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Patriarch Alexis II's interview

I BELIEVE IN THE FUTURE OF RUSSIA
Pravoslavnyi Sankt-Peterburg, no. 3 (1997).

The March issue of the diocesan newspaper of St. Petersburg published a front page interview with Patriarch Alexis II. Among the topics touched upon, the patriarch repeated the church's wish for more legislative regulation of foreign missionary work in Russia. The patriarch's comments reflected some of the difficulties that the Orthodox church is facing in the time of regeneration of its activity. These included shortage of financial resources and the publication of accurate and acceptable information about Orthodoxy.

Full English text: I believe in the future of Russia

(posted 28 April 1997)


Import of tobacco and wine still dogs church

PASTORS ARE SECURING PENITENTS FOR THEMSELVES.

TRADE IN WINE AND CIGARETTES BRINGS A DOUBLE BENEFIT TO THE CHURCH
Segodnia, 28 March 1997 (review)

Despite an attempt by Nezavisimaia gazeta to lay to rest criticism raised last year about the Russian Orthodox church's importation of tobacco and alcohol products with privileged customs status, the newspaper Segodnia repeats the intimation of improper activity, suggesting that the chuch intends to do more of the same.

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8): Pastyri obespechivali

Full English translation: Pastors have guaranteed

(posted 16 April 1997)


Rutskoy tries to promote religion in schools

ALEXANDER RUTSKOY INTENDS TO UNITE CHURCH AND STATE
Segodnia, 21 March 1997 (full translation)

Beginning 1 September 1997 it is proposed that the study of the Law of God will be included in the schools. This is provided for in an agreement which the regional administration of Governor Alexander Rutskoy concluded with the Kursk diocesan administration of the Moscow patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox church. The document foresees "active joint activity for the study of Orthodox culture to achieve the regeneration of national traditions, spirituality, and morality." Meanwhile the majority of school directors have not agreed with this initiation, citing the constitution of the Russian Federation, in which the separation of church from state and freedom of conscience and religious confession are affirmed.

Segodnia 21 March 1997

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8): Aleksandr Rutskoi nameren


Continued delays on burial of tsar

RUSSIANS STILL SQUABBLING OVER CZAR'S BONES
Reuters, 10 March 1997 (excerpts)

YEKATERINBURG, Russia -- Nearly six years after they were dug up, the remains of Russia's last royal family still lie in the town mortuary in Yekaterinburg, the Urals city where revolutionary Bolsheviks shot them in 1918. . . .

However, Russia's Orthodox Church, of which Nicholas was once head, has raised doubts about the scientific findings. Their questions have not only put off a church decision on canonizing the czar, but have again delayed burial plans.

Moscow, which is building Russia's foremost cathedral, St. Petersburg, where other Romanov emperors are buried and Yekaterinburg all claim their city is the proper place to bury Nicholas, who renounced the throne 80 years ago this month to avert civil war. . . .

Followers of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, which broke with the Moscow-based church after the Bolshevik revolution, consider these bones holy relics, as they canonized the czar and his family in 1981.

The Moscow-based church, however, in February deferred a decision on making the czar and his family saints, even though there appears to be growing support for such a decision.

"Many of us think this should have been done long ago," said Oleg Murdasov, a carpenter who helped build a wooden chapel near the site of Nicholas II's death in the basement of the now-destroyed Ipatiyev House. . . .

Local believers have erected a small wooden church nearby, and a wooden roof covers the site of the proposed larger church. A tombstone gives the name of those who perished here. . . .

Both government and church officials say it may still be some time before the remains are finally removed from the city mortuary. Nevolin said he fears even more tests may have to be conducted to satisfy all doubters. "You can carry out investigations forever, much as an artist can continue adding paint to a canvas until the paint is finished. Now it is time to have the ritual and bury him." (Reuters)

Complete Reuters text: Russians still squabbling

(posted 10 March 1997)


Political themes in bishops' council

The reportage on the bishops' council in the public newspaper Nezavisimaia gazeta underscored the political meaning of certain actions of the hierarchs. Both the decision to postpone the issue of canonization of the last emperor to the next full council of the church and the excommunication of Ukrainian church leader Filaret Denisenko were viewed to have a substantial political component. While in the bishops' actions there was some concession to Russian nationalist desires, the general tone of the session seems to have been one of moderate compromise.

RUSSIAN BISHOPS' COUNCIL HAS ENDED
by Peter Semenov

Nezavisimaia gazeta, 22 February 1997 (complete text)

Yesterday the sessions of the bishops' council of the Russian Orthodox church, which ran from 18 to 21 February, came to an end. The period to 23 February for the 138 hierarchs, including 115 ruling diocesan bishops, 17 vicar bishops, and one retired bishop, will be devoted to a visit to the Saint Sergius Holy Trinity lavra and a joint supplicatory service in the cathedral of Christ the Savior.

The church public anxiously awaited the council. Sensational exposes, particularly about the so-called "tobacco affair," timed according to the opening of the council, created a pessimistic mood. Many expected a change in the leadership of the Moscow patriarchate. The attack on the Department of External Church Relations (OVTsS), headed by Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, was expected to cause embarrassment for Kirill and lead to his replacement. Rumors about a conflict within the church leadership, in particular about the charge from the chief of staff of the Moscow patriarchate, Archbishop Sergius of Solnenchnogorsk, about attempts by OVTsC to "boycott" the plans for the council, led to expectations that the council would be stormy.

However the pessimistic predictions were not justified. On the first day of the council Metropolitan Kirill and Archbishop Sergius sat side by side, calmly conversing for the television cameras.

Most Holy Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus delivered a report that aspired in some of its aspects to be historical. For example, the patriarch made a sharp criticism of the "new eldership," which enjoys great authority amongst Orthodox and which tends to consider each monk as a potential spiritual father regardless of his own spiritual experience.

The traditionalist believers, who had been upset by the prior sensation regarding Metropolitan Vladimir of Saint Petersburg and Ladoga who had delivered a sermon in his cathedral suggesting that it would be desirable to adopt a "new church style," were pleased by the report on ecumenical activity by Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk. His report noted that "eucharistic fellowship is impermissible entirely with those who do not belong to the canonical Orthodox church." This meant that Orthodox are forbidden to commune with representatives of other Christian denominations. At the same time, as Metropolitan Filaret said, "if it turns out that an Orthodox and Catholic, or Lutheran, want to pray together to the Lord at the same altar, this could hardly be a canonical crime."

One significant action of the bishops' council, even if it was expected, was handing over to a local council the decision on canonization of the royal family. The church did not wish to play the game of neomonarchism. And in any case the canonization is not so much a spiritual as a political matter. And politics is beyond of the interests of the church.

ANATHEMA WITH A POLITICAL SUBTEXT
by Maxim Shevchenko

Nezavisimaia gazeta, 22 February 1997

On Wednesday, 19 February, in the evening session of the Moscow bishops' council of the Russian Orthodox church the former Metropolitan Filaret Denisenko of Kiev and former priest Gleb Yakunin were put out of the church.

The council's action on the former undoubtedly exceeded the boundaries of internal church disputes, becoming a very important political action that profounding changes the situation in Russian-Ukrainian relations.

NG has written frequently about the church situation in Ukraine and about the opposition between the Ukrainian Autonomous church (Moscow patriarchate) which is the numerically dominant group but politically alien to the Kievan authorities and those churches which the regime does support. Obviously, the initiators of the council's decision could be bishops of the west Ukrainian districts (Avgustin of Lvov and Sergius of Ternopol) who, despite the small number of parishes under their jurisdiction, enjoy authority in the church as a result of their presistent and uncompromising struggle with autocephalists and uniates.

Filaret's story is quite typical for the stormly post-soviet period. This prominent church leader, after the election of Alexis II instead of him as patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus by the local council of 1990 contrary to all expectations, began a harsh opposition against his former colleagues in the Holy Synod. Originally repenting and swearing on the Gospel not to conduct schismatic activity he almost immediately upon his return from Moscow organized, with the support of the former president and father of Ukrainian independence, Leonid Kravchuk (some reports indicated their had nieghboring dachas), an independent church structure, the Ukrainian Orthodox church (Kiev patriarchate). At this time all the financial means of the Kievan metropolia, the richest in the RPTs, was transferred to his hands. Filaret was immediately recognized at the legal head of the Orthodox of Ukraine by the Kievan leaders, who announced a new course in the "emancipation from the vestiges of the soviet empire."

The paradox in this is that of all church leaders of the soviet era, really it was Filaret who most actively cooperated with the old authorities. Nowhere was the least church activity so suppressed "from above" as in Ukraine. Numerous cases are known when by Filaret's will priests were forbidden to minister because of church restoration work that was not sanctioned by the metropolitan.

Today in Ukraine there are three active Orthodox churches: Moscow patriarchate, Kiev patriarchate, and Ukrainian Autocephalous church. According to some sources Filaret's organization has 1500 parishes. This is a lot. Besides, Filaret has financial and political support from the state and particularly strong support from nationalist organizations.

Filaret himself in a television interview on NTV ironically responded to the decision of the bishops' council. He called the decision illegal inasmuch as it was the decision of another local church to which canonically he does not belong.

Moreover, Filaret's "church," despite the dimplomatic activity of the Ukrainian ministry of foreign affairs, has not been recognized by a single Orthodox local church. No patriarch has made such a clear and obvious rupture of relations with Moscow.

Patriarchs are not deciding; dissidents are deciding. And Gleb Yakunin, following the Nogin priest, declares himself subordinate to the Kiev patriarchate. Thus Filaret gradually is becoming the defender of those who are offended and persecuted "by Muscovite ecclesiastical imperialism" throughout the CIS. The amazing union of the former ecclesiastical prisoner of conscience and the former ecclesiastical persecutor of church free-thinking unites them in a single conciliar act of excommunication.

The consequences of the action for Ukraine may turn out extremely serious. Of course, it is difficult to predict a division of the state on religious grounds--a substantial part of the population is too inert in the religious sense. This inertia plays in a strange way into Filaret's hand; for common folk in the final analysis it doen't matter which church they use to baptize their children, a canonical or schismatic. They don't examine it. And thus the priests who are solidly behind Filaret who surround the Ukrainian president view the future with optimism.

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8): Russkie episkopy sobor zavershili

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8): Anafima c poticheskim podtekstom

(posted 23 February 1997)


Orthodox bishops name three soviet-era saints;
delay on last emperor;
excommunicate gadflies

The bishops' council of the Russian Orthodox church, meeting 19 to 23 February, identified three new saints: Peter, who was acting patriarch of the Russian church after the death of Saint Patriarch Tikhon, Serafim (ruled 1928-1932), who was metropolitan of Leningrad at the time of the outbreak of Stalin's war on religion, and Faddei (secular name Ioann Uspensky), who was archbishop of Kostroma from 1936 until his arrest in 1937.

CANONIZATION OF NICHOLAS ROMANOV DID NOT HAPPEN

Nezavisimaia gazeta, 21 February 1997 (complete text)

Yesterday in Saint Daniel's monastery the second day of the bishops' council of the Russian Orthodox church proceeded. Metropolitan Yuvenaly of Krutitsy and Kolomna delivered a report from the commission on canonization. It was expected that at yesterday's session the council would take up the question of the canonization of Nicholas Romanov. The bishops of RPTS displayed caution on this matter, postponing the final decision on canonization to the prerogative of the local souncil which should be held before the year 2000. In the opinion of authoritative participants in the council, the decision on canonization was somewhat premature and could lead to negative political consequences. In conversation with the NG correspondent, Metropolitan Nikolai of Nizhegorod and Arzamas noted that the "former tsar Nicholas Romanov bears responsibility for the state entrusted to him, which perished, and for the subsequent persecutions which engulfed the church. That he renounced his ecclesiastical annointing and the country entrusted to him." At yesterday's session of the council, metropolitans Peter Poliansky and Serafim Chichagov and Bishop Faddei of Kalinin and Kashin, who perished in stalinist camps during the soviet era, were added to the roster of saints. In addition, the bishops' council also heard a report from Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk and Sluts on theological questions and dialogue with other churches.

RPTs RECALLED A TRADITIONAL RELIGIOUS RITUAL

Segodnia, 21 February 1997 (complete text)

The bishops' council of the Russian Orthodox church postponed the question of the canonization of Emperor Nicholas II. Before adding to the list of holy martyrs it was decided to purge the church of living "heretics."

Yesterday the bishops' council excommunicated the head of the Kiev patriarchate Filaret (secular name, Mikhail Denisenko) and the form priest of the RPTs, the well-known rights defender Gleb Yakunin. Filaret was excommunicated for schismatic activity. In 1992, while he was the patriarchal exarch for Ukraine, he left the jurisdiction of the Moscow patriarchate and formed an independent Ukrainian Orthodox church--Kiev patriarchate (UPTs-KP). The reason for Gleb Yakunin's excommunication was not stated in the official communication from the secretariate of the bishops' council. According the Interfax news agency, the occasion for the excommunication was the political activity of Father Gleb. In 1993 the Holy Synod of RPTS unfroced him for participate in State Duma elections. Then Gleb accepted the jurisdiction of UPTs-KP. It seems that by its decision the bishops' council has turned a new page in contemporary Orthodoxy. After excommunication from the church of the writer Leo Tolstoy, this ritual went out of use ini the RPTs.

Those who disagreed with Orthodox doctrime, for example V.I. Lenin, as a rule independently removed the crosses they wore. In 1918 Patriarch Tikhon tried to issue an anathema against bolsheviks, but after his confinement to house arrest he cancelled this decision. Nevertheless the struggle with heretics in RPTs is fortunately different from similar actions in several other confessions. Filaret and Gleb Yakunin were denied "eternal life," but, for example, the Muslims of Iran tried to deprive the writer Salman Rushdie of earthly life. (tr. by PDS)

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8): Kanonizatsia Nikolia Romanova ne sostoialsia

See additional report of council.

(posted 21 February 1997)


Orthodox bishops' council

ARCHBISHOPS HAVE DESCENCED UPON MOSCOW
byOleg Mramornov

Nezavisimaia gazeta, 19 February 1997, complete text

The opening of a regular bishops' council of the Russian Orthodox church (RPTs)was preceded by a Divine Liturgy in the Trinity cathedral of the Saint Daniel's monastery in Moscow. One hundred forty bichops began the plenary sessions of the council. They opened with a brief sermon by the primate of the RPTs Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Russia. On the same day the participants heard a wideranging report by the patriarch about the activity of the Moscow patriarchate in the period since the previous bishops' council two years ago.

The agenda was projected to include a discussion of the report of the president of the synodal commission on canonization of saints, Metropolitan Yuvenaly of Krutitsy and Kolomna on the question of the canonization of the royal family, killed by bolsehvik leadership in the summer of 1918. Participants of the council will also review the vital questions of religious education and external relations of RPTs.

The council will finish its work on 23 February with a Divine Liturgy in the church of the Transfiguration of the restored cathedral of Christ the Savior. A detailed report of the work of the council will be published in a supplement, "Nezavisimaia gazeta--religion," no. 2, on 27 February.
(translated by PDS)

Segodnia, 19 February 1997, complete text

The primate of the RPTs called for a restoration of moral guidelines; Bishops' council will deal with social questions and canonization of Nicholas II.

In the patriarchal residence of Moscow Saint Daniel's monastery yesterday the bishops' council of the Russian Orthodox church began its work. In honor of the opening of the council the Divine Liturgy was served. In five days of work the higher clergy of RPTs (140 bishops) will be called to discuss the results of inner church life in the two year period between council and to lay plans for the future period.

The first plenary session was opened by the primate of RPTs, Most Holy Patriarch Alexis II. The patriarch's account in the main was devoted to the role of RPTs in the social life of the country. According to Alexis' words, "one of the reasons for the social evils besetting us is the absence in society of an ethical system of coordination which would prevent the wealthy and fortunate from avoiding the sufferings of their neighbor." In order to restore the lost system of coordination, the patriarch suggested that the church become a "full fledged actor in social policy that can change the dramatic situation." In this regard the patriarch mentioned five joint declarations of the RPTs with federal "power" structures. For achieving the goals an agreement on cooperation with the ministry of defense is now being drawn up. The Moscow patriarchate plans to establish more intensive contacts with the agencies of Russia and the countries of the commonwealth that deal with protection of health.

Meanwhile, according to the Interfax newsagency, the agenda of the bishops' council includes the question of canonization of the last Russian emperor and his family.

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8): Sobor

(posted 20 February 1997)


Paper defends Orthodox church

SMOKING IS NOT HARMING THE SOUL
Maxim Shevchenko

Nezavisimaia gazeta 18 February 1997

In 1996 reports circulated stating that the Moscow patriarchate received favorable treatment from the Russian government whereby it was permitted to import duty-free some tobacco and alcoholic products. The profits from the sale of these items were supposedly intended for use in providing humanitarian aid to Russian citizens.

Nezavisimaia gazeta answered the criticisms arising from these reports by saying that such importation has been stopped by order of the patriarch and that what importation there had been had been conducted completely legally and honestly, in accordance with the discipline and ethical principles of the church.

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8): Kurit ne dushe vredit
English translation: Smoking does not harm the soul

(posted 20 February 1997)


Anti-Orthodoxy in the west

Russian Press Alarmed about Western Anti-Orthodoxy

Both the liberal and conservative press recently contained expressions of a Russian sensitivity about hostility to Russian Orthodoxy. These expressions seem concerned to locate the hostility within influential circles in the West.

In an opinion piece published by the liberal Nezavisimaia gazeta, the leader of one nationalist group, Nikita Mikhalkov, quoted a former American secretary of state to document anti-Orthodoxy among the power elite. The ultranationalist newspaper Zavtra associated anti-Orthodoxy with NATO. Both articles were long and wide-ranging in their contents. Here are translations of the brief citations of western anti-Orthodoxy that appeared in them.

Mikhalkov, who organized a recent "Christmas Readings" where similar alarms about anti-Orthodoxy were expressed, opened his article with his reference.

Culture is not the Superstructure
by Nikita Sergeevich Mikhalkov
Nezavisimaia gazeta, 14 February 1997

Recently former secretary of state of the USA Zbigniew Brzezinski expressed a puzzling phrase: "After the destruction of communism America's only remaining enemy is Russian Orthodoxy." I do not know why he considers that Orthodoxy is America's enemy. But the attempt to teach the Russian people Christianity through an English translator on all television channels and the invasion of numerous sects that are foreign to our nation testify that western ideologues understand better than we do the chief strength and fundamental source of the might of Russia. We ought to understand ourselves that any reforms--political, economic, social--are doomed from the start if they do not take into account the national character of people and the cultural and historical distinctives. . . .

They taught us in school that there exists a base of society, which is economic, heavy industry, and so forth. And the superstructure is culture broadly understood. this is a cruel and horrible deception, and it is the cause of the spiritual condition in which our nation now exists. It is not economics but precisely culture which for centuries in Russia has been the fundamental factor of life. . . . And the basic culture in Russia always was not etiquette, the ability to hold one's fork correctly and dress aesthetically, but faith. The Orthodox faith. In France, Germany, and English it is possible to live without God. Because there the law is god. But in Russia God is the law. The Russian person hates laws written by another person. By a Russian, and even more by a non-Russian. In the church building all are equal before God. The emperor, beggar, artist, and engineer. This was fundamentally important. This held society together like glue.

I am persuaded that without a rebirth of the traditional cultural and religious base there will be no successful reforms in Russia. I do not imagine Orthodoxy being the only religion which would replace others. This would be unjust since it never was this was in Rus. There were Muslims, Jews, Catholics, and protestants. But the interactions were organic and respectful. . . .

In Zavtra, the reference to western anti-Orthodoxy was contained within a more general survey of what the writer perceived to be an intensive campaign to whip up fear and hatred toward Russia which would justify military preparedness aimed against a supposed Russian threat.

The Evil Country
by Sergei Kalaganov
Zavtra, 8 February 1997

. . . At a conference of one of the consultative councils of NATO attention was drawn to the growth of the attraction of Orthodoxy in Russia. This attraction was considered to be a "fad" but an extremely dangerous one since "Russians now have no other symbols of national unity." It was recommended in a cautious way to resurrect materials and information which were disseminated in the 1920s and 1930s regarding the "reactionary nature and hopelessness of Orthodoxy," while supporting the propaganda of the Lutheran and Baptist religions, emphasizing that in the religious sphere only these denominations comport with the "general human progress and criteria of justice. . . ."

See also Patriarch Warns against Religious Dissent.


Democratic organization criticizes Yakunin

CONCERN ABOUT RELIGIOUS FANATICISM
Ekspress khronika, 7 February 1997

The All-Russian Council of Christian Organizations, of which Viacheslav Polosin is president, expressed in a declaration circulated on 31 January "profound concern about the conflicts associated with the activity of 'religious fanatics' and the 'growth of inter-religious tensions' in Russian society.

The occasion for the preparation of the document was the upcoming court hearing on the suit brought by the president of the Public Committee for the Defense of Freedom of Conscience, Gleb Yakunin, against American citizen Alexander Dvorkin. Yakunin accuses Dvorkin of slander against new religious movements. Pointing out the "judicial dismemberment of foreign religious workers on Russian soil," the Council expresses regret over the participation of the Public Committee for the Defense of Freedom of Conscience in a hearing of a case dealing with slander on someone's honor and dignity. (See Moscow patriarchate counterattacks Gleb Yakunin )

In a very critical assessment of the quality of the brochure of American citizen Dvorkin about the means of "recruiting" believers, the Council notes that since it is not an official document of the government, the brochure has nothing to do with problems of conscience. In its declaration the Council also announced its intent to organize a Center for Aid to Victims of Religious Fanaticism, which will engage in activity for restoring the health of those who have suffered from "false medical and false religious experiments," ignorance, and fanaticism.

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8): Obespokoennost religioznym fanatizmom


Another entrant in the contest to define the Russian Idea

"Orthodox Russia" proposes a "common national idea"
A new effort to consolidate the "positive forces of society"

Segodnia, 11 February 1997 (full text)

On Sunday, the organizing conference of a new all-Russian public movement (OOD) called "Orthodox Russia" opened in Moscow in decidedly auspicious circumstances with an appropriate prayer to the "Heavenly Tsar." The president of the new movement is Alexander Burkin, the general director of a well-known auction gallery "Kupina." But, essentially, the new Orthodox association was created under the political leadership of Vladimir Shumeiko as a moderate religious and patriotic branch of the "New Course Reform" movement.

The official goal of the Orthodox Russia OOD is the "consolidation of the positive forces of society based on Christian ideals, accord, and Orthodox ethics." In an expansive speech Alexander Burkin declared that the OOD will cooperate in the regeneration of Orthodoxy and of the "spirit of Holy Rus." "Why do we need these idiotic discoteques? We need to become acquainted in the church," Burkin declared. He referred also to the mass media which glorify criminals and murderers.

In the lobby informed people confirmed that the foundation of the OOD was directly associated with President Boris Yeltsin's announcement of the urgent task of creating a "common national idea." Thus it is not surprising that the founding conference of OOD heartily greeted all the basic official offices in Moscow--president, government, mayor, duma, and council of the federation. And these greetings went to everybody in these offices, not just the top man. Obviously, official Moscow does not know whether from Orthodox Russia there will emerge any kind of force or it will be just another truncated public movement.

Patriarch Alexis also blessed the new movement. His greetings were read by Archbishop Sergius of Solnechnogorsk, the chief of staff of the Moscow patriarchate, who added his own observation that "if laity feel that they need to be united, then praise God" if this produces cooperation and not division. The point is that there already exists a great patriotic Orthodox organization called the World Russian Popular Council, headed by the patriarch himself and including many other church hierarchs. "Orthodox Russia" can become a colleague of the Council, uniting the more moderate Orthodox patriots. Archbishop Sergius told the Segodnia corrospondent that both the Council and OOD are public organizations, but the "Council is more familiar to us while the OOD is a new organization, and the church will pay attention to how it develops and acts." (tr. by PDS)

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8): Rossiia pravoslavnaia

See also Government leaders support Orthodox morals for social recovery

(posted 15 February 1997)


Orthodox episcopate ready to meet

THE BISHOPS' COUNCIL OF THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH BEGINS NEXT WEEK
from Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate
13 February 1997

The Bishops' Council of the Russian Orthodox Church will work six days, from February 18 to 23, 1997, at the conference-hall of the Danilovsky Hotel compound in Moscow, with divine services and prayer service conducted in various churches of the city and at St. Sergius' Monastery of the Trinity.

The Bishops' Council, which is convened every two years according to the Statute of the Russian Orthodox Church, is the highest church authority in periods between Local (national) Councils. It will be attended by some 150 ruling bishops of all the dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church in the CIS, the Baltics and the far abroad, as well as heads of Holy Synod departments, theological academies and seminaries. The decisions of the Bishops' Council are obligatory for the whole Church and can be repealed or amended only by the Local Council. The Bishops' Council is chaired by His Holiness the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.

The previous Bishops' Council took place from November 29 to December 4, 1994.

The task of the forthcoming Bishops' Council is to sum up the life of the Church in the pre-council period and to discuss plans for the future.

The Council will hear the following:

Every working day of the Council will begin with the Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in the Danilov Monastery.

The Council will be opened at its first plenary session at 11.00 on February 18 after the Divine Liturgy at the cathedral. It is expected that accredited mass media representatives will be present at the opening.

The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church which is to take place on 16-17 February will adopt a detailed draft agenda and schedule of the Council. Information about the decision of the Holy Synod concerning these matters, as well as the date and place of the press-conference on the work of the Council will be available since the morning of February 18 at the Communication Office of the DECR. Reports and materials of the Bishops' Council secretariat concerning its work will also be available at the Communication Office.

The Bishops' Council will complete its work on February 23 with the Divine Liturgy to be served at the Transfiguration Chapel of the Church of Christ the Savior (beginning at 10.00).

(posted 14 February 1997)


Government leaders support Orthodox morals for social recovery

BY LOSING ORTHODOXY RUSSIA WILL LOSE A LOT MORE
by Vyacheslav Andreev

Rossiiskaya Gazeta

February 11, 1997

The constituent conference of a new all-Russian public movement "Orthodox Russia" opened last Sunday with a solemn liturgy held at the Patriarchal Dormition Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin.

The delegates of the forum received messages of congratulation from many leaders of the country. In particular, President Boris Yeltsin in his message specially pointed to the fact that the beginning of the activity of the new movement which professes the principles of public conciliation and accord, can in present-day conditions be considered as a rather promising sign. Chairman of the Federation Council Yegor Stroyev noted in his message the need to affirm the norms of Christian morals both in society and in official policy. The Speaker stressed that it was precisely on that road that the rallying of the efforts of people and power could finally be attained.

Of course, this unanimity of the statesmen cannot be considered as accidental, for in the quests for an idea of life people now-a-days ever more often turn to the values of Orthodoxy which are traditional for Russia--its history and culture have been closely linked with it for thousands of years. As Archbishop Sergiy of Solnechnogorsk said opening the conference, "... by losing Orthodoxy Russia will lose a lot more." It is not accidental, either, that consolidation of the foundation of Russia's society through a revival of the moral traditions and the experience of Russia's traditional religion is the new movement's main aim.

from Johnson's Russia List

(posted 14 February 1997)


Moscow patriarchate against Yakunin

ARE ALL SECTS TOTALITARIAN?
by Mikhail Gokhman

Russkaia mysl, 6 February 1997

(summary by PDS) On 31 January the Moscow patriarchate sponsored a news conference in the House of Journalists to answer charges brought by former Orthodox priest Gleb Yakunin. Yakunin's Public Committee for the Defense of Freedom of Conscience has filed suit in a Moscow court against the author of a book that is directed against new religious movements, A.L. Dvorkin. The Moscow patriarchate has sided with the writer.

The report of this matter published in the Paris-based newspaper, which has regularly criticised infringements of freedom of conscience in Russia, points out that the defenders of the antisectarian writer constitute an assemblage of questionable individuals.

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8): Vse li sekty totalitarnye
English translation: Are all sects totalitarian?

For related material consult sources under the "Yakunin, Gleb" link in the Subject Index.

On the continuing debate over sects, see: Human rights arm of Russian presidency objects about other state agencies' attack on sects .

(posted 10 February 1997)


Sunday of the New Martyrs

Memorial of New Martyrs
by Oleg Mramornov

Nezavisimaia gazeta, 4 February 1997

(complete text) Sunday, 9 February, is dedicated to the memory of all those who have died having suffered for the faith of Christ during the years of persecution. On this day the church celebrates the synaxis of the Russian new martyrs and confessors of the Orthodox faith who were martyred in the years of bolshevik persecution of the church. Several names are particularly noted in the calendar.

Saint Tikhon, patriarch of Moscow and all Rus, died a natural death in 1925. He endured the torture-chamber of the Cheka and the persecution and ordeals undoubtedly hastened his death.

Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev was one of the very first victims of the red terror. He died in Kiev on 25 January 1918. In the evening of that date five armed red army soldiers arrived at the Kiev caves lavra and dragged the metropolitan outside the walls and shot him. Before he was shot the Master, having prayed, blessed the murderers. At the place of his execution Kievan pilgrims quickly began to gather.

Metropolitan Veniamin of Petrograd adopted the most loyal position toward the new regime of all the senior hierarchs. He devoted himself to emancipating the church from political actions which so frequently interfered with its carrying out its basic pastoral mission of caring for souls. This, however, did not save him. He was accused of plotting with the world bourgeoisie and of distributing declarations against the soviet power. He was shot on the basis of a sentence handed down by a hasty trial on 26 August 1922. Along with him were shot Arkhimandrite Sergius and the laymen Yu.P. Novitsky and I.M. Kovsharov who now are enrolled as new martyrs.

The church also especially observes the memory of Archpriest Ioann, who was killed in 1917, and Archelder Alexander, who received his martyr's crown in 1937.

Grand Princess Elizaveta Fedorovna and her faithful companion Sister Varvara were thrown into a mineshaft near the city of Alapaevsk in 1918 along with the princes of the Romanov royal family.

On 30 January 1991 the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox church decided that along with those who entered church and soviet history as known victims, this weekend is also set for commemoration of the nameless multitude of those who suffered for their Christian convictions. The synod's decision lies in the channel of the enormous changes in social and historical consciousness that was achieved in the period of perestroika. (tr. by PDS)

Full Russian text (requires KOI-8): Novomucheniki

(posted 5 February 1997)


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