NEWS ABOUT RELIGION IN RUSSIA

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Jewish sect criticized

ORDINARY ANTISEMITISM
by V. Baranov
Ekspress khronika
27 December 1997

UMAN. Cherkassk region. On 22 December more than 100 local residents appealed to deputies of the Supreme Soviet of Ukraine requesting the representatives of the world Jewish movement of hasids be denied entry to Ukraine. "Hasids making the annual pilgrimage to Uman, where the founder of their movement once lived, turn our city into a Jewish hostle," the authors of the appeal asserted. They are displeased that the Ukrainian government finances the hasids' action and the police protect them while they are making their pilgrimage.

Supreme Soviet of Ukraine deputy Sergei Smirnov declared that in the eighteenth century the hasids took part in the murder of the Ukrainian national hero Oleksa Dovbush. Besides, hasids are advocated of radical Zionism and are struggling to achieve world domination by Jews. The deputy suggested that the Ukrainian parliament publish a decree forbidding hasids from entering the country's territory. Alexander Moroz, speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, said that this question needed careful study. (tr. by PDS)

Link to Russian text at Ekspress khronika

(posted 8 January 1998)


Crime against church

ROBBERS DESECRATE ORTHODOX SANCTUM
by Tatiana Sergeeva
Segodnia, 27 December 1997

Several days ago unknown criminals robbed the church of the New Martyrs and Russian Confessors located in Butovo near Moscow. The church was erected last year on the site of the so-called "Butovo Works," where in 1937-1938 mass executions of "enemies of the people" took place. Among the 20,765 people executed were several hundred Russian Orthodox priests. After knocking out the watchman, the criminal made off with nine icons of the past and current centuries, a silver altar cross, and liturgical vessels, one of which had been donated to the church by relatives of a priest who had been shot. The police began an investigation. The rector of the church, Fr Kirill, called the incident an "act of sacrilege and desecration of those people who suffered on this earth, nourishing it with their blood." (tr by PDS)

(posted 7 January 1998)


Yeltsin marks December Christmas

PRESIDENT GIVES US CHRISTMAS GREETINGS
Segodnia, 26 December 1997

The president of the Russian Federation, Boris Yeltsin, greeted Christians living in Russia who celebrate 25 December as the Birth of Christ. Representatives of the administration of the head of state noted in connection with this that the greetings of the president constitute a regular example of the way the state in Russia shows respect to representatives of all the basic confessions existing in the country. "We do not have any leading and secondary religions. As president of all Russians, Boris Yeltsin shows respect for representative of all generally recognized religious denomination as well as for atheists," the representatives of the administration emphasized. Besides, 25 December is not a purely religious date: "For many of our fellow citizens this is a completely secular holiday, a kind of prelude to New Year's." According to sociological surveys, 25 December is observed by about twenty million Russians. The Russian Orthodox church observed Christmas on 7 January. (tr by PDS)

(posted 7 January 1998)


Church's role in Russia will grow

THE CHURCH'S INTERNAL AND PUBLIC LIFE IN THE MIRROR OF THE PAST YEAR

Nezavisimaia gazeta, 25 December 1997 (summary)

In its year-end supplement on religion the liberal newspaper published a long, sympathetic article about the role of the Russian Orthodox church in Russian society. The year 1997 provided abundant evidence of the growth of that role. It will grow even greater in the future.

The (unidentified) writer sets aside the statistic that shows only a tiny percentage of Russians to be active church-goers. The church's influence in Russia is reflected in the large proportions of the population who want the church to have privileges in the state, who trust the church more than any other institution (except maybe the army), and who supported the changes in the law on religion that the patriarch wanted.

The impact of the church on Russia will increase as Orthodox values inevitably become the core of the culture that will emerge as Russia establishes its self-identity in the postsoviet period. It also will increase because the church will provide a substantial organizing force for educating and nurturing Russian society.

Full text of the article: Church's Internal and Public Life


Conservative journal attacks Yakunin

GLEB PALYCH LEARNS FROM ILICH

Regarding the "principledness" of Mr. Yakunin;

from the Analytical Center of the Union of Orthodox Citizens
Radonezh, December 1997

The angry denunciatiatory tirades by Gleb Palych Yakunin against the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox church are known to all. He was "exposing" the Moscow patriarchate when he still was a cleric. He continues his "noble" affair even nowadays when he has been defrocked and anathematized. Such persistence gives Gleb Palych the full right to take pride in his notable principledness. A number of facts from the biography of the scandelous dissident help evaluate it completely.

While he still was a priest of the Russian Orthodox church and was delivering critical attacks on its hierarchs, Yakunin most often accused them of having ties with security agencies. Often Gleb Pavlovich declared that he was holding in his hands documents that confirmed completely his charges. True, none of these ever saw the light. Most often this "rights defender" accused the former metropolitan of Kiev Filaret Denisenko. In this case, however, proof of the immorality of the hierarch was not at all needed. There were more than enough scandelous publications about the personal life of the "married" monk in the media of the period of perestroika. Yakunin knew well that the immoral conduct of Filaret Denisenko meant there was no chance he would become patriarch, to avoid casting a shadow on the church. So the hands of the "lover of justice" were untied and, extrapolating from a single case Fr Gleb was able to defame publicly the Russian church "on the basis of indisputable facts." Pointing his finger at Kiev, Gleb Palych exulted: everything in the patriarchate was just like that place. At the same time he was unable to imagine that he was poisoning his own well.

As is known, everything is flux, everything changes. Opinions, too. Yakunin is no exception. Unfortunate circumstances forced him to alter his principledness: for his principled antichurch activity, disobedience to the church hierarchy, and blatant politics Gleb Palych was first banned from the ministry and then defrocked. [see related story]It would seem that a person who rushed headlong into the dirty swamp of politics and who was never distinguished by special piety would not be too much hindered by what happened. However for some reason Gleb Palych still wants to consider himself an Orthodox priest. Well, a person accustomed to wearing a robe with a cross would have to change his clear deputy's image. But which jurisdiction would he submit to? Naturally no canonical jurisdiction would accept an unfrocked priest, in accordance with the canons. All that remains are the schismatics.

It is understandable that it would not work for Gleb Palych to go into the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad; the narrow aristocratic "Karlovtsy" have no need of such a gift as Gleb Palych. Then the former Father Gleb recalled the metropolitan, now also former, whom he only recently had castigated so mercilessly. By this time Filaret Denisenko, who had been condemned communally both for his immoral conduct and for his actions in the direction of autocephaly, had gone into schism, for which, like Yakunin, he was unfrocked. In Noginsk, in the suburbs of Moscow, Denisenko found a faithful follower in the person of the former archimandrite Adrian Starina. Adrian was installed by the Kievan schismatics at the head of the Russian diocese of Bogorod under the so-called Kievan patriarchate. Gleb Palych decided to submit to him.

Thus Mr. Yakunin entered the yellow-blue company. "Archbishop" Adrian became his "diocesan hierarch," and the "patriarch of Kiev and all Rus-Ukraine," Filaret, his "primate." Gleb Palych was not bothered by the situation that appears scandalous on first glance. The irregular orientation of "master" Adrian also didn't seem anomalous to Yakunin. As a true democrat he could not but insist upon nondiscrimination against sexual minorities, even within the "church" grounds. As concerns the moral example of former metropolitan Filaret, apparently Gleb Palych agreed to shut his eyes to everything: Denisenko more than made up for his sins by transforming himself from a KGB agent into a warrior against "Muscovite imperialism." And it made no difference that the upstart "patriarch of Kiev" surrounded himself with banners from the frankly fascist UkNA-UkNSO, which, incidentally, managed in the fall of 1997 to gain registration thanks to its "most holy" patron. It made no difference that the head of the "Kievan patriarchate" was preaching extreme Nazi views in concert with his supporters, the nationalist deputies. What was most important was that this whole company attacked Russia, Moscow, and the Moscow patriarchate. So that just so long as the communists did not oppose Gleb Palych, then he learned from the "immortal leader of the world proletarian" the tactics of allying with whomever was convenient for the sake of achieving his goals. And like the leader of the world proletariat, he retained his principles in one way: the principled rejection of Christ and his church.

The career of the unfrocked priest within the jurisdiction of the unfrocked bishop is developing extremely successfully. The anathema of Yakunin and Denisenko at the recent bishops' council of the Russian Orthodox church in 1997 had a beneficial effect on the resume of former Fr Gleb. He received a pectoral cross and the rank of "archpriest" with "patriarchal blessing." Gleb Palych did not deny himself the pleasure of appearing in public with his new honors and happily reported the rewards from the "diocesan hierarch" and the "patriarch" himself for his service to church schism. Just imagine, there was a time when Gleb Palych himself could hardly have foreseen such happiness and would surely have steadfastly put an end to such cozy fellowship in which he subsequently has enroled. However, judge for yourself. We have the document that clearly testifies to the degree of "father" Gleb's principledness in front of us. (tr. by PDS)

(posted 4 January 1998)


Patriarch addresses Moscow diocese

CHURCH AND SOCIETY IN THE PATRIARCH'S EYES

Nezavisimaia gazeta, 25 December 1997

Observers in Moscow traditionally consider the diocesan meeting to be among the chief events of Moscow's church life in December. It is attended by not only the clergy of the capital but also laity, presidents of parish councils and employees of the departments of the synod. The patriarch himself always presides at the meeting as the ruling bishop of Moscow and he makes a keynote address. NG already wrote (17.12.97) that at the last diocesan meeting on 16 December Patriarch Alexis II subjected the Russian media to criticism, particularly the NTV and ORT television stations, noting that "the negative attitude toward the Russian Orthodox church shown at the present by television and press possibly presages a new attack upon the church." The patriarch mentioned the program of "sex education," developed by the Russian Planned Parenthood Association (RAPS) and evoking sharp protests from Orthodox. The church considers RAPS program not only amoral but intended to decrease the birth rate in Russia, which under the developing demographic situation will lead to the destruction of the Russian nation. The patriarch enphasized that "each priest must explain to the people the full horror of this destructive action and summon the people to protest against such seduction of the youth. . . . If we remain silent we shall simply be destroyed."

The main event of the year, according to the patriarch, was the bishops' council of the Russian Orthodox church in February and the on-going work on the canonization of Russia's New Martyrs. However he preferred to discuss the problems more than the successes. "In the circumstances of freedom the possibilities for the church's mission in the world have been growing steadily, but the activity of its opponents also is growing and that means a grown in the dangers which all of its true children must face. Today the hands of those who entice believers only the path of schism and those who arrive from abroad with "diverse and strange" teachings and those who preach a form of life incompatible with standards of morality have been untied."

In the first place the patriarch identified the "unhealthy phenomena" in the missionary activity being conducted on the model of the community of the church of the Dormition in Pechatniki during the time that it was led by Fr Georgy Kochetkov, who now is banned from ministry (NG and NG-religiia frequently wrote about this complex conflict). Among the mistakes which the rector and community committed the patriarch mentioned the "cult of the rector, whose authority had been placed above that of the church hierarchy," and "contempt for liturgical traditions," which led to the creation of a "sectarian-oriented community." However it is interesting that the patriarch did not condemn the explicitly the use of the Russian language in liturgical practice.

The patriarch labeled as scandalous the statements of clergymen who, at the time of the discussion on the law on freedom of conscience set their own personal positions against the official osition of the church. "In this case," noted the patriarch, "we collided not so much with sincere mistakes as with conscious deliberate activity aimed at undermining the authority of the Russian Orthodox church in society, which may be characterized more accurately as treason."

The patriarch spoke even more harshly about the activity of the "Christian Church-Public Channel" (KhTsOK) radio station in Moscow, in which Orthodox and Catholics broadcast together: "With regret I must testify that the general tendency of the broadcasts is an attempt to influence the souls and minds of the church community in such a way as to create within Orthodoxy a radical extremeist opposition similar to that which . . . exists in political life." He called the goals of KhTsOK "directly counter to the goals and tasks of the Russian Orthodox church as they are perceived by the church hierarchy," declaring further participation by Orthodox priests in the activity of the radio station "impermissible as a contradiction of the spirit of the Orthodox faith."
[see excerpt from patriarch's address dealing with these matters: Patriarch threatens reformers]

Now Moscow has 404 Orthodox churches, 8 monasteries, and 28 chapels, in which 673 priests and deacons are ministering. For the first time public identification of priests who had been subjected to strict ecclesiastical punishment in the past year was made, including seven who were banned from ministry and one unfrocked. Subsequently the ban was lifted from two priests.

Such an explicit and categorical speech by the patriarch obviously was meant to set straight church life in the capital. However such a goal can hardly be achieved simply by disciplinary measures. Serious reform of the administrative apparatus of the diocese still remains to be done. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii

(posted 5 January 1998)


Patriarch threatens reformers

PATRIARCH AT MOSCOW DIOCESE CONFERENCE

[NOTE: In December, Patriarch Alexis II addressed the clergy of Moscow diocese [see related article]. The following excerpt reflects his discussion of the activity of reforming priests, such as Fr Georgy Kochtekov.]

. . . Having passed through the decades of persecution, the church now is arising from the ashes, thousands of churches and monasteries are being restored, ecclesiastical schools are being revived, and the mission of the church and its creative and educational activies are being restored. But we must not be deceived by this prosperity nor forget that the church always has been persecuted in this world and always will be. Today various forces have arisen against it which are trying to divide it, to weaken and disrupt its wholeness, to sow enmity and distrust among its members, and to undermine its authority in people's eyes.

Under the conditions of freedom the possibility for its mission in the world are growing endlessly but the activity of its opponents also is growing and this means that the danger which each of its true children must face is increasing. Today the hands of those who are enticing believers into the paths of schism, who are coming from abroad with "diverse and strange teachings" [Hb 13.9], and who preach a form of life that is incompatible with the moral standards of Christianity are untied. Some of them engage in open struggle with the church while others, on the contrary, are trying to cloak themselves in the holy name of the church and pass off as Christianity something that has nothing to do with it.

We are now required to pay careful attention: the ability to distinguish the Spirit of God from the spirit of deceit, as the apostle said: "Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they be from God, became many false prophets have appeared in the world" (1 Jn 4.1). And for those who have violated their fidelity to mother-church and have taken the path of schism, may the apostolic word come true: "They went out from us, but they were not of us" (1 Jn 2.19).

In the past decade the visible process of the return of a substantial part of our society, which had been torn away from the church, into the saving bosom of the church has been going on. This is the fruit of the heroic missionary labor of many of our pastors. But it is impossible to keep silent about the fact that in the missionary practice of some priests and in some parishes unhealthy phenomena are evident.

One sad example of the false approach to the business of Christian education is seen in the situation that has grown up in the parish of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God in Pechatniki during that time when it was being led by Georgy Kochetkov, who now has been banned from priestly ministry. The situation quite naturally produced unfortunate excesses, which led to the inevitable punishment by the hierarchy. The whole point was that the pseudo-missionary activity in this parish was oriented toward drawing people who were spiritually thirsting for Christ not into the church but invariably into their own parish community. In this parish there grew up a cult of the leader, whose authority was elevated above that of the church hierarchy, which is intolerable in the church. Thereby the very bases of canonical structure were trampled. The church's liturgical traditions were crudely neglected in this community. This community set itself in opposition to other parishes of the Russian Orthodox church and became an essentially sectarian-oriented association. It tried to put direct pressure on us both through secular structures of the press and television and from within, that is through foreign religious leaders to whom I was forced to give an answer: "As regards Fr Georgy Kochetkov and the tensions being created around him, the issue is not his desire to make the liturgical life more understandable for contemporary believers and to facilitate their fuller participation in it--which is something we all desire--but in the serious eccesiological, disciplinary, and spiritual distortions of church life, whose danger and harm from the existence of the Russian Orthodox church are not recognized by many in the West. The incident of overt violence committed by followers of Fr Georgy against the second priest of the parist was carefully investigated by an authoritative commission, headed by a bishop, and required legal and necessary punishment. I think that for the unity and peaceful life of the church it is not useful to encourage senseless arrogance, which leads to irrational statements, tendentious criticism, and distrust and disrespect for the church hierarchy. It seems to me that the problems that arose in his diocese were no less close nor understandable for the ruling bishop that for those who sympathized from afar, from another country and another jurisdiction."

It is necessary to devote careful attention to questions of church discipline. Both pastors and laity in their ministry, their activity, and their whole lives are obliged to be guided by the holy canons and the authoritative resolutions of the higher church authority and to obey completely the directives of the ruling hierarch for, according to the teaching of Saint John of Damascus, the Lord entrusted the church to the bishop. The conciliar base in the life of the church operates in keeping with its hierarchical base.

The activity of certain priests who set themselves against the conciliar will, their brethren, and the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox church creates extreme misunderstanding and deserves the strictest punishment. In particular, there was a disturbing nature to the statements of clergymen, who, at the time when the question of the thrust of the new law "On Freedom of Conscience," which is so important for our church, was being decided and when the position of the church hierarchy, which reflects the will of the Orthodox people, was being formulated in a most authoritative and unequivocal form, opposed it with their own point of view that was spread throughout the mass media that are hostile to the Orthodox church and that was completely in accordance with the interests of totalitarian religious communities that are struggling against the church. Essentially, in this case we fought not only, and not even so much, with sincere delusion but with conscious, deliberate activity that was aimed at undermining the authority of the Russian Orthodox church within society which can be more accurately described as treachery.

The decisions of the church council and Holy Synod and the statements of the primate of the church on ecclesiastical matters constitute the official position of the church, which must be the rule and guide for action for clergy within its jurisdiction. Persons who hold to different opinions at least are obliged to refrain from public expression of them. Otherwise they are liable for ecclesiastical disciplinary responsibility, which applies in full both to secular clergy and to clergy who are under ban. The 18th rule of the council of Chalcedon says, inter alia: "If some clergyman or monk create obstacles for their bishops or their associates: let them be entirely dismissed from their service." Here it is also appropriate to mention the fundamental church law formualted in the 39th apostolic canon: "Let elders and deacons do nothing apart from the bishop's will. For the Lord's people have been entrusted to him and he shall answer for their souls."

In order to guarantee proper hierarchical procedure the canons prohibit clergy, under threat of punishment, to appeal to state authorities on their own, without the permission of the higher church authorities. The 11th rule of the Antioch council says: "If some bishop or elder or any clergyman, without permission from bishops of the district and independent of the bishop of the metropolia, dares to go to the emperor: let such be deposed and deprived not only of communion but also of the office which they held."

In this regard I consider it necessary to call your attention also to the activity in the Russian airwaves of the so-called "Christian Church Public Channel." Despite the fact that its organizers did not receive our blessing for their activity and that the financing of this expensive project comes from abroad from unknown sources (although they can be guessed), the authors of the programs obviously wish to create the impression in listeners that the views expressed on the station are the opinion of the church and that these opinions are shared by the majority of Orthodox Christians.

With regret we must state that the general tendency of the broadcasts is an attempt to influence the souls and minds of the church public so as to create within Orthodx a radical, extremist opposition similar to the one that unfortunately exists in political life. In order to create the necessary impression the directors of the radio station employ the services of various people, including representatives of the artistic intelligentsia and political leaders and scholars, including many church people, which also involves leaders who are openly hostile to everything Russian and Orthodox.

It is especially irksome that priests sometimes make statements that are essentially hostile to the spirit of Orthodoxy. The secular archpriest Ioann Sviridov accused the patriarch of being the head of a Nazi council, saying that "it is impossible to life where the hierarchs of such a church engage in this terrible nightmare." He said this with regard to the Russian National Council, which was concerned for the health of our people, both physical and moral health. He blasphemously called the reconstruction of the national shrine, the church of Christ the Savior, a "marvel" and "product of Stalinist architecture."

The secular cleric Hegumen Innokenty Pavlov tried hard, exploiting the uninformed listener, to rehabilitate historically Metropolitan Isidor who participated in the union of Florence [15th century] and Antonin Granovsky, one of the leaders of renovationism. All church documents are constantly subjected to rude and unworthy comments of the hegumen who hates the Moscow patriarchate. The tone and form of his statements exceed the limits of decency. He likens the Church Slavonic language to criminal jargon and he calls the synodal translation of the Bible, in distinction from his own, "primitive."

Fr Vladimir Lapshin agreed that there is repentance beyond the grave but, on the contrary, there is none in the Presentation of the Most Holy Mother of God in the Temple. His statements regarding the founder of Islam testify to his complete theological illiteracy. While defending Gleb Yakunin and the totalitarian sects, Fr Vladimir Lapshin denounces the church hierarchy for "answering evil with evil." But is it really evil to defrock an enemy of the church? When he tells his listeners lies about Patriarch Germogen, about monasticism, about the Lord Jesus Christ, who supposedly is present in all other religions, this pastor is bringing evil in place of good himself. Even before the broadcast of the blasphemous film "Last Temptation of Christ," which the church hierarchy and the Orthodox people were condemning this intended action, Fr Vladimir Lapshin advocated the film's showing on the premise that one cannot condemn what one has not seen. That is, it is possible to condemn sin only after it has been experienced. At a press conference I was asked whether I had seen the film and I answered that it was enough for me to see the advertisements of the film, which were erotic and constituted blasphemy and slander upon Christ the Savior. It is not necessary to experience everything that we condemn and against which we fight. We condemn and oppose drugs: so should we try drugs in order to oppose them?

Georgy Chistiakov, who was ordained recently and did not receive a systematic ecclesiastical education, has almost succeeded in creating an alien theology. According to him it turns out that Leo Tolstoy is a worthy example and Saint Sergius was a "renovationist" and "ecclesiastical dissident," and Saint Serafim was insane, and the asceticism of Phoebe was not completely Orthodox. What can such insolence lead to? And this priest explained to me that he is being criticized for supporting Yeltsin in the elections. What Yeltsin has to do with it I don't know.

It is quite evident that certain leaders are being invited to cooperate in this radio station who agree with the goals and intents of the directors. And these goals directly contradict the goals and tasks of the Russian Orthodox church as the hierarchy sees them. Therefore we consider that participation of clergy of the Russian Orthodox church in this radio station is impermissible on the basis that it contradicts the spirit of the Orthodox faith.

I recommend that the priests--those named above and others unnamed--repent for preaching non-Orthodox doctrines that contradict the church's teaching and for deceiving our people who need genuine spiritual education. Otherwise we shall be forced, through canonical punishment, to declare that they have apostasized from the Orthodox church. . . . (tr. by PDS)

from Radonezh, December 1997,
Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii

(posted 3 January 1998)


Parliament supports patriarch

RUSSIAN DUMA SPEAKS ON OFFENSE AGAINST RELIGIOUS SENTIMENTS
Nezavisimaia gazeta, 27 December 1997

The State Duma pointed out to state agencies of Russia that are "called by law to protect public morality" the instances of public offense of the religious sentiments of Russian citizens. The lower house of parliament adopted that declaration yesterday in a plenary sesssion dealing with the 9 November airing by the NTV television company of the art film by Martin Scorsese "Last Temptation of Christ." The duma demanded that responsible state agencies "begin using the entire existing legal mechanism, including suspension of television licenses, to prevent the propaganda of vice, sadism, blasphemy, licentiousness, and criminality on the channels of the NTV television company and others broadcasting in Russia." The declaration states that "On this matter the State Duma is in complete solidarity with the position of Patriarch Alexis II." (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii

(posted 3 January 1998)


Religious renaissance in Russia?

ROUNDTABLE IN MOSCOW CARNEGIE CENTER
by Alexander Kyrlezhev
Russkaia mysl, 25 December 1997

MOSCOW. On 18 December there was a "roundtable" on the subject "Religious Renaissance in Russia: Illusion or Reality?" in the Moscow section of the "Carnegie Fund for International Peace." The discussion was a part of the series "Religion, Society, and State" that is being conducted jointly by the Moscow Carnegie center and the newspaper Nezavisimaia gazeta.

The organizers intended that detailed discussions of the place of religion in the life of contemporary Russian society should occur regularly (their materials will be published in the special supplement to Nezavisimaia gazeta, "NG-religiia"). Invited participants included both representatives of the confessions (Orthodox, Muslims, and Jews) and scholars of religion, specialists on problems of interethnic relations, and journalists.

Talk about a "religious renaissance" in our country began in the 1970s, when it was an entirely underground affair. With the change in the political situation, the invigoration of religious life acquired new forms and produced problems and conflicts which nowadays politicians must take into account. In addition, the meaning of the expression "religious renaissance" remains unclear and receives extremely varied interpretations, depending on religious and ideological biases. This became quite evident in the course of the roundtable's work.

According to the representative of the Moscow patriarchate, Fr Illarion Alfeev, while there is an "external" renaissance of Orthodoxy, at the same time there is insufficient "internal" renaissance (there is a shortage of clerical "cadres"). The Islamic thinker Gaidar Jemal suggested that in both Russian Orthodoxy and the Russian Islamic community there is an absence of the "historical subject" which would be capable of a resolute achievement of the religious "project" independent of politics. According to the representative of the Moscow Jewish congregation, there is a different state of affairs for Jewish congregations, which in conditions of freedom have experienced a distinctive flowering of religious and cultural life (such congregations now exist in fifty-one cities). In his turn, the nonbeliever Vitaly Tretiakov, chief editor of Nezavisimaia gazeta, considered that it is generally inappropriate to speak about a "religious renaissance" in Russia.

It seems to us that such a diversity of opinion testifies to the undoubted growth of the role of religion and religious organizations in the life of our society although it remains unclear and is not comprehensible to society itself. The struggle of various political forces and ideologies complicates this indeterminateness of the place of religion in the field of secular society, which now is in thrall to various confessional conceptions of the role of religion. This is why serious discussion of the subject of "religion and society" remains absolutely necessary. (tr by PDS)

Russian text at Russkaia mysl

(posted 5 January 1998)


Study of tsarist remains continues

GRAND PRINCESSES ARRIVE IN MOSCOW
by Sergei Bychkov
Moskovskii komsomolets, 23 December 1997

Today the remains of grand princesses Tatiana, Olga, and Anastasia Romanov will arrive in Russia's capital. They are intended to remain in Moscow into the middle of January.

The investigative group of the general procuracy, headed by senior procurator justice councilor Vladimir Soloviev, has managed to persuade the Ekaterinburg authorities of the need for additional study of the royal remains. At the end of last week they returned to Ekaterinburg the remains of the servants who were shot along with the Romanovs. After completion of the forensic medical examination of the remains of the grand princesses, investigators will return them to Ekaterinburg and then can bring the remains of Nicholas II and Alexandra Fedorovna to Moscow. It is likely that the final forensic medical examination will be finished only by the middle of February. After this the government commission will make an evaluative report to the president. And only then will Yeltsin make the decision about where to bury the remains of the last Russian emperor and his family. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii

(posted 3 January 1998)


Patriarch addresses Moscow clergy

NEW ATTACK ON CHURCH
by Sergei Chapnin
Nezavisimaia gazeta,
17 December 1997

Patriarch Alexis II's report to the annual meeting of the Orthodox clergy of Moscow was devoted primarily to matters of church life. However it also touched on a number of problems that exist in the relations between the Orthodox church and Russian society.

"The negative attitude toward the Russian Orthodox church, manifested in the present time by the television and the press, could possibly presage a new attack on the church," Patriarch Alexis II declared yesterday. At issue is the uproar over Scorsese's film on NTV and the ORT channel which broadcasts on "People and the Law" statements "containing the good old communist antireligious line when the Russian clergy was accused of all sorts of mortal sins." The patriarch has no doubt that this is associated with the firm and uncompromising position taken by the church which is the "chief obstacle" to the propaganda of violence and moral degredation.

The patriarch was no less stern regarding the programs for sex education in schools, affirming that "priests do not have the right to remain silent" when the state is requesting 240 million rubles for these programs in 1998, which is six times greater than at the present. Will the state give attention to Orthodox taxpayers?

Referring to the events of the past year, the patriarch especially noted the struggle over the new law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations." The church's position on the conception of church-state relations was expressed unequivocally and the statements of priests who support other views were associated, according to the patriarch, "not so much with sincere delusion as with conscious activity aimed at undermining the authority of the Russian Orthodox church in society." Today in Moscow there are 8 monasteries and 404 churches, of which only 310 conduct services; 40 churches have not been evacuated by their former renters. Moscow churches are served by 493 priests and 180 deacons.

The meeting of the Moscow clergy again confirmed the new trend in church life--the Orthodox episcpate is continuing more often to declare openly its position on problems in Russian society. It seems that the "social doctrine" which the Russian Orthodox church is now working out will be not merely a theoretical document. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii

(posted 22 December 1997)


Violation of law on freedom of conscience

COLLECTIVE BAPTISM IN PUBLIC SCHOOL
by Vadim Akentiev,
Radiotserkov

Kemerovo, 19 December. The regional newspaper Kuzbass reported in a note titled "Hope in God, but. . ." that there was a collective baptism of pupils in school number 54 in the city of Prokopievsk of Kemerovo region. The parents' council had insisted upon the need for conducting the sacrament and the school administration consented after some hesitation. True, the administration's cooperation with the Orthodox church had begun during the first days of the school year when the parents' council persuaded it to have the school consecrated, which the rector of the church of the Virgin's Protection, Father Evgeny, did for free. He also conducted the rite of baptism for free, in which about 100 children participated, while another 150 pupils who already had been baptized received consecrated crosses. According to the reporter, the teachers were astonished since they could hardly recognize their restless students among the children who were listening to the church choir. But the parents were quite pleased, hoping that this experience would have a positive effect on the fate of their children and preserve them from evil.

Of course, the reporter speculated further, when moral chaos reigns in a society, moral direction is lost and people latch onto any straw, even breaking the law occasionally with good intentions--in this case the law "On Freedom of Conscience," where nothing is said about the right to conduct religious ceremonies in state and municipal schools. And this situation disturbed the newspaper reporter: somehow this collective baptism reminded him of another ritual, the collective induction into the [communist young] Pioneers, which never led to any good. And just as the red necktie on the breast was by no means a guarantor of morality, so the cross on the neck, in the writer's opinion, also will not transform the youth into keepers of Christian commandments.

But the news item ended with an unexpected conclusion: "Hope in God, but the bases of morality are laid by the family and the school, not by the powers that be." The conclusion is not just unexpected but also debatable.

Without dealing with the writer's contradiction, I shall recall the lesson of the recent history of the USSR. For all of seventy years of socialism we had both families and schools. How much morality was it possible for the parents and teachers to instill in the children of the land of soviets in such a long time? But when Lenin's handiwork collapsed, then in our souls where there should have been such moral bases it turned out to be empty. This is the sad lesson: somehow the family and school were unable to cope with their task and they failed even though the "moral code" was not bad. If the fault was collectivism's, which today threatens to transform the crosses being worn under the shirts into a fiction just as red neckties once did, then one must charge it, that is, collectivsm, and not get upset about the "powers that be." It's all the same. I dare to affirm, as a Christian, that if one hopes in God without any "buts," just then one will not fail. Neither in the face of collectivism nor of "the wisdom of the people," which, unfortunately, often corrupts the heavenly wisdom and even leads enlightened reporters by the nose. (tr by PDS)

Russian text at Radiotserkov

(posted 22 December 1997)


Turkmenistan restricts protestant groups

CITY UNDER THE POWER OF SECTS
by Nikolai Mitrokhin
Russkaia mysl, 11 December 1997

"We have to phone Moscow and also America in order to receive permission to talk with you," the leader of the Tashauz regional organization of Jehovah's Witness, Farukh Abdullaev, said to me. "Thus we shall meet at one a.m. in front of the Bakhor movie theater. You will recognize our man right away--he will be holding the magazine "Watchtower" in his left hand."

The regional capital Tashauz is located in the north of the small central Asian republic Turkmeniia. There isn't anything interesting there and you go there only by chance. Having chanced upon the city by train I asked acquaintances whether there is an Orthodox church there and received the answer: "None in our city; but there is a sect."

It turned out to be easy to find the sectarians. Within a half hour I found the phone number of dozens of believers who, it turns out, actually are in three different religious organizations: The Church of the Living God, Jehovah's Witnesses, and a coungregation of the Council of Churches of Evangelical Christians-Baptists.

The congregation of the Church of the Living God appeared in Tashauz in 1995 when a thirty-year-old engineer, Oleg Piiashev, returned to the city. He had graduated from a Bible school in Moscow which had been organized by the Swedish pastor Ulf Ekmar, and he had been authorized to create a congregation in his hometown. In two years his organizatino grew to 150 members, although up to 500 attend its meetings. The public meetings occur on Sundays in the yard of the house belonging to Oleg, and on Wednesdays the most active members of the congregation meet in several apartments in various regions of the city. Service are conducted in Russian and Uzbek (a substantial portion of the population of the region are Uzbeks).

The first "Jehovah's Witness" arrived in the city in 1990. She is a teacher of Russian language and literature from the central Urals, part Russian and part German. At first the circle which she led comprised four people. Now more than 300 people are in the sect. By the calculation of the Witnesses, the rate of growth of their members is 200 percent annually. And this when before baptism a Witness candidate must spend a minimum of one year in preparation. The official "recruitment" point for the sect, where at just about any time you can find a "pioneer" advocate hanging around in the park around the city's only attraction, the sculpture of dinosaurs stretching out their stone necks two hundred meters from the building of the regional Committee for National Security (KNB).

Both churches work among identical social groups--the intelligentsia (which is represented in the city primarily by teachers and physicians) and workers. At the same time, in distinction from traditional protestant organizations, they actively draw into their group representatives of the native population--Turkmens and Uzbeks and also the extremely large stratum of "mestizos" (children of mixed Russian-Korean, Arminian, and Turkmen marriages). Official Muslims (the muftiate, the chief administration of Muslims for all Turkmenistan is located in the city) overlook the activity of the sectarians for converting a population that traditionally confesses Islam. The state, or more precisely, the republic's President Saparmurat Niiazov, does not tolerate any manifestation of autonomy on the part of the muftiate.

Evangelical Christians-Baptists also appeared rather recently, by means of the return to the bosom of the church of one aged Baptist woman from Baptist ancestry. This congregation still is small and comprises only a few families.

In Turkmenia in March of this year an amendment ot the law on freedom of conscience and religious organizations came into effect, which increased to 500 the number of members a congregation must have in order to receive registration by the ministry of justice. At the same time the state actually refused registration and reregistration to all confessions, even those who managed to collect the necessary number of signatures, except for Muslims (during registration they lost half of their mosques) and Orthodox. The KNB of Turkmenistan, after a couple of weeks, descended upon all illegally operating congregations.

In Tashauz on 29 March agents of KNB arrived at the "Meeting of Remembrance" (Easter), which is the only annual holiday of the Jehovah's Witnesses, and copied down passport data and took evidence about place of employment of everyone present. In the course of the next two months everyone who was at the meeting was summoned at his workplace to the director's office and agents of KNB, under threat of dismissal, demanded that they sign a paper promising not to attend meetings again and not to participate in the activity of an illegally created organization. The leadership of the Church of the Living God and many active members also were summoned to KNB to sign "declarations." In city schools meetings of teachers were held, at which instructors of the education department, in the presence of people in civilian clothing, demanded of teachers that they choose whether they will teach children or attend "sectarian" meetings. By summer the original attack of the authorities eased somewhat, although the group of Witnesses, which was meeting in individual apartments in groups of up to thirty persons, still were taken several times to KNB because of an "illegally organized meeting."

All these measures, however, have not achieved the result the authorities desire. Of course, a certain portion of new converts stopped attending meetings, but after several months the former quantity was restored and has now reached above the pre-March level. But did the KNB activity have any chance of success anyway?

The thinking element of the city's population has been suffering for a long time in a state of intense intellectual hunger, which wasn't even like this in the time of the USSR. Imagine a situation where in the regional capital there is not a single bookstore, and throughout the whole country there is one newspaper in the Russian language (regional newspapers were closed this year), and television has one channel--ORT (Turkmen TV fills the airwaves with stories about the life of Turkmenbashi and national music), and even participation in an innocent "interest club" can "earn" a minimum of dismissal from work. Besides you can't talk with anyone about anything; what's to discuss if there is no news? Against this background any religious organization seems to be a "light in the window."

If there were an Orthodox church and active priest in the city then, perhaps, the Witnesses might not be reaping such a harvest of souls. But where are the Orthodox? After a long search I managed to find a woman who had her son baptized by the dean of parishes of Turkmenistan who happened to arrive a half year ago. But this event remained in her memory as a solitary event that had no effect on her existence.

Later they told me in Ashkhabad that in the middle of September, literally a week before my arrival, an Orthodox parish was registered in Tashauz. Of course, this helped the accounts of the dean, but what has changed in essence? Seven years, since the church received relative freedom, and a 200,000 people city with a substantial percentage of Russian population is living without an Orthodox church. And it will continue like this for several years. Building a church and finding a priest is a big problem. For the majority of parishes in Turkmenia there either is no priest or they are inclined to leave the country. So is there an alternative to the sectarians? Or will the business of saving souls be neglected as before or delegated to the Jehovah's Witnesses?

The Witness did not even make the meeting. Either he did not phone America, or this is their way of refusing to talk, or the KNB managed to summon him to a "conversation." The Turkmen night is dark and there are many puzzles in it. (tr by PDS)

Russian text at Russkaia mysl

(posted 12 December 1997)


Patriarch's film stand criticized

SEDUCTION OF POWER
by Andrei Chernov
Novaia gazeta, 8 December 1997

The television company is guilty of showing "The Last Temptation of Christ." Three times the patriarchate spoke out against showing Martin Scorsese's film. NTV twice respected its request, but the third time this rather dreary and, as soviet party workers used to be say in their time, "not highly artistic" film was aired. Instead of attaching to the Scorsese "gospel accouding the Judas" a slogan like: the patriarchate warns that smoking incense to this film is harmful to believers' health, NTV engaged the Orthodox hierarchs in direct conflict. And they were deeply offended, expressing themselves in the form of an appeal to secular authorities [English text of appeal at patriarchate's web site]. The patriarchate does not intend to go to court about it, but it does consider it a violation of the law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations."

The position of the Orthodox church hardly seems consistend. One of the Moscow publishers recently put out a volume of the complete collection of Pushkin's works. Alexis II explicitly blessed the publication and the verses "Christ is Risen, My Rebecca," and "Gavriliada," regarding which Yuru Eichenvald justly noted in 1923: "What is worthy only shows its invincibility more clearly against deliberate disparagement. The beauty of the Gospel is not defaced by Pushkin's parody."

The issue is not Scorsese but NTV's obstinacy. Obviously attorney's of the Moscow patriarchate understand that the currently effective constitution and legislation of the Russian federation will not allow turning the gentlemen of the Gusinsky collective and Scorsese into Salman Rushdie. Showing in a court that the film offends the sentiments of believing Christians is practically impossible. Particularly since neither Catholics nor protestants have demonstrated their sumpathy for the declaration of the Orthodox hierarchs.

Why the hierarchs of western Christianity "have seemed more tolerant than ours" is very understandable. Separatin of church from state has not occurred in our country; not in 1917 and not in 1991. The declaration of Alexis II is an attempt by the Moscow patriarchate to become the ideological department of the Russian government. And it is the response to the president's directive a year and a half ago to work out a new Russian ideology. But faith cannot be an ideology.

The patriarch hardly could wish for his declaration to split the flock into those who are pure and those who are not quite, expelling from Orthodox churches those for whom the rebirth of Russia is not associated with making secular power a theocracy and faith an ideology. But for the present these people can only pray fervently for their pastor. (tr by PDS)

Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii

related item: Patriarch holds press conference

(posted 11 December)


Implementing religion law

GOVERNMENT COMMISSION DISCUSSES REGISTRATION
ITAR-TASS/ Pravoslavie v Rossii

MOSCOW, 9 December. The draft of the new rules for registration of religious organizations was presented today for review of the State Commission on Affairs of Religious Associations. The session, with the associate director of the governmental apparat Andrei Sebentsov presiding, was devoted almost entirely to questions of developing normative legal documents in connection with the enactment of the new law On Freedom of Conscience and Religious ASsociations.

The new rules, as the representative of the ministry of justice Alexander Kudriavtsev explained, do not make any additions to the law but only specify the procedures for state registration. In particular, the innovations of the law provide for presentation to agencies of justice information about the bases of the belief system and practices. The document, comprising forty points, is supplemented by all forms necessary for registration. Two weeks after the submission of comments by interested organizations, the draft of the rules will be approved and sent to local agencies of justice.

Besides this, the commission discussed broadly for the first time the question regarding the transfer to the church of valuables confiscated in the 1920s. In particular, it dealt with the request from Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus for a governmental order to transfer from the state storage "to the ownership of the Russian Orthodox church 563 liturgical items having a total weight of 286 kilograms." Representatives of state storage have determined (this also was noted in the document) that the items being transferred do not have value for museums, that is, they are damaged are need restoration.

In 1998 the commission will review the supplemental mechanisms of the law on freedom of conscience. At the next session it will discuss the regulations for granting clergy deferment from military conscription. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text from Pravoslavie v Rossii

(posted 10 December 1997)


Siberian Baptists

LEADER OF RUSSIAN BAPTISTS ON PASTORAL TRIP

MOSCOW, 5 December. The president of the Union of Churches of Evangelical Christians-Baptists of the Russian federation, Pastor Petr Konovalchik, left for a two-week journey in Siberia and the Far East. In the course of this trip he will visit Novosibirsk, Khabarovsk, and Vladivostok.

In an interview with a reporter of Blagovest-Info, held the day before his departure, Petr Konovalchik said that in Novosibirsk he will participate in the decision, along with Baptist ministers of Siberia, regarding the establishment in that city of an ECB theological seminary. In Khabarovsk he will discuss with missionaries of the "Slavic Gospel Association" (SEO) the possibility of expanding the work of the local affiliate of SEO which, as a result of the great distance from the center of the country and its western boundaries, has problems in relations with foreign fellowbelievers. "I would not rule out the possiblity that links with foreign parthers will be established through Alaska because of its relative closeness." the president of the union of ECB churches of Russia noted.

"The happinest point of my trip," P. Konovalchik noted, "undoubtedly will be the consecration of a new building for the Baptist church in Vladivostok. The prayer building, erected almost in the center of the city, accommodates 300." Petr Konovalshik intends also to make pastoral visits to several ECB congregation in the hinterland of the Far East. (tr. by PDS)

Blagovest-Info from Pravoslavie v Rossii


Chief Russian Baptist denomination aging

BAPTIST CONFERENCE IN WESTERN SIBERIA
by Yuri Kolsenikov
Radiotserkov

NOVOSIBIRSK, 1 December. The year 1997 is a year of review and accountability for many of the responsible ministers of Evangelical Christian-Baptist churches of Russia. Already thirty-five audit and reelection conferences, of forty-five, have been held in various regions of Russia. Such a conference occurred for the Association of ECB churches of Kemerovo, Novosibirsk, and Tomsk regions at the Novosibirsk "Salvation" church. Eighty delegates participated in its work. Eduard Genrikh, the senior presbyter of ECB churches for western Siberia, gave an accountability report regarding his work in the four-year period. The figures that he introduced in his report testify impartially to the worsening state of affairs in the local ECB churches of the three regions of western Siberia. Despite the missionary emphasis of their ministry, the Baptist churches of this region, one of the largest in Russia, currently number only about 4,000 members. (Of these, in all 400 are younger than nineteen). By comparison with 1993, when the number of Baptists in Siberia was about 3500, this growth rate does not even match the growth of the churches during the period of persecution. On the other hand, during this time a large number of believers have emigrated abroad.

The basic problem for the Baptist brotherhood is the low inflow of youth. The average age of the leadership staff is fifty-four years. The presbyter of the Iskitimsk ECB church is ninety-two, and the only ordained evangelist in all of western Siberia is eighty-five. However, no one attending the conference was ready to make an analyhsis of these number and thus no fundamental decisions about how to get out of this dead end on growth were proposed. Against this background, the senior presbyter's recommendation for lowering the age of ministers sounded progressive; of course he qualified this by saying that it is necessary to approach this matter very cautiously. As a rule, such a reservation in practice means long years of "probation" for young candidates for the ministry and the restriction of their rights to independent ministry. One wants to believe that such an approach is justified biblically. Otherwise the future of the Baptist churches is alarming.

It seems that the ECB union in Russia understands the danger of the natural aging of the churches and the decline of evangelism that accompanies it. More and more often graduates of the theological seminaries are being given responsible posts in various places in the countryside. And the average age of the senior presbyters, according to vice president of the ECB union, Yury Sipko, is around forty. Incidentally, the union is satisfied with him and Brother Eduard himself received from the conference a "mandate" to continue his supervisory ministry. Nevertheless it is quite obvious: if he does not get some young helpers, the foreseeable future can hardly change.


Russian Adventists expanding

NEW SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST CHURCH IN KEMEROVO
by Vadim Akentiev
Radiotserkov

Kemerovo, 4 December. The appearance of a second registered church of Seventh-day Adventists in Kuzbass is expected by the end of 1997. It was created a half year ago in the regional center after the evangelical program "Easter Evenings," which was conducted by the old Adventist congregation in the large "Jubilee" movie theater.

Christian-Adventists appeared in Kemerovo around fifty years ago. The book "Along a Thorny Path," written by the well known leaders of the Adventist movement in the former USSR, Paul and Anna Matsanov, indicated that in 1959 the Kemerovo SDA congregation met in an apartment on Naberezhnaia street in the center of town. According to the recollections of the authors of the book, this congregation even had a string orchestra, which was simply amazing for the times when everywhere public trials of sectarians were being conducted, they were being fired from their jobs and were forced to move from town to town.

The main problem for the Adventists in the Soviet Union was observation of the Sabbath, the day on which it was difficult to get believers of this denomination to work even in the Stalinist labor camps. True, this problem even appears occasionally today. For example, last year a student was expelled from the Kemerovo medical school because as a member of the SDA church she could not persuade her biology teacher to switch the exams to a different day. This year the girl entered a teaching institute and, it seems, was able to settle the matter of switching classes.

According to the thirty-seven-year-old pastor of the Kemerovo SDA church, Vladimir Ryzhkov, observance of a day of rest is the first serious test for every new convert to their denomination, especially for young people. Incidentally, the Kemerovo congregation is getting younger compared with the recent past, since 1993 when a six-week evangelism crusade was held in the regional drama theater. The American Adventist pastor from Oregon, Moris Baskom, came for that event. In the large hall of the theater so many people came to hear him that all aisles were filled. True, many who wanted to receive a free Bible did not return to the meetings when they heard that it was necessary to devote the entirety of their lives to God.

After the evangelism crusade the congregation grew sharply from 45 to 250 persons, of whom about half attend regularly, including thirty young brothers and sisters. Incidentally, before this the youngest member of the congregation was thirty years old. Today the ACD church meets in the Miners' Palace of Culture. Recently they held new elections of the department heads, of which the church has several: deacons, youth, missionary, sabbath school, charity and mutual aid, and others. There also is a new department--children.

The workers of the charity department, for example, visit an old-folks home to preach the Gospel. Young brothers and sisters have been conducting classes for several years in one of the city's institutions for invalid chldren. The largest department of the church is the sabbath school, in which all of the adult members of the church participate according to their talents. Like many other evangelical churches in Kemerovo, the ASC congregation is building a prayer building, primarily of course by the efforts of the believers themselves, including necessarily the pastor and his wife. It must be said that in Kemerovo Vladimir and Galina Ryzhkov, about a year and a half ago, moved from Altai Territory. Vladimir studied by correspondence through the Zaoksk church academy.

In the new church there will be a basement which is almost completed, a hall, and a third floor. The latter had to be designed to accommodate school classes and guest facilities, at the expense of a high ceiling with good accoustics. In a few years the believers have managed to collect around 100,000 rubles for construction of the building, which is scheduled for completiion next year, of course with the financial support of the regional conference of SDA churches. The new church will be in the private section of the Predzavod district in the neighborhood of the old Adventist house of worship, a small private home where currently the newly formed congregation meets. It remains to say that Pastor Vladimir Ryzhkov plans to build a small prayer building in each of the city's districts in the future. (tr. by PDS)

(posted 6 December 1997)


Patriarch still fights film

PATRIARCH HOLDS PRESS CONFERENCE
Moskovskie novosti,
2 December 1997

The press conference of Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus showed that the passions around the showing of the Skorsese film "Last Temptation of Christ," broadcast on NTV on 9 November, have not subsided. Alexis recalled the church's warning: if the fill is shown on a public channel, believers will consider that station a "spiritually alien phenomenon." According to the patriarch, this has happened. Alexis considers that this television channel has spread "immorality, the propaganda of violence, an excessively frivilous attitude toward human tragedy, the sanctity of the family and public morals."

Well, having shown the film, the television company "has crossed the final boundary separating good and evil." The patriarch considers that "the most worthy" people participated in the action of protest against Ostankino, and the "Itogi" program distorted the protest and the camera "caught" the most notorious radical politicians. Actually the directors of NTV "set themselves in opposition to a great, if not the greater, part of the Russian people." Alexis II stated that he has appealed to the Russian president, representatives of both chambers of parliament, the head of the government, and the mayor of Moscow requesting that they "not remain indifferent to this offense against the religious sentiments of their own people."

The patriarch answered several questions:
--Are there forces which would wish to undermine public accord with the help of religious problems?
--Yes. However the church does not associate itself with these forces.
--Surveys have shown that only 16 percent of the population shares a sharply negative view towards Skorsese's film.
--I don't known about these surveys. I know only that the film caused pain for many.
--Have you seen the film yourself?
--No. But I saw the advertisements. They were offensive. It is not necessary to view everything in order to protest.
--Would you want to alter the character of relations between state and church?
--No. Our state is secular. But it is wrong to offend the religious sentiments of believers. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii

(posted 5 December 1997)


"Dangerous" sects named

VICTIMS OF SECTS
Argumenty i fakty,
4 December 1997

Question: I read somewhere that there is some committee for rescuing youth from false religions. From which specific religious organizations and by what means does this committee "save" our youth? Z. Fomicheva, Ekaterinburg

Answer: The Committee for Rescuing Youth from False Religions was created by persons who had suffered one way or another from totalitarian sects. In comprises both relatives of young people who have fallen under the influence of destructive cults and sectarians themselves. Former sectarians, of course. The committee actively participated in the development of the State Duma's new law on freedom of conscience.

Each member of the committee "specializes" in a particular religious organization and provides advice and counsel regarding it. The victims of destructive cults principally need psychological help, but we still do not have this mechanism in place. Incidentally in the USA such organizations have operated for twenty years already, like the American Family Fund and the Network for Information about Cults. Their work includes counseling and psychological rehabilitation of sectarians.

The Committee for Rescuing Youth considers that the most dangerous sects operating on Russian territory include "Unification Church" (the official name is the Association of the Holy Spirit for Unification of World Christiaity), "Church of Scientology," "Jehovah's Witnesses," "Church of Christ," "International Society of Krishna Consciousness," "Aum Shinrikyo," "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" (Mormons), "Church of the Final Covenant" (Vissarion), "Mother of God Center," and "The Family" (also known as Children of God). It is also possible to mention "Union of Independent Christian Missionary Societiet," "White Brotherhood," "Witness Li," and "The Spiritual Center of Satora." (tr. by PDS)

Link to Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii

(posted 5 December 1997)


Implementing religion law

RELIGIONS TO RECEIVE GUIDELINES NEXT WEEK
Blagovest Info/ Pravoslavie v Rossii

MOSCOW, 1 December. On December 9 representatives of various confessions will be briefed on the principles of the implementation of the law on freedom of conscience. This was announced at a conference which was conducted in the premises of the government of the Russian federation by Andrei Sebentsov and Genrikh Mikhailov, who are participating in the composition of the substatutory document. The general volume of the document comprises more than 70 pages. One of the most substantive standards of the implementation of the law will be the requirement that when a religious organization transfers from one to another jurisdiction, the right to its property remains with the old jurisdiction. (tr. by PDS)

CATHOLIC PRELATE SEES CONTRADICTION BETWEEN RELIGION LAW AND CANON LAW
Blagovest Info/ Pravoslavie v Rossii

MOSCOW, 2 December. In accordance with the new Russian law on freedom of conscience, ten citizens of Russia may create a parish but a bishop cannot. Commenting on this requirement, the Catholic Archbishop Tadeus Kondrusevich stated that it violates the canon law of the Catholic church. He expressed the hope that this contradiction will not affect the life of the Catholic institutions in Russia.

According to the new law, the exclusive right of hiring a priest is held not by the central organization but by the local one, that is, the parish. As a positive feature of the new law the Catholic archbishop noted the possibility for a priest to obtain residency since at the present foreigners must extend their visas every three months. However the greatest problem for Catholics deals with the registration of monastic orders that are not directly subordinate to a ruling bishop. (tr. by PDS)

BAPTISTS FORBIDDEN TO HOST FOREIGN PREACHER
from Robert Hosken, private communication
2 December 1997

For the last several months, our local Evangelical Christian-Baptist church here has been preparing for a three-day evangelistic festival here in Ioshkar-Ola on December 11-13, with evangelist Victor Hamm from the Billy Graham organization as the main speaker. We have already held an all-day youth meeting a few weekends ago, and the next weekend we held a women's meeting. Traning sessions for counsellors have also been taking place, and people from the church were beginning to distribute 10,000 brochures all over the city.

Last Friday afternoon I received a phone call from our evangelist-pastor, Timothy Gerega, who started our church here about four years ago. He explained that the president's office of the Mari El Republic had just ordered the gatherings to be cancelled, advertising to be pulled, and contracts for the meeting place to be broken. So far there is nothing in writing from the president's office stating that the festival is to be cancelled.

Pastor Timothy has learned that the persons behind the cancellation of the evangelistic meetings are a Mr. Glukhov of the FSB (former KGB) who is part of the president's advisory staff, and Orthodox Bishop Ioann. Glukhov yelled at Timothy over the phone threatening to have his "sect" driven out of Mari El Republic if he continues to try holding the meetings, and Timothy heard from various people in the government offices that Bishop Ioann had gone to the President of Mari El to demand that this "sect" (which is part of the Russia-wide ECB denomination duly registered under the law) not be allowed to use the Lenin Palace of Culture for these meetings.

[Update on 5 December] This evening we received another call from pastor-evangelist Timothy Gerega of the Reconciliation Baptist Church here in Ioshkar-Ola, capital of the Mari El Republic in the Russian Federation (about 450 miles east of Moscow).

The meeting place is still cancelled for the evangelistic meetings that were scheduled for next week. Timothy met today with the assistant director and others from the Lenin Palace of Culture, where the meetings were planned, and was told that the meetings can't be held. The LPC is in danger of being confiscated by the Mari El Republic for late payment of taxes and services (as was a sports stadium owned by the same factory that owns the LPC), if they insist on their right to fulfill their contract with the Baptist Church and let the meetings take place. Then they would all lose their jobs, and the President of Mari El has promised them that they would not be able to get another job anywhere in Mari El.

[Update on 7 December] This morning, Sunday, we learned that President Viacheslav Kislitsyn of Mari El had personally reversed the position of his government, and has now given permission for the meetings to take place. The "Christian Festival" evangelistic meetings will begin on Wednesday, 10 December, and run through Sunday, 14 December.

(posted 5-7 December1997)


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