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LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF THE TABLET
by Sergei Chapnin
I am much saddened by The Tablet continuing to print feature items hostile to the Russian Orthodox Church. Richard Price, author of the latest in the series, The Empty Seat at the Tsar's Funeral (25 July 1998), offers several lame and unconvincing explanations for the absence of the Patriarch of Moscow at the burial ceremony on 17 July. Let us dwell on these in some detail.
The first of these, that the Patriarch did not come because of the negative effect this might have on the relationships with the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, reunion with which it hopes to achieve. This is rather strange, considering that the latter is led by people who claim that the Patriarchate of Moscow is not a Church. This stance makes negotiations with such a sectarian-minded group, let alone reunion with it, impossible at present.
The next reason - the fear that "a state burial blessed by the Patriarch might strengthen the demands for the canonisation of Nicholas II". This ambiguous phrase can be taken to mean that the Patriarch is personally against the canonisation, which is simply untrue. The case for canonisation of the last Russian Emperor has been put on the agenda of the forthcoming Council of the Russian Church, and the positive decision already seems very likely. The veneration of the Imperial family is widespread, and not only in the Russian Church.
The final (and most likely) reason, according to Mr Price: the Russian Orthodox Church fears to annoy the Communist Party, which is likely to recover power in 2000. According to Russian experts this "explanation" has most obviously been created within one of political opposition's analytical centres, who may thus be trying to discredit the Patriarch personally, and strain the established relationship between Church and State.
The Orthodox Church maintains relationships with many political parties. The Patriarch has had numerous meetings with leaders of important Russian political parties and movements, not just Mr Zyuganov. Mr Price can only prove his "theory" using facts taken out of context.
I regret to see your esteemed magazine publish speculative arguments of people who, while calling themselves specialists, have little understanding of the processes taking place in Russia and within the Russian Orthodox Church.
Sergei Chapnin, Editor-in-Chief METAPHRASIS Religious News Service 3-4 Kramskogo St. Moscow 125080 RUSSIA email@example.com
(posted 31 August 1998)
MOSCOW PRIEST IS SUSPENDED FOR HIS WORK WITH "FOREIGNERS"
The Tablet, 29 August 1998
An Orthodox cleric in Moscow has been suspended, allegedly for his charitable work with Jews and his opposition to last year's much-criticised law on religion.
Fr Martiri Bagin, parish priest of All Saints' Church in Moscow's city centre, was about to take a service there on Wednesday last week (the old-style feast of the Transfiguration) when a diocesan official arrived and ordered him not to lead worship until he had had a meeting with Patriarch Alexis. The priest had earlier been accused by Archbishop Arsenii, who is responsible for the Moscow diocese, of "being out of keeping with true Orthodoxy" and "having dealings with foreigners and other denominations".
Though reportedly dismissed from his job in early July, Fr Martiri continued ministering to his congregation for several weeks thereafter.
According to Anthony Bishop, a British diplomat whose Anglican parish in Kent has links with All Saints' in Moscow, the official who asked Fr Martiri to disrobe did not provide a written statement of the Patriarch's wishes. Then, after the service, he wrongly told parishioners that Fr Martiri had disrobed of his own volition. "Fr Martiri was asked to appear before the Patriarch earlier this summer", Mr Bishop reports, "but couldn't do so because he suffers from extremely high blood pressure. The Patriarch himself was apparently out of the country on the day concerned. The meeting may not now take place for some time, because the Patriarch is also indisposed at the moment."
Fr Martiri, who calls himself "Christian first, Orthodox second and Russian third", had also been running a medical centre at his church that dispenses free care to local Jewish families, as well as to Orthodox parishioners. His parish refused a recent request from the Patriarchate for a formal letter supporting last year's law on religion, which has been much criticised by observers as discriminating heavily against non-Orthodox traditions.
"The trouble arose because Fr Martiri's church is of great symbolic importance to the Russian nation", Mr Bishop explains. "It is the place from which Dmitri Donskoi departed to fight the Tartars in the fourteenth century. It is revered by nationalists, some of whom detest Fr Martiri's friendliness towards Jews." As a result, the church had been daubed with obscene anti-Semitic slogans, Mr Bishop added.
He accused the Patriarchate of "playing games" with Fr Martiri, a charge endorsed by the Keston Institute in Oxford, which monitors religious freedom in Russia. (See "Soul Wars in Moscow" by Michael Bourdeaux, The Tablet, 22 August.)
Meanwhile, Mr Bishop says, "the parish is at sixes and sevens and people are very distressed. At bottom this appears to be about jealousy. The authorities resent the fact that people have gravitated towards the parish, even though Fr Martiri himself is a most unassuming man."
(posted 31 August 1998)
TEN QUESTIONS FOR THE PATRIARCH
by Mikhail Pozdniaev
Ogonek, no. 28, July 1998
Without posing them one cannot understand the outcome with regard to the tsar's funeral.
Eighty years ago in Porosen ravine near Ekaterinburg eleven persons who had been killed in a typically Russian incompotent, vile, and barbarous manner were buried.
Along with the humans, three Borzoi dogs were shot, simply because they were howling unbearably over their masters' bodies. "A fourth dog Jack, who did not raise a howl, wasn't touched," a member of the Urals Cheka, comrade Kabanov, recalled a half century later.
We did not rebury the royal dogs. But we did not even bury Nicholas Alexandrovich "and those with him" in a humane way. There wasn't any education, nor sympathy, nor--most important--any understanding of why all of this happened.
In this matter I have done well. I have crept up to everyone I have met with the very same question: "What do you think about all this?"
It draws a blank. It's as if what happened had occurred suddenly. But in life nothing is sudden. In 1991, exactly a month after the disinterment in Porosen ravine, the putsch happened. The victors vented their anger on the images of Dzerzhinsky, Kalinin, Sverdlov.
They demanded new idols. The place of Vladimir Ilich almost unnoticed was taken by Nicholas Alexandrovich. The place of Pavlik Morozov, accordingly, was taken by the tsarevich Alexis. The broad public, for the most part unchurched, began talking about enrolling the royal family in the canon of saints. If the issue had been purely the execution without a trial in the basement of the Ipatiev house, then it wouldn't have been worth breaking a lance over it. But the Romanovs shared the fate of the great majority of Ivanovs, Petrovs, Sidorovs, and those "whose names, Thou, O Lord, knowest," as is written in the prayer book of Ivan the Terrible. The word "new martyrs" resounded no more prejudicially than the word "repentance" at the end of the 1980s. But we have sullied and defamed these words.
Now he is a saint; now he isn't.
After all, it could have happened. The idea of the beatification of the new martyrs was actually a worthy one. It could even become a unifying one, not only within the borders of the crumbled empire but everywhere that our countrymen live.
This is exactly the result that the Russian church abroad sought seventeen years ago when it canonized the synaxis of Russian new martyrs and confessors. On the icon which was then brought to the USSR from abroad secretly, the royal family is represented within a crowd of people. Now such an icon is being sold even in our country. And even the patriarchate has established a day of commemoration of the assembly of new martyrs. Only there isn't such an assembly, that is, a recognition of the general national tragedy. In the years of "religious renaissance," the Russian Orthodox church (RPTs) has canonized dozens of "steadfast ones," more by way of a tally than of an outpouring of sentiment.
I recall asking long ago at some press conference of Metropolitan Yuvenaly, the chairman of the commission on canonization, why would we not canonize martyrs of bolshevism collectively and I was amazed at the answer of this elevated prelate: "We should approach this matter with caution. There are many people who do not want to be included in such an icon since these or those people appear on it. We are conducting investigations to ascertain whether certain people really were enemies of the soviet regime and were executed as criminals." At that time I tried to object to the prelate that every last one of them were. None of them was supposedly martyred for Christ: one for concealing valuables (icons), another for possession of seditious literature (the New Testament), another simply as a "socially alien element." In no capital sentence nor in any investigation was the name of Christ mentioned. Mercy, there is no persecution for faith in our country. To this the bishops under Stalin and under Khrushchev and Brezhnev publicly swore, and the decorated and popular Metropolitan Pitirim managed to say this to a foreign reporter in the millenial year of the baptism of Rus, with glasnost in full swing, declaring incidentally that Patriarch Tikhon was a blatant counterrevolutionary. . . . Very soon thereafter Master Pitirim was tenderly kissing the revered relics of the blatant counterrevolutionary.
Really, is refusing to renounce Christ and dying for the faith a minor matter? It seems to be. Those who were murdered are slandered one and all as a bunch. They condemn them like murderers for calling the bolsheviks atheistic villains. But they themselves have not asked forgiveness of either the living or the dead for their cowardly slander.
On my desk I have a huge stack of papers. These are documents of a group of criminalist experts which were submitted to the Moscow patriarchate for making its final decision regarding the identification of the "Ekaterinburg remains" as those of the Romanovs, Botkin, Demidova, Trupp, and Kharitonov. "The remains of Maria Nikolaevna Romanova, born 27 June 1899, and Alexis Nikolaevich Romanov, born 12 August 1904, were not among the skeletal items examined," the senior forensic procurator of the chief investigative division of the Procuracy General, V.N. Soloviev reported to the Holy Synod.
Reading the materials submitted by Soloviev is painful torture. It's like reading the minutes of the Nurenberg trials. The difference is that those who were executed or sentenced to life imprisonment in Nurenberg acknowledged their guilt, even those who themselves did not actually kill their prisoners; they used underlings. But our people who have described their own misdeeds without the least embarrassment have almost all died in their own beds. Many of them enjoyed distinguished retirement.
Look for the bony callous!
The synod submitted to the forensic specialists ten tricky questions. They received answers to all ten. But there's a hitch: in giving answers Soloviev proceded from strictly scientific data while the synod, in phrasing the questions, at least in half of them, referred to matters that are not accessible to science. They referred to fables, legends, and myths which no spectrometers and DNA analysis can examine. If you want to believe that tsarevich Alexis and one of his sisters were rescued and hidden behind a curtain, the conclusion of experts that "the bodies were burned" will not dissuade you. If you want to believe that after the assassination attempt in Japan some "bony callous" would remain, Soloviev's conclusion that "traces of trauma from such a wound. . . could not be preserved inasmuch as the upper layers of the scalp were destroyed as a result of the action of powerful agents (possibly hydrochloric acid)" will have an empty ring. They could not be in the case of an ordinary man, the synodal masters respond, but in the case of God's annointed a bump is not just a bump but a kind of sign that marks him from above. If you want to believe that the preserved heads of the tsar and tsaritsa were kept in Lenin's safe, then nobody can persuade you that all neck vertibrae are in place and microscopic examination shows no trace of beheading. And then there's the matter of the "ritual character of the murders" (that is, that the tsar was finished off not by communists but by Jewish-Masonic conspirators). Summon all the academies of sciences, but you will not persuade me, firm in my faith, that "criteria for 'ritual murder' never existed in Russian or soviet jurisprudence," nor even more than "Russians predominated" among the murderers.
To the simple-minded person it seems that here there is a regretable conflict between materialism and idealism and the two commissions, the state and synodal, are divided by philosophical barriers. In reality the patriarchate, having boldly drawn the line at the "state funeral," is possessed not in any way by a childish faith in a skull with a charismatic mark, preserved in Ilich's safe, but by ideas that have nothing to do with the tsarist family, nor the veneration of new martyrs, nor church prerogatives in general.
The patriarchate seems to have expressed unprecedented independence, but dig a bit deaper and you stumble upon a rock-hard bony callous.
Is it confusion or success?
Within the camp of my fellow journalists there is a point of view that says that what has happened is an enormous confusion within the patriarchate. Its moral defeat. That is the way of thinking of those who remove the "funeral case" from the context of the past decade which almost annually within the church yard (to which access now is available to all) a noisy scandal has erupted from which the leadership of RPTs has over and over emerged as the victor.
Now it is pertinent to pose several question that have been left unanswered:
1. In 1990 there was the election of the new patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus. Delegates of the bishops' council nominated six or seven candidates. Metropolitan Alexis Ridiger of Leningrad won. Subsequently a secret directive from the KGB to all bishops became known, requiring them to vote for him. This information has not been discussed by the patriarchate, nor has it been denied. Why?
2. In 1991, after the putsch, materials appeared in the press from archives of the Lubianka where higher church authorities appear as a cluster of agents. The synod created a special commission for investigating ties between RPTs and KGB. There has been no official report either about the work of the commission nor about its investigation in the past years. Should we expect it or draw the conclusion that 1991 never happened?
3. In 1992 the bishops' council reviewed the "personal case" of the notorious Filaret Denisenko. Decisive measures for preventing schism in Ukraine were anticipated from the synod. Filaret was sent home under his pledged word, which he did not keep, and as a result in Kiev today there are four hostile churches. Who is responsible for this: Filaret, Kravchuk, Kuchma? Or the Holy Synod?
4. In 1993, in the autumn, the patriarchate assumed the role of mediator in the resolution of the conflict between Yeltsin and the Duma. Conversations in Saint Daniel's monastery ran into a dead end, and the matter became bloody. Why did the patriarchate not admit its guilt for what happened?
5. The church was a real force which could have prevented the neo-bolsheviks from again thrusting themselves into power in the country. It did not do this because it forgot the anathemas upon communism and nowadays support virtually the whole spectrum of the "left forces," from red to brown. How does this relate to Alexis' declaration: "The church does not intend to arrange political marriages"?
6. The church has adopted a position of "nonintervention" from the beginning of the Chechen war, arguing that a bad peace is better than a good war. Having excommunicated Fr Gleb Yakunin and threatened other pastors who "flirt with power" with repression, has RPTs freed itself from concern for the political future of Russia?
7. After the ban from ministry of some of the most authoritative priests, including the world famous Hegumen Zinon, the icon painter and laureate of the Russian state prize, many believers and nonbelievers have asked the patriarchate to explain its position. It still has not done this. Does not such silence show disdain for public opinion?
8. Acquiring a taste for siezing property of parishes of the Free Russian church (of which today there are more than 100), RPTs has embarked from its "canonical territory" on a march first into Estonia, and then into USA and Israel. Churches and monasteries have been taken by force with the collaboration of local authorities. Is this not aspiration to worldly sovereignty? Is this not the reason that the patriarch is refusing to meet with John Paul II?
9. The noisy publicity given to ties of the patriarchate with the criminal world and its tobacco and alcohol machinations have not merited attention from law enforcement. Does this mean that "separation from the state" for the patriarchate is the creation of a legal preserve?
10. The patriarchate has on its conscience many "kangaroo courts" of the 1960s to 1980s. Without acknowledging its role in their conduct, the leadership of the church began today a second "witch hunt," encompasing new renegades. Two months ago in Ekaterinburg books of "church dissidents" of the soviet period were burned: fathers A. Men, J, Meyendorff, and A. Schmemann. By not condemning this auto-da-fe, conducted by Bishop Nikon, is not the patriarchate declaring these writers its enemies and heretics? And what about their readers and admirers?
These are ten out of a multitude of question. We await their answers but, frankly, we don't have much hope.
The issue is not merely that the Moscow patriarchate and its "metropolitburo" (the Holy Synod) is a relic and fortress of the soviet empire. The issue is not merely that it fears most publicity, light, and truth. The issue is our wild, barbarian faith that the church is not the God who exists for the real life of each of us, but it is a kind of reserve behind a high fence. Over there, behind the fence, is peace and quiet and grace. Singing, gold, flickering candles. Over there everything is simple and easy to hide from the cares of life. That's where bishops escape questions that hang over them. Even we take such recourse.
But the way of Christ leads outside the fence. (tr. by PDS)
(posted 30 August 1998)
AUTHORITIES OF DAGESTAN--BETWEEN TWO FLAMES
by Ilia Maksakov
Nezavisimaia gazeta, 27 August 1998
They must simultaneously neutralize Islamists and protect them
The authorities of Dagestan literally find themselves between two forces in opposition to them. Judging by everything, it seems this was the goal of the organizers of the murder of the mufti of Dagestan Said Muhammed-haji Abubakarov. The events of Wednesday give evidence of this, when in Khasaviurt and Kiziliurt there were demonstrations of supporters of the deceased mufti, demanding the resignation of the present leadership of the republic. As NG has managed to determine, in the State Council of Dagestan fellow villagers of Said Muhammed from the Gumbetovsky and neighboring Kazbekovsky districts, on the eve of yesterday's events there were meetings at which a decision was reached to conduct a protest demonstration in Makhachkala against the murder of the mufti. Having assembled on Wednesday morning in Khasaviurt and Kiziliurt, several hundred persons moved toward the capital of the republic. Prime Minister Khizri Shikhsaidov and first vice premier Nabiula Magomedov came out to meet them, and after conversations with them the marchers turned toward Kiziliurt. At the time of the dialogue with the representatives of the government an agreement was reached for the resolution of the conflict without the protest action. Naturally the demonstrators could be satisfied only by concrete results in the investigation of the murder of Abubakarov and, possibly, the leadership of the republic gave the demonstrators the results of preliminary investigation.
It is noteworthy that according to other sources, the organizers of yesterday's action were fellow villagers of the deceased mufti, the head of the administration of Khasaviurt, Saigidpasha Umakhanov and vice premier of Dagestan Haji Makhachev. While there still has been no direct insubordination to the authorities on their part, the categorical form of the protest undoubtedly concerned the Makhachkala leadership.
Incidentally, already in the morning the president of the State Council of Dagestan Magomedali Magomedov went for conversations with representatives of the villages of Karamakhi, Chabanmakhi, and Kadar Buinaksky which had recently announced the creation of a special Islamic territory that was not subordinate to the state agencies of authority. News about the conduct of the demonstration in Kiziliurt reached him on the way to Buinaksk and he was forced to return to Makhachkala. Magomedov intended to discuss with the so-called Wahhabis the general conditions of the regulation of the conflict and, judging by the fact that the head of the republic was already prepared for dialogue, steps toward the achievement of a compromise were already taken.
However it was the massive expression from the fellow villagers of the deceased mufti that disrupted the conversations with the conspirators and to a substantial degree exacerbated the problem of pacifying the Islamic radicals of Dagestan. At least the declaration of a state of military readiness of the Islamic guard was announced for the first time yesterday. Representatives of the rebellious villages also went to meet with Magomedali Magomedov, but having learned along the way about the events in Khasaviurt and Kiziliurt they were forced to return home. As reported to NG by the leader of the Islamists of Karamakh, who calls himself brigadier general Jarulla Rajbaddinov, after reports about the mass movements a "meeting of the Islamic generals" was convened. In his words, Islamic peacemaking units were transferred to the Kazamir situation and in the case of the troublemakers "the guard is prepared to act as peacemakers." General Jarulla declared that the situation in the districts controlled by him still remains normal and under the control of Islamic authorities. He was not conducting any communication with the demonstrators in Kiziliurt. However, in his words, the general has not broken off contacts with Chechens. Rajbaddinov declared that Chechen armed groups still have no occasion to intervene in the events in Dagestan inasmuch as there has been no clear provocation against Islamists. At the same time he asked that they not believe reports about the readiness of Chechens to come to the aid of their Dagestani brethren, concluding that they were provocations. In all likelihood, General Jarulla had in mind the declarations of Shamil Basaev to this effect. He was responding to a question about how many warriors the "Islamic guard" had. Along with this the leader of the rebels stated that on Tuesday representatives of Karamakh conducted effective conversations with the Dagestani authorities, including the minister of justice and the head of the administration of Buinaksky district.
In this way, the republican leadership actually was close to achieving an agreement with the so-called Wahhabis. Unexpected opposition on the part of the fellow villagers of the deceased mufti led to the situation that now the Makhachkala authorities have been forced not only to take measures with regard to the rebellious villages but also to secure them from direct actions by the Dagestanis who are upset by the murder of Abubakarov. The father of the mufti, Khasmagomed Abubakarov, tried to defuse the situation. His joint declaration with the leadership of the Ecclesiastical Board of Muslims of Dagestan to the demonstration in Kiziliurt contained a request not to undertake any oppositional actions in connection with the days of mourning in memory of the deceased mufti. (tr. by PDS)
Russian text: Ofitsialnyi vlasti dagestana--mezh dvukh ognei
BASAEV THREATENS AGAIN
He has run on hard times.
At a time when the process of regularizing the relations between the Dagestani authorities and residents of the rebel villages of Karamakhi and Chabanmakhi, which are considered the center of Wahhabism in the republic, has still not produced tangible results, Shamil Basaev has continued to make declarations from Grozny of his readiness to support the Islamic radicals in the neighboring republic if forceful measures are taken against them. In this case he again threatened Makhachkala to send into Dagestan his "Islamic peacemaking brigade," since he considers it the "sacred obligation of every Muslim" to protect the Sharia. Basaev reminded Interfax that he is in continual contact with representatives of Karamakhi and Chabanmakhi, among whom are many members of the so-called Congress of the Peoples of Chechnia and Dagestan that he organized.
It is possible that Shamil Basaev's confirmation of his decisive intent is connected with the recent statement in Makhachkala by first vice premier of Chechnia Turpal Atgeriev, who accused him of exacerbating tensions in Chechen-Dagastani relations. The first vice premier is one of the closest associates of President Aslan Maskhadov and it can be suggested that Atgeriev expressed the opinion of the Chechen leader. Besides this the progressive cooling of relations between Maskhadov and Basaev (it is hard to say who is responsible) was reflected in the president's dismissal of his deputy at supreme command headquarters, according to ITAR-TASS reports, which Basaev had occupied barely a month.
Another situation which could be souring Shamil Basaev's mood is the Chechen parliament's negative reaction to his six-month activity in the office of director of the government of the republic. Having heard his report, the deputies were unanimous that the cabinet of ministers has not followed the program presented by it at the end of 1997. Confronted with all they unpleasant circumstances, Shamil Basaev simply could not renounce the idea of helping his Dagestani fellow believers. He expressed his irritation with the return to the Russian government of Viktor Chernomyrdin. Shamil Basaev sees in this no likelihood for improvement in Russian-Chechen relations. (tr. by PDS)
(posted 28 August 1998)
SAID-MUHAMMAD ABUBAKAROV: PARADISE WILL NOT BE BUILT BY MACHINE GUNS by Sanobar Shermatova Moskovskie novosti, 25 August 1998
The mufti of Dagestan gave the last interview of his life to MN special correspondent Sanobar Shermatova.
Two days before his tragic death the head of Muslims addressed an extraordinary meeting which discussed the situation regarding the villages of Karamakhi and Chabanmakhi. In the evening of that day we met in the building of the ecclesiastical board. In the spacious office of the mufti on the second floor there were some guests, the mufti of Ingushetiia and his companions. The guests hastened to depart and after accompanying them the host returned to the office.
--I am not long for this office, he acknowledged. Ten days ago I submitted my resignation. It has not been accepted.
The mufti did not divulge the reasons for his decision. He noted only that beforehand he had argued forcefully for two and a half hours with the head of the republic Magomedali Magomedov.
--You are not on good terms with the authorities?
--I have never asked them for advice. Many do not like this, especially because the newspaper of the ecclesiastical board, on whose editorial staff my wife works, does not heap praise on the authorities. I am an inconvenient person both for the leadership and for the Wahhabis.
--Have you tried to express your position to your religious opponents?
--Once a man lived in my father's house who later became their ideologue, Bogauddin from Kiziliurt. So I have had to talk with their representatives. Once they began threatening my wife by telephone. I found the called and warned him that he would have to answer for the threats in accordance with the customs of both the Sharia and the Caucasus. Since then the threats have stopped. But we are ideological enemies. Their teaching is constructed on quicksand. They deny what our grandfathers and ancestors believed. Can we defile the graves of our ancestors simply because Wahhabis consider that there should not be gravestones in the cemeteries? In disputes they appeal to the authority of Imam Shamil, who created the Caucasus imamate, and Islamic state. Well, this is true, but Imam Shamil cited holy men, many of whom were sheikhs of Sufi orders and religious leaders. It is against them that the Wahhabis are arguing by affirming that the true Muslim does not need mentors since between him and Allah there should be no intermediaries.
--How do you regard their declared moral principles?
There is no drinking nor burglary in the villages of Karamakhi and Chabanmakhi.
--What of it? In Dagestan there are many villages which do not violate the laws and live without drunkenness and burglary. In my native aul a drunken man is an extraordinary event. What does this signify? Not acknowledging the police? Not stopping vehicles on the road and subjecting them to police searches? Such people like them are put in jail in Saudi Arabia.
--Are you suggesting the Karamakhis and Chabanmakhinis be jailed?
--Those who will not obey the law and who bear arms should answer to the law.
--How? Establishing constitutional order? It has been established in Chechnia.
--I am against inserting federal forces. This will lead inevitably to a widening of the conflict. Dagestanis themselves should set their own house in order. The position of the Chechen leaders is completely incomprehensible. Someone is ready to fight in Dagestan. Why not give Maskhadov an official declaration that the situation of the two villages is an internal problem of Dagestan? When the war began in Chechnia I participated in the blockade of the road myself and blocked the path of the tank columns and disarmed them. We helped the refugees. Chechens had to understand that we have our own national interests and we do not want war.
--Recently in Nazaran a coordination center was created which included the muftis of the republics of the Northern Caucasus, including you. Are you going to fight against the Wahhabis together?
--That's put to harshly. We will oppose the spread of their influence. There are other reasons. It is less expensive to pay for printing jointly and we have put out religious literature, including some that engages in discussion with the Wahhabis.
--What will happen in Dagestan? Are there chances for a peaceful resolution of the conflict?
--Only if the Karamakhis understand finally that they are drawing the republic into armed conflict and renounce their opposition. Paradise will not be built with machine guns. (tr. by PDS)
Russian text: Rai avtomatami ne stroiat
(posted 28 August 1998)
TERRORIST ACT IN MUKHACHKALA. SPIRITUAL LEADER OF DAGESTAN KILLED
Kommersant Daily, 22 August 1998
Yesterday afternoon in the center of Makhachkala a vehicle exploded in which were the mufti of Dagestan Said Mukhammad-hadji Abubakarov, his brother, and driver. All three died on the spot. In the republic it is believed that the terrorist act was committed by adherents of radical Islam, the Wahhabis. Demonstrations began in Makhachkala which threatened to spill over into mass disorders. The Dagestan police and troops stationed throughout the republic were put of a state of hightened military readiness.
After completing Friday morning prayers, juma, in the central mosque of Makhachkala, the mufti of Dagestan Said Mukhammad-hadji Abubakarov, walked outdoors and get into his service vehicle GAZ-3110. His brother Akhmed and driver Gaidar Omargajiev already were in the car. When the "Volga" approached the gatese of the mosque, an enormous explosion occurred. The car was town into several pieces. All three died on the spot. Their bodies were beyond recognition.
The bomb, which had been buried in the road, was radio activated. Explosives specialists consider that it was made from a 125 millimeter shrapnel field mine shell. It was equivalent to a force of six kilograms of TNT.
Officials of law enformcement agencies have concluded that the terrorist act was committed by Wahhabis. This version also has been maintained by the Union of Muslims of Russia, which called the mufti the most irreconcilable opponent of this tendency in Islam.
Recently at an expanded session of the State Council, government, and national assembly the mufti called for elimination of Wahhabism: "Otherwise religious fanatics will turn our country into Afghanistan." At the session an appeal to Dagestanis was adopted which said that if the problem of religious extremise cannot be settled by peaceful means, then there will be recourse to force.
Just yesterday, after the morning namaz, residents of the republic were supposed to pronounce sentence onf Wahhabism in a referendum, to which Abubakarov had summoned them. But the Wahhabis struck the first blow.
Who of the leaders of the extremists organized the terrorist act still is unknown. Among Wahhabis the mufti had not only ideological but also personal enemies. One of the is considered to be a certain Baudin. Upon the request of the mufti in 1996 the authorities expelled him from the republic. Baudin settled in the Chechen city of Gudermes and became the spiritual leader of the local Wahhabis. At the time Abubakarov uttered the prophetic sentence: "In receiving Baudin, Yandarbiev (at the time president of Chechnia) has planted a mine of quick response."
In July of this year in Gudermes there was a very large confrontation between Wahhabis and supporters of the government. Dozens of persons were killed and wounded. After this Wahhabism was declared illegal in Chechnia. If Baudin were to be arrested, he would not only have to swear allegiance to the Chechen regime on the Koran but also answer questions from investigators from Dagestan.
The investigation of the crime us under the personal supervision of the head of MVD of Russia, Sergei Stepashin. On his instruction, an investigation team headed by the director of the chief admininstration of criminal investigation, Ivan Khrapov, flew to Dagestan.
"The murder of the mufti of Dagestan is a tragedy for all Muslims of Russia," declared the mufti of Moscow and Central-Europe, Ravil Gainutdin. "We met for the last time with him on 24 July at a conference of muftis in Moscow. Abubakarov said that he was forced to change his cars continually. That means he already was threatened by danger." (tr. by PDS)
Russian text: Terakt v makhachkale
(posted 28 August 1998)
TRAGIC DEATH AND FUNERAL OF MUFTI OF DAGESTAN
News service of the Moscow patriarchate
On 21 August the mufti of Dagestan, Said Muhammad Abubakarov and persons accompanying him died as a result of a terrorist act. In connection with this tragic event the chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow patriarchate, Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad sent telegrams to the supreme mufti Talgat Tajuddin, president of the Central Ecclesiastical Board of Muslims of Russia and European Countries of SNG, and the president of the Council of Muftis of Russia, Mufti Sheikh Ravil Gainutdin. The text of the telegrams follows.
I ask that you accept our most sincere condolences in connection with the tragic death of the mufti of Dagestan, Said Muhammed Abubakarov and his associates.
We are profoundly shaken by what has happened. We are convinced that this act of violence, which cannot have either political or religious justification, should be condemned in the most decisive manner, especially if one has in view that it was directed against a religious leader of one of the peoples of Russia.
I ask that you deliver my condolences to Muslim society in Dagestan and the the relatives and friends of the deceased.
May the Almightly grant rest to the souls of the departed in the dwellings of the righteous."
On 24 August in Moscow in the headquarters of the Council of Muftis of Russia there was a funeral service dedicated to the memory of the mufti of Dagestan, S.M. Abubakarov, who died tragically. The service was attended by heads and representatives of the traditional Russian religious associations, vice president of the State Duma, M.S. Gutseriev, minister of the Russian federation for nationality affairs and regional policies, L. Sapiro, other representatives of agencies of the government, and reporters.
At the service also was adopted and published a joint declaration of the heads and representatives of religious associations of the Russian federation in which, in particular, it was said: "A peacemaker has been brutally killed, a man who was gentle in faith and courageous in actions, a talented teacher and physician, a recognized leader of Muslim society in Dagestan, with whose name were connected the hopes for the establishment of intra- and interconfessional peace and civil harmony in the northern Caucasus. . . . This evil terroristic act of violence, directed against God and faith, cannot have any justification. This is the first clergyman of such high rank to be killed and this fact must equally disturb representatives of all religious and all of society, and become the basis for serious reflection about the future of the country. . . . We appeal to the followers of all religious and all citizens of Russia to maintain calm and strengthen the interreligious peace and harmony that is traditional for our country and to respect human life which has been given to us by God."
The secretary of OVTsS for interrelations with churches and society, Fr Vsevolod Chaplin, participated in the funeral. (tr. by PDS)
Russian text at Moscow patriarchate
(posted 26 August 1998)
ARCHBISHOP ILLARION: "LOCAL AUTHORITIES HELPLESS OR COMPLICIT"
Russkaia liniia, 22 August 1998
In Kiev on assignment, Archbishop Illarion of Donetsk and Mariupol, of the Ukrainian Orthodox church (UPTs), reported that the conflict regarding the Holy Transfiguration cathedral is continuing in Donetsk. A UPTs priest, Fr Georgy Yurchik, transferred to the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian Orthodox church--Kievan patriarchate (UPTsKP) and was appointed rector of the non-existent Holy Transfiguration cathedral of the city of Donetsk and dean of the "First Donetsk Region of UPTsKP." On 22 September 1993, by decree of the ruling bishop of UPTs, Georgy Yurchik was banned from clerical ministry and excommunicated from the church. In response, Georgy Yurchik started urgently requesting the regional administration to transfer to him the premises of the former UPTs church building in Donetsk, which after 1962 had been turned into a library. In 1995 the regional executive committee transferred the property "to the religious society of the Holy Transfiguration parish of UPTsKP." However, in the same year a conflict arose between Georgy Yurchik and the ruling bishop of UPTsKP, Iziaslav, as a result of which Iziaslav also banned Yurchik from ministry and unfrocked him. After this Yurchik declared the withdrawal of his society from the jurisdiction of UPTsKP and the formation of the "independent Holy Transfiguration parish." In September 1997 Georgy Yurchik, a formerly married priest, proclaimed himself "archimandrite, chancellor of Donetsk, Dnepropetrovsk, and Simferopol bioceses of the exarchate of the West Europe Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church." In 1996 Archibishop Illarion of UPTs filed suit in regional arbitration court claiming the illegality of the transfer of the UPTs church building to the Holy Transfiguration parish. The court satisfied the suit and declared the illegality of this decision and order the transfer of the building to UPTs. However, Georgy Yurchik appealed the decision to the Supreme Arbitration Court of Ukraine. This summer the higher arbitration court again ruled that the building be transferred to UPTs. However, according to Master Illarion, "Yurchik has not relinquished the building and the authorities are silent. I have gotten the impression that either the local authorities are helpless before the self-proclaimed clergy or they are indulging them." (tr. by PDS)
from Pravoslavie v Ukraine, Russian text at Russkaia liniia
(posted 26 August 1998)
PROCESSION IN TUIM SETTLEMENT
by Yury Kolesnikov
Radiotserkov, 23 August.
On 19 August the consecration of the building of the Evangelical Lutheran society in the settlement of Tuim, Khakasia, was held. In the consecration the church received the name "The Transfiguration of the Lord." The building of the church is a free-standing wooden structure in which in past years were located the district and local sections of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. At the beginning of perestroika, the building was purchased by a private individual and subsequently by the Evangelical Lutheran Mission of Khakasia.
"Power in this building has been transformed 180 degress--from earthly to heavenly," said the rector of the parish, Fr Pavel Zaiakin. "We are very pleased that our archbishop has permitted us to give the church the name of the Transfiguration of the Lord. This is a splendid name; it resonates both liturgically and eucharistically." (Ordinarily for Lutheran practice churches are consecrated in the names of saints, most often biblical ones.) With the approval of Archbishop Jan Kiivit of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran church, in whose jurisdiction the Tuim parish is located, the consecration was conducted by Pastor Vsevolod Lytkin from Novosibirsk. "It is not characteristic generally for the Lutheran church that a church building would be consecrated by a priest; usually it is done by a bishop, but in view of the geographical remoteness of Khakasiia, an exception was made for our parish," Fr Pavel explained.
The consecration began with a procession in which approximately sixty persons participated, moving through the entire city, and then it continued with a liturgy at the entrance of the building and inside.
The Evangelical Lutheran Mission of Khakasiia became known far beyond the borders of this republic thanks to the numerous attempts of the local authorities to close the mission. In particular, it was the first, precedent-setting attempt in Russia to use the new law "On freedom of conscience and religious associations" for closing a religious organization. At the present time, according to Fr Vsevolod Lytkin, the authorities have recognized the mission as a legitimate successor of Lutheran societies which had existed on the territory of Khakasiia. Evidently two police patrol cars escorted the procession. (tr. by PDS)
Russian text at Radiotserkov
(posted 25 August 1998)
WHAT MUST A PRIEST BE LIKE ?
Interview with His Holiness Alexy II, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia granted to "Vstrecha," the student journal of the Moscow Theological Academy and Seminary.
--Your Holiness, during these last years the number of sacred ministers in the Russian Orthodox Church has increased significantly. It appears that the personnel problem is close to its resolution. Is this the case?
--Indeed, the shortage of priests and deacons which was inevitable due to the opening of thousands of new churches has been significantly reduced. But I cannot say that the problem of clergy personnel has been completely resolved. In the first place this involves Russia's distant eparchies as well as those of certain countries in close proximity to Russia where today a priest shepherds several parishes. Nor can a situation be considered normal where a single priest in large cities ministers to tens if not hundreds of thousands Orthodox believers. Even if not all of these people regularly go to services nor actively participate in the life of the Church, many of them are in need of spiritual help. The priest must go to them and not wait for them to come into the churchyard. Whenever the pastor, following Divine services, must perform several dozens of baptisms, marriages and funerals, bring Communion to the sick and still find time to visit the school, the hospital, the prison and the military detachment, it is inevitable that he can only spend two or three minutes with each member of his flock. This is abnormal, especially if that person is approaching the Church for the first time or is in need of more than a brief counsel, a confession or advise in a complex problem of life.
The pastor must "call his own sheep by name (Jn X:3)." We can consider the personnel problem of clergy finally resolved not when the formal vacancies are filled but only when, for every hundred regular parishioners and for each several thousand people who are not sufficiently "Churched" but who are Orthodox through Baptism and cultural background, there will be a priest who is not only capable of serving in Church but who will go among the people with words and deeds, as did the righteous Saint John of Kronstadt.
--Today no one will dispute that it is not beneficial to sacrifice the quality of pastoral preparation for the sake of the numbers of new parishes. Your Holiness, do you believe that in time the attainment of a theological education be one of the unconditional requirements for ordination to the sacred ministry?
--It is precisely this that the recent Bishops' Sobors proclaimed before the whole Church. The 1994 Sobor "expressed its concern that many of the presently ordained priests do not have a systematic theological education." One of the decisions which the 1997 Sobor considered important is that "it must become the established practice that only those persons can be ordained to the sacred ministry who have completed a seminary or an equivalent theological education." During that same Sobor I had to state that all those sacred ministers who were ordained lacking a theological education must obtain it through correspondence courses.
The question at hand is without a doubt one of the important aspect of the personnel problem. If the sacred minister does not sufficiently know the teaching of the Church, her history, her traditions, if he cannot be a witness against various false teachings, or is oblivious to the world around him--what will he teach his parishioners? Unfortunately, it is not uncommon that a priest literally becomes lost when faced with a question from one of today's educated and demanding parishioners. Such an answer is usually found within the framework of a seminary's curriculum. It is even worse if the sacred minister gives the wrong answer, expressing some ideas of his own which have no basis in Church tradition and which he interprets either in the direction of extreme rigorism or in the direction of complete permissiveness, disregarding the uniqueness of Christ's Truth. Such teaching based on one's own "hot air" does untold damage to today's spiritual practice. A theological education and formation which one obtains in a theological school goes a long way towards counteracting the above phenomena. This is why a strong link must be established in the immediate future between the completion of a seminary education and ordination to the sacred ministry. To accomplish this it is essential to intensify the corresponding efforts on the part of the hierarchy, the administrators and teachers in the theological schools as well as to demand more accountability from the candidates for ordination themselves.
--In many of our Church's dioceses there have developed mixed feelings among the clergy towards pursuing an education in our seminaries and academies while living on campus. Occasionally it is even looked upon as an empty waste of time. Furthermore, as we all know, young priests, graduates of our theological schools, are not infrequently sent to serve in isolated rural parishes, where there is little demand for their education. Do you agree, Your Holiness, that such a situation diminishes the prestige of our theological schools and is abnormal?
--As I have already pointed out, a seminary education will, in the near future, become an absolute requirement for candidates to the priesthood and then no one will have grounds for looking disparagingly towards education in our theological schools. Such an attitude today does not cease to amaze me. To be sure, the level of theological qualification must be taken into account when parish appointments are made.. This was recommended by the 1994 Sobor and I am aware that this is fully carried out in many dioceses.
In parishes which require highly educated pastors but where the functioning clerics' educational level does not correspond to such needs, this becomes evident through complaints from parishioners and others who are on their way to faith; through discords in the parishes and the movement of the faithful to other churches; through a lack of any active parish life and missionary outreach. We must not pay such a high price for the disproportionate qualifications of individual clerics.
At the same time one must not think that parish assignments can be made automatically on the principle "produce a diploma and receive an appointment." The hierarch must take into account the candidate's age, his spiritual qualifications and pastoral abilities as well as references about him from parishioners and fellow clerics. Questions of this type can in no way be ignored in carrying our personnel assignments.
--At present preparations are being made for a restructuring of theological education. How would you formulate the basic problems and aims of the reforms. What, in your opinion, must be done in order that its implementation be realistic and productive for all theological schools of the Moscow Patriarchate?
--The restructuring plan is known. It is expected that the Theological Seminary will become a higher theological educational institution with new carefully developed programs which will reflect the reality of our dynamic times, do away with duplication in the teaching of certain subjects and allow the expansion of the number of disciplines. The Theological Seminary must become the basic institution for the preparation of clergy personnel and graduation from it must be the norm for pastors and other responsible church workers. The Theological Academy will offer specialization in various fields of theological scholarshp and practical service. There is no need to point out how essential this is today if we have in mind an increase in pedagogical faculties.
The carrying-out of reforms in theological education is timed with the advent of the new millennium since Christ's Nativity. At the same time we see how many difficulties must be overcome. This concerns the material well-being of the theological school which in an overwhelming number of cases cannot be looked upon as anything other than critical. There is also the shortage of faculty personnel which remains as the most far-reaching heritage of the seventy years of the Church's persecution. The forced rupture between faith and knowledge has brought about the situation that individuals who could offer their specialized knowledge to students are insufficiently "Churched" and people who grew up in the Church's milieu frequently do not have a decent secular education which is essential for the teaching of certain disciplines.
However, we will overcome all these problems only when each Church worker in his place, especially a younger one --and here I am especially addressing the students of the Theological Academy --will apply his efforts to work in Christ's vineyard in the place to which the Lord sends him without sparing his strength and not be put off by obstacles.
--St. Paul described the image of the ideal priest in his pastoral epistles but nonetheless, each epoch places its own stamp upon the people as well as upon the pastor. In your opinion, what kind of qualities must a priest of our times have?
--In our evil and vain times the most important thing both for pastors and for any Christian is to preserve a firm and a profound faith. It must not only be stored in the mind, it must not only be something that was inherited, but it must be an absolute basis of one's whole life, the center of all thoughts, words and deeds. This is inconceivable without personal spiritual activity. If we call upon God with prayer, if the "vertical measure" of things is most important for us, then no illusionary delights of the world around us, nor any of its alarms and threats, will be able to shake the joy within us of knowing that "God is with us" and that, trusting in His help, we hope to attain His eternal Kingdom "where there is neither sickness nor sorrow, but life everlasting." Anyone who is united with the Church's grace-filled life is firmly aware of this. This is revealed to us by the Lord Himself who says: "In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (Jn XVI:33)."
The qualities which are so essential today for the sacred minister, namely, love and sensitivity towards his parishioners and towards all people in general, utmost honesty, responsibility, the humble tempering of an active approach towards life and his own service, are strengthened by the pillar of faith and spiritual life. The pastor must be neither domineering nor driven. He is called to influence people -- not only those within the confines of the Church -- but for those "outside" -- with his firm assurance, the strength of his word and personal example. To be sure, to develop such an influence is the most difficult thing to do. Perhaps it is much easier to raise one's voice, to apply pressure, to assert oneself in a worldly way or on the contrary, to go along with the sinful weaknesses of those around you and in this way shield oneself from unwelcome problems. But in both cases the pastoral approach will suffer.
Finally, devotion to the Church is very important, a concern for her unity, an effort to make sure that the priest's word and deed will enhance not only his parish and certainly not his own status, but will benefit the whole Church. It is also important to be conscious that the Fullness of the Church, just as the fullness of the parish community, encompasses not only the clergy but the laity as well, with whom it is essential to share the work and responsibility in the light of the Church's rules, brotherly love and total mutual trust.
However we should not forget that Christ, our Supreme Pastor who providentially nourishes His Church, acts through weak vessels as well. St. Theophanes the Recluse writes: "The Lord rules His Church and everything within it. Priests are his weapons. Whatever one needs, the Lord will provide through the priest, no matter what he is like, and who can be approached with complete faith and confidence."
--Our people's low level of religious training frequently results in a completely false understanding of the nature of priestly service. Some see the priest as a psychoanalyst, some an "elder," a manager of fate, and others, as a conjurer who performs mystical rites. As the saying goes "a demand generates the supply" -- and unfortunately, not all priests have the strength, but more often a lack of theological training, not to succumb to temptation of this type. In this connection, Your Holiness, two eternal questions posed by the Russian intelligentsia come to the fore: "who is responsible" for the resultant situation and "what is to be done"?
--The responsibility lies with the decades of Church persecution -- if it had not happened, if the living fabric of Church tradition has not been torn apart, we would not be in such a situation. Today many believers and even some pastors, who are in spirit and in fact new converts, have a simplistic conception of Church life, they see things in black and white, frequently lacking basic religious training or spiritual experience. Some people who come to Church are simply ignorant and rude - they confuse Orthodoxy with a "Bureau of Ritual Services," with magic, with a cult around a religious leader similar to a totalitarian sect, but in no way with the Church of Christ. The pastor must carefully educate such people and in no case indulge in their whims. Sometimes it is better to terminate such a relationship with a person, suggesting that he go to another priest rather than make an idol of oneself and distort the substance of faith.
One can only be amazed at, but most certainly condemn, the practices of certain sacred ministers who, almost by force, have their parishioners make serious decisions against their will affecting their own lives; who perform some kind of magical manipulations with photographs of absent people; who baptize by proxy; who conduct illegal weddings and other non-canonical "rites," who on their own volition change the order of Divine services, who coerce people to avoid carrying out their civic or family responsibilities, or refuse medical services. One of the problems of Church life is the performance of Mysteries and rites over obviously unchurched people who don't even know the Creed and have no understanding of what is taking place. Let us not forget that Mysteries are performed according to the faith of the recipient.
These sad manifestations can only be overcome by a gradual "Churching" and enlightenment of the laity as well as with the theological formation of the pastors. In certain cases it is necessary to exert the authority of the bishop. For example, I had to do this in the case of certain Moscow clerics.
--One sad phenomenon of our times is the uncertainty about tomorrow, unaccountable fear and worry which affect many people today including those within the Church. Here the motivations for dire eschatological predictions is the fear of diminishing the purity of faith, ecclesiastical instability, schisms, the threats of neo-renovationism, arguments about the ecumenical movement and many others. Could you, Your Holiness, not just as the Church's Primate but as a pastor, advise the young priests and students of the theological schools who are preparing for the priesthood, how to cope properly with these manifestations?
--The Church experienced internal debates about various problems in times past and will continue so in the future. It is only necessary to distinguish those areas in which we must firmly preserve the Divinely established community of faith, the confession of Orthodox dogmas, the adherence to canonical norms Ð and those spheres where the Church permits freedom of diversion, whose positive value was recognized by St Paul who writes: ". . .for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized (I Cor XI:19)." The unity of the Church is a unity in diversity and we -- and especially the clergy -- must learn with patience and charity, to receive those people within the Church who may be different culturally, in upbringing, of different ages, with different views about certain problems within the Church and society. But along with this, and I say again, it is essential to guard strongly the unity in Orthodox faith.
Let not the cares and worries of this age darken the inner peace and spiritual joy which must be the Christian's natural state. Despair, depression, a lukewarm attitude towards service, brought about by whatever humanly justifiable reasons Ð are sinful states, since at their base lies a lack of faith in Divine strength, clearly present in the Church. We should always remember the words of the Savior: "I will build my church and the powers of death shall not prevail against it (Mt XVI:18); "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Lk XII:32)" And I am convinced that these words of the Savior were clearly justified during the years of struggle against God.
--In your appearances, Your Holiness, you frequently emphasize the need to uphold the principle of the separation of church and State. At the same time, in your capacity as the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church, you frequently participate in various State functions. The image of the Patriarch's activities serves as an example for every priest. In this respect, we are concerned about the problem of how, in our future service as parish priests, can we find the Golden Mean in relations with State authorities where, on the one hand, it can benefit the Church and the Fatherland and on the other hand, it would not create problems from our future flocks?
--The Church must most certainly not become a part of the State --we come to this conclusion from the experience of past history, as well as the fact that today nearly half of our parishes and tens of millions of faithful are located beyond the borders of the Russian Federation. But the Church cannot and should not avoid contacts with the government at its various levels. Furthermore today there are more and more opportunities for the mutual activity of Church and State for the public's benefit, whether in the area of education, culture, academics, charities, the preservation and reconstruction of historical monuments, work for peace, social concerns, the preservation of morality among the people, or any other efforts called for by the public needs.
--Contacts and cooperation with the government on the central, regional and local levels are needed and are essential. But in order to preserve the proper organization of the Church it is essential that such cooperative ventures be initiated strictly with the sanction and blessing of the local hierarchical authority, in the first instance, the diocesan bishops. It cannot be permitted that anyone would get the impression that the pastor who works together with the authorities is endorsing them in political contests and election campaigns. The appearance of sacred ministers at pre-election meetings, their active support at meetings on Church premises and especially in Church during Divine services cannot be allowed.
It is understandable that the pastor may have his own political convictions which, at the time, appear to him to be the only correct and possible ones for an Orthodox Christian. But how will the parishioners, among whom are always individuals with different political orientations, view an announcement from the Amvon that anyone who votes against such and such a candidate is effectively acting against the Church? The Church's refusal to become involved in political struggles is not simply something for these times, today this is one of the most important conditions of the Church's unity: an avoidance of fractures on civic principles, ethnicity and political views.
--In concluding the interview we would like to ask Your Holiness for an edifying word as our Primate, directed to our readers, the future pastors, the students of our theological schools as well as the Orthodox students in our secular institutions
--May God help all of you, dear ones, to absorb the wisdom of Theology and of other studies. You know how all this is needed by the Church. May the Lord grant you an experience of spiritual life, life in the faith, life in Christ which makes us worthy of Divine truth and which will bring us to a sincere and fruitful service to God and His people. Be loyal sons and daughters of the Mother Church Ð the Holy Orthodox Church. May the Lord strengthen you for the tasks awaiting you, whether pastoral or many other kinds, may you have strength to carry out the life-long effort until the end of your days. Remember what He said: "My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.(Mt XI:30)
Translated by A.S.
Russian text at Moscow patriarchate
(posted 24 August 1998)
by Svetlana Stepanenko,
Ukraine 21 August 1998
According to a report from the Religious Information Agency, fifty people's deputies of Ukraine have sent an appeal to secretary of the National Security Council Vladimir Gorbulin. In their letter they condemned the "intolerant attitude of several local representatives of authority" toward the "Word of Faith" church of the Full Gospel. The people's deputies also expressed a request "to conduct an objective analysis of the activity of the confession to which the indicated church belongs and to take measures so that law enforcement agencies and representatives of executive power henceforth not permit unfounded persecution of this particular religious organization."
In their appeal the parliamentarians noted that pastors of the Word of Faith church help young people to be liberated from drug addiction, alcoholism, and other harmful tendencies and they help people who do not have a roof over their heads. Without indicating specifically what kinds of persecutions this religious organization has been subjected to, the people's deputies asked the secretary of the National Security Council for protection for it.
The State Committee on Religious Affairs of Ukraine, on its part, noted that it does not have any claims with regard to this particular church of the charismatic movement. However various state institutions have received many complaints about its activity from ordinary citizens, representatives of the clergy of other confessions, as well as from the "Poriatunok" committee. In response to these, the leadership of the state religion committee regularly turns to Ukrainian scholars and religious studies specialists for consultation and analysis of the activity of the Word of Faith church. (tr. by PDS)
Russian text at Radiotserkov
(posted on 22 August 1998)
NEW PENTECOSTAL CHURCH IN SOUTH RUSSIA
by Vadim Akentiev,
Radiotserkov 20 August 1998
A new congregation of Christians of Evangelical Faith has appeared in Kemerovo. Last Sunday it conducted its first service in one of the city movie houses. For the time being meetings will be held there. The church began with twenty persons who had attended a Bible study group. But literally within a week it suddenly grew by 100 persons recently. These were the fruits of the first evangelization which was conducted in the very center of the city. The mayor's office permitted the church to preach and sing Christian hymns four days in a row in front of the regional drama theatre. According to the pastor of the church, Igor Goloskubov, such permission has not been received by any other church.
Just this year a broad campaign under the slogan "Drugs are a horrible evil" has unfolded in Kuzbass. The governor of the region gave an order to cooperate with all religious and public associations which join the struggle with this vice. Thus the pastor immediately received permission when he stated that the "Church of the Covenant" will motivate youth against drug addiction and substance abuse.
To be sure, things were difficult for the parishioners during their evangelization. The square in front of the drama theatre has long been selected by four groups of youth--anarchists, punks, hippies, and satanists. They met the parishioners rather jealously and at the start ignored them demonstratively. However, by evening several of the misfits repented. The next day about twenty persons accepted Christ. The wall of separation between the Christians and young groups gradually disappeared. However the leaders of the satanists, several men in their early thirties, soon arrived at the drama theater. They decided to disrupt the preaching of the gospel and began shouting that "your Lord died, but Satan lives." Then they sang their songs. These were much like Christian hymns except that they praised the devil rather than God. Incidentally, the satanist sect of the city does not have registration. In addition, according to some reports, it practices ritual sacrifices and its members can be identified by pins in their noses and ears or by the menacing pictures on their shirts and heavy-metal music.
Despite the opposition of dark forces, the preaching of the gospel brought abundant fruit. Around 100 persons quickly joined the church. In the main, the church consists of young men and women. The evangelization culminated with a real theatrical production about the life of drug addicts. This was staged by the parishioners themselves, among whom are several professional actors. The members also include students of higher educational institutions, successful businessmen, and athletes. For example, recently five boxers joined the society as the result of the personal evangelization of one of the church members who is a professional boxer and businessman.
It remains to be said that the new society is called "Church of the Covenant," which, according to the pastor, refers to the covenant of God with humankind through Jesus Christ. (tr. by PDS)
Russian text at Radiotserkov
(posted 22 August 1998)
YOUR HOLINESS, WHOM ARE YOU WITH?
Rus pravoslavnaia, no. 13, July 1998
Recently information agencies have reported: "Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and All-Rus bestowed the order of Saint Prince Daniel of Moscow, second degree, on the famous singer and deputy of the State Duma Iosif Kobzon. In this way his contribution to the restoration of the cathedral of Christ the Savior and other sancta of the Russian land was recognized." The award ceremony was held at the Moscow residence of the patriarch. Reporters were not permitted to attend, although it was learend from sources within the apparatus of the patriarchate that the ceremony occurred in "a cordial setting of complete mutual understanding and was accompanied by a warm, extended conversation between the primate and Kobzon."
The question of what position the patriarch takes with respect to the most burning issues of contemporary church life and the social and political development of Russia acquires the greatest urgency to the degree that the fall of the anti-Russian regime of Boris Yeltsin approaches. The church hierarchy should understand: further silence in the circumstances of the growing crisis threatens to destroy its moral authority irretrievably. Although it is clear that the patriotic point of view that has been expressed could help the Russian church recover its legal leading position in the life of Russian society.
Why the order for Kobzon? Russian patriots understand this and the atheistic Russophobes who hate Russia and Christ's holy church, who have seized power in our country, understand it. And from their side they are doing everything possible in order to end for the patriarch the possibility of reconciliation with the national patriotic movement of the zealots of piety. But as a counterweight to this pernicious influence, life itself now strongly requires that the Moscow hierarchy take an active civic position. The leadership of the Russian Orthodox church, if it does not want to lose finally its authority within society, cannot silently observe how the Kremlin westerners are committing genocide on the Russian people in its own country and a cluster of bankers with dual citizenship are squeezing the last drop out of a Russia in ruins. Under such strong crossfire, Alexis II does not have the power to conduct an effective and efficient church policy. From this comes the blatant inconsistency of some of his words and deeds and the tardiness of reaction to the urgently unfolding circumstances in the country and his own kind of "timidity" in making principled, long overdue, personnel decisions. However, judge for yourself. From the point of view of church canons, in recent months healthy conservative tendencies have been noted in the activity of the patriarch. These include the wish not to meet with the Roman pope, the decision to review forms of participation of the Russian church in WCC, and the refusal to participate in the counterfeit burial of "tsarist remains."
However it is extremely characteristic that for the most part Alexis II has not spoken publicly nor declared his personal point of view on these "burning" issues of the day, which now are concerning Russian Orthodox people. Why? Surely because he, as an expereinced politician, does not want to bind himself by specific obligations. What if the situation suddenly changes? In this case His Holiness has already prepared an escape route for himself. This is how it seems from the outside in regard to his participation in ecumenical prayers in Austria, which were conducted despite the ostentatious condemnation of "ecumenical extremes" and a series of high awards bestowed by RPTs on a number of the most odious public figures. It is difficult to assess in any other way the fact that in just the past few months high Russian church awards were given to the Muslim presidents Aushev and Karimov, the Jewish banker Smolensky, and the head of the ecumenical conference of European churches. The last in the series of these outrageous incidents was the awarding of the order of Saint Prince Daniel of Moscow to the famous singer Iosif Kobzon, whom even the American FBI suspects of links with the Russian mafia. On this basis the government of the United States denied him entry into USA territory. Once, for the same reason, he was not allowed even to enter his historic homeland, Israel. So now the patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus personally bestows an honor on him "for outstanding contribution to the restoration of the cathedral of Christ the Savior and other sancta of the Russian land."! It is simply difficulty to imagine a greater insult to the religious and national sentiments of Russian Christians!
It is permissible to ask: do the leaders of the Moscow patriarchate really not care that now the rumor circulates among the people that a church order may simply be bought by any mafioso, and the cathedral of Christ the Savior was built by corrupted church bureaucrats with money donated by criminal authorities from racketeering, prostitution, and drug sales? Who has considered the damage to the reputation of the Russian Orthodox church from such actions?
And so, a dispassionate analysis of the situation shows that the "struggle for the patriarch" is still far from over. If Orthodox patriots want to win it they should clearly and unequivocally declare their united position in this area. The church hierarchy must clearly understand that it can count on the loyalty of the movement of the zealots of piety only so long as the actions of the leadership of MP do not transgress the canonical and political boundaries. Withdrawal from the ecumenical movement, rejection of a false harmony with the anti-Russian regime of Yeltsin, a return to conciliar methods of deciding the most important church problems--these are the main mileposts in the church political process which will make possible fruitful cooperation of the "depths" and "heights" of the church and an efficient and whole unification of all healthy forces of Russian Orthodoxy.
Balamand Union in action. A special place in the practice of the "double standards" by which the patriarch endeavors to maintain his unsteady church political balance is occupied by his position with regard to the Vatican. While outwardly it is rather firm, in reality it turns out to be completely consonant with the notorious Balamand agreement, which already has raised a great uproar with its frankly Uniate contents and heretical provisions about the validity of Catholic sacraments and administration, although it was barely adopted by secret procedure. Almost literally following the contents of this document, Patriarch Alexis II recently gave his consent to expanding the number of Catholic bishops in Russia. At the beginning of the summer of 1998 two new bishops, named by the Vatican for nurturing Russian Catholics, arrived for carrying out their responsibilities. Care for the eastern region of the Asiatic part of RF was entrusted to the forty-four-year-old Pole Bzhi Mazur, whose episcopal consecration was held in the newly built cathedral of Novosibirsk. The residence of this bishop will be in Irkutsk. For nurturing Catholics of the southern region of European Russia the thirty-six-year-old German Klemens Pikkel was named, whose see has been located in the city of Marx, Saratov region. "The previous appointment of two Catholic bishops in 1991 for Russia did not evoke outcries in the Moscow patriarchate," writes the newspaper Russkaia Mysl.. "Until recently, at the official level the hierarchy of RPTs has said that the number of Catholic bishops in Russia clearly exceeds actual need. Nevertheless the current appointment has not evoked any official reactions. Moreover, rumors about harmonious actions of the Moscow patriarchate and the Vatican have begun appearing in church circles." These rumors were unequivocally confirmed by the papal nuncio Archbishop John Bukovski. "Recently I personally informed His Holiness Patriarch Alexis II and Metropolitan Kirill, chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow patriarchate," he said, "that in view of the enormous territory of Russia, the bishops were insufficient for it and that I, probably, will propose to John Paul II some candidates. . . . They understand the need for this. . . They did not object. When the holy father appointed new bishops, I considered it my duty to inform the most holy patriarch. His Holiness Alexis II received everything with Christian love and understanding. And we greatly value such understanding on the part of the Orthodox church." Evidently in order to achieve future development of such an "understanding" in the spirit of the notorious Balamand Union, even the state secretary of the Vatican Cardinal Angelo Sodano spoke out on the subject of full harmony between the Moscow patriarch and the Roman pope. While in Poland, he declared to reporters that "the holy see has recognized that the Russian sister church has received the news about the appointment of two additional bishops with such an understanding." It remains only a matter of speculation what will be the next step on the path to implementation of the Balamand Union and how destructive its consequences will be for the Russian Orthodox church.
Changes without changes. Official documents of the Holy Synod also give an extremely ambivalent impression. Reading the minutes of its sessions, it is difficult to avoid the thought that the members of the synod are primarily concerned that the decisions they make not give occasion for liberals and renovationists to suspect our hierarchs of excessive "conservatism." Thus, at the synod session on 9 June "the position of the Russian Orthodox church at the Pan-Orthodox meeting on the subject 'Assessment of New Matters in Relations between Orthodoxy and the Ecumenical Movement' (Thessaloniki, Greece, 29 May-2 June) was approved. . . . The decision made at the meeting regarding the dispatch to the WCC assembly of delegations with limited mandate. . . for a unanimous pan-Orthodox testimony about the crisis of WCC . . . was approved." However, so that nobody would casually get the idea that this could lead to the withdrawal of the Moscow patriarchate from the ecumenical movement, the synod noted "the unanimity of the representatives of the Orthodox churches regarding the necessity of continuing participation in inter-Christian contacts." Whence this unity remains a mystery. In any case in the Russian church nobody has thought to ask the church public whether it approves such "contacts" or not. As a result in Thessaloniki two highly placed church bureaucrats in our names signed some papers, and the synod, again in our name, approved them. Now they, actually reflecting only the personal position of the head of OVTsS, are considered the "voice of the Russian church." Millions of Orthodox in Russia can only guess why this "voice" speaks all the time with the words of Metropolitan Kirill Gundiaev and his closest circle. Apparently in order that such "seditious" thoughts not trouble irrational parishioners, the synod hastened to turn "special attention to the unanimous condemnation of schismatic groups within local Orthodox church, which use the subject of ecumenism for criticism of church leadership, thereby trying to sow disagreements and schisms in the church." Has it not occurred to this respected prelate that these very "disagreements and schisms" have appeared as a consequence of the actions of that portion of the episcopate which, despite categorical protests from laity and clergy, continue to hold RPTs within the clutches of the ecumenical heresy?
Meanwhile, the opinion of critics of ecumenism is being ignored demonstratively as before. At the same session at which the Holy Synod spoke timidly of the "crisis of the WCC" it adopted three new proecumenical resolutions. First, it "expressed satisfaction with the results of the Fifth Theological Consultation between representatives of the Russian Orthodox church and the German Episcopal Conference of the Roman Catholic church on the subjects, "Unity and Diversity of the Church" and "Limits of the Church" (Minsk, 14-16 May 1998. No doubt the participants of these conversations agreed with the opinion that the "diversity of the church" comprises both Orthodoxy and Catholicism. And the "limits of the church" in their interpretation are sufficiently broad that they embrace the papal heresy on a par with the truths of Christ. Second, the synod expressed satisfaction with regard to the "regular theological consultation with representatives of the Evangelical church in Germany on the subject "Church, People, and State in Europe" (Minsk, 23-27 May 1998). Third, the Holy Synod "named a delegation of the Russian Orthodox church to the Eleventh Theological Consultation of its representatives with representatives of the Evangelical church of Finland." Thus the ecumenical activity of the Moscow patriarchate after the Thessaloniki conference not only has not abated but, in the contrary, has grown. So that nobody have any doubt that this growth is a reflection of the official course of MP, the synod explicitly "recognized as useful the continuation of such theological dialogues." Thus the joy of the zealots of piety following the decisions of the Thessaloniki conference has turned out to be premature and short-lived. Nothing has changed. The efforts of the "Nikodimites" have brought the line of the hierarchy of MP full circle.
Your Holiness, whom are you with! (tr. by PDS)
Russian text at Pravoslavnoe informatsionoe agenstvo
(posted 20 August 1998)
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