RUSSIA RELIGION NEWS
Monitoring news media reports about religion in Russia and other countries of former USSR
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Conscientious objectors accommodated in one city

NIZHNY NOVGOROD DRAFTEES GIVEN ALTERNATIVE CIVILIAN SERVICE
Religiia v Rossii, 4 January 2002

A reporter for RIA Novosti reports that young people assigned by the Nizhny Novgorod draft commission to alternative civilian service began working on Friday as medics in the First City Hospital. The day before, twenty-one draftees signed a contract for performing alternative civilian service at the Nizhny Novgorod municipal detachment with the Committee on Military Service Affairs of the city administration. In particular the contract provides for performing two years of alternative service in a municipal medical treatment institution where the young people will work as medics. An eight-hour working day, five-day work week was established for them. They will receive the wages of junior medical personnel, RIA Novosti was told at the press service of the city administration.

Upon completion of the term of performing alternative civilian service a draftee will be enrolled in the reserve of the military forces of the Russian federation. Upon cancellation of the contract, the draftee will not be considered exempt from the draft to military service.

Nizhny Novgorod is still the only city in Russia where an experimental introduction of alternative civilian service is being conducted. In the opinion of city Mayor Yury Lebedev, introduction of alternative service will give young people the legal right to serve in accordance with their convictions and for the city's interests in social institutions, and it will make the first step on the countrywide level toward the formation of a professional army and construction of democratic society. (tr. by PDS, posted 7 January 2002)

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Putin marks Russian Orthodox Christmas

VLADIMIR PUTIN'S CHRISTMAS GREETINGS TO RUSSIANS
Mir religii, 6 January 2002

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent greetings for the birth of Christ to Orthodox Christians and followers of other Christian confessions of Russia, RIA Novosti reports. The full text of the greetings received by RIA Novosti from the press service of the head of state says:

"I warmly greet Orthodox Christians and followers of other Christian confessions of Russia on the occasion of Christ's birth!

This holiday invariably fills the hearts of millions of Russians with glorious feelings and brings love, kindness, and mercy to their families.  It is obvious that without the support of the centuries-old spiritual and cultural heritage of our fatherland the complete development of our society and the successful resolution of the challenges facing the country would be impossible.

"Orthodoxy, which has occupied a special place in Russian history, continues to play a most important role in the maintenance of the moral foundations of public life. The Russian Orthodox church, in close cooperation with representatives of other traditional religions and faiths, has devoted significant efforts to the strengthening of the spiritual health of our fellow citizens by teaching patriotism and reinforcing civic peace and harmony. This activity deserves the most profound respect and support on the part of the state.

"I wish you all good health, peace, happiness, and all the best."

On 6 January, Christmas Eve, Vladimir Putin attended the church of the Transfiguration of the Savior in Pereslavl-Zalesski. In the evening the Russian president plans to participate in the holiday divine service in the Dormition cathedral of the city of Vladimir. (tr. by PDS, posted 7 January 2002)

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Calendar change would evoke schism

METROPOLITAN KIRILL OPPOSES "DESTROYING HUMAN SOUL FOR SAKE OF CALENDAR"
Mir religii, 6 January 2002

The Moscow patriarchate thinks that a changeover by the Russian Orthodox church to the Gregorian calendar could lead believers into schism. RIA Novosti reports that the head of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow patriarchate, Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, warned of the possibility of such a schism on Saturday in a live broadcast of "Maiak" radio.

The Russian Orthodox church celebrates Christmas after New Year's although our ancestors did the opposite. "This is a question of the calendar," Metropolitan Kirill answered. "All western Christians celebrate holidays according to the Gregorian calendar, that is, according to the new style. The Russian Orthodox church and a number of other Orthodox church maintain the Julian calendar. We also celebrate 25 December as Christmas, but according to the old style. So it turns out that our 25 December Christmas according to the old style falls on 7 January in the new style, and New Year's comes on 14 January," the metropolitan explained.

The clergyman also stressed that the church lives by tradition which has its own dynamic and inertia. "Many generations," he said, "are trained by tradition to celebrate the birth of Christ on 7 January. And if the church does not go to the new style, then a majority of people will come to church on 7 January nevertheless and will call those who celebrate 25 December heretics. A schism will once again break out. One must not for the sake of the calendar destroy the human soul," Metropolitan Kirill emphasized.  (tr. by PDS, posted 7 January 2002)

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Metropolitan Kirill states Russia's claims to Kaliningrad, Ukraine

SENIOR RUSSIAN CLERGYMAN REVEALS VIEWS ON ORTHODOX CHRISTMAS AND OTHER MATTERS
BBC Monitoring International Reports, 5 January 2002

Presenter ... On the eve of Orthodox Christmas our studio guest today 5 January Archbishop of Smolensk and Kaliningrad and the head of the public relations department of the Moscow Patriarchy, Metropolitan Kiril...

Are you not concerned that the festive start-of-the-year season in Russia goes on for a fortnight? Of course, it is great to have two weeks to relax, and these holidays are very spiritual and noble and it's good to celebrate them. But on the other hand, this means being idle and not working. Are you not worried about this aspect?

Kiril This has nothing to do with the Church. I can give you another example - we have exactgloy the same situation in the month of May: people keep celebrating for half a month May Day and Victory Day . This has nothing to do with the Church calendar. Presenter However, perhaps, this is not Russia's best tradition - to celebrate long holidays, especially now that we are amidst so many problems. Now a question from our listener.

Unidentified listener I have a question to Metropolitan Kiril. You represent Smolensk Region, which is my mother's native town, and Kaliningrad Region which is an enclave. The fifth column and all these losers in our country are constantly stirring the issue of passing the westernmost region on to a third party. There is a similar situation in the USA with Alaska but they do not have such questions. What do you think the Church can do in this direction to put an end to all these political gambling regarding Kaliningrad Region?

Kiril My answer will be quite harsh. As long as the Orthodox Church is out there in Kaliningrad Region, the region will always belong to Russia. This is not a mere statement, not just words. In order to reinforce this truth we have decided to build a majestic Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in the centre of the city. Construction is in full swing right now.

You know, there was a certain problem. In the past the centre of Kaliningrad was used for rallies and parades. There was a monument to Lenin and a rostrum, of course. When we made our decision - when I say we I mean the public, not just the Church - to build the cathedral in the city centre, some people began to say that this was not a suitable site. It would be better to build a cathedral in the park, they said.

A public opinion poll was carried out. And can you imagine, most of the people were in favour of having the cathedral built in the city centre as a symbol of Russia, as a symbol of our link with Russia...

Presenter We have a question from listener Ihor from Kiev. He would like to hear your position on the Russian Church in Ukraine and whether it will become autocephalous. Is it possible that the Patriarch will visit Kiev? Ihor is praying for the unity of all Russia and the Russian Church.

Kiril Of course, the Patriarch can visit Kiev and other places in Ukraine. Ukraine is part of the canonical territory of the Moscow Patriarchate, and the Ukrainian congregation is the Patriarch's flock. Therefore, this is not a foreign visit for the Patriarch, it is just a visit to see his own people, and therefore, such visits are likely, and I think that the Patriarch will find an opportunity to pay such a visit in the near future.

Presenter Are there any political obstacles to this visit?

Kiril None at all. President Kuchma has repeatedly invited the Patriarch. Governors of various Ukrainian regions have invited the Patriarch. Relations are very benevolent and friendly everywhere, with the exception of Western Ukraine where, as you know, there are strong anti-Russian sentiments and anti-Orthodox sentiments. But this is another conversation.

As far as the autocephalous church is concerned, the overwhelming majority of the Orthodox Christians in Ukraine are now very much against the autocephalous church. This is their choice. We cannot impose anything on them - in the same way as no-one can impose sovereignty on a state if the state wishes to live in a union with other states. It is equally impossible to impose the opposite.

We proceed from the idea that the Orthodox Christians in Ukraine should decide the future of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, together with their clergy, with their hierarchy. If these people tell us that they want an autocephalous church, let them have it with God's blessings.

But these people are saying today that they have no such desire because the only strong tie uniting Russia and Ukraine at present is the united church. As long as we have one church, we have one life and one soul... (Copyright 2002 BBC Monitoring Source: Radio Mayak, Moscow, in Russian 0805 gmt 5 Jan 02, posted 7 January 2002)

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Estonian law vetoed

ESTONIAN PRESIDENT REJECTS AMENDED CHURCHES AND CONGREGATIONS ACT
BBC Monitoring International Reports, 5 January 2002

Estonian President Arnold Ruutel has decided not to proclaim the Churches and Congregations Act, which has been returned to the parliament once before by President Lennart Meri.

The bill adopted with amendments on 18 December is still at variance with the Constitution, the president's office said. Signing the decision on rejection, Ruutel said that the act does not give equal treatment to those churches or unions of congregations that filed applications for the restitution or compensation of their unlawfully alienated property and those that filed no such applications, as it was not possible to do it under the law in effect at the time, the president's office said in its explanation.

Under the Constitution everyone has the right to form non-profit undertakings and unions. The president found that there is no justification to the law-giving provision of the Churches and Congregations Act which retroactively and arbitrarily extends the circle of religious societies which belonged to churches or unions of religious societies before Estonia's occupation.

According to the Churches and Religious Societies Act in effect before occupation of the Republic of Estonia, churches and unions of religious societies had the right of self-organization and self-government, whereas according to their statutes admission of new members was in their competence alone, and membership of a church or religious society was a matter of every person's own judgment, the president's office said. (Copyright 2002 BBC Monitoring/BBC Source: BNS news agency, Tallinn, in English 1654 gmt 4 Jan 02, posted 7 January 2002)

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Orthodox church wants ancient icon from Vatican

QUESTION OF RETURN OF KAZAN MOTHER OF GOD ICON TO RUSSIA DISCUSSED IN TATARSTAN
Mir religii, 4 January 2002

Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev thinks that the ancient icon of the Kazan Mother of God now located in the Vatican "could be returned to Russia, or more precisely to the capital of the republic, Kazan, before the celebration of the millennium of the city in 2005." This was reported on Friday to RIA Novosti by the director of the Tatarstan presidential press service, Irek Murtazin.

In the words of Mintimer Shaimiev, Pope John Paul II, who is "a distinguished spiritual person," has a "great desire to return the icon of the Kazan Mother of God to Kazan during his lifetime," Murtazin noted. Shaimiev "has previously discussed the problem of the return of the icon from the Vatican with Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus," and so far as the press service knows "the patriarch has not spoken against the icon's actual return to Kazan," its director said.

He stressed that the Tatarstan president has not commented on the reports of several Russian and foreign news media to the effect that the head of the ecclesiastical board of Muslims for Tatarstan and member of the Council of Muftis of Russia, Gusman-Khazrat Iskhakov, supposedly sent an invitation to John Paul II to visit Kazan, which is preparing to celebrate the jubilee. The Tatarstan president said that "he learned about such an invitation from the news media," but "details are still not known to him and he still has not spoken with the mufti of Tatarstan on this topic," Murtazin emphasized.

Within church circles of Russia it is asserted that it is not at all necessary for the pope to come to Russia in order that the icon be returned to its rightful owner, the Russian Orthodox church. Moreover, RPTs is not simply not opposed to the icon's return to Russia, but it insists upon it.

The Kazan Mother of God icon was found in Kazan in 1579 by the ten-year-old girl Matrena and it was stolen from Russia in the 1920s and taken abroad along with other church valuables. According to some sources, the icon was purchased from an American collector in 1970 for three million dollars by one of the Catholic organizations, and in 1993 it was presented to Pope John Paul II. (tr. by PDS, posted 4 January 2002)

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Patriarch greets new year

PATRIARCH ALEXIS II WISHES FATHERLAND PEACE AND CREATIVITY IN COMING YEAR
Religii v Rossii, 3 January 2002

Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus wished the earthly fatherland peace and creativity in the coming year. Today he conducted the first divine liturgy of the new year in Dormition cathedral of the Kremlin. On the eve of the Nativity of Christ, the church observed the day of commemoration of Metropolitan Peter of Moscow who headed the Russian church in the fourteenth century.

The patriarch expressed the wish that in the new year :the Lord would bless our earthly fatherland with peace, creativity, and prosperity" and "would preserve Christ's church from schisms and unbelief, helping it in the future to perform its saving mission." "It is signification," the primate said, "that the liturgical year always begins with prayer in Dormition cathedral with which the entire history of the Russian Orthodox church and Russian state is connected." (tr. by PDS, posted 3 January 2002)

PATRIARCH ALEXIS II WISHES PEOPLES OF EARTH PEACEFUL AND CREATIVE YEAR
Mir religii, 3 January 2002

Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus hopes that the new year will prove more peaceful and creative for inhabitants of the earth than the preceding one. In his new year's address the head of the Russian Orthodox church touched on the recent tragedy that occurred in the United States, "destroying thousands of human lives and reminding us that evil is powerful and every person is defenseless in the face of this evil," Interfax reports.

"Let us believe that the Lord will bless people will his peace and that the new year will be peaceful and creative, and that he will support the nation in its difficulties," the patriarch said. Speaking of the spiritual regeneration in Russia he thanked all church workers for their ministry that they performed in the past year. Alexis II also expressed special thanks to all Orthodox people for their faith and love of neighbors.

In the patriarch's words, "human life often is compared with the sea, on which there are storms, and distress, and illness. But we should thank the Lord for everything that we experience," the head of the church recalled. In accordance with Christian tradition he thanked God for the past year and asked his blessing for the coming new year. (tr. by PDS, posted 3 January 2002)

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Ukrainian Christians differ on celebration of New Year's

GREEK CATHOLICS NEED NOT FAST ON NEW YEAR'S EVE
Religii v Rossii, 3 January 2002

Ukrainian believers of the Greek Catholic church were able to drink champagne and eat meat on New Year's Eve. This was confirmed for ITAR-TASS at the diocesan administration of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic church. Taking into account the secular character of the celebration of New Year's, the church made a concession and freed those faithful who so wished from the forty-day pre-Christmas fast during the night of 31 December-1 January, issuing a dispensation in accordance with church rules. However afterward the strict fast goes back into effect until Christmas Eve on 6 January.

As regards Orthodox believers in Ukraine, where they are split into three groups, the churches acted more traditionally: there was no release from the fast. Thus Archbishop Igor Isachenko of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox church thinks that particularly on this secular holiday of celebrating the new year the true Christian will be able to control himself and not be led astray. "He should recall the church's concept of 'quiet joy.'" This is what New Year's Eve should be like, in the opinion of the Orthodox priest. (tr. by PDS, posted 3 January 2002)

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Street demonstration of Russian religious teetotalers

TEMPERANCE ORTHODOX CONDUCT PROCESSION OF CROSS ABOUT PETERSBURG
Mir religii, 3 January 2002

A procession of the cross by Temperance Orthodox [Pravoslavnie Trezvenniki] believers was conducted about the city of St. Petersburg on 1 January, radio station Echo of Moscow reports. It was arranged to coincide with the day of commemoration of the martyr St. Boniface, to whom they pray for recovery from alcoholism.

In the opinion of Temperance Orthodox believers, the beginning of the year is essentially joyful even without alcoholic beverages, and what is more the Nativity fast continues until 7 January.

This was the first procession of the cross by Temperance believers in St. Petersburg since 1917. It was held at the initiative of the "Vigilance" society which is reviving the traditions of the prerevolutionary movement of Temperance believers. This religious movement arose in the nineties of the nineteenth century under the influence of the so-called "preacher brethren" let by the peasant Ivan Churikov. While they called themselves Orthodox, the "brethren" departed from Orthodox tradition in several matters. In particular, they rejected the use of wine during the sacrament of the Eucharist and they did not make their communion in Orthodox churches. (tr. by PDS, posted 3 January 2002)

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American diplomat criticizes Russian violations of religious freedom

RELIGION AND NATIONAL SECURITY
Conference at Academy of State Service
by Alexander Dolukhanov
NG-religii, 26 December 2001

"Religion and problems of national security of Russia" was the topic to which a scholarly and practical conference held on 21 December in Moscow was devoted. It was organized by the Russian Academy of State Service of the presidential administration of the Russian federation (RAGS) along with the ZAR-Media association. Prominent scholars, historians, philosophers, attorneys, and religious studies specialists, as well as representatives of governmental structures and religious organizations of the country gathered to discuss the situation that has developed in the world after the events of 11 September.

Addressing the conference participants in the name of RAGS, the chairman of the department of religious studies, Professor Nikolai Trofimchuk, quoted a statement by Patriarch Alexis II and the Holy Synod of RPTs that the crime committed by the terrorists in New York and Washington "will always remain a sin before God and people and a violation of the commandments of every religion." The vice chairman of the Commission on Questions of Religious Associations of the Russian government, Andrei Sebentsov, called for using the potential of the world's religions to destroy the attempts of enemies of international peace and security.

The first report that was delivered by the director of the Center for Social and Religious Research of the RAN Institute of Europe, Professor Anatolii Krasikov, sounded the thought of the necessity of careful study and analysis of the religious factor in geostrategy. After the end of the struggle by the two social and economic systems, each of which denied the right of the other to exist, humanity has not obtained the long awaited peace. It is faced with no less dangerous conflicts of a different kind when the front line is drawn along the "canonical territories" of various religions. Although today's wars in reality are not religious ones and are being conducted for the sake of gaining political, economic, and other goals, including purely criminal ones, their instigators are manipulating the genetic memory of nations and appealing to religious values. . . .

[Other reports were delivered by MGU Professor Alexander Ignatenko, Russian University of Friendship of Peoples Professor Abdull Nurulaev, Professor Aleksei Malashenko, Chairman of the Islamic Committee Geidar Dzhemal, Chairman of Russian Council of Muftis Kharis Saubianov,  Military University Professor Yurii Noskov, President of Moscow Jewish Religious Community Akif Gilalov, and Professor of Diplomatic Academyof MID RF Vladlen Sirotkin.]

Requesting the privilege of the floor, a representative of the American embassy in  Moscow, Carlton Bulkin, said that Americans valued greatly the solidarity shown by the Russian leadership and the people of Russia toward the victims of terror after the events of 11 September. At the same time he expressed amazement over incidents of the violation of rights of believers in several component entities of the federation, including Moscow, despite the 1997 federal law "On freedom of conscience and religious associations."

The American diplomat's speech evoked a stormy reaction from the deputy director of the Chief Department of the Ministry of Justice for the city of Moscow, Vladimir Zhbankov, who, to the astonishment of all present, subjected the existing law to sharp critique. Immediately the director of the Institute of Religious and Law, Anatolii Pchelintsev, reacted to this statement, pointing out the illegality of the ban in the capital on the activity of the Salvation Army and several other religious associations, whose rights were recognized at the federal level.

The conference concluded with the adoption of a final document calling for resisting terrorism and religious and political intolerance. "Let the criminals suffer the deserved penalty," the document states. At the same time, "every nation has the right to the accumulated treasure of its own national and cultural autonomy and every person must be free in the selection of way of life and world view." (tr. by PDS, posted 2 January 2002)

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Pope could visit Russia without invitation from patriarch

TADEUSZ KONDRUSIEWICZ:  "ONE MUST BE VERY NAIVE SIMPLY TO INVITE THE HEAD OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH"
Religiia v Rossii, 29 December 2001

Roman Catholic Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, the administrator of Catholics of the Latin rite of the European part of Russia, declared on 29 December:  "I heard for the first time on 25 December that the mufti of Tatarstan invited the pope to Kazan. Although there had appeared reports in the press about statements by several political leaders of Tatarstan regarding their attempts in that direction and about their visits to Rome over the matter of the Kazan Mother of God icon.  I personally have not received any reports about this nor any invitations and nothing has been said to me at the nuncio's office. So I really do not think that there was any invitation. The mufti of Tatarstan knows very well that there is a Catholic bishop in Russia and the pope does not just simply go someplace. One must be very naive to invite the head of the Catholic church so that the local church knows nothing about it," the head of Russian Catholics is convinced.

Responding to the question why John Paul II wants to come to Moscow, Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz reported that the head of the Roman Catholic church has already visited many countries of the world.  "He is trying to go to all countries where he is invited, and as the pastor of the church he wants to meet with his believers. He has visited countries where Catholics constitute a smaller proportion of the population than in Russia--Arab countries, where he has been invited very often.

"Even it there were only one Catholic in some country, he would want to see his leader just like all the others. Let's say, if some celebration was going on at Red Square, everybody wants to see it. Perhaps this is the limit of human dreams, somehow to get there. Humanly speaking this is absolutely understandable. There are not very many of us, but still we exist. And since we want to see the head of our church, we will invite him. We have already invited him several times."

Archbishop Kondrusiewicz also noted that John Paul II has been invited to Russia by former presidents Gorbachev and Yeltsin. In addition, "when Vladimir Putin was in the Vatican and was asked at a press conference about the pontiff's coming to Russia, he did not back away from the earlier proposals. That means that the earlier proposals are in effect. In principle, for the pope's going to any country two things are necessary: an invitation from the head of state (which has already been in effect for a long time, since they have not been withdrawn) and an invitation from local Catholics.

"However the pope, of course, understands the situation, and he feels keenly that acting in this way would make development of inter-Christian and ecumenical relations impossible. Thus, of course, we would want for there to be an invitation, or at least consent, which unfortunately there has not been to the present.

"John Paul of course wants to visit Russia, but he understands that it is impossible simply to come. If there were in Russia at least the attitude that there was in Greece, he would come. As is known, the Greek church did not issue an invitation, but it noted that if the pontiff wanted to come, then let him come. 'We have not invited him, but if he comes, we will meet with him.' And now it has been announced that on 23-25 May the pontiff will visit Bulgaria. And the Bulgarian patriarch also announced: 'We have not invited him and we will not invite him. But if the pope arrives, we will receive him and show him our Bulgarian hospitality.'" (tr. by PDS, posted 2 January 2002)

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Salvation Army fears arrest

MOSCOW SALVATION ARMY ILLEGAL
Religiia v Rossii, 29 December 2001

According to the latest reports from Assist News Service, the Salvation Army in Russia is concerned that in the near future its workers may be arrested by Russian authorities, who have determined that this organization is a "semi-militaristic" one.

Analysts say that the Salvation Army could be banned in Russia for the second time in a century. After losing in court its case regarding its status, the organization that first fed poor Russians in 1913 until the time that Lenin's secret police abolished it in 1923 was declared illegal in the Russian capital last week.

Leaders of the Salvation Army have indicated that the Russian politicians have mistakenly called them a semi-militaristic organization on the basis of the uniforms that workers wear symbolizing only that they show their "devotion to God in the war against evil." Workers of other foreign missions also have been forced to leave the country.

The Salvation Army intends to take its case to the European Court on Human Rights but the trial will take a long time.  (tr. by PDS, posted 2 January 2002)

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New Russian New Testament released

"GOOD NEWS"
Religiia v Rossii, 29 December 2001

The Russian Bible Society, finally, has issued in a single binding a translation of the New Testament in contemporary Russian language that was produced by V.N. Kuznetsova. Valentina Kuznetsova, a classical philologist by education, began her work more than fifteen years ago with the blessing of Fr Alexander Men, who was concerned that the Word of God be accessible to residents of our country, specifically in terms of its concepts, according to Hegumen Innokenty Pavlov. Changes in Russia's life that put an end to the atheist ideocracy led to the creation of the Russian Bible Society and to the possibility for the translator to undergo the necessary professional training in Aberdeen University in Scotland, becoming one of the leading specialists in our country on New Testament exegesis.

This translation not only takes into account the latest achievements in New Testament studies in the world but also is based on principles that distinguish it from the Synodal translation (1858-1876) that is familiar to many Russian Christians. In contrast to the earlier translations of sacred texts, that strive as much as possible for a literal rendition of the original, translations of the second half of the twentieth century that have been produced under the aegis of Bible societies (and not them alone) have attempted primarily to render the meaning of what is written in holy scripture.

It is necessary to say that V.N. Kuznetsova has completely mastered the method of translating the meaning of the biblical text, which has made her translations that have been appearing in previous years extremely popular among persons interested in the New Testament. Now they are all collected under a single title, "Good News." That is the meaning of the Greek word "euangelion."  The press run in 40,000 copies, which is extremely large for a religious publication in our country. However it is likely that it will be necessary to reprint. (tr. by PDS, posted 2 January 2002)

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Moldovan church conflict

PATRIARCH URGED NOT TO RESIST EUROPEAN COURT
Religiia v Rossii, 2 January 2002

An advisor on culture of the Bessarabian metropolia of the Romanian Orthodox church, Archpriest Ioann Chuntu, urged Alexis II to agree to the participation of the European Court on Human Rights in the resolution of the question of recognition of the juridical status of the Bessarabian metropolia, "Blagovest-info" reports.  He sent a letter to the primate of the Russian Orthodox church in which he explained the reasons that prompted the Bessarabian metropolia to appeal to the European court.

Over the course of a decade, beginning from the time of the rebirth of the Bessarabian metropolia within the Romanian Orthodox church, Patriarch Alexis II has often called the leadership of Moldova not to register this structure since it is operating on the "canonical territory" of the Moscow patriarchate. As a result, the metropolia was forced to appeal to the European Court on Human Rights in order to rectify its legal status.

Archpriest Ioann Chuntu pointed out to the head of RPTs the necessity "of rejecting the imperial spirit by which residents of Bessarabia have been treated for centuries." The archpriest thinks that the current status quo, in which more than 95 percent of the Orthodox parishes of Moldova belong to RPTs, has been complicated "throughout the course of history by Russian hegemony." The representative of the metropolia is convinced that the intervention of the European Court of Human Rights in the conflict between the Russian and Romanian Orthodox churches will turn out to be effective. (tr. by PDS, posted 2 January 2002)

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Possible step closer to resolution of Estonian Orthodox problem

NEW LAW PASSED IN ESTONIA
Religiia v Rossii, 2 January 2002

The Estonian parliament passed a law "On churches and parishes," taking into account comments from the judicial service of the president of the country. The law creates a normative legal basis for the activity of churches, parishes, monasteries, and religious societies on the territory of the country.

With regard to this, the chairman of the United People's Party (ONP) fraction in the Estonian parliament, Viktor Andreev, noted:  "Upon the suggestion of our fraction, the legal commission of the parliament removed the harsh article from the document that did not permit the registration of churches that have their administrative centers outside of the country and those whose administrative centers are within the country but whose decisions were subject to confirmation by some body outside the country."

On the basis of an earlier version of the law, the Estonian Orthodox church of the Moscow patriarchate was not able to obtain registration since according to its charter decisions of councils which were of a substantive nature were to be confirmed by Patriarch Alexis of Moscow and all-Rus, "Russkaia liniia" reports.

At the same time, Viktor Andreev noted that the former law on churches and parishes will remain in effect until 1 July 2002 and it prohibits registration of the Estonian Orthodox church of the Moscow patriarchate as previously. The church has been forced to file suit against the Estonian Ministry of Internal Affairs for its refusal to register its charter over the course of eight years.

"I hope that by 9 January, the day the trial is to begin, it will be possible to settle the issue of the registration of the charter of the Estonian Orthodox church of the Moscow patriarchate out of court," Andreev emphasized. He said that a commission is now working to resolve this problem. The Estonian side is headed by the Estonian ambassador to Moscow, Katrin Yani. (tr. by PDS, posted 2 January 2002)

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