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Orthodox diocese prevents Jehovah's Witnesses' event

Interfax, 8 July 2005

The director of the Sverdlovsk Railroad, Shevket Shaidullin, cancelled the decision to make available the "Lokomotiv" stadium in Ekaterinburg, which is owned by the railroad workers, for holding a provincial congress of members of the totalitarian sect of "Jehovah's Witnesses."

As the "Interfax-Ural" news agency has been informed at the evangelism department of the Ekaterinburg diocese, such a decision was made in connection with an open letter that was sent this week to the director of the railroad, in which Orthodox believers requested that the sports complex not be provided for the sectarians. The director of the department noted: "In sum, the congress of Jehovists was not held and 4,000 sectarians were sent away with nothing."

In the letter to the director of the railroad the evangelism department noted that the Jehovah's Witnesses' summer provincial congress is not so much a religious as a political and accounting event. The diocese thinks: "It is a peculiar kind of review of the forces, reckoning the success that the 'salespersons' have been able to achieve in a year." (tr. by PDS, posted 8 July 2005)

Religiia v svetskom obshchestve, 6 July 2005

The evangelism department of the Ekaterinburg diocese sent to the director of the Sverdlovsk railroad, Shevket Shaidullin a request to cancel the congress of Jehovah's Witnesses that is scheduled for 8-9 July in the "Lokomotiv" stadium that the railroad owns.

A press release sent to Shaidullin says that the event "is a peculiar kind of review of the forces, reckoning the success that the 'salespersons' have been able to achieve in a year." According to the director of the evangelism department, Fr Vladimir Zaitsev, the management of the stadium "acted in haste" when it provided it to the Jehovah's Witnesses for 90,000 rubles. The diocese expressed the hope that intervention by the head of the railroad will help "correct this hasty situation" and refuse to provide the Witnesses a place to conduct the congress.

Previously, Orthodox believers of Voronezh had protested against the Jehovah's Witnesses' holding of a congress.  [see "Jehovah's Witnesses threatened by legislators"] (tr. by PDS, posted 8 July 2005)

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New patriarchal pretender in Ukraine


The enthronement of the patriarch of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Conciliar Church (UAPSTs) was conducted in the Holy Wisdom cathedral in Kiev on 18 June, the official site of this church reports. The new patrarich is Metropolitan of Kiev and all-Rus-Ukraine Moisei Kulik.

The patriarch of UAPSTs was chosen at the first council (sobor) of this church, which was held in Kiev 15-17 June with the participation of bishops, clergy, and laity from North and South America, Europe, and Africa.

UAPSTs traces its origins to the splintering of the Polish church, headed by Metropolitan Dionisy Valedinsky. In 1924 the Polish church received autocephalous status from Ecumenical Patriarch Grigory VII; at the time of World War II it went into diaspora.

Patriarch Moisei (secular name Oleg Kulik) is a former cleric of UPTsKP and UAPTs. He hopes that his church will be recognized by the ecumenical patriarchate and by other local churches. However for now UAPSTs does not even have official registration in Ukraine. (tr. by PDS, posted 7 July 2005)

Religious Information Service of Ukraine, 28 June 2005

From 15 through 17 June 2005, bishops, clergy and faithful from North America, South America, Europe, Africa and the Caribbean, representing nearly 40 countries, arrived in Kyiv to participate in the first sobor [assembly] of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church-Canonical (UAOC-C). The church's head, Metropolitan Moisei, was elevated to the rank of patriarch during the sobor.

According to the press office of Bishop Ioan, Bishop of the Midwest (USA) of the UAOC-C, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church-Canonical was originally established in 1924 with a Tomos issued by Gregorios VII, ecumenical patriarch, re-establishing the historic Kyivan-Rus (Ukrainian) Metropolitanate as an autocephalous church, placing the responsibility of establishing a new synod of bishops upon the metropolitan archbishop of Warsaw, Dionisij Walenynskyj. Through the years, because of the war and its resulting partitions, the bishops of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church-Canonical were forced into exile. In 2002, Metropolitan Moisei (Kulyk), head of the UAOC-C, returned from the diaspora to re-establish the church in Ukraine and to unite all the various churches which had developed in the diaspora.

According to the press office, the principle objective of the sobor was to affirm the standing of the UAOC-C with respect to the Tomos of 1924 and to call upon the ecumenical patriarch and the other canonical Orthodox churches throughout the world to support its legitimacy both historically and canonically. The other objectives of the sobor were to report on and to analyze the growth and work done by the UAOC-C in its mother-church of Ukraine and throughout the world, to familiarize everyone with the various situations in which the UAOC-C lives and functions and to recommend ways in which the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church may grow and develop in the future.

On Saturday, 17 June, the synod of bishops elevated Metropolitan Moisei to the office of patriarch of the UAOC-C in a ceremony at the Cathedral of Saint Sophia and enthroned Patriarch Moisei on Sunday, June 18 at the Cathedral of Saint Sophia. Afterwards, the new patriarch, bishops, clergy and people walked to the offices of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko to symbolically ask for recognition by the Ukrainian government.

Bishop Ioan of the United States told reporters: "Despite statements to the contrary by the government of Ukraine, there is no religious freedom in Ukraine. President Yushchenko has never responded to the requests of the UAOC-C for registration, and he has completely ignored the five letters the bishops from around the world have written to him. Yushchenko, whom all our bishops, as individuals, and the faithful of our church, had supported during the Orange Revolution, has unilaterally attempted to crush us. We have no option other than to make the suppression of our church known to the governments of the United States and the European Union."

According to the press office, the church is growing rapidly, and, as a result, the sobor celebrated the ordinations of Bishop-elect Chrysostomos as bishop of Ecuador and Bishop-elect Vsevolod as bishop of the Ternopil-Bukovyna eparchy. In addition, Charles Smollen, an American national stationed at a US Army base in Germany, was ordained to the priesthood by Patriarch Moisei for service in the Diocese of the Midwest.

RISU note: The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church-Canonical was previously known as the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church-Sobornopravna [governed by the sobor].

Source: press office of Bishop Ioan, Bishop of the Midwest (USA)

Posted on Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church Canonical site

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Pro-Moscow Ukrainians demonstrate


On 29 June several thousand Orthodox Kievans picketed the building of the Supreme Soviet protesting against plans for accelerated integration with Europe and attempts to separate the Ukrainian Orthodox church from the Moscow patriarchate, Interfax reports.

Participants in the action chanted:  "No to Autocephaly," "No to Autonomy," "No to Uniates," "Our patriarch is Alexis II." They also expressed protest against interference by the Constantinople patriarchate in the affairs of UPTsMP, and they called the hierarchy to remember the social doctrine of the church, according to which in cases where the actions of the state bother the conscience of believers, the church can withdraw its confidence from the state and call its children to peaceful civil disobedience.

In particular, the picketers were dissatisfied by the interference of the state in church life and "the adventure of creating a united local Ukrainian church."

The participants in the picketing expressed sharp opposition to the transfer of the see of the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic church from Lvov to Kiev and they declared that "the so-called Ukrainian local church would be Uniate and not Orthodox, and therefore the Greek Catholics would build an "antilavra" on the left bank of the Dnepr." (tr. by PDS, posted 7 July 2005)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Court rejects appeal in antireligious art case


On 5 July in Moscow city court a session of the appeals court was held, which had reviewed the appeal from Yury Samodurov and Liudmila Vasilovskaia over the sentence of the Tagan district court in the case regarding the organizers of the "Beware, Religion!" exhibit in the museum of the Sakharov Community Center of Peace, Progress and Human Rights. The appeal was rejected and the sentence was left unchanged. L. Vasilevskaia was present at the session in the Moscow city court. Yu. Samodurov is in the hospital with pneumonia.

On 28 March Judge V.P. Proshenko of the Tagan district court found the director of the museum of the center, Yury Vadimovich Samodurov and museum associate Liudmila Viktorovna Vasilevskaia guilty of the crime stipulated in point b, part 2 of article 282 of the Criminal Code of the Russian federation (Incitement of hatred or hostility and disrespect for human dignity on the basis of sex, race, . . . or attitude to religion), and sentenced them to punishment in the form of a fine of 100,000 rubles each. A codefendant, the artist Anna Alexandrovna Mikhalchuk (Alchuk), was acquitted.

Inasmuch as the sentence of the Tagan district court has taken effect, Samodurov and Vasilovskaia must pay the fine assessed. The presidium of the Federal Policy Council of the "Union of Right Forces" political party issued a statement in connection with the decision of the Tagan court of Moscow in the case regarding the organizers of the "Beware, Religion!" exhibit, that "in the event they are forced to pay the fine assessed by the court, members of the party are prepared to reimburse the entire sum from their own personal means."

Attorneys for Samodurov and Vasilovskaia, O. Shmidt, K. Kostromina, and A. Stavitskaia, stated that the sentence will be appealed to the European Court on Human Rights in Strasbourg. (tr. by PDS, posted 6 July 2005)

Manifestation of atheism recognized by court as criminal offense
by Ekaterina Butorina
Vremia novostei, 6 July 2005

The sentence of the director of the museum of the Sakharov center, Yury Samodurov, and his associate Liudmila Vasilovskaia, who organized the "Beware, Religion!" exhibit has taken effect. They were sentenced in March of this year by the Tagan district court for incitement of hostility and demeaning human dignity on the basis of nationality and attitude toward religion. Yesterday the Moscow city court denied the appeal of the condemned, who asked for the sentence to be overturned and the criminal case to be closed.

Yesterday's session in the city court did not proceed in the manner of a traditional review of a criminal case. It was more like a discussion about whether one may openly express one's attitude toward religion and how one should assess one or another work of art, and whether the government has the right to intervene in such conflicts.

The sensational exhibit titled "Beware, Religion!" that was the subject of the criminal case was conducted in January 2003 in the museum of the Sakharov center. It contained more than thirty displays by artists, who in rather idiosyncratic ways expressed their attitude toward religion and toward the Russian Orthodox church, in particular. To be sure, the sentence named only ten of the "seditious" works. Among them, for example, was a "Coca Cola" display, "representing a colored advertisement containing the image of Jesus Christ and the inscription in English "This is my blood." Several days after the opening of the exhibit several persons broke into the museum and damaged the exhibition, smearing the displays with gobs of paint. The pogromists not only were not convicted, but, on the contrary, they were defended and a criminal case was opened against the organizers of the exhibit, Yury Samodurov and Liudmila Vasilovskaia, as well as against the artist Anna Mikhalchuk, who had helped assemble the displays; the case was based on the act of incitement of hostility and demeaning human dignity on the basis of attitude toward religion, specifically, Christianity.

In March of this year the Tagan district court issued the sentence against them. Mikhalchuk was acquitted, while Samodurov and Vasilovskaia were found guilty. Both were given punishments in the form of a fine of 100,000 rubles each.

Speaking at yesterday's session, Yury Samodurov's attorney, Yury Shmidt, called the court's attention to the fact that intervention by the state in affairs of society is a violation of the right of people to self-expression and open support for the dominant religion where the constitution establishes the principle of a secular state can lead to irreversible consequences. "Recently in Kostroma a bishop condemned the celebration of the children's holiday for Baba-Yaga under the pretext that this is a pagan  image and propaganda of paganism deflects youth from the proper training in a Christian spirit. You understand, Baba-Yaga has hindered them. Perhaps all Russian fairy tales should be forbidden," Mr. Shmidt said. He told the court that it remains unclear just how specifically the offense of the exhibit's organizers had been expressed and just which action  inciting hostility and demeaning dignity they had committed. "The Tagan court did not have the right to eliminate the shortcomings of the investigation, amend the indictment, and exceed its limits. But the court understood that it was simply not possible not to exceed these limits," Mr. Shmidt said. the sentence was based on nothing more than the personal opinion of the judge; it was not founded upon any evidence. The court declared that as a result of the actions of the accused, hostile attitudes had appeared in a substantial part of society, but this was nothing more than the fruit of the imagination of the judge." After these words by the attorney, shouts rang out in the courtroom:  "Do you not fear God's judgment!" "Antichrists!"  About ten persons who had arrived at the court manifested in their own ways how the dignity of Orthodox believers had been demeaned and how strong an enmity had been evoked in them by this exhibit. All during the session they held icons in front of themselves and prayed, stopping only to shout out ordinary insults of an antisemitic nature. Attorney Kseniia Kostromina spoke about the violation by the court of article 10 of the European Convention in Defense of Human Rights, which guarantees the right of each person to freedom of expression of opinion.

The state's attorney Kira Gudim called the attorney's conclusions "imaginary and lacking theoretical basis." "Everything that is being said now was a topic of careful study in the court of the first instance. We studied the religious, artistic, and philosophical aspects of the case and we heard all the specialists," she stated, and asked that the sentence be left without change.  And that is the way the court acted, and the adoption of the decision took it all of ten minutes.

But the attorneys were not surprised by the verdict. "When the prosecutor general, speaking to the Federation Council, says that he will conduct the building of prayer rooms in the lower prosecutors' offices, then what should one expect after this? It seems that this case was ordered, and those who ordered it were extremely authoritative," Mr. Shmidt said. In his opinion, this problem can be resolved only in the European Court for Human Rights. "I have not doubted for a minute that Strasbourg will find this sentence illegal and this will become the next shameful stain on the conscience of the Russian state," Mr. Shmidt declared. (tr. by PDS, posted 6 July 2005)

Russian original posted on site, 6 July 2005

See related article:  "Liberal party protests persecution of Sakharov Center"

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Ukrainian Greek-Catholics in Russia restricted

Fate of Ukrainian Greek Catholics in Russia in limbo
by Nadezhda Kevorkova
Gazeta, 5 July 2005

The Vatican renounced a centuries-old attempt to establish in Russia a Russian Catholic church of the Byzantine (Orthodox) rite. The Moscow patriarchate was informed of this by the representative of the Vatican in the capital of Russia, Archbishop Antonio Mennini. At the same time 1,500,000 Ukrainian Uniates who are citizens of the Russian federation are being deprived of elemental rights of confession of their faith.

The removal of one of the substantial impediments for reconciliation of the Vatican and Moscow: the Vatican has refused to support Russian Uniates (Orthodox believers who recognize the pramacy of the Roman pope). It is they who during the past fifteen years the Moscow patriarchate has considered the Vatican's main instrument in converting Orthodox persons to "latinism."

The Uniate churches were created by the Vatican on territories of all Orthodox churches. In Russia such a structure also existed from 1917 to 1930, and it was resurrected in 1990. The Russian Uniates differ in no way from Orthodox believers except that in the liturgy they commemorate the Roman pope as head of the church.

Last week the official site of the Moscow patriarchate made public excerpts of a letter from the representative of the Holy See to the Russian federation, Archbishop Antonio Mennini. It said that the creation of the exarchate of the Russian Catholic church of Byzantine rite did not have "juridical basis" on the part of the Vatican, and that activists operating in Russia in the name of the exarchate would have "several measures of canonical procedure" applied to them. [See "Disputes between Uniates and Catholics in Russia"]

Menini's letter reenforced June agreements reached at the time of the visit to Moscow by  the chief papal negotiator, Cardinal Walter Kasper. Cardinal Kasper assured the Moscow patriarchate back then that "the Holy See opposes decisively the creation of parallel hierarchical Greek Catholic structures in Russia." At the same time the cardinal indicated that "there are Greek Catholics in Russia, but bishops of the Latin rite should oversee their pastoral care." [See "High Vatican official in Moscow for talks"]

Whereas "Russian Uniates," who have become the topic of serious ecclesiastical correspondence, constitute barely a couple of hundred persons and there are no more than 300,000 Catholics in Russia, the Greek Catholics that have been assigned by the cardinal to "Latin care" constitute, by various estimates, from 500,000 to 1,500,000. These are citizens of Russia, living mainly in Siberia, the North, and the Far East, working in the petroleum industry. Ethnically they are western Ukrainians, descendants of exiles of the tsarist and soviet periods. "They are strong, invigorated, sober, with large families and many children, excellent workers, firm in their western Uniate faith, and dependent on no one. Hitherto they have been able to worship only in their own homes, and priests attend them on great feast days and secretly," Sergei Filatov told Gazeta; he is the director of the "Encyclopedia of Religious Life of Russia" project.

The pastoral care for this enormous, isolated flock has been worked out by Catholic Bishop Joseph Werth. At his administrative center located in Novosibirsk, Gazeta was told that they still have managed to register only three Ukrainian Greek Catholic parishes throughout all of western Siberia, where the flock numbers 400,000 persons (in all of RF five Uniate parishes have been registered). In Surgut, Nizhnevartovsk, Khanty-Mansiisk, Karalyma, and Kopeisk the authorities have refused them registration under any guise. According to workers in the headquarters, it is very difficult to invite priests from Ukraine to Siberia; so far they have managed to bring only two.

"The rights of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic church should be protected by the full weight of Russian legislation," Maksim Shevchenko, driector of the Center for the Strategic Study of Religion and Politics in the Modern World, told Gazeta. "Whereas Russian Uniates are the pure result of proselytism on the part of Rome, Ukrainian Greek Catholics are the representatives of a legal church that united millions of believers in western Ukraine."
(tr. by PDS, posted 5 July 2005)

Russian original posted on site, 5 July 2005

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Legal steps against antisemites


The Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia (FEOR) is preparing a court suit against the writers of antisemitic letters to the Russian Prosecutor General's office, RIA Novosti reports.

"We are now preparing a serious suit against public leaders who issued antisemitic statements and published them in news media. We want to approach this question more basically," the executive director of FEOR, Valery Engels, stated at a press conference in Moscow on 5 July.

According to the director of the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights, Alexander Brod, around ten letters have already been delivered to the Prosecutor General's office demanding the opening of a case with regard to the writers of antisemitic declarations. In particular, the president of the Russian Jewish Congress and members of the Federation Council, Vladimir Slutsker, filed personal suit for defense of honor and dignity. However, according to Brod, positive results have still not been forthcoming.

He stressed that in accordance with Russian legislation, the prosecutor's office has to raise in the State Duma the question of cancellation of immunity and holding responsible a number of persons, because the failure to punish their actions is a dangerous example.  "Today the director of the Novosibirsk community telephoned me; local chauvinists have repeated the experience and sent to the local prosecutor a similar antisemitic letter," Brod reported.

In addition, he noted that in the law enforcement and judicial bodies there already has been observed a proper tendency, and one of the reasons for the appearance of the scandalous antisemitic "Letter of 500" was "the increase of the practice of applying Article 282." "Around fifteen sentences have been imposed a year on the basis of article 282, whereas previously there had been none at all," the rights advocate calculates.

"However an institution for expert analysis in such cases is extremely underdeveloped," he noted. In addition he said that it is necessary to increase educational work. Authoritative intellectuals, creative union, and the scientific community should respond more actively to such incidents as the "Letter of 500." "We also have very few books that expose the xenophobic myths. The chauvinists issue about 300,000 books a year. Thus appropriate government programs are necessary," the rights advocate thinks. (tr. by PDS, posted 5 July 2005)

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