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FESTIVAL OF RELIGIOUS MUSIC IN IZHEVSK
by Sergei Kissler, "Vera i Zhizn"
IZHEVSK, 22 June. Its birthday is a real holiday for every city. It is always unforgettable--fireworks, parades, popular festivals, and meetings with friends and acquaintances. The birthday of the city of Izhevsk, capital of Udmurtiia, is 12 June. For a long time the heart of every Christian has ached because people celebrate this day without thinking of God. The usual things for this day were overdrinking of alcohol, discotheques with frantic music and shouts, and piles of garbage in the streets. For a long time Christians have been praying for conducting the city's day in a way that accords with the will of God.
It seems that things got moving from the very center. What happened is that on the eve of the city's day all pastors of Christian churches, of which Izhevsk has about a dozen, were invited to the mayor's office where the administration of the city thanked them for their spiritual work which they were performing in the business of regenerating the nation. The mayor of the city thanked the pastors for their prayers for the leaders and rulers and asked Christians to continue to pray. Also the administration asked that they conduct a festival of religious music in the central square of the city in the "Rossiia" movie house.
Note, nobody even asked for this; this was the initiative of the leadership of the city. It is very important to pray for leaders and rulers, since whether they do the will of God or the devil depends upon our prayers.
So at 7:00 o'clock in the evening the festival began. On the stage appeared praise groups from the churches "Christian Society," "Resurrection," "Work of Faith," "Church of God," and others. But, as one pastor said, this was not the holiday "Singing-98," but a Jesus festival.It was his holy name that was glorified on this holiday. Various evangelical churches together praised Jesus, the Lord and Savior, without any disagreements and condemnations of each other, showing thereby that we truly are able to be one in God. For four hours songs of praise and worship resounded, interrupted only by short sermons from pastors of the churches.
Many people off the street came and heard sermons about Christ. Some came who had read the schedule for the city holiday, some were invited by friends, and many simply heard the songs about Christ who were on the city square, because the praise was heard even outside the walls of the movie house. Now people had a choice to go somewhere else, or to listen to the noise and howl of the discotheque praising Satan, or to listen to songs of praise glorifying God.
At the end of the festival free Christian papers "Work of Faith" and "Faith and Life" were distributed. People departed with broad smiles on their faces and it was obvious that they were happy that on their city's birthday they had given honor and praise to the one who made this the day of their spiritual birth and the regeneration of their life. One wishes to believe that next time the Jesus festival will be conducted on the central square and that the noice of worldly music will not be heard because the songs of praise drown it out. It is necessary only to pray and believe. (tr. by PDS)
Russian text at Radiotserkov
(posted 24 June 1998)
NOVOKUZNETSK COURT STOPS CHURCH SERVICES
by Vadim Akentiev, Radiotserkov
NOVOKUZNETSK, 23 June. Ilia Bantseev, pastor of the church of Christians of Evangelical Faith in the Novoilinsk microdistrict of Novokuznetsk, was tried in court. He had been charged with conducting an unsanctioned religious service out of doors.
We recall that in April this church was evicted from a rented movie house on order of the head of the city, Sergei Martin. The reasons were vaguely explained as having to do with the church's interference with the theater's message. District authorities refused to designate another facility. thus long before the eviction Pastor Ilia Bantseev filed an application for conducting street meetings. The authorities delayed the decision more than a month. Finally they decided to refuse, citing article 16 of the federal law "On freedom of conscience and religious association." The premise was that the street cannot be viewed as a "place specially designated for conducting religious events." Frankly speaking, the formulation is casuistic; parishioners did not intend to make the street their own church territory.
In essence this refusal is a typical formality because article 16 provides for "other cases" for conducting public services. Such services nevertheless may "be conducted by the procedure established for conducting assemblies, processions, and demonstrations."
Rather this is not a matter of the federal law. Take, for example, a private conversation of the deputy chief of the district for work with public and religious organizations, Vladimir Ushakov, with a minister of the beleaguered church, Nikolai Pogrebniak. According to Pogrebniak the state official stressed that they could not obtain a place for conducting services in any case. Nowhere. Obviously the source of such stifling policy by the authorities with regard to the Novoilinsk church comes from the head of the city, Sergei Martin, who is biased against the very confession of Christians of Evangelical Faith.
When it did not receive permission, the church informed the authorities that it would meet nevertheless. Such a right is established by the constitution of Russia and the law "On freedom of conscience." Most important, Christians are commanded by the Lord Jesus Christ himself to meet together. Thus the parishioners conducted several Sunday services under the open sky. At that time the mayor ordered the district police to draw up a warrant against the church. However the chief of the district department of the Administration of Internal Affairs (UVD) refused to obey the order, stating in essence: "I will give you a club; drive them away yourself." It was then the city department of UVD that had to draw up the warrant.
According to Nikolai Pogrebniak, the trial proceeded normally. The leadership of the church was given the minimum sentence provided by the specific article. The pastor could have gotten three months of corrective labor or a large fine. But he received only a warning. The Novoilinsk church has stopped its services. (tr. by PDS)
Russian text at Radiotserkov
(posted 24 June 1998)
BOOK BURNING IN EKATERINBURG CONFIRMED
Nezavisimaia gazeta--religiia, 17 June 1998
by Svetlana Dobrynina, Sergei Vasiliev
The recognition of books by famous Orthodox theologians as "heretical" and their public burning in Ekaterinburg rocked not only the Russian Orthodox church but also the entire Orthodox world. At the beginning of May from the library of the diocesan parochial school were taken the books of famous Orthodox theologians of the twentieth century archpresbyters Alexander Schmemann and John Meyendorff as well as archpriests Nikolai Afanasiev and Alexander Men. A bit later these books were burned in the yard of the church school and priest Oleg Vokhmianin, who refused to renounce "their" doctrine, was banned from the ministry. For almost a month the diocese maintained silence. Today we continue the topic raised in NG on 29 May 1998.
The first to decide to comment on the situation was Archbishop Sergius of Solnechnogorsk, the administrator of affairs of the Moscow patriarchate. In an interview with the newspaper Moscow Times he noted: "I spoke with Master Nikon and he said that there was no burning. Theology is not sacred scripture. It is possible to agree with theologians or not. The more variety of opinions, the better. I do not imagine that such stupidity occurred. Master Nikon is after all a contemporary man and has contemporary views. If this were to be officially confirmed, then I would view it negatively."
Soon it became clear that the burning of books nevertheless did occur, the "stupidity happened." And although there has been no official comment from Bishop Nikon yet, it is not only the watchmen of the church school who have talked about the burning. In a conversation with the commissioner for religious matters of the government of Sverdlovsk region, Viktor Smirnov, Bishop Nikon acknowledged that he indeed gave an oral order for the burning of books. However the list of the books to be burned, according to Bishop Nikon, was limited to works of Alexander Men. The bishop explained his action as an attempt to protect Russian Orthodoxy, which holds to historically orthodox positions, from free interpretations of the teachings of Christ. The censor of the Ekaterinburg diocese, Fr Avraam, in conversation with Smirnov, noted that this step was involuntary and he himself did not approve of such a demonstrative action.
Eyewitnesses included pupils of the church school. Frightened by the administration they could only explain vaguely that "you can get into trouble" for reading Fr Alexander Men and that as regards John Meyendorff, there was a time when his works were studied but now they have been confiscated and they will not be used as texts. The students also reported that some kind of plot had been uncovered in Moscow and its participants were actively at work in Ekaterinburg.
Meanwhile it is worth specifying: books have been burned in Ekaterinburg diocese long ago, since the time of Bishop Melchizedek. So that by the time Bishop Nikon arrived at the diocesan see this action had become a local tradition.
In recent days the center of events has transferred to Moscow. It is here that a multitude of letters have been addressed in which the patriarchate is being asked to make a principled assessment of what happened in Ekaterinburg diocese. One of the first to respond was Archpresbyter Alexander Schmemann's widow, Juliana Schmemann. "Our American church is imbued with the teachings of Fr Alexander Schmemann (my husband) and Fr John Meyendorff. They never deviated from the teaching of the holy church, but they were motivated by the desire to enlighten people and to draw them into the love of Christ. There is no need for me to write about this. The books themselves testify to it. I write only because it is extremely important to me that you be with us and the late fathers Alexander and John and with those who read and respect them. You know that they had and we here have in our hearts only love and the profound desire to be together with the Russian church and our common faith."
Trying to understand the actions of Bishop Nikon, his brother bishop of San Francisco and of all the West, Tikhon (Orthodox Church in America) has noted that in the Soviet Union the possiblity to get good theological education "outside of the narrow bounds of dogmatic theology" was practically nil and today the "Russian church is enduring an extremely difficult period of renewal."
Bishop Tikhon considers the burning of books "one of the most absurd means of dealing with divergent thought that one can imagine." He notes that in history "the books that the whole world reads are always burned." "As regards the ill-starred Russian bishop, he probably is existing in a state of 'blissful ignorance.'"
The Orthodox activist from Holland Jim Forrest sent a letter toPatriarch Alexis II on 2 June in which he noted that "what happened by its very character recalls the actions of the inglorious inquisition of the Roman Catholic church several centuries ago." He called the patriarch to respond to this event with a public declaration.
Concern about what happened in Russia was expressed the son of Archpresbyter Alexander Schmemann, Sergei, the well known American reporter who has worked many years as the Moscow correspondent of the New York Times. He emphasized that his father "worked all his life for the welfare of the Russian church, spoke out on Radio Liberty, and wrote books. From many years of experience of life in the Soviet Union I know how many people were inspired and supported by his works. These include also Patriarch Alexis II, who called Fr Schmemann 'my great teacher.' Horror and pain fill the heart when you know that a bishop of the church now living in a free country is able to do such a repulsive and godless act."
However in Russia itself the first to comment were those who supported the idea of book burning. Listeners of radio station "Radonezh" demanded that the Union of Orthodox Citizens (SPG) defend Bishop Nikon from the sharp criticism in the mass media. The brotherhood of St. Mark of Ephesus, known for its collections "In the webs of rennovated Orthodoxy" and "Protestantism of the eastern rite," also supported Bishop Nikon. But the confessor of SPG, Archpriest Vladislav Sveshnikov, was more restrained in his evaluations and said that it is possible that SPG would make a declaration but in the situation it is necessary to sort things out carefully. In addition he considers that "Bishop Nikon has acted fully within the parameters of the decisions that have been made by the very highest church authorities."
Many are asking the question what the burning of books today signifies. Is it just "blissful ignorance," as Bishop Tikhon thinks, or is it something else. The American Orthodox priest David Mozer suggested a rather paradoxical interpretation of the events: "Burning of books is a visible icon, a method of teaching that is vital and emotional. Bypassing reason it penetrates to the heart and makes an impression even on the will of a person. I do not know why Bishop Nikok gave the order to burn books, but I know that it could be an effective teaching device, a teaching device like icons in our churches and homes." Books in contemporary intellectual society have become somehing like icons: we do not dare to treat them disrespectfully and we view them with awe.
The uproar over the book burning has continued more than a month. However nobody has even dared to explain what the famous theologians are guilty of. It is obvious that the affair in the Urals has not gone beyond general phrases and public accusations of "heresy in general." Will it ever become known what spectre the Ekaterinburg censor sees in the books of Schmemann, Meyendorff, and Men?
Quite probably in the near future the question of making lists of Orthodox literature recommended for reading can be raised, but whatever the case it is simply necessary to prevent the excesses of poorly educated diocesan censors. (tr. by PDS)
Russian text: Podtverdilsia fakt sozhzheniia knig
(posted 24 June 1998)
SUPREME COURT BEGAN REVIEW ON LIQUIDATION OF STUDENT ASSOCIATION
Belorusskaia delovaia gazeta, 23 June 1998
MINSK, 23 June. An unprecedented judicial process began on 18 June in the Supreme Court of Belarus. On the basis of a represention from the Ministry of Justice, the court began the review of a case for the liquidation of the Belarusian department of the international student association CARP. The basis for the review of the case for closing the association was the incongruence of the organization's activity with the provisions of its charter.
KARP is registered in Belarus as a public student organization. However the plaintiffs, namely the Ministry of Justice, have evidenct that CARP is the youth subdivision of one of the world's largest sects, the sect of Moon [i.e. the Unification Church--tr. note]. Inasmuch as the student association may not be engaged in religious activity, the court undertook the review of the case for liquidation of the Belarusian division CARP.
On 18 June in the first court case in this matter questioning involved persons who will represented the interests of the sides. Besides this, the court examined Galina Ruzova who had prepared the expert opinion regarding the activity of the CARP student association. The stides also submitted a number of petitions; the representative of the Ministry of Justice petitioned for participation in the case of Galina Ruzova as an expert and for adding supplementary documents to the materials of the case. The petition of the Ministry of Justice was granted. From their side representatives of the association petitioned for the participation of Nadezhda Dudareva in the case as defense attorney.
Further, because the expert opinion had not been composed by direction of the court and consequent the expert had not bee warned about her personal responsibility for its accuracy, Nadezhda Dudareva entered a motion for declaring the opinion ineffective. Besides, representatives of the student association declared that the expert opinion had been prepared by a person who lacked sufficient education for it (its author, Galina Ruzova, has two degrees: the Kuibyshev Institute of National Economy and the Journalism Department of Belarus State University), and thus it cannot be considered in court. Besides this, represenatives of the association petitioned for summoning an expert from the CARP side. After reviewing the petitions of the sides, the court declared a recess in the review of the case. (tr. by PDS)
Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii
see follow-up story
(posted 23 June 1998)
PARACHURCH ORGANIZATION GAINS CENTRALIZED RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATION STATUS IN RUSSIA
Peter Deyneka Russian Ministries, operating in Russia under the name Association For Spiritual Renewal, received official notification on June 10 that its registration as a Centralized Religious Organization (CRO) was approved by the Russian Federation.
According to Russia's controversial law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations," passed last September, all religious organizations must apply for registration. The CRO status provides the greatest amount of freedom available under the new law to engage in religious activities. The alternate registration as a religious organization or group offers much more limited rights. To date only a handful of groups have received approval by the government as CROs--a Baptist group (Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists), a Pentecostal group ("Calvary Fellowship" of the Russian Associated Union of Christians of the Evangelical Faith), a Charismatic group (Christian Charismatic Association), the Mormons (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints), and Russian Ministries. This makes Russian Ministries the first parachurch organization to receive official recognition from the federal government under the new law.
"This is a tremendous answer to prayer," commented Peter Deyneka, president of Russian Ministries, upon receiving news of the approval. "Although we are still opposed in principle to the new law on religion, we are grateful that the hundreds of trained nationals with whom we work will continue to enjoy the greatest level of freedom that is available under the new law. As we approach a summer of heightened ministry outreach, this news couldn't have come at a better time."
Continuing to affirm the primacy of national Christians in ministry, Deyneka went on to say that "We are a Russian-based movement of trained and equipped national workers involved in ministries on the field, who are having a most positive ministry on both personal and national levels. It's encouraging to receive this approval on the national level."
(courtesy of Ray Prigodich)
(posted 23 June 1998)
PROTESTANT PRISON MINISTRY HAS MIXED SUCCESS
by Vadim Akentiev, Radiotserkov
KEMEROVO, 21 June. The brothers Andrei and Alexander Charushnikov, members of the Kemerovo church of Christians of Evangelical Faith (KhVE), have been conducting a prison ministry for several years. Recently they received a letter from the local prison colony in which fifteen believing prisoners asked that they visit them for spritual encouragement and support. This is not the first letter of its kind. The believers have called on the telephone: "Come, we are waiting for you!" However entry into the colony is closed for evangelical Christians.
Several years ago at this institution evangelists showed the "Jesus" film and the Gideons mission gave out New Testaments to everyone. The administration of the colony did not permit conversations with the prisoners although people repented and came to God. Later a group of believers formed there.
At the beginning of this year Andrei Charushnikov nevertheless obtained permission for their visit. To achieve this he met with Archbishop Sofrony of Kemerovo and Novokuznetsk. The bishop ended the conversation, which lasted an hour and a half, with the words that he, of course, could not hinder the preaching of the gospel and thus he approves meetings with prisoners. But afterward again there was the prohibition of the administration.
The ministers turned to the administration of the corrective labor colonies (ITK) of the region with a request to investigate the misunderstanding. The upper ranks were not opposed to visitation in the "zone" by evangelical believers, but they left this to the purview of local administrations, citing the agreement about cooperation between the administration of ITK and the Kemerovo diocese. Thus it is possible to imagine that the situation will become worse. Today, for example, in Kemerovo evangelical believers are permitted into only one of the five colonies.
It remains to add that the Charushnikov brothers do not only visit believing prisoners and correspond with them but they meet with those who have been released and help them materially and find them housing and work. However the brothers are in a position to give social rehabilitation only to those who have become believers in the "zone." The danger that someone might become a believer insincerely, in order to get help, is almost nil. Andrei is convinced that he has the gift of discerning insincere faith. Besides both brothers themselves, as the say in the "zone" have "walked in these shoes." It is interesting that they became believers behind bars in the same year, although they were located in different colonies far from each other.
In the near future Andrei and Alexander plan to appeal to an independent lawyer. They do not intend to retreat. Believers in the colonies are waiting for them and praying to God for mercy. (tr. by PDS)
Russian text at Radiotserkov
ORTHODOX COOPERATION WITH STATE OFFICIALS
by Vadim Akentiev, Radiotserkov
KEMEROVO, 5 June. In this city a program of cooperation between the administration of internal affairs (UVD) of the administration of Kemerovo region and the Kemerovo diocese of the Russian Orthodox church has been signed. The program is intended to raise the moral and spiritual level of police officials. On the basis of this agreement common action with the Russian Orthodox church will by performed in the struggle against crime. Both sides are obliged to work for the creation of centers of rehabilitation of minors in which those who have been released from places of confinement or who have psychological deviance will be returned to normal life. The church also will look after the libraries of religious literature in agencies of internal affairs and correctional institutions. It will participate in charitable actions for aid to families of officers who were killed or injured in the performance of official duties and for veterans of war and labor. It is proposed that priests will conduct lectures and seminars for the study of spiritual heritage with the personnel of UVD. The program was established within the framework of the already existing agreement between the Kemerovo diocese and the administration of Kemerovo region. (tr by PDS)
PROTESTANT PRISON MINISTRY BEGINS
by Vadim Akentiev, Radiotserkov
KEMEROVO, 7 April. After long prayers the doors of the colony of strict regime No. 43 in Yagunovsky settlement, a suburb of Kemerovo, were opened for evangelical Christians. Back in 1994 the parishioners of the Kemerovo KhVE church, and in particular two brothers, Andrei and Alexander Charushnikov, asked to conduct conversations about God with prisoners. But they were refused on the basis that they did not belong "to that confession." True, there already had been one-time events. For example, the Christian interdenominational Gideons mission had given out New Testaments to all prisoners and the New Life mission showed the "Jesus" film. But the business was limited to this.
However recently a small group of prisoners wrote a letter requesting a meeting with "believers in the New Testament" which is how evangelical Christians are called "in the zone." And Alexander Charushnikov (who, incidentally, was himself in his early years before he came to faith both "in the zone" and addicted to drugs) was able to meet with Archbishop Sofrony of Kemerovo and Novokuznetsk. The meeting was unofficial--Alexander Charushnikov did not represent anyone other than himself, simply calling himself a preacher of God's Word, and he asked Bishop Sofrony to render assistance in setting up a meeting with believing convicts. The conversation in the prelate's residence lasted an hour and a half; the Orthodox hierarch, for example, described miracleworking icons to this rank-and-file Pentecostal, and Alexander told how he came to God. Bishop Sofrony ended the conversation with the words that he, of course, could not hinder the preaching of the gospel and thus he approved the meeting with the prisoners, but only with those who had already been drawn to evangelical Christians.
True, when Alexander Charushnikov went to the "zone" with the approval of the Orthodox bishop, the adminsitration arranged a meeting will all prisoners of the colony for him. Today parishioners of the KhVE church have the possibility of visiting the colony two times a month. (tr. by PDS)
Russian text at Radiotserkov
AGREEMENT BETWEEN BISHOP AND GOVERNOR
byVadim Akentiev, Radiotserkov
KEMEROVO 16 March. The governor of Kuzbass, Aman Tuleev, and Bishop Sofrony of Kemerovo and Novokuznetsk signed an agreement of cooperation between the administration and Kemerovo diocese until the year 2000. The newspaper "S toboi" (With you) reported that according to the document the goals of the cooperation include the achievement of concord within society and interreligious peace and the strengthening of the moral foundations "in a spirit of peace and mutual understanding." The administration is required to create favorable conditions for religious and educations activity of Orthodox priests in the field of education and culture and in the business of social protection and charity. In particular, the sides decided to cooperation with institutions training medical personnel "in matters of the formation of charity" as well as "on matters of training and improving the qualifications of pedagogical cadres in the areas of culture studies and the history of religious enlightenment." The authorities will facilitate the church in its participation in the education of the young generation and the training of youth for military service and together with the church will preserve monuments of Orthodox culture, restoration of churches, and care for the elderly, orphans, and sick. Financing of the agreement is supposed to be conducted at the expense of "its participants, sponsors, and voluntary helpers." (tr. by PDS)
Also on situation in Kemerovo: "Regional disputes over religious liberty"
(posted 22 June 1998)
SYNOD NOT MOTIVATED BY FEAR OF SCHISM
MOSCOW, 19 June. Archbishop Sergius of Solnechnogorsk labeled as "absurd" the popular opinion that the synod's decision for the patriarch not to participate in the burial of the Ekaterinburg remains was made out of fear of intrachurch schism.
"There are various points of view on the question of the authenticity of the Ekaterinburg remains, but this is not a matter of principle which would be able to split the church," he noted. "The church hierarchy was primarily concerned about the situation in the country as a whole. If it took one or another position the church would be able to split the people, to create a schism in society--specifically society, not the church," he stated in a conversation with reporters.
The prelate expressed the opinion that if the decision had been otherwise and the ceremony had gone ahead with the patriarch's participation, this would not lead, as many think, to the reign of peace in Russia and to the end of disputes over the authenticity of the remains.
As regards the correspondence of the positions of the Moscow patriachate and the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (RPTsZ) on this matter, Archbishop Sergius said that this was not the result of a previous consultation or agreement and that it has had not impact on their mutual relations. "In any case we have not become closer from this," Archbishop Sergius said. (tr. by PDS)
Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii
(posted 22 June 1998)
PRESIDENT'S RELIGION COUNCIL EXPLORES CHURCH-STATE COOPERATION
MOSCOW, 19 June. Half of the teachers and parents in the course of an all-Russian survey have expressed support for the introduction of religious education into the state educational curriculum. These data were presented today at the session of the Council on Relations with Religious Associations under the presidency of the Russian federation. It was held under the chairmanship of the assistant director of the administration of the Russian presidency, Mikhail Komissar. Its participants included religious leaders and representatives of the government of RF, the State Duma, and several provinces of Russia, the ministries and departments.
Discussing the question of the practical implementation of religious education in state and municipal educational institutions, the representative of the Ministry of Education of Russia, Valery Serikov, expressed support for more active cooperation of representatives of the two systems. So far, he said, the initiative has come only from the Russian Orthodox church, with whom now possible forms and directions of such cooperation are being worked out.
The crisis in Russia is complicated, first, by the loss of the moral compass that to a great extent has been formed in Russia under the impact of the religious factor, according to the chairman of the department of religious education and catechesis of the Moscow patriarchate, Hegumen Ioann Ekonomtsev. He is convinced that it is spiritual knowledge that can become a powerful stimulus for an explosion in many areas of academic science. However in view of the multiconfessional character of our country many who have spoken out have favored the working out of a common conception, which would be able to take into account the interests of representatives of all traditional religions in Russia. At the session it was decided to create a working group for developing such a concept, which would include representatives of the structures of state education and traditional religions.
A representative of the Minister of Foreign Affairs (MID), Viacheslav Dolgov, assigned an important role in giving aid to our countrymen who live abroad to religious societies. He especially stressed the vigorous activity in this area of the Russian Orthodox church and of Patriarch Alexis II personally, whose trips to countries of the CIS and the Baltics has facilitated to a great extent the consolidation of the Russian diaspora and generally the improvement of relations among countries. He said that religious societies in the near abroad essentially have become the primary centers around which the Russophone population has united. With regard to the way religious leaders could give support to the Russophone population that constitutes national minorities, the representatives of MID RF in particular called them to help with acquisition of textbooks for Russian schools. The situation there is catastrophic; often pupils of several classes are being taught out of only one textbook. Because of the impossibility of giving their children a normal education, many families have been forced to emigrate, he said.
Cooperation with MID also would be useful in the area of the defense of the legal rights of our countrymen, according to Viacheslav Dolgov. He cited the case when an appeal to UNESCO in connection with the refusal by the administration of Ivano-Frankovo province in Ukraine to register a parish of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox church of the Moscow patriarchate forced the authorities of Ukraine to perform what they were obligated by law to do. The authority and influence of religious leaders, according to the representative of the foreign policy department, would be able to facilitate also the reduction of tensions in international relations. (tr. by PDS)
Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii
(posted 22 June 1998)
A CHURCH'S SHAME
The Times (UK), 20 June 1998
[The Times newspaper of London used the brouhaha over July's funeral for the tsarist royal family as an occasion to deliver a tendentious (and not entirely accurate) attack on the Russian Orthodox church as a whole. I t concluded with the following paragraphs.]
. . . The Russian Orthodox Church is in the grip of extreme nationalists and anti-Semites. Their views, which Patriarch Aleksi has yet to repudiate, are rapidly returning the Church to the political wasteland that polluted its spiritual authority before the Revolution. The Church was once happy to utter unctious endorsements of the former communist Government. Now it appears to regard Russia's post-communist Government as some creation of the devil.
A witch-hunt has begun against all manifestations of liberalism. A book-burning ceremony was ordered in the Yekaterinburg seminary to burn the works of two "heretic" priests whose broadcasts from exile kept faith alive in the communist time. Gleb Yakunin, a priest whose struggle against communist persecution made him a beacon of integrity, has been defrocked. Foreign missionaries and non-Orthodox clergy have been hounded out of Russia. Most disgraceful of all, crude anti-Semitism has been propagated by the Metropolitan of St Petersburg with no check or rebuff by the Patriarch. Somewhere on the road from servitude to reconciliation the Church has lost its way. Unless the Patriarch reconsiders his decision, a critical chance for a new spiritual beginning will be lost.
Complete text of editorial: A church's shame
(from Johnson's Russia List)
(posted 22 June 1998)
NEW CATHOLIC BISHOP ARRIVES IN IRKUTSK
by Irina Lenshina,
SM Number One
(abridged by Religioznaia zhizn v Rossii, #2, 19 June 1998)
IRKUTSK, 8 June.--I would like to thank all Catholics for preserving the faith in their souls. For teaching their children and grandchildren. And to wish for Catholics that we will surely meet. And for all, that the Lord will be with you." So said Jezi Mazur, who was appointed vicar bishop for Siberia, in his greetings to the people of Irkutsk.
It was the first press conference in history of the Catholic parish of Irkutsk. According to the Irkutsk Catholic priest Fr Ignatcia it was historic both because it was the first and because a vicar bishop had appeared in Siberia.
Bishop Joseph Werth, who ruled all Siberian dioceses since 1961 alone, suggests that Catholics are returning to Siberia not to an empty space. "You know the history of Siberia. Many Germans, Lithuantians, and Poles live here along with their descendents--people of Catholic descent. Before 1917 each Siberian city had its parish."
--Why did you need an assistant bishop?
--The work keeps growing greater. Today seventy priests have come to Siberia and the same number of nuns. In our area there are more than 200 cities where there are Catholics and I cannot manage to visit everywhere. On 23 March of this year, two vicar bishops were appointed for Russia, for the European and Asiatic parts.
The bishops called on the authorities of the city and the province.
--"I was greatly disappointed, not by the visit itself, but by the discovery that there was no question of the return of our building (the church where now there is an organ concert hall and a Catholic parish--author's note)," Fr Joseph noted. "Of course, everything that we have now goes beyond all our dreams. But the issue of the return of our building has been going on for seven years, it seems to me. It seemed that everything had to start from scratch.
--What are your relations with the authorities and the Orthodox church like?
--Our religious freedom is relative. As regards the Orthodox church, our relations became strained seven years ago when we returned to Russia in 1991. But my personal relations with many Orthodox bishops are very good. I hope that Fr Jezi also will be able to establish good relations with them. We are optimistic. (tr. by PDS)
(note: Religioznaia zhizn v Rossii is a new publication. It is produced by WPS Media Monitoring Agency. Subscription information is available to their Web site.)
(posted 22 June 1998)
PRAYER VIGIL IN ST. PETERSBURG SENDS APPEAL TO PATRIARCH
ST. PETERSBURG, 17 June. A prayer vigil of about 1,000 believers connected with the planned burial of the Ekaterinburg remains was held on 17 June at the church of the Savior on the Blood in St. Petersburg. This was the fourth popular assembly after the government made the decision.
First an akathist to the martyr-tsar Nicholas II was read along with a prayer with prostration. An appeal to His Holiness Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus was adopted expressing pleasure that bishops of the Russian Orthodox church will not be present at the funeral and that the decision of the Holy Synod to conduct requiems on the day of the eightieth anniversary of the murder of the royal martyrs will unite Orthodox Russia in a common prayer of repentance.
The possible participation of Petersburg clergy in the ceremony has created tension in the diocese. The church people spoke out against "agreement with iniquitiy" and asked the pastors "to follow the example of the bishops." Under the circumstances that have developed hundreds of parishioners of Petersburg churches think that one must not rationalize oneself "with any verbal tricks and clever explanations." In their opinion, expressed in the appeal to the most holy patriarch, a priest who participated in the burial of the remains "will forever remain in the eyes of millions of believers as one who has desecrated the sacred memory of the royal martyrs who were killed by atheists." (tr. by PDS)
Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii
(posted 18 June 1998)
The Moscow journal Religiia i pravo published information about the officially reported numbers of registered religious associations in the Russian republic. It is not possible to determine how closely these official data reflect reality since some associations may be functioning without having achieved official reregistration by the beginning of 1998, while some registered groups could be inactive.
1 Jan 1998
1 Jan 1997
|Union of Evangelical
|Christians of Evan.
Sources: Radiotserkov and Keston News Service
Other official statistical information is available from the Russian embassy in Washington.
Similar data from Ukraine for 1998.
(posted 18 June 1998)
RUSSIAN CHURCH ATTENDANCE HABITS
Survey participants were asked: "Do you attend religious services and if 'yes,' how often?" Here are the answers for different years.
from Metaphrasis, no. 5, April 1998
TECHNOLOGY OF DEMOLITION: Will the Orthodox church suffer the fate of
by Alexander Rudakov,
Nezavisimaia gazeta--religiia, 20 May 1998
In the past year and a half the neutral attitude of representatives of the "reformist forces" toward the Orthodox church has been replaced by open aggression. The "Orthodox question," understood by the liberals as the question of "liberation from Orthodox totalitarianism," has been raised systematically, deliberately, and intentionally. The quantity of materials that characterize the activity of both RPTs as a whole and its administration in particular in a negative way has grown recently by several degrees. The anticlerical theme has been turned into one of the basic components of the media strategy of the liberal press. What are the premises of such a sharp change of course?
The generally accepted explanation of the liberal attack on the Orthodox church is that it is the reaction of the radical reformers to the refusal of church circles to be incorporated into the prowestern-oriented establishment and to support a second edition of the "great liberal revolution." However such an explanation is purely external; it points only at the event but does not uncover the causes. The cause may be rooted in more serious matters than an ordinary political conflict. It is much more instructive to look for it in the very fact of the profound rejection by reformer-agnostics (as Egor Gaidar defined his world view) of the traditional religious values of Russian society which place a serious impediment on the road to the realization of the usual social and economic experiment. Standing now at the peak of their political and informational possibilities, the Gaidarites want to weaken the church to the greatest possible extent and their ultimate goal is to transform it into a reservation and an informational ghetto. The technology of the achievement of this scenario proposes a specific group of "conditions of capitulation" that define the status of RPTs in the realm of the final liberal utopia.
STRUCTURAL DISORGANIZATION. The "anticlerical" mass media call the church the last organizational structure of the soviet type, complaining about its "undemocratic ways" and its use of "authoritarian methods of administration." The first reaction to such accusations may be only an ironical skepticism: the advocates of "democratization of church life" who are accustomed to "reform" and "demolish" everything do not understand what distinguishes a religious organization from a discussion club. However it is impossible to rule out that the settled interest of the liberals regarding problems of internal church structure is determined by forces that are by no means of a religious nature. A united church organization represents one of the most important conditions for the maintenance of the territorial integrity and governmental unity of Russia. Thus the strict parameters of the "liberal project" inevitably presuppose the structural demolition of Orthodoxy. Such a technology already is now being openly promoted in Ukraine where there already exist three alternatives to the UPTs(MP) church, not counting the fourth, Greek Catholic church. The Gaidarite reformers have no need of a united Orthodox church. In its place they wold like to see several denominations contending among themselves, deprived of all influence and authority. In such a set up the thesis that "Russia is an Orthodox country" really will appear rather doubtful. In accusing the church of being undemocratic the "reformist oriented" intellectuals subconsciously are projecting onto their opponents their own substantial totalitarian complex.
CULTURAL UNIFICATION. In liberal circles it is accepted to complain that believers in church do not understand the content of the church services. The spiritual world view of Orthodox people is declared to be primitive shamanism and the Orthodox church is compared with a heathen temple. From this comes the broad approval and support for experiments in the "gradual translation of the liturgy into the Russian language." At first sight the demand to simplify the liturgy, to shorten it and make it accessible to all doesn't seem amazing. However, upon more careful examination it is possible to see here something more than merely a conflict between "progressive" modernists and retrograde conservatives. In demanding the translation of the liturgy into the "comprehensible" national language, liberals are promoting schism in the Orthodox church on the "Ukrainian model," but in this case on the territory of Russia. After all the Russian language is the language of only one of the ethnic groups residing in our multinational fatherland. Rejection of the Church Slavonic language inevitably will raise the question of the national language for the liturgy and the creation of "autocephalous" churches in practically every national region with an Orthodox population--Yakutiia, Osetiia-Alaniia, Chuvashiia, Mordovia, Komi.
CALENDAR QUESTION. No less criticism is evokes by the Julian calendar which because of its being out of sync with the generally used calendar alters the sequence of secular and church holidays. Although the celebration of Christian Easter before the Jewish Passover on the Gregorian calendar is obvious theological nonsense, for believing people this is far more important than nonconjunction with secular holidays. But for those to whom it makes no difference, they really want to share "with all of humanity" in the celebration of a planetary event. Besides Christmas now is celebrated not by Christians only. It is observed, for example, in Turkey and Japan as the beginning of the secular new year. In countries that are drawn toward western civilization the holiday has been completely purged of its religious content and has little to do with the birth of Christ. Those who urge the church to make calendar reform are motivated not merely by an infantile desire "to observe Christmas" along with all the civilized world. It has its own far reaching global consequences. The issue is not merely a profanation of Orthodox holidays and the perversion of its mystical meaning. The Julian calendar, like the Church Slavonic language, is an extremely important code for Eurasian civilization and its rejection would signify one further step toward the loss of identity for Russian civilization.
"SYMPHONY" INSIDE OUT. Any cooperation with the state is viewed by liberals as a step toward thereestablishment of the state-church symphony, understood as the interference of the state in the spiritual life of its citizens and a rejection of the constitutionally established secular character of the Russian state. The idea of active mutual relations between church and state is rooted, in their opinion, in long-outdated political conceptions that do not correspond to the reality of contemporary pluralistic society, whose chief value is toleration and not spiritual unity. This produces an extremely substantial substitution of ideas in which the very idea of the defense of spiritual values that are integral to Russia are viewed as indulgence in nationalistic ambitions and infringement of freedom of conscience. In calling for the rejection of a legislative confirmation of the historic fole of Orthodoxy as the traditional religion for Russia, liberals accuse RPTs of undermining the secular structure of the state. In doing so they completely ignore the analogous experience of other Orthodox states which are members of CSCE and the European Union. In those places the special role of the Orthodox confession is confirmed not even by a particular law but directly in the texts of constitutions. Thus, part 1 of article 3 of the constitution of Greece provides: "In Greece the state religion is the religious of the Eastern Orthodox Christian church." In part 3 of article 13 of the constitution of Bulgaria it is also established that "the traditional religion in the republic of Bulgaria is the Eastern Orthodox convession." Such are the juridical bases of the legal status of the Orthodox church in states whose democratic character no one questions. But evidently what is democratic for European countries becomes in Russia the infringement of human rights.
The history of the mutual relations of the Orthodox church and the Russian state has yet another delicate aspect. From 1918 to 1987 RPTs bore such human and material losses as no Christian community has seen since the time of heathen Rome. Appeals to the idea that the current political regime has nothing in common with the former regime are not pertinent in this case. The Federal Republic of Germany also is not the heir of the Third Reich, but it has paid reparations to Israel and has not denied its historic guilt of genocide. After all the repression of RPTs is fully equal to a halocaust. It was RPTs that was the target of genocide by "militant atheists." Perhaps the radical liberals would not dispute this thesis if it were advanced against today's communists and drove the mechanism for revenge and restitution, or if the Holy Synod were to call for the destruction of the mausoleum and priests delivered anathemas from their pulpits against the "red governors." The absence of such actions is explained by the "reformers" as "atavism," mercenary interests, and the "soviet past" of a majority of bishops of RPTs. But after all something different is obvious: in the continuing "civil cold war" RPTs cannot occupy one or another side without renouncing its role as the integrating national factor. Any careless word shuts for it the possibility of salvation for millions of people who somehow tie themselves to the soviet epoch. Therefore RPTs is vitally interested in smoothing over political conflicts and in national reconciliation. (tr. by PDS)
Russian text: Tekhnologia demontazha
(posted 18 June 1998)
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