last month the leadership of the institute suddenly woke up when it became clear that the patriarch was coming to the province. Equipment was immediately driven up and cadets were recalled from vacation and now the chapel is being erected urgently on the grounds of the institution. They say here that the construction must be completed by the time of the patriarch's visit, no matter the cost.
There is nothing wrong with new churches appearing on the territory of the province. However their construction seems more and more to be similar to the shock campaigns of the first five year plan. At the same time for some reason the humanitarians are forgetting about other monuments of Orthodox architecture located on the territory of the province and requiring immediate restoration. For example, there is the Dormition cathedral church of the Tula kremlin, built in the sixteenth century. Restoration work has been going on here for more than three years now, but it is still far from completion. And this despite the fact that restoration is being financed by both the provincial administration and the public charity foundation.
And alongside it stands another church, the Epiphany. For twenty years now it has housed the Museum of Weapons. Instead of icons on the walls visitors views photographs of local weapons factories and profiles of Lenin. For five years discussion has been going on in Tula about whether it is legitimate to have a military museum within a church. The answer to the question came out recently when the Russian government allotted to the Museum of Weapons money for construction of a new building. Tula authorities have already apportioned the land. It is said that work will begin in September.
Meanwhile nothing remains for Alexis II but to conduct his patriarchal service on the grounds of Dormition cathedral, under the open sky. Just like he did two years ago. (tr. by PDS, posted 10 August 2001)
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A Novocheboksarsk city court acquitted a parishioner of the city's Pentecostal church, according to a report from the Slavic Legal Center. The court did not find in the actions of Alexander Volkov, who refused to perform military service on the basis of his religious convictions, the substance of a crime as ascribed to him by the city prosecutor who brought the case.
Earlier, on 12 March 2001, by sentence of the same court, Alexander Volkov was found guilty of evading the draft and sentenced to prison for six months. Alexander spent one month of this term in confinement. On 17 April, after the Supreme Court of the Chuvash republic vacated the sentence, Alexander was released from detention, and the case was sent to the Novocheboksarsk city court for a new hearing before a different panel.
However on 23 May 2001 the Novocheboksarsk city court refused to pass sentence and on petition by the state's attorney ordered the case sent to the prosecutor of Novocheboksarsk for additional investigation "in connection with the incompleteness of the investigation that was done," which supposedly could not be fixed in the trial.
Attorneys of the Slavic Legal Center who represented Alexander Volkov, seeing that the judicial bodies were not willing to acknowledge the violations of the rights of the conscientious objector that they had committed, submitted a complaint to the Supreme Court of the Chuvash republic, which required the lower court to review the case and pass sentence on the substance. However even after making the judgment of acquittal with regard to the conscientious objector, the court said that the credibility of the case on the part of the city prosecutor remains extremely high. (tr. by PDS, posted 10 August 2001)
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Today in the Armavir regional court, Aram Shahverdyan, an 18-year-old Jehovah’s Witness, was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison for refusing military service on religious grounds. He becomes the first conscientious objector that Armenia has convicted and refused to pardon since joining the Council of Europe on January 25, 2001.
On July 25 Shahverdyan was arrested after testifying five days earlier in defence of Lyova Margaryan, also a Jehovah’s Witness, who is being prosecuted for his religious beliefs and activities. During his own trial Shahverdyan faced intense questions from both the prosecutor and the judge about his decision to refuse military service. He was repeatedly asked whether Lyova Margaryan persuaded him not to join the army. However, speaking with conviction, Shahverdyan, declared: "My conscientious decision is based on the Bible."
Judge Gagik Handanyan’s apparent attempt to implicate Lyova Margaryan in shaping Shahverdyan’s decision led to Aram’s lawyer, Rustam Khachatryan, asking: "Who is on trial here, Aram Shahverdyan or Lyova Margaryan?" Margaryan is being accused under Article 244 of the Armenian Criminal Code of "luring young people into attending religious meetings of an unregistered religion" and "influencing members to refuse their civic duties." If convicted he faces up to five years in prison. Margaryan’s trial resumes tomorrow in the Armavir regional court.
When joining the Council of Europe Armenia agreed to adopt a law on alternative to military service within three years and, in the meantime, to release those in detention. Thirty-one male Jehovah’s Witnesses have been pardoned and were released from detention places on the basis of a Presidential amnesty in connection with Armenia’s 1700-year anniversary of the Armenian Apostolic Church. However, eight remain in prison in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. Five others who were released after serving part of their sentence are still under arrest but allowed to live at home provided they regularly report to the local police. During the past month eight Jehovah’s Witnesses, including Aram Shahverdyan, were arrested and imprisoned awaiting trial for refusing military service on religious grounds. They are willing to perform alternative civilian service. (posted 9 August 2001)
CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR ARRESTED AFTER GIVING EVIDENCE IN COURT
Office of Public Information, Jehovah's Witnesses, 26 July 2001
On Wednesday, July 25, Aram Shahverdyan was arrested for conscientious objection to military service and was placed in jail awaiting trial. Shahverdyan is an 18-year-old who gave dramatic testimony the previous Friday in the trial of Lyova Margaryan, a Jehovah's Witness who was being prosecuted for his religious convictions and activity.
Shahverdyan's arrest followed his appearance as a key witness at the Armavir regional court in which he revealed that he had been coerced into signing a statement that accused the defendant of advising him not to join the army. Shahverdyan, who is also one of Jehovah's Witnesses, categorically declared in court: "That statement did not contain my thoughts. It was dictated to me by the investigator. I studied the Bible and made my own conscientious decision on this issue."
On Tuesday, July 24, prosecutors charged Shahverdyan with refusal of military service and promptly took him into custody the following day.
Upon its accession to the Council of Europe on January 25, 2001, Armenia
agreed to adopt legislation on alternative service and, in the meantime,
to free all imprisoned conscientious objectors in advance of such legislation.
(posted 9 August 2001)
[Editor's note: new information on the Moscow Jehovah's Witnesses case has recently become available, the long 4 May appeal filed by the prosecutor against the primary court judge's decision to reject the prosecutor's suit for banning the Moscow congregation. That appeal was upheld in May.]
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Thousands of passengers and people seeing them off in the busy Kazan railway station in Moscow became witnesses of an extremely unusual event: the church on wheels embarked on a twenty-day journey. Already a half hour before the departure of the Moscow-Tynda train, of which the church car is a part, the voice of the loudspeaker summoned police sentries to the doors of car number six. People in civilian clothes but with walkee-talkees also awaited the representatives of the mission. But these showed up at the train unexpectedly and from an entirely different direction so that the vacuum cleaner that had been clearing the platform for a long time had labored in vain.
Metropolitan Pitirim of Kazan and Yuriev, who had come to perform a departure prayer service, called the confusion to order. But among those seeing off the train there also were completely secular persons. For example, Sergei Chaplygin, a representative of Federation Council Chairman Egor Stroev, bid the evangelists farewell in this way: "We are immersed in problems of oil and gal and have little concern for the soul. Take the word of God to BAM [Baikal-Amur railway], Siberia, Baikal."
The trip to Siberia and the Far East, "For faith and loyalty," was planned by the Evangelism Department of the Russian Orthodox church in cooperation with the Foundation of Saint Apostle Andrew the First-called and representatives of the government and Russian railways. The church on wheels is consecrated to the Hodigitria ("Pointer of the way") Mother of God icon. This icon is even attached to the outside wall of the car against a background of the inscription "Most honored by cherubim and praised by seraphim." The trip was made by priests, several seminarians (including the choir from the Belgorod ecclesiastical academy), and the "Dialogue" theater. According to Father Avel Aganovich (Belgorod) the tasks of the mission include not only services but also distribution of religious literature and humanitarian aid of medicines for hospitals and boarding schools.
The trip's itinerary is Mariinsk, Achinsk, Uzhur, Askiz, Abakan, Kuragino, Zaozernoe, Ilanskoe, Taishet, Severobaikalsk, Tynda, Neriungri, Mogocha, and Sliudianka. "The Orthodox train is going to cities that are not significant in size but are significant for the whole country for their spiritual potential," reported the president of the St. Andrew the First-called foundation, Alexander Melnik. And Archpriest Sergii Popov explained its goals in this way: "To be nourished by the purity of living fellowship with people, to help people who are in error and to support those who have stumbled with the living word, living song, proclamation, music, and prayer."
This mission is not the first nor only one, but earlier such events were rather weakly covered in the media. Perhaps the present hoopla can be explained easily: by the support of the current trip by offices of the presidential administration of the Russian federation. When she learned what was going on, one of the ordinary passengers rushing past the reporters and clergy with suitcases said: "It will be a great holiday for our Tynda." (tr. by PDS, posted 9 August 2001)
ORTHODOX CHURCH CAR SETS OFF TO SIBERIA AND THE FAR EAST
Office of Communications Department for External Church Relations, 8 August 2001
The Orthodox church car in Train No. 76 running from Moscow to Tynda set off from the Kazan Railway Station in Moscow on August 7, 2001, on a missionary trip to Siberia and the Far East.
It is already the third trip by the church on wheels which was consecrated on October 18, 2000, by Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia and dedicated to the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God, called Odygitria ("Guide").
Heading for Krasnoyarsk region, Buryatia, Khakasia, Yakutia, and the regions of the Amur, Irkutsk, Kemerovo and Chita, the train will go through small settlements whose dwellers have no opportunity for participating on a regular basis in the divine services and sacraments of the Orthodox Church.
The trip of the mobile church was prepared by the Mission Department of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Foundation of St. Andrew the First-Called with the blessing of Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia and support of the Railway Ministry.
Before the departure of the train, Metropolitan Pitirim of Volokolamsk and Yuryev, assisted by ordained staff members of the Mission Department, conducted a prayer for the travelers.
Bidding farewell to the missionaries, His Eminence Pitirim conveyed them a blessing from His Holiness the Patriarch and said: "Dear fathers, brothers and sisters, starting on your journey, remember what the narration about the preaching of Jesus Christ begins with: 'And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people' (Mt. 4:23). You are to bring the good news of Christ not only through word but also through the power of prayer, for the way the Lord walked in Galilee still continues. May God help you! May God's blessing be with you".
The seeing-off ceremony was also attended by Ms. Belogubova, Deputy Presidential Envoy for the Central Region responsible for relations with religious and public organizations, Mr. Scheblygin, assistant to the Federation Council Chairman, and Mr. Melnik, president of the Foundation of St. Andrew the First-Called.
The missionary trip is headed by the rector of the church car, Archpriest Sergiy Popov of the Mission Department. The church car is expected back in Moscow on September 1. (posted 9 August 2001)
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--The second millennium has ended. In all this time from generation to generation Christ's teaching has expanded and found new adherents despite crises, halts, and divisions. How do you see the future of Christianity not only in the sense of relations with other religious confessions but also from the point of view of relations between Orthodoxy and Catholicism?
--The two-thousand-year history of Christianity has shown the indisputable truth of the Lord's words about the gates of hell not overcoming the church (Mt 16.18). We believe the word of God will be proclaimed in the world until the second and glorious coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. However the complexity of contemporary reality clearly dictates the necessity of uniting the efforts of all Christians for active opposition to evil and for creating life on evangelical bases.
Today two main hindrances exist for the development of dialogue between the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches--Catholic proselytism in the canonical territory of our church and the conflict situation in western Ukraine, where Greek Catholics literally destroyed three Orthodox dioceses, and the life of canonical Orthodox parishes still is being constricted by persecutions. From the time of their origin these problems have acquired a very complex character and our church has clearly said that a positive development of relations with the Catholic church will become possible only when the Vatican takes real steps for correcting these problems. In the twentieth century there were periods when our dialogue was moving in extremely constructive channels, and one wishes to hope that this potential would not be wasted. You know, our churches should be able to unite their efforts in actions of peacemaking and charity and in social service. We should be able to witness to contemporary society about Christian values, respond to critical questions that are upsetting people, and combat sinful manifestations.
--This century wrote tragic pages in the history of the Russian Orthodox church, but thanks to its moral steadfastness it was able to withstand all blows and preserve its essence. How did the Russian Orthodox church outlast the conflict with the atheization of society, which, in accordance with the ideology of the bolshevik campaign, was imposed following 1917? What were the conditions of religious life like then? Were all confessions of Russia in such a difficult situation?
--The 20th century became a period of unprecedented trials for the Russian Orthodox church and the whole Russian nation. The people who came to power in 1917 adopted the goal of the absolute extermination of faith from the country where over the course of its rich history believers of various traditional religions had coexisted peacefully. While formally proclaiming freedom of religious confession, the totalitarian rulers imposed on the nation a crude materialistic world view that brutally repressed all religious communities. Persecution of the Russian Orthodox church began in 1917. It reached its apogee in 1937-1938. A multitude of bishops, priests, monks, and laity shed their blood, witnessing to their faith in the risen Savior. The blow, whose consequences still exist even now, was borne by churches and shrines and by the systems of church education, evangelism, charity, and publishing. The policy of state atheism was directed to eliminating the church from the life of the nation and erecting a wall between faith and all spheres of public life.
A brief period of a moderately indulgent attitude of the government toward the church in the postwar period was replaced by new persecutions and ideological pressure at the beginning of the sixties. This attack was not as bloody as the previous one, but people still had to have enormous courage to profess their faith openly. Nevertheless religious education of children in their families was carried on and there never was a shortage of young people who wanted to receive theological education in the small number of ecclesiastical schools and to assume clerical office. Wherever possible, pastoral preaching sounded forth. The very churches in which the liturgy was performed bore testimony to the existence of another world apart from the world of materialism.
The blood of the martyrs and the suffering of confessors became that seed from which now the church's rebirth has blossomed. And it is no accident that the jubilee bishops' council of the Russian Orthodox church, held in August 2000, enrolled in the canon of saints more than 1,000 new martyrs and confessors of the 20th century.
--The Serbian Orthodox church has not escaped schism in the 20th century. Besides the formation of the Macedonian Orthodox church, this was expressed in attempts at the uncanonical creation of a Montenegran Orthodox church. Similar processes occurred in Bulgaria and, in a somewhat different form, in the Russian Orthodox church. How do you view these phenomena? What are their deep causes and how can they be overcome?
--Schism represents an extremely painful and dangerous phenomenon. The holy fathers teach that schism is no less evil than heresy. Apostasizing from mother church, schismatic structures cease to be churches in the full sense. They do not have the plenitude of the gracious and saving gifts of the Holy Spirit. Particular responsibility for the evil of schism lies upon their leaders, who not only damn their own souls but, exploiting the trust and ignorance of simple people, entice them into their own communities that lack grace.
From the experience of history we know that most often schisms have arisen from the pride and frustrated ambitions of some clerics who think that they should occupy high positions and, when they have not achieved them within canonical church, they have broken from the mother church and created illegal structures. Another common cause of schism is interference within the church of political aspirations that are alien to it and attempts of secular leaders to force the church to live exclusively by worldly laws that are destructive and fatal for it.
Thank God, history knows many examples of the healing of schisms and disorders. In order for schism to be overcome it is insufficient simply to have the condescension of mother church to human weakness. It is necessary to have a responsive motion on the part of those who are in schism and their sincere repentance and attempt to be reunited with the plenitude of the church.
--Once Kiev was the mother of the Russian Orthodox church and the basic center of Russian spirituality. Now it is on the territory of another state, Ukraine. How important is this fact for the spiritual unity of the Russian people and the activity of the Moscow patriarchate as a whole?
--It is important to specify that Kiev was the center of spirituality not only of the Russian but of all eastern Slavic nations who now to the greatest extent live in three states, Belorussia, Russia, and Ukraine. Ascetics of the Kievan monasteries, primarily the Kievan caves lavra, toiled much for the dissemination and establishment of the Orthodox faith among eastern Slavs and facilitated the creation of other centers of spirituality, including on the territory of contemporary Russia. Among them a quite special place is occupied by the establishment by St. Sergius of Radonezh of the Saint Sergius Holy Trinity lavra, a cloister that became the stronghold of Orthodoxy and the spiritual center of the Russian church.
Without question, the exceptionally important significance of Kiev as one of the centers of Orthodox spirituality has continued even to the present. The change of state borders and other political problems could not artificially divide the united church organism. Thousands of pilgrims from Belorussia and Russia come to Kiev, as before, in order to venerate the sacred places of this ancient city and to pray to the holy fathers of the Kiev caves lavra.
I hope that the brotherhood of the Orthodox eastern Slavic peoples, who have gone through a difficult period of trials, will, by the prayers of God's holy servants, be reborn in new strength and glory in order to testify to the steadfast unity of Orthodoxy before the eyes of this world, torn by contradictions and divisions.
--What are relations of the Russian Orthodox church with other Orthodox churches like, especially, the Serbian Orthodox church?
--The Russian Orthodox church traditionally strives to support fraternal cooperation with other local Orthodox churches and does all it can for preserving and maintaining panorthodox unity that God has ordered.
In this context the mutual relation with the Serbian Orthodox church is one of the most stable and worthy. By the will of God's providence, the historic fates of the Russian and Serbian nations have been closely tied together. Russia and Serbia often suffered losses from common enemies. This brought us very close and gave an extremely special, extremely confidential, character to the relations between the two churches. We know that the Serbian church is one of our most reliable friends and allies, that is ready to come to our aid in a difficult moment. In its turn, the Serbian church can always count on our support and cooperation in the resolution of any problems that require our participation.
A clear example of the fraternal cooperation of the Russian and Serbian Orthodox churches was the joint action in the period of NATO's recent military operations against Yugoslavia. The Russian Orthodox church exerted active efforts to influence world public opinion and it appealed to the leaders of NATO countries and the leadership of intergovernmental and inter-Christian organizations. At the time of the barbaric bombardment of Yugoslavia by NATO planes I went to Belgrade and performed the divine liturgy along with His Holiness Patriarch Pavle of Serbia for an enormous crowd of people. I believe that the Lord heard our prayers and did not permit the triumph of evil.
--What are relations between the Russian Orthodox church and the state like now?
--By their natures and intents the church and state perform different ministries in the world. For the church what is important is to bring a person to eternal salvation. People who have secular authority according to holy scripture are called to use their energy for restraining evil and supporting good, which is the moral purpose of the existence of the state.
Today the relation of our church with the state, as in the past decade, is a relationship of partnership while not interfering in each other's affairs. Concern for the maintenance of morality, education of the youth, social work, peacemaking, regeneration of traditional culture, cooperation with science, support of the family, and many other issues have become points of common exertion of the efforts of the church and state. Governing structures are ever more actively drawing representatives of the Orthodox church into a discussion of many national and global problems, assuming correctly that the heritage of its experience can serve well for the benefit of society.
--New times bring new technologies and new knowledge. On the other hand, the church is a traditional institution. Which forms of church activity have remained unchanged from the time of its founding? How does the Russian Orthodox church accommodate to modernity?
--At the jubilee bishops' council the "Bases of the Social Doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church" were adopted, which expressed the official position of the Moscow patriarchate with regard to questions of church-state relations and on a number of problems affecting the life of the Christian in the modern world. The document contained expressions of the understanding of such questions as the relation of the church to secular law, labor, property, war and peace, personal, family, and public morality, ecology, bioethics, and problems of globalization and secularization. This document is the more important since now, when the period of state atheism has ended, we are forced to conduct our ministry within a pluralistic and secular society that often is hostile to Orthodoxy, where a clearly formulated church opinion on one or another question permits its members to assume a truly unified position in the dialogue with the surrounding world.
Holy scripture testifies that evil is not simply the absence of good but a personal force that actively operates among us. Modern knowledge and technology will never be able to give an answer to the spiritual and moral questions that have faced humanity since the Fall. Social injustice, wars, and sicknesses are the tragic reality of every nation and every generation. Over the course of two millennia the church has actively participated in peacemaking and tried to help the poor and suffering. Modern technical means permit conducting this ministry with greater effectiveness and specific purpose. In our activity we actively employ mass media and computer and other modern technologies, correctly calculating that it is necessary to apply the possibilities created by human reason for the good of every person. However the dogmatic teaching of the church remains unchanged, because God is unchanging and his revelation leads a person to salvation today in the same way as many centuries ago.
--How do you assess the spiritual state of the nation, especially the youth? Is it necessary to introduce theology into the curriculum of elementary and secondary schools in order to preserve, protect, and expand fundamental moral values?
--Divine revelation says that a person is not only a physical being but also a spiritual one, because in creation God "breathed into him the breath of life and man became a living soul" (Gen 2.7). In every personality is instilled the need for continual fellowship with God and if it lacks this fellowship then the person is doomed to self-destruction and spiritual death. The rebirth of Christ's church is bringing about the rebirth of souls poisoned by atheism. When I converse with believers not only in Moscow but during my trips throughout the country I see signs of a true spiritual resurrection of the nation and the recreation of Holy Rus. It is expressed not only in church attendance, but also in the active participation of many people in church projects and in the sincere desire to construct life according to God's truth. It is a pleasure to see that in the past decade the composition of the parishes of our churches has become significantly younger. Young men and women who are joining the church are actively involved in Christian work.
Along with this, in the modern world there is an enormous number of problems that any person, especially a young one, has to deal with to some extent. Drug addiction, alcoholism, crime, low unspiritual pseudoculture, and moral nihilism do not permit a person to develop in full measure and do not give a person the possibility of finding himself as the image and likeness of God. The Orthodox church has never viewed such phenomena with indifference. In close contact with any secular forces we are trying to find a resolution of these complex problems. The church continuously recalls that without spiritual renewal, without God, without observance of his commandments, no knowledge or skills nor effort or power can lead a person to genuine happiness, fulfillment, and harmony of existence.
In light of what I have said, our church is extremely interested in introducing the teaching of the Fundamentals of Orthodox Ethics and Orthodox Culture into the secondary schools. Such instruction already is being done in many places, although it should be given a more general legal basis. Insofar as Russia is a multiconfessional country, such education should include the free choice of the children and parents, but it is completely unacceptable for moral education to be based purely on religionless postulates. We also insist on the inclusion of a major in "Theology" in the curriculum of higher educational institutions so that every young person would have the possibility to receive a theological education in secular institutions, as is the case in a majority of European countries.
--According to tradition, in Moscow there were "forty forties" of churches and monasteries. Many of them (as well as in other Russian cities) were destroyed during the soviet period. Renovation of church and spiritual life of believers is impossible without the restoration of the old and construction of new churches. Does the reconstruction of the church of Christ the Savior mean that this process is going in the necessary direction?
--The last decade was marked by the regeneration of church life in all of its facets. One of the main tasks is the restoration of damaged and construction of new churches. Despite the difficult economic conditions in which the overwhelming majority of our countrymen exist, the churches of God have been constructed by their common labor. In Moscow alone, in comparison with 1988 the number of active churches has increased nine times. The number of monastic cloisters of the Russian church has increased more than 20 times. I can testify happily that this creative process is continuing vigorously and is developing throughout Russia and in other countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
The church of Christ the Savior occupies an especially important place in the history not only of the capital city but all of Russia, and its recreation was one of the chief tasks of our church in recent years. In this case the issue is not simply the restoration of a church building but also a nationwide act of repentance for the sin of apostasy from God and the restoration of historic memory and the continuity of the historic fate of the country. The word "repentance" signifies a profound moral and philosophical change and the discovery of real but never lost values. This is why the reconstruction of the church of Christ the Savior became for millions of our countrymen the symbol of the resurrection of Holy Rus. As the ruling bishop of the city of Moscow I cannot fail to say that the reconstructed church of Christ the Savior has become the cathedral church of the capital, that is, the center of the common prayers of the people of God.
--What is the situation of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR)? Can one say that the positive changes that have happened in the last decade in Russia with regard to the church have been reflected similarly in the religious life of Russians abroad?
--In the last century many of our fellow countrymen left Russia for various reasons and built their lives abroad. In the main what helped them to preserve their identity was the Orthodox church, which did not leave without nurture anybody who took recourse to its vital source of grace. Parishes of the Moscow patriarchate exist in many countries on all continents. Today our church is the largest with respect to number of believers, dioceses, and parishes within the family of fraternal local Orthodox churches. This imposes upon us a special responsibility for the development of Orthodox life throughout the world, especially in those countries where it is possible and necessary to conduct Orthodox evangelistic work and where the diaspora of our church exists.
In the past ten years the number of our followers who are living outside the canonical territory has increased substantially. Besides this, workers in embassies and commercial and other institutions are not obliged to conceal their faith, in contrast to the past. We are devoting great effort to raising the spiritual and educational level of the clergy who are ministering abroad.
It is pleasant to see that the parish life of the Russian diaspora, depending on the specific conditions of one or another country, is developing in accordance with Orthodox tradition. New churches are being built, Sunday schools are being organized, catechesis is being conducted, and social service is being performed. And we always remember that the church is called to unite fellow countrymen, support them in their work, and help them preserve their spiritual and cultural identity.
--From the point of view of clerical personnel, recalling the problematic consequences of the soviet regime, is the Russian Orthodox church prepared today to meet the needs of the time?
--During the years of the soviet regime all ecclesiastical educational institutions were closed--academies, seminaries, and diocesan schools. Only after the end of the war did the regime permit the opening of two ecclesiastical academies and a few seminaries, while several of the latter were closed during the persecution of the sixties. In the postwar period, the teachers and professors had received their education in the prerevolutionary ecclesiastical schools, and thus a continuity of generations was preserved. After the policy of state atheism came to an end we were able to begin the recreation of the theological schools. Now in the Russian church there are almost 100 ecclesiastical educational institutions and the number of students has reached many thousands.
Today we can testify to Christ's truth in full voice. Pastoral preaching sounds forth from the pulpits of churches, as well as in the mass media, military units, prisons, schools, and universities. The Orthodox pastor now is required to have not only the ability to perform the liturgy but also to speak in the language of the modern person and aid in the resolution of the most complex problems which contemporary reality poses for a Christian. Despite the current shortage of clerical personnel, we are trying to train people who are able to fulfill the church's mission on a high spiritual, moral, and intellectual level.
--We are leaving the period of atheization. What value can the Orthodox church offer to secular society with the goal of the spiritual renewal of the nation? In this regard what can you suggest for the Serbs and Montenegrins of Yugoslavia?
--For Christianity, the absolute character of the understanding of truth is essential. The modern person is aware that despite all the successes of civilization, the individual has not become more noble. Reason and conscience reject a life that has not been transformed by a higher meaning or that is deprived of genuine joy or is not enlightened by the hope of a future that extends beyond the limits of earthly existence. The individual that is bowed down by individual worldly interest realizes constantly how few of its deeds, words, and thoughts are just, sincere, and charitable.
The Orthodox church, true to Christ's truth throughout 2,000 years, preaches the gospel of the kingdom of God, testifying to the love of the Lord for people and the responsibility of each of us for the fate of our neighbors and all of the world. If a person believes that upon physical death life does not cease, but continues in the spiritual world, if that person exerts efforts for eternal salvation and for creative realization on earth, if that person continually conforms thought and deed with the Lord's commands and strives to be his coworker, then the surrounding world will be transformed.
The years of atheism showed that any activity done apart from the Holy Trinity is doomed to failure. But, even seeing the panoply of evil, we should not lose hope but firmly preserve the saving faith, striving to keep the world from falling into the abyss and to work for its spiritual renewal on the bases of Christ's truth. We know how much Christianity has given to human history in 2,000 years. We also know that "the whole world lies in evil" (1 Jn 5.19), and the departure of modern man from God has become dangerous. But nobody can deprive the church of the great promise of God: "This is the victory that overcomes the world--our faith" (1 Jn 5.4).
With my whole heart I want to wish my brethren who have suffered much, Montenegrins and Serbs, well-being and prosperity. May the all-merciful Lord show his love and mercy to every person coming into the world during the next millennium. (tr. by PDS, posted 9 August 2001)
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