ARCHBISHOP OF GRODNO ARTEMY WHO CRITICIZED GOVERNMENT RELIEVED OF OFFICE
Interfax-Religiia, 9 June 2021
The Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church relieved of his office Archbishop of Grodno and Volkovyssk Artemy, who had criticized the government after the presidential elections of 2020.
"The Holy Synod has ordered to retire Archbishop of Grodno and Volkovyssk Artemy, for reasons of health, in accordance with the request of the Synod of the Belorussian exarchate after it determined that the place of residence for His Eminence Archbishop Artemy would be the city of Minsk," the notice on the website of the Russian Orthodox Church said on Wednesday.
"Bishop of Slutsk and Solitorsk Antony was appointed bishop of Grodno and Volkovyssk; he was relieved from administering the Slutsk diocese. The temporary administration of the Slutsk diocese was assigned to the patriarchal exarch of all-Belarus, Metropolitan of Minsk and Zaslav Veniamin," the RPTs reported.
Archbishop of Grodno and Volkovyssk Artemy criticized the actions of the government after the presidential elections in August 2020, declaring that the church "must not be indifferent." "You must kneel down for all of the falsifications and deceit," he said specifically after one of his August services. (tr. by PDS, posted 9 June 2021)
WHETHER ARCHBISHOP ARTEMY HAS BEEN RELIEVED OF OFFICE IS EXPLAINED BY DIOCESE OF GRODNO
The Grodno diocese clarified that all decisions made by the Synod of the Belarusian Orthodox Church [BPTs] must be confirmed by the Synod in Moscow, apart from which they have no legal force.
by Inna Grishuk
Sputnik, 9 June 2021
The Grodno diocese of the Belarusian Orthodox Church commented on the reports that have appeared concerning the dismissal of Archbishop of Grodno and Volkovyssk Artemy.
As the press service of the diocese explained, nobody knows the decisions of the Belarusian Synod, which was held yesterday. They will be published after approval in Moscow.
News about the removal from office of Archbishop of Grodno and Volkovyssk Artemy appeared in local news media after the conclusion of the BPTs Synod, which was held yesterday.
There is no such report on the official website of the BPTs. Of the decisions of the Synod it says briefly: "The Synod reviewed current matters of the life of the Belarusian Orthodox Church and made a number of decisions."
As the press secretary of the Grodno diocese of the BPTs, Dmitry Pavliukevich, told Sputnik, their life is going on as usual and Archbishop Artemy remains in his office.
"There is nothing to comment. Nobody can know the decisions of the Synod simply because they are confirmed by His Holiness Patriarch of all-Rus Kirill. Until that time it is impossible. If I am not mistaken, the Synod will be held in Moscow on 17 June. Only after that date will the minutes and decisions of the Synod be published. For now there is nothing more than rumors and baseless statements," Pavliukevich said.
He added that if, say, such a decision had been made by the Synod of the BPTs, it would not have legal force now. Since all decisions must be reviewed and approved by the Synod in Moscow.
Bishop of Grodno and Volkovyssk Artemy has occupied this office since 1996; in 2012 he was elevated to the rank of archbishop.
Vladyka Artemy is 69 years old. He was born in April 1952 in Minsk. He graduated from the Leningrad Ecclesiastical Seminary and served from 1982 in the Alexander Nevsky church of Minsk. In February 1996 he was appointed bishop of Grodno and Volkovyssk. He also is the chairman of the Association of Youth of the BPTs.
In 2004, Bishop Artemy received the academic
kandidat of theology by the decision of the council of the Minsk
Seminary for his dissertation on the topic "Introduction to
Theology." In 2007 he graduated from the Christian Theological
Warsaw and received the degree of master of theology and in 2013
his dissertation there for the academic degree of doctor of
theology on the
topic of "History of the Grodno Orthodox Diocese in 1921-1939."
by PDS, posted 9 June 2021)
BELORUSSIAN CHURCH DECIDES TO GET RID OF GRODNO ARCHBISHOP ARTEMY WHO DISPLEASED AUTHORITIES
However the final decision must be made by Moscow
by Milena Faustova
Nezavisimaia Gazeta, 9 June 2021
By decision of the Synod of the Belorussian Orthodox Church, Archbishop of Grodno and Volkovyssk Artemy was relieved of the office he occupied, Belorussian news media report. Whether the bishop, who was one of the few in the BPTs to openly speak out regarding what was happening in Belorussia after the presidential election, will leave his post or not will become known in several days. According to the bylaws, the minutes of the Synod must be approved by Patriarch Kirill.
On the official website of the BPTs there still is no word about the retirement of Archbishop Artemy. "On 8 June, the Synod considered current matters of the life of the Belorussian Orthodox Church and made a number of decisions," the report published on the website says. The news became known from the pro-government Telegram channel "Grodno Plums." "What was the reasons for such a decision—the bishop's health or his behavior, and also the furious activity of his subordinates--remains unclear. However, it is obvious that changes are coming in Grodno diocese," the recording says.
Bishop Artemy is only 69 years old. It is too soon for him to be retired by virtue of his age. Considering that he was personally present at the current session of the Belorussian Synod, the issue of his health is not pertinent. Most likely, it was at the demand of the president of the country, Alexander Lukashenko, that he was "dumped" from his archbishopric, for his oppositional political views, which are not shared in the Belorussian Orthodox Church.
Back at the very beginning of the protests in August 2020, the head of the Grodno diocese was the only Orthodox hierarch who harshly condemned the violence occurring in the country. "One must not play with the truth, mangling it and tinkering with it in favor of political purposes! The blood of the victims and the bitter suffering of people in these days are on the conscience of those who themselves extinguished or forced others to extinguish the truth," he exhorted in one of his sermons. "We are not talking about some policy or some politician or some government. We are talking about the lawlessness that is happening. Our people are acting like beasts and are tearing up their own brothers," he added in another appeal from the pulpit.
The hierarchy of not only the Belarusian Orthodox Church, but also of the Russian Orthodox Church have tried unsuccessfully to put an end to these statements. On 25 August, the Synod of the RPTs replaced the patriarchal exarch in Belorussia. Instead of Metropolitan Pavel, who did not resist the participation of priests in unsanctioned demonstrations, Metropolitan Veniamin was appointed. He immediately not only forbade the clergy from participating in any way in political protest rallies, but he also sidled up to Lukashenko, who had previously demanded that representatives of various religious organizations not interfere in political matters. "My dear clergy, calm down and mind your own business. You will be ashamed and embarrassed for the position that you, some of you, are taking now. And the government will not view this with indifference," he declared. That's when the campaign of demonization of Archbishop Artemy began.
In September of last year it became known that the abbess of the Nativity of the Mother of God stavropegial convent of the city of Grodno, Hegumena Gavrila, organized a collection of signatures against the archbishop and forced parishioners to sign the document. "We are aware of such a collection of signatures. I do not like these initiatives," the then press secretary of the BPTs, Sergei Lepin, commented on what was happening. He later made several harsh statements against the authorities on his own Facebook page. After that, the prosecutor general of Belorussia issued to him a warning, alleging that "Lepin's statements increase the level of tension in society and incite hatred and hostility toward representatives of government bodies, including law enforcement agencies." On 27 November 2020, Lepin was retired from his office "according to his personal wishes."
It is curious that it was on the day of Lepin's dismissal that the BPTs received a warning from the commissioner for affairs of religions and nationalities. This was learned from a letter by Veniamin addressed to the Grodno archbishop. "The text of the warning we received points out the unavoidable obligation of religious organizations to fulfill the requirements of the legislation of the republic of Belarus that regulate their activity." In particular, reference was made to article 16 of the constitution and article 8 of the law 'On freedom of conscience and religious organizations.' As the administrator of the Grodno diocese of the Belorussian Orthodox Church, you have the obligation to ensure on its territory the fulfillment of the aforesaid requirements of the legislation of the republic of Belarus and also the decisions and positions of the Synod of the Belorussian Orthodox Church," the exarch's letter of 17 December says.
However, Archbishop Artemy ignored the exhortation. On 14 March, on Forgiveness Sunday, he delivered a political sermon in which he declared that "to take the path of accommodation is the path of self-destruction. It is also not the essence of the church to get into politics or to get into any other problems. But the church must not be indifferent to all that is happening. The new martyrs and saints of our time always said: 'Silence betrays God.' To be a Christians means to bear the cross. Starting with the struggle with one's own vices and struggle with one's personal sin and combating social disorders and church problems—this is the heavy cross which must be borne, sometimes to self-sacrifice."
Now the fate of the Grodno diocese must be decided by the RPTs. The press secretary of the Grodno diocese, Deacon Dmitry Pavliukevich, explained that the Synod's decisions still do not have legal force. "Nobody can know the decisions of the Synod, simply because they are confirmed by Patriarch of all-Rus Kirill. The Synod will occur in Moscow on 17 June. Only after that date will the minutes and decisions of the Synod be published," he noted, adding that "their life is going on as usual and Archbishop Artemy remains in his office." And the press secretary of the BPTs, monastic priest Afanasy, recalled that "there have been cases in history where our Synod made one decision or another but they were not confirmed."
Meanwhile, there is little hope that Patriarch Kirill will overturn the verdict of the Belorussian bishops. In early February, the head of the RPTs called the clergy "not to turn into political commentators." "When a clergyman becomes an active participant in bitter disputes on social and political topics, when he fails to understand what he should be emphasizing in his appeals to people and turns into a political commentator, he causes more harm than good. Our social concept has still not expired, and in particular its formulations of principles of the church's participation in the political process have not expired. I think that today we must observe especially these principles and maintain a certain distance and not be drawn into political discussions, and if such a necessity arises, then it is only in order to protect the spiritual and moral bases of human life. If we begin to make political evaluations of what is happening, then we are making a big mistake." (tr. by PDS, posted 9 June 2021)
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