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To RF Prosecutor General V.V. Ustinov
Esteemed Mr. Prosecutor!
Recently the first vice-speaker of the State Duma of RF, Liubov Sliska,
engaged in expressions that are absolutely impermissible for a representative
of the supreme legislative body of the country. Having expressed support
for the teaching of the foundations of "traditional religions" in the schools,
she declared that in doing so priority must be given to Orthodoxy. As reported
on 17 June 2005 by the RIA Novosti news agency, the first vice-speaker
said: "I categorically oppose teaching in our country the ideas of Mormons,
Seventh-Day Adventists, and Jehovah's
We consider that the public statement of the representative of the supreme legislative body of RF are clearly discriminatory with regard to the three religious associations she specifically mentioned, and particularly with regard to the church of Christian Seventh-Day Adventists, which is officially registered by the Ministry of Justice of RF, operates legally on the territory of our country, does not commit any illegal actions, and, consequently, should enjoy the same rights and protection as the others.
The statements by Liubov Sliska contain calls for restriction of the rights and disparagement of the human dignity of adherents of the church of Christian Seventh-Day Adventists on the basis of attitude toward religion (Art. 282, Criminal Code RF)
In connection with this we ask that you conduct a prosecutorial investigation of this event and take corresponding legal measures with regard to Deputy Sliska.
President of West Russian Union of Seventy-Day Adventists,
Member of Council for Relations with Religious Associations of Presidential Administration RF
To President of State Duma
Mr. B.V. Gryzlov
Esteemed Boris Viacheslavovich!
The church of Seventh-Day Adventists in Russia expresses serious concern in connection with the statement by a member of the Supreme Council of the "United Russia" party, the first deputy of the president of the State Duma of RF, Liubov Konstantinovna Sliska, with regard to the question of teaching the foundations of traditional religions in Russian schools.
In material under the title "Liubov Sliska--for study of foundations of traditional religions in Russian schools," posted on the official site of the United Russia party on 15.06.05, there is an excerpt from an interview of Mrs. Sliska in which she states her opposition to " teaching in our country the ideas of Mormons, Seventh-Day Adventists, and Jehovah's Witnesses. . . . It is necessary to be oriented to those religious confessions that have traditionally existed in Russia. . . ."
The church of Seventh-Day Adventists numbers more than 60,000 adherents united in 1,500 congregations and groups. Next year the church will mark its 120th anniversary of official activity on the territory of Russia. All these years the church of Seventh-Day Adventists has actively labored for the welfare of our country and our nation by conducting spiritual and moral education and providing social and medical aid for the needy. In the period of the civil war and after its conclusion, Adventists displayed great help in restoring the economy of the country and healing those wounds that these difficult years inflicted on our nation. In the years of the Great Patriotic War members of the church defended our motherland, serving in hospitals and medical squads, working heroically in the rear and guaranteeing a great victory. Together with representatives of other confessions, Adventists took upon themselves the heavy burden of great suffering in the period of persecution of the church on the part of atheist authorities. Today Seventh-Day Adventists continue to serve their country sincerely. The church conducts numerous programs of spiritual and moral contents and programs for preventing harmful habits such as alcoholism, smoking, and drug addiction that ruin the health of the nation, and they provide social and medical aid.
The church of Seventh-Day Adventists cooperates with representatives of the Russian Orthodox church, the protestant churches of Russia, and other traditional confessions of our country. Every year the church participates in the Interconfessional Exhibitions conducted on the grounds of the All-Russian Exhibition Center in Moscow. Representatives of the church actively participate in the work of the Consultative Council for Relations with Religious Associations of the presidential administration of RF, the Commission for Relations with Religious Associations of the government of the Russian federation, the State Duma Committee for Affairs of Public Associations and Religious Organizations and in various regional bodies for relations with religious associations. According to testimony of leading Russian scholars of religion, particularly of scholars of the "Religious Studies" department of the Russian Academy of State Service of the presidential administration of RF, the church of Seventh-Day Adventists has the right to be considered a Christian protestant denomination that is traditional for Russia.
We consider the statement by Mrs. Sliska to be a gross mistake that discredits our church in the eyes of the Russian public. We ask you to take appropriate measures for overcoming this mistake by providing objective information about the activity of the church of Seventh-Day Adventists to the esteemed State Duma deputy, Mrs. Sliska, and by removing the specific information on the official site of the "United Russia" party and the site of the State Duma of RF.
With respect and prayer for you
President of West-Russian Union,
Member of Council for Relations with Religious Associations of the Presidential Adminitration RF
(tr. by PDS, posted 23 June 2005)
Posted on Portal-credo.ru site, 22 June 2005
The representative of the Holy See in the Russian federation, Archbishop Antonio Mennini, corrected the position expressed by the head of Russian Catholics, Metropolitan Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, regarding teaching the foundations of religion in the schools.
On 7 June 2005 a deputy of the chairman of OVTsSMP, Bishop of Egorievsk Mark, sent a letter to Archbishop Antonio Mennini in connection with a statement by Archbishop Kondrusiewicz at a session of the Council for Relations with Religions Associations of the presidential administration of Russia, where the Catholic hierarch specifically "warned against a hasty decision of the problems of religious education" in Russian schools.
Such a position of the leadership of Catholic structures in Russia and previously expressed critical statements of the part of Catholic on the question of teaching "Foundations of Orthodox Culture" in Russian schools were taken at RPTsMP as "undermining dialogue between the two churches" and "causing serious harm to the business of preaching Christian values" in our country.
In a response letter to Bishop Mark, which was released by the Communications Service of OVTsSMP, the nuncio stressed: "Your Blessedness! I will be grateful to you if you will assure His Holiness Patriarch Alexis II and His Eminence Metropolitan Kirill that the Catholic church in Russia will support the attempts of the Russian Orthodox church with regard to religious and spiritual education of the Russian people, in a spirit of respect, as your Blessedness stressed, for the principles of freedom of conscience."
The nuncio cited the declaration "Gravissimus Educationis," which specifically testifies that the Roman Catholic church, "acknowledging its most important obligation to be carefully concerned for the moral and religious education of all of its children, has demonstrated its special love and help for a multitude of children receiving education in non-Catholic schools." The representative of the Holy See affirmed that the Vatican "always has welcomed the teaching of the Catholic religion in all schools."
Further, Antonio Mennini pointed to the experience of cooperation between the Vatican and the Italian government, citing the text of an agreement of 18 February 1984 and the Lateran Concordat of 11 February 1929, signed by the Italian republic and the Holy See. It states, specifically: "The Italian republic, acknowledging the value of religious culture and taking into account that the principles of Catholicism are a part of the historical heritage of the Italian people, will assure in the future, within the context of the purposes of the schools, the teaching of the Catholic religion in all public educational institutions below the university level. In the spirit of respect for the freedom of conscience and the responsibilities of parents, each person is guaranteed the right to chose or not to chose the above mentioned subject. School children and their parents exercise this right at the time of enrollment upon the request of the school administration, and their choice cannot evoke any forms of discrimination." (tr. by PDS, posted 23 June 2005)
The religious situation in Ukraine became a topic of conversation between the head of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow patriarchate (OVTsSMP), Metropolitan Kirill, and the head of the Pontifical Council for Promotion of Christian Unity, Cardinal Walter Kasper, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, vice-chairman of OVTsS, told RIA Novosti. He said the Orthodox side stated firmly to the high ranking representative of the Vatican that the transfer of the see of the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic church (UGKTs) from Lvov to Kiev will become an impediment for Orthodox-Catholic dialogue.
"It is the conviction of the Orthodox side that the implementation of this intention of Ukrainian Greek Catholics may create a serious impediment for the development of Orthodox-Catholic relations, the desire for which has been expressed by the heads of the two churches (Patriarch Alexis II and Pope Benedict XVI), and which their believers need now, as do the peoples of Europe and the world as a whole," the agency's interlocutor stressed. He said that the Orthodox side hopes its position "will be taken into account in working out the policy of the Vatican with respect to Ukraine."
As the Communications Service of OVTsSMP notes, it was also stated in the conversation that the idea of mentioning Kiev in the title of the head of UGKTs is impermissible from a canonical, ecclesiastical, and pastoral point of view. (tr. by PDS, posted 23 June 2005)
The head of the papal Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Walter Kasper, thinks that relations between the Orthodox and Catholic churches have improved recently. He stated this in responding to a question from RIA Novosti after a mass in the Catholic cathedral church in Moscow.
"In recent times relations between the Orthodox and Catholic churches have improved because the churches themselves have much in common. These include the commandments and the sacrament of the Eucharist," the cardinal said.
In particular, he noted saints held in common, upon whose help he relies in ecumenical dialogue (about the unity of Christians). The cardinal expressed the hope that his current visit to Moscow and upcoming conversations with the head of the Department for External Church Relations, Metropolitan Kirill, also will facilitate the development of dialogue.
The representative of the Vatican said that one of the concrete steps for improving Orthodox-Catholic relations was the creation this year of a joint commission for resolving specific problems that are impeding the development of interchurch dialogue.
He also spoke with optimism about the issue of future relations between Orthodox and Greek Catholics in Ukraine, where recently attempts have been made by Uniates to seize Orthodox churches. (tr. by PDS, posted 22 June 2005)
VATICAN WILL CONDUCT DIALOGUE WITH RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH "IN BABY
Mir religii, 22 June 2005
The Vatican is not planning to make long strides in dialogue with the Moscow patriarchate, although there will be some achievements, the head of the papal Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Walter Kasper, who is in Moscow for a working visit, Interfax reports.
"I am here in order to repeat the proposals that our side has already aired. But it is not only we who must make steps; dialogue is always a two-way matter, in which both sides participate. We want to see what we can do together and what the possibilities are. There will be no long strides; there will be only baby steps. Many baby steps also will lead to the goal," the cardinal said in an interview with the Russian Catholic newspaper "Svet Evangeliia."
In his words, during the upcoming conversations with Metropolitan Kirill the relations between the Orthodox and Greek Catholics in Ukraine will not be discussed; the two sides will concentrate on problems within Russia.
Kasper also expressed hope that in the autumn of this year they could
manage to revive the work of the joint theological commission which was
created in the 1980s and in which the Catholic and all Orthodox churches
participated. The last plenary assembly of the commission was held in 2001
in Baltimore, USA. Since then the commission has not gathered. "Since all
Orthodox churches, including the Russian church, wish to develop dialogue
within the framework of this commission, they have agreed to revive theological
dialogue. There is nothing absolutely new in this. Of course, we must reorganize
the commission and we hope that in the autumn we can get to work again,"
the cardinal said. (tr. by PDS, posted 22 June 2005)
KASPER: WE WANT TO CONTINUE AND INTENSIFY DIALOGUE
Svet Evangeliia, 22 June 2005
On the evening of 21 June 2005, correspondents Olga Karpova and Viktor Khrul talked with the head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Walter Kasper.
Correspondents: Your blessedness, the press secretary of the Vatican, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, in announcing your visit to Moscow, stressed that dialogue with the Moscow patriarchate was continued during the solemn inauguration of the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI. Does this mean that your visit to Moscow will become the beginning of a new stage in the dialogue with the Russian Orthodox church?
Cardinal Walter Kasper: Actually, Metropolitan Kirill attended the ceremonies of the solemn inauguration of the pontificate of Benedict XVI, and on the next day the pope received the metropolitan. During the half-hour conversation the two sides decided to continue discussion of the main problems existing in our relations.
And now we want to continue and even intensify this dialogue. Immediately after his election the pope announced that ecumenism will be his top priority. We have come here in order to see what kind of new step we can undertake.
--The patriarch has often stated that the Russian Orthodox church wishes to see concrete steps by the Vatican. Just what will these steps be?
--For now I cannot say. I must first meet with Metropolitan Kirill and have a talk with him.
--Yes, but are you here in order to propose something concrete to him?
--There will be nothing new. I am here in order to repeat proposals our side has already aired. But it is not just we who must take steps; dialogue is always a two-way matter in which both sides participate. We want to see just what we can do together. We will see the possibilities; there will be no great strides, only baby steps. Many baby steps also will lead to the goal. Two sides are involved in a dialogue and therefore steps must be taken by both sides.
--These two sides are the Moscow patriarchate and the Holy See. And will the local Catholic community be involved in this dialogue?
--Without the participation of the local Catholic community ecumenism is purely abstract. I had a long conversation with Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz. He has already been informed about everything and he will be informed in the future. And all steps taken previously were made along with the local Catholic church in Russia.
Yes, there are relations between the Holy See and the Moscow patriarchate, but there also are relations between the local Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches, and both forms of these relations must be coordinated with each other; that is clear.
--This time you are not going to meet with Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus. Was this planned in advance?
--Actually, I did not ask the patriarch for a meeting, because the work is only beginning. My visit is not surrounded with all the formalities. Therefore such a meeting is not yet needed. Our goal is to discuss specific technical matters.
--Will you discuss, in particular, questions connected with the Ukrainian Greek Catholic church?
--No, I am not supposed to talk about another church. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic church must itself conduct a dialogue. Therefore the "Ukrainian" issue will not be included in the agenda of the conversations. I must say that on this question the new pope occupies the same position as John Paul II.
--That means, you will concentrate only on local Russian problems?
--Yes. We will not discuss Ukrainians, but what the Holy See and RPTsMP can do together in Europe and for Europe, for the defense of Christian values on the continent. That is the sphere of our common interests.
--When you went to Bari for the National Eucharistic Congress you said that there is every reason to hope for a revival in the fall of the international dialogue with the Orthodox churches. Just what did you have in mind?
--In the 1980s we assembled a joint theological commission in which the Catholic church and all Orthodox churches took part. The last plenary assembly was held in 2001 in Baltimore, USA. Since then the commission has not gathered together.
Since all Orthodox churches, including the Russian, wish to develop a dialogue within the framework of this commission, they have agreed to revive theological dialogue. There is nothing absolutely new in this. Of course, we have to reorganize the commission, and we hope to get to work again in the autumn.
--Some time back Orthodox Bishop Mark, a deputy of the chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow patriarchate, wrote a letter to Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Antonio Mennini, requesting a clarification of the position of the Catholic church on the question of teaching religion in Russian schools. Will this position be published?
--The apostolic nuncio answered this letter and has already sent an answer to Bishop Mark. But the time to publish this letter has still not arrived. I think that this answer satisfied the Moscow patriarchate.
--Your blessedness, all that you have said is very important for a Russian audience. Does the schedule for your visit provide for a press conference on the results of the meeting with Metropolitan Kirill?
--No, a press conference is not planned because I first must meet with the Holy Father and inform him about the conversations and only afterward will I step before reporters. (tr. by PDS, posted 22 June 2005)
Posted on the Portal-credo.ru site, 22 June 2005
Prosecutor General V.V. Ustinov
Esteemed Mister Prosecutor!
We address you in connection with recent statements by representatives of offices of the procuracy and other branches of state authority and by representatives of extremist-minded public associations that contain discrimination with respect to citizens and associations based on attitude toward religion, disparagement of the human dignity of believers, and calls to prohibit their legal activity.
1. On 3 June at a meeting with state and public organizations and leaders of basic confessions of Kuban, Sergei Eremin, the prosecutor of Krasnodar territory, stated that the activity "of sects inimical to the Russian state . . . will be cut off at the root by all legal methods, and if it becomes necessary, by illegal ones."
We suggest that such statements are simply unthinkable from the lips of a territorial prosecutor. His admission of the possibility of violating the laws for "struggle with sects" is a violation both of the constitution of RF, whose preservation the offices of the prosecutor is called to assure, and of the federal law "On the procuracy of the Russian Federation." According to article 40.4 of the former, the prosecutor takes a sacred oath upon assuming office to observe the constitution, laws, and international obligations of RF, without permitting the least violation of them." and he also acknowledges that violation of the oath is "incompatible with further tenure within the procuracy." From statements of the prosecutor of Krasnodar territory, however, one can draw the conclusion that this consciousness for him has weakened to a considerable degree; otherwise it would be impossible, for example, for the territorial prosecutor's office to refuse to open a criminal case over an incident of flagrant violation of the law by the territorial state television company "New Television of Kuban," which slandered in one of its programs the local Adventist church, accusing it of performing human sacrifices. In these statement the prosecutor of Krasnodar territory also has violated the principle of the independence of offices of the prosecutor from ideology and politics.
2. Recently the first vice-speaker of the State Duma, Liubov Sliska, also made statements that are absolutely impermissible for a representative of the supreme legislative body of the country. Having expressed support for teaching the foundations of "traditional religions" in the schools, she stated that priority should be given in this to Orthodoxy. As reported 17 June 2005 by the RIA-Novosti news agency, the first vice-speaker said: "I categorically oppose teaching in our country the ideas of Mormons, Seventh-Day Adventists, and Jehovah's Witnesses."
We consider that the public statements of a representative of the supreme legislative body of RF are clearly discriminatory with respect to the three religious associations she specifically mentioned. One can have a variety of assessments of their doctrines, including critical ones, but the vice-speaker of the State Duma should know that they all are officially registered by the Ministry of Justice of RF, they operate legally on the territory of our country, they do not commit any illegal actions, and, consequently, they should enjoy the same rights and protection that others do. Liubov Sliska's statement contain calls for the restriction of the rights and disparagement of the human dignity of the followers of these religions on the basis of attitude toward religion (Art. 282, Criminal Code, RF)
3. By contrast, representatives of the state who are obeying the constitution and laws of RF in their duties are coming under increasing harassment on the part of extremist-minded public associations. Thus, recently Russian Minister of Education Andrei Fursenko stated with regard to teaching the foundations of religion in the schools that in the organization of such an academic course "no kind of preference may be given in the schools to separate religions" and the new course "Foundations of Religions" would deal with "all confessions of Russia." In response to this statement, that is completely in keeping with the spirit and letter of the law, the "Union of Orthodox Citizens" distributed a statement demanding the dismissal of the minister. The reason is ridiculous: "The minister of education is making ever more anti-Orthodox statements and is ever more setting himself against the Orthodox majority of citizens of Russia."
The Slavic Legal Center hopes that the Prosecutor General's office will devote urgent attention to the unlawful statement of the prosecutor of Krasnodar territory and vice-speaker of the State Duma, and will give them a principled legal evaluation and take the necessary measures of prosecutorial regulation. In the case of the prosecutor of Krasnodar territory, it would be appropriate to raise the question of his professional responsibility. We think that such statements should receive a stern rebuke, inasmuch as, since they come from a highly placed representative of the state, they promote, as none other would, an escalation of religious intolerance and conflict within society and an infringement upon the right of religious minorities.
Attorneys Anatoly Pchelintsev and Vladimir Riakhovsky
Slavic Legal Center
(tr. by PDS, posted 21 June 2005)
Members of the "Emmanuel" central church of Christians of Evangelical Faith (Pentecostals) of Moscow renewed picketing at 11.00 on 20 June in connection with the arbitrariness of Moscow bureaucrats who virtually confiscated from the congregation a parcel of land allocated for construction of a spiritual culture center, a Portal-credo.ru correspondent reports. In addition, members of "Emmanuel" church are protesting against delays in preparing documents for reconstruction of a decrepit building that had been a house of culture in Solntsevo, which it bought for creation of a house of worship.
This demonstration will continue daily from 11.00 to 17.00 in Novopushkin Square on Pushkin Square, where the authorities transferred it from Tver Square across from Moscow city hall, where it was held from 30 May to 3 June. At that time police illegally dispersed the demonstration and around thirty church members were arrested and subjected to fines of up to 1,000 rubles. Two pastors of "Emmanuel" church and one pastor from a suburb of St. Petersburg were subjected to administrative detention for five days.
At the same time, an individual picket by one of the members of "Emmanuel" church is being conducted on Tver Square, which may be conducted without informing authorities.
Today the demonstration proceeded without excesses on the part of Moscow police. Nobody has bothered the picketers and no amassing of police around them has been observed. (tr. by PDS, posted 20 June 2005)
ALL ARRESTED PICKETERS OF "EMMANUEL" CHURCH RELEASED AND PREPARING FOR
Portal-credo.ru, 17 June 2005
At the present time all persons arrested during demonstrations organized by the Moscow "Emmanuel" Pentecostal church from 30 May to 3 June and during a prayer vigil on 12 June on Tver Square across from Moscow city hall are free, a Portal-credo.ru correspondent reports. On 15 June that last one, church presbyter and press secretary Yury Popov, was released from isolation at the State Directorate of Internal Affairs.
All persons detained on 12 June appeared, as ordered, at the Department of Internal Affairs of Khamovniki and Tver districts, where they had been taken on the day of arrest. A Khamovniki justice of the peace refused to review the cases of the detainees and they were released. The cases with regard to them at the Tver court also were not reviewed, but there was not explanation why. The senior pastor of "Emmanuel" church told a Portal-credo.ru correspondent that police Major A.P. Krylov was extremely displeased by this; Krylov directed all "operations" of these days and personally arrested may of the protestant believers.
One unexpected development during the course of the assembly-line judicial review of the cases of picket participants came out: one of the picketers, Sergei Matveenko, who conducted an individual picket, that is, he stood in solitude with a placard on Tver Square, which does not require notification of the administration, was acquitted by Justice of Peace Kovalevskaia. The acting prosecutor of Tver district of Moscow, V.B. Sergeev, sent a protest against this decision by the justice of peace to the president of Tver district court, O.V. Sergeeva. He made a baseless appeal to article 8 of the Russian federation law "On gatherings, meetings, demonstrations, processions and picketing," part two of which gives an exhaustive list of places where public events are not permitted, which cannot be supplemented by law enforcement officials.
Now "Emmanuel" church is preparing for conducting pickets from 20 to 25 June from 11.00 to 17.00 at Novopushkin Square, Yury Popov reports. The conduct of the demonstrations has been arranged with the prefecture of the Central Administrative District and all documents for the events have been drawn up and are in the hands of the leadership of the church. The church has planned a demonstration for 26 June there, but so far it has received only oral consent of bureaucrats of the prefecture for conducting it. Also planned are daily individual pickets on Tver Square, for which, as stated above, prior notification of the authorities is not required.
At the same time Yury Popov reported that according to information received by the church but not officially confirmed, the State Directorate of Internal Affairs of Moscow has distributed an order that requires police officers not to permit "mass gatherings" of parishioners of "Emmanuel" church. (tr. by PDS, posted 20 June 2005)
The Tenth Appellate Court of mediation rejected yesterday the appeal of the administration of the Balashikin district demanding that the right of ownership by the Moscow Presbyterian Ecclesiastical Academy of the building it is occupying be found invalid. The building is located within the district.
The building was allocated to the academy back in 1995 by the Pekhra-Pokrov village administration, initially on lease but a year later the academy was granted ownership.. The academy assumed responsibility to complete capital repairs of the building. The Moscow Presbyterian Ecclesiastical Academy's right to ownership was registered in accordance with established legal procedure.
The Pekhra-Pokrov village is located within the Balashikhin district of Moscow province. In 1997 the Balashikhin district of Moscow province was made a municipality and it comprised all villages located within its territory, including Pekhra-Pokrov, which lost its status as a municipality.
In July of last year the administration of the Balashikhin district addressed the mediation court of Moscow province with a demand to find the decision of Pekhra- Pokrov village allocating the building to be of no effect, as well as the Moscow Presbyterian Ecclesiastical Academy's right of ownership and, consequently, to restore the right of ownership of this building to the Balashikhin district.
It is interesting that these actions by the administration coincide in time with its undertaking attempts to confiscate the building of yet another religious organizations, the "Kovcheg" Baptist church, about which the Slavic Legal Center has previously reported. As in the case of the "Kovcheg" [The Ark] church, the court did not satisfy the demand to find the academy's right of ownership invalid. However the Balashikhin administration was not satisfied with this and appealed the decision to the Tenth Appellate Court of Moscow province, which also found it without basis. (tr. by PDS, posted 20 June 2005)
If material is quoted, please give credit to the publication from which it came.
It is not necessary to credit this Web page. If material is transmitted electronically, please include reference to the URL, http://www.stetson.edu/~psteeves/relnews/.