NEWS ABOUT RELIGION IN RUSSIA

Copyrighted material. For private use only.


Nicholas to be canonized as passion bearer, not martyr

GLORIFICATION OF TSARIST FAMILY IS A SETTLED MATTER

by Maxim Shevchenko
NG-religii, 31 May 2000

Interview with Fr Georgy Mitrofanov, member of the synodal Commission on Canonization.

--Fr Georgy, what conclusions will the Commission on Canonization present to the bishops' council?

--It should be noted that this bishops' council could become unprecedented in the history of the Russian church.  This relates to the fact that the overwhelming majority of heroes of piety who will be glorified at the council were new martyrs of the twentieth century.

At the council perhaps around 500 persons will be glorified. Their number includes also those who will be glorified as saints venerated church-wide as well as those who are honored as local saints in separate dioceses.  But there will be not only new martyrs.  Among them will be heroes who lived in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, bishops, righteous ones, confessors, and saints.

As regards specifically the glorified saints, among the new martyrs will be represented such prominent church hierarchs as Metropolitan Kirill Smirnov and Agafangel Preobrazhensky, who at various times were acting patriarchs.

There also will be represented a rather large multitude who maintained canonical unity with Metropolitan Sergius Stargorodsky and those who did not agree with one or another aspect of the church policy of Metropolitan Sergius, but at the same time witnessed by their righteous life a martyr's  feat. We consider in this that the chief criterion is loyalty to Metropolitan Peter Poliansky, the acting patriarch, on the part of all those priests who accepted martyr's death.

There is no question about the glorification of those who were associated with the renovationist schism, the autocephalous schisms in Ukraine, or the Grigorian schism.

Among the glorified saints there will be not only clergy (bishops, priests, monks) but also laity. In particular, the two sons of the archpriest and philosopher Arnadsky, who died with their father, will be glorified. One of them was a military physician and the other an artillery officer. This was a very significant episode which has opened up the possibility for our canonization also of righteous laity.

Of course, a special significance attaches to the glorification of the tsarist family as passion bearers.  This question has been under review for a long time and a positive conclusion has been reached. Now the commission has no basis for suggesting that the canonization of the royal family should be postponed.  It should happen at this very bishops' council in the category of passion bearers.

--But Metropolitan Kirill Smirnov of Kazan very sharply criticized the then Metropolitan Sergius for his policy of cooperation with the persecutors of the church and actually supported Metropolitan Joseph, who until now has been viewed by the Moscow patriarchate as a schismatic. Was this taken into account in reviewing his life?

--Here I must say that the point of view of the synodal commission differed from that which, in your opinion, the Moscow patriarch has maintained until now, although in the positions of Metropolitan Kirill and Metropolitan Joseph there were essential differences.  Thus, for example, Metropolitan Kirill never placed in doubt the grace of Metropolitan Sergius and of the entire Sergian clergy.  He blessed his spiritual children for taking communion in Sergian churches, so long as they were not "noncommemorating" churches, and he never accused Metropolitan Sergius of heresy.

In this the position of Metropolitan Kirill and his supporters was distinguished from the position of Metropolitan Joseph.  However, although the question of the canonization of Metropolitan Joseph will not be raised at the council, a number of bishops, such as the holy martyrs Viktor Ostrovidov and Serafim Zvesdinsky will be glorified. I repeat, we have one criterion:  those will be glorified who maintained canonical loyalty to Metropolitan Peter Poliansky and did not propose any changes in the doctrine, liturgy, and the canonical tradition. The possibility is not ruled out of canonization of those who only criticized Metropolitan Sergius from political motives. It should be said that the so-called "Josephite schism" in the given case is not an exception and the possibility of the canonization of the "Josephite" clergy also is there.

--Was there ever raised at the sessions of the Commission on Canonization a suggestion for the canonization of Metropolitan Sergius?

--No, such material never was presented to us by anyone. It would be difficult to say whether it would be presented in the future.

--Was the possibility of the canonization of Paul Florensky reviewed?

--Such material also did not come to our commission.  Thus it would be difficult to answer your question definitely.  I can speak only about those cases where some material came from the patriarch or from diocesan bishops.  We studied such materials and drew a conclusion about the possibility or impossibility of canonization.  As regards Fr Paul Florensky, just like Metropolitan Sergius, such material did not come to us and thus we did not work in that direction.

--You said that the church stands on the path of the canonization of tens of thousands of new martyrs, and in this the main criterion was their loyalty to Orthodoxy and to the acting patriarch Metropolitan Peter Poliansky.  The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia went in its time along the path of the canonization of all Orthodox who suffered at the hands of the bolsheviks.  On the icon of ROCOR "Assembly of New Martyrs" there is, in particular, even Fr Paul Florensky, whom I mentioned, despite the fact that in ROCOR there is a rather critical attitude toward his statements and his works. Does it seem to you possible that in the future there could be such a collective glorification of all new martyrs, all Orthodox laity, who suffered at the hand of persecutors of the church of Christ?

--Along with those who will be glorified by us by name, about whose life and service materials will be presented to the council, there also will be glorified those whose names hitherto remain unknown.  But this does not mean in any case that everyone who maintained loyalty to Metropolitan Sergius and to Metropolitan Peter, and died in the time of persecutions of the church, should automatically be considered a martyr.

In proposing our formulation, we emphasize that there are many who still are unknown and whose names, perhaps, never will become known, but who are glorified before the Lord.  Nevertheless in the question of whether it is possible to consider as a saint any priest who maintained canonical loyalty to the hierarchy and died at the time of the persecution, we have yet another very essential criterion. If as a result of the activity of this priest before his arrest or if after it Christians, his fellow ministers or his spiritual children, suffered, and if he cooperated with the authorities and if he gave evidence upon which people were subjected to repression or if he informed on someone or on himself, then he cannot be glorified, even if he maintained canonical loyalty to the hierarchy and he himself perished in the time of persecutions.

This, in particular, makes it impossible to canonize several rather well known bishops who even now are honored, whose names I would not want to mention now.

--Will those servants who perished along with the tsar's family by canonized?

--No, the servants will not be canonized for now.  This relates primarily to the fact that whereas the death of the royal family is very closed linked to the ancient tradition of the glorification of passion bearers--princes, sovereigns, who accepted with Christian meekness an innocent death--the death of the tsar's servants, who were fulfilling their servants' duty, cannot be included in this principle.  We still are looking for a more adequate form for their glorification.  In the strict sense of the word, they were not martyrs. At the time of the persecution many worthy people perished who were faithfully fulfilling their duty before the sovereign, before Russia, and before their neighbors.

--Why did the Commission on Canonization consider it necessary to canonize Nicholas II and the members of his family specifically as passion bearers and not as martyrs?  Isn't this making a distinction among the last emperor, the empress, and their children?

--A martyr's death is for a person who accepts it when there is the possibility to save one's life through renunciation. And the main reason for the death of this Christian is one's faith. The sovereign family died precisely as the sovereign family. Renunciation of the faith was not demanded of them. Moreover, even if we can imagine such an impious picture as that they could renounce the faith, that would not have altered their fate at all. So their death cannot be called a martyr's death.  Moreover the people who killed them were rather secularized in their worldview and they viewed them primarily as a symbol of imperial Russia which they hated. For them there was no problem of the faith of the sovereign family.

Although, of course, all these people were anti-Christian in attitude. But at the same time the circumstances of death directly connected the royal family with that marvelous type of sanctity which first appeared in the Russian church.  The first Russian saints, canonized in Constantinople, were princes, the passion bearers Boris and Gleb, who were canonized in a way that nobody before them had been.  In our land there really has been a whole multitude of murdered rulers who were passion bearing princes, for example, Mikhail of Chernigov and Mikhail of Tver.  Last there even was Tsarevich Dimitry.  The sovereign's sanctity in our land seemed to have ceased with the canonization of the passion bearing Tsarevich Dimitry at the end of the sixteenth century. And it turns out that the last Orthodox sovereign to rule in Russia also was murdered in the way that many rulers perished as passion bearers.

We were not about to devise artificially some bases for declaring their death a martyr's death. What was, was. We proceeded from actual circumstances and real facts.

--Did the commission finally reject the idea that the murder of the tsarist family was a ritual murder?

--On this question the commission turned directly to the Moscow Ecclesiastical Academy.  There an expert investigation was conducted into this circumstance.  Representatives of the academy came to the conclusion that there are no bases for seeing in the death of the tsarist family elements of ritual murder.

Half of the text of the life (zhitie) is devoted to the last year of the life of the royal family, i.e., their time in confinement. Here was their spiritual transformation in expectation of death, a reliance on God's help, a rejection of any kind of human resistance, the strength to forgive their future murderers and those who held them in confinement which reflected that marvelous similarity to the life of the passion bearers of earlier centuries.

--Did the commission consider it necessary to take into account the frequently voiced accusations against Nicholas II of political mistakes, which brought about the deaths of a large number of people and led in the end to the fall of the Russian empire?

--In the first place, it is not necessary to link the fall of the Russian empire with the activity of one ruler.  Great empires cannot be destroyed by the activity of one particular person.  Just like any governmental leader, like any monarch, the ruler naturally was forced to take various measures to fulfil his civil governmental duty.  There is no sinless sovereign.  Elements of mistaken politics can be found in the actions of Boris and Gleb; but instead of resisting the usurper Sviatopolk they surrendered to his hands.

I want to stress that the commission did not try to revise for the better the governmental activity and the church policies of Emperor Nicholas II.  We tried to undo many stereotypes because his image had been rather demonized by earlier Marxist-Leninist pseudoscientific historical traditions. But at the same time the shortcomings in his governmental activity and church policies were noted and, in particular, it was stressed that it was the passion bearing death and not the governing activity and church policies that give a basis for posing the question of the canonization of the royal family. This has been definitely emphasized.  In the saint's life, the governing activity and church policies of Nicholas II are given a rather laconic and restrained assessment.  We do not idealize the sovereign. Saints are not sinless. And in the emperor's policies there were many shortcomings.

--Father Georgy, you said that several local saints will be canonized. Will the question of the canonization of the blessed Matrona, who is venerated in Moscow, be raised?

--I am not able to say anything on this matter.  Because the canonization of the blessed Matrona was primarily on the initiative of the Moscow commission on canonization of saints, which also received the blessing of the most holy patriarch.  I had in view primarily new martyrs. Those who now are venerated as local saints will be glorified just like those who are honored church-wide.

I would like to mention several marvelous heroes of piety who will be glorified. In particular, Metropolitan Arseny Matseevich.  He died of hunger in the eighteenth century [under Catherine the Great, tr.]. Besides the elder Alexis Mechev will be canonized as a church-wide saint, who is venerated very much in Moscow.  Elder Zosima of the hermitage, the schema monk Alexis, who picked out the lot at the local council for the election of Patriarch Tikhon. And there is the priest schema monk elder Serafin Vyretsky, who is honored not only in Petersburg diocess but throughout all of Russia.  They, although they did not accept martyrs' deaths, still during severe conditions of persecutions of the church continued their elders' ministry.

--Don't you see any contradition in the canonization at the same council of Archbishop Arseny Matseevich, who suffered under the dynasty of the Romanovs, and the canonization of the last representative of this dynasty?

--It was precisely during the rule of the last representative, as you say, of the ruling dynasty, Emperor Nicholas II, that the need for calling a local council of the Russian church was recognized, the very local council for which Arseny Matseevich struggled. This local council was prepared already in 1906 at the preconciliar conference. Although it never was called during the rule of Emperor Nicholas II and was convoked only after his abdication, it was at this very council, the possibility of whose convocation was recognized in principle, and the conditions for its planning were acknowledged, by the emperor, that Metropolitan Arseny Matseevich was rehabilitated.  All church censures were removed from him and he was restored to his archbishop's rank.

--The council was conducted in the absence of imperial authority.

--Yes, but one must have in mind that Emperor Nicholas II was the first Russian emperor after Peter I who acknowledged the necessity of calling a council and he gave his consent to its planning back in 1906.

I would like to say also that the canonization at this council, of course, is only the first step to the canonization of new martyrs. There really were tens and hundreds of thousands of them, perhaps even millions, if one has in mind the numerous laity. We are accomplishing this work very slowly and we are trying not to make any serious mistakes and so far, praise God, we have not made any, although we often are accused of working very slowly.  But it is this unprecedented experience of new martyrdom, which the church endured in the twentieth century, that has really opened up a new page in the history of canonization of saints of the Russian church.

--We have just mentioned that the church had two wings arising after the revolution, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, created in particular by Metropolitan Antony Khrapovitsky. It canonized the new martyrs. In the present situation we can say that the RPTs MP is following in the footsteps of that church which long ago was able in a more free society to glorify the new martyrs. Doesn't it seem to you that the presence of common saints between ROCOR and RPTs MP could finally establish a basis for some fruitful dialogue between ROTs and its foreign wing?

--We would like it to be so, and in this regard we are trying to do everything so that this dialogue can be activated among us. Really it is going on at the level of separate bishops and separate representatives of the clergy of ROCOR. They are quite positively inclined with regard to RPTs in Russia. But it is another matter that until now, while Metropolitan Vitaly is head of the church hierarchy, I think that even this canonization will not lead to substantial changes in the official policy of the ROCOR synod in regard to the Moscow patriarchate.  (tr. by PDS)

(posted 31 May 2000)


Constitutional court affirms Jesuits rights

FINDING OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION IN THE COMPLAINT OF THE RELIGIOUS ASSOCIATION "INDEPENDENT RUSSIAN DISTRICT OF THE SOCIETY OF JESUS" ON VIOLATION OF CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS BY POINTS 3, 4, AND 5, ARTICLE 8, ARTICLES 9 AND 13, AND POINTS 3 AND 4, ARTICLE 27 OF THE FEDERAL LAW "ON FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE AND RELIGIOUS ASSOCIATIONS"

Rossiiskaia gazeta, 16 May 2000

MOSCOW, 13 April 2000

The Constitutional Court of the Russian federation, comprising Chairman M.V. Baglai, judges N.S. Bondar, N.V. Vitruk, G.A. Gadzhiev, Yu.M. Danilov, L.M. Zharkovaia, G.A. Zhilin, V.D. Zorkin, V.O. Luchin, T.G. Morshchakavaia, Yu.D. Rudkin, N.V. Seleznev, A.Ya. Sliva, V.G. Strekozov, O.I. Tiunov, O.S. Khokhriakovaia, B.S. Ebzeev, and V.G. Yaroslavtsev, heard in plenary session the conclusion of Justice V.D. Zorkin, conducted on the basis of article 41 of the federal constitutional law "On the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation" as a preliminary examination of the complaint by the religious association "The Independent Russian District of the Society of Jesus," has established:

1.  The religious association "The Independent Russian District of the Society of Jesus" (NRROI) (location, city of Moscow), which was registered on 30 September 1992 by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian federation on the basis of RSFSR law of 25 October 1990 "On freedom of religious profession," is a structural subdivision of the Roman Catholic church of the world Society of Jesus (Order of Jesuits), whose central administration is located in Rome.  In accordance with its charter NRROI possesses the right of legal entity and operates on the territory of the Russian federation.  As a religious organization, created before the federal law of 26 September 1997 "On freedom of conscience and religious associations" entered into effect, NRROI in accordance with point 4 of article 27 must undergo state reregistration, although the Ministry of Justice of the Russian federation has refused it on the following bases:

1.  The founding institution of NRROI is a foreign religious organization (Order of Jesuits). Whereas a foreign religious organization, created outside the borders of the Russian federation in accordance with the legislation of a foreign state, may be granted the right of opening on the territory of the Russian federation its own representation, which does not have the right to engage in worship or other religious activity nor does the status of religious association apply to it, as provided by the aforesaid federal law (points 1 and 2, article 13), consequently, the Order of Jesuits does not have the right to be the founding institution of religious organizations on the territory of the Russian federation and thus NRROI was not established in the required manner;

2.  NRROI, according to the charter submitted, is a centralized religious organization. However the aforesaid federal law recognizes a religious organization as a centralized religious organization when it consists in accordance with its charter of no fewer than three local religious organizations (point 4, article 8), and a local religious organization is a religious organization consisting of no fewer than ten participants of at least eighteen years of age and permanently residing in one place either in one city or rural settlement (point 3, article 8); at the same time as founders of a local religious organization there must be no fewer than ten citizens of the Russian federation, associated in a religious group, which has confirmation of its existence on the given territory for at least fifteen years, which was provided by agencies of local administration, or confirmation of membership in the structure of a centralized religious organization, provided by said organization (point 1, article 9), while centralized religious organizations are formed out of no fewer than three local religious organizations of the same religious profession in accordance with their own requirements of the religious organization, if such requirements do not contradict the law (point 2, article 9).  NRROI does not have local structures in its composition and thus can be reregistered [sic; should it be "cannot be reregistered?"  tr. note] either as a centralized religious organization or in any legal organizational form (religious group, local religious organization, representation of a foreign religious organization) in keeping with the corresponding procedure extablished for their creation by the aforesaid federal law, including points 3 and 4, article 8, articles 9 and 13, and points 3 and 4, article 27;

3.  In the title of NRROI the word "Russian" is used, whereby, according to point 5, article 8 of the aforesaid federal law, a centralized religious organiztion has the right only if its structures have operated on the territory of the Russian federation on legal bases for a period of no less than fifteen years at the moment that such a religious organizations applies to a registering agence for state reregistration. However NRROI did not submit the appropriate confirmation;

4.  In the charter of NRROI it is stated that this religious organization was created by its chief father superior in accordance with the decree of the father superior general of the Society of Jesus on 21 June 1992. Such a procedure does not conform with the requirements of articles 8 and 9 of the aforesaid federal law; local religious organizations are formed by citizens of the Russian federation and religious organizations do not have the right to create other local religious organizations (societies).

In its complaint to the Constitutional Court of the Russian federation the religious association "Independent Russian District of the Society of Jesus" maintains that the provisions of points 3, 4, and 5, article 9, articles 9 and 13, and points 3 and 4, article 27 of the federal law "On freedom of conscience and religious associations," on the basis of which it was denied state reregistration, violate the guarantees of freedom of conscience, freedom of religious profession, right to assembly, as well as the equality of religious associations before the law, established in the constitution of the Russian federation, and thus they do not conform with its articles 14 (part 2), 15 (part 4), 18, 28, 30 (part 1), 54 (part 1) and 55 (part 2).

2.  Separate provisions of the federal law "On freedom of conscience and religious associations" already were the subject of review of the Constitutional Court of the Russian federation.  In the ruling of 23 November 1999 in the case of review of the constitutionality of the third and fourth paragraphs of point 3 of article 27 of the federal law "On freedom of conscience and religious association" the legal position was established according to which it is necessary to settle the question about the limits of the requirements of the aforesaid federal law in accordance with the procedure for creation of religious organizations, which may be applied also in the reregistration of religious organizations which were established and active before its taking effect.

Thus it is indicated in the ruling, before the said federal law took effect, the creation, establishment, and registration of religious organizations took place in accordance with the RSFSR law of 25 October 1990 "On freedom of religious profession."  Religious organizations as legal entities enjoyed equal rights, had the same legal status, which corresponded to the provisions contained in articles 13 (part 4), 14, 19 (parts 1 and 2), 28, and 30 (part 1) of the constitution of the Russian federation regarding juridical equality, including the equality of religious associations before the law.  According to articles 10, 17, 18, 22-25 of the RSFSR law "On freedom of religious profession" (in the version of the federal law of 27 January 1995) all religious associations, both regional and centralized, already had the rights in the capacity of legal entities on equal bases which then were provided also by the federal law "On freedom of conscience and religious association," including its articles indicated in paragraph four of point 3 of article 27, (the right to create educational institutions and media of mass communication, the right to produce, acquire, and distribute religious literature, printed and recorded materials, and any objects with religious signification, etc.). Under such circumstances the legislature cannot deprive religious organizations that have been established and possess full legal capacity of the possibility of enjoying rights that they already possess simply on the basis that they do not have confirmation of their existence for a period of fifteen years.  Application of this to previously created religious organizations would be incompatible with the principle of equality, which is specified in articles 13 (part 4), 14 (part 2) and 19 (parts 1 and 2) of the constitution of the Russian federation, and would be impermissible restriction of the freedom of religious profession (article 28), as well as of the freedom for public associations to be established and operate (article 30).

The Constitutional Court of the Russian federation recognized that the provisions contained in paragraphs three and four of point 3 of article 27 of the federal law "On freedom of conscience and religious association" do not contradict the constitution of the Russian federation, inasmuch as they are in normative accord with the provisions of point 1 of its paragraph 9 and point 5 of article 11 as pertains to the effect with regard to religious organizations established before the given federal law took effect as well as local religious organization that are members of the structure of a centralized religious organization, which means that such organizations enjoy the rights of legal entity in full measure, without confirmation of their existence on the given territory for at least fifteen years, and without annual reregistration, and without the restriction provided by the fourth paragraph of point 3 of article 27 of the given federal law.

3.  From the indicated provisions of the federal law "On freedom of conscience and religious associations" in their constitutional and legal sense, expressed by the Constitutional Court of the Russian federation pertaining to the state reregistration of religious organizations which were created before the federal law went into effect and which possess the rights of legal entity in accordance with the RSFSR law "On freedom of religious profession," and the civil code of the Russian federation, it follows that upon reregistration such religious organizations may indicate in their primary documents in the capacity of their organizational and legal forms any kind of religious organization provided for by article 8 of the federal law "On freedom of conscience and religious associations," without creating new subdivisions, including territorial ones, in accordance with the requirements of said federal law provided to such an organizational and legal form from the point of view of its structure. At the same time a religious organization which was established in accordance with the RSFSR law "On freedom of religious proffession" by another religious association that enjoys the rights of legal entity, cannot be denied reregistration on the basis that subsequently the circle of persons who have the right to be founders was changed by law.

4.  According to point 6, article 8 of the federal law "On freedom of conscience and religious association," an institution or organization that is created by a centralized religious organization in accordance with its charter and which has the purpose and signs which are provided in point 1, article 6 of said federal law is recognized as a religious organization, including any administrative or coordinating agency or institution as well as an institution of professional religious education.

From said provision of article 8 in conjunction with its points 1-4 it follows that religious organizations operating upon the rights of legal entity may be subdivided into various kinds (organizational and legal forms) not only in dependence upon territorial spheres of their activity but upon other bases.  Consequently, if a religious organization that was founded before the federal law went into effect cannot be considered a local or centralized organization due to the peculiarities of its organizational and legal forms, then, in accordance with the sense of point 6, article 8, it has the right to indicate another lawful kind of religious organization in its charter which will permit it to be reregistered and to realize its rights in full measure.

Besides this, such a religious organization, in keeping with the sense of point 5, article 8, of the federal law "On freedom of conscience and religious associations" in keeping with the indicated provisions of the given article, as well as with point 3, article 2, according to which nothing in the legislation on freedom of conscience, freedom of religious profession, and religious associations should be interpreted in a sense that reduces or infringes upon the rights of the individual and citizen to freedom of conscience and freedom of religious profession, guaranteed by the constitution of the Russian federal or flowing from international agreements of the Russian federation--it may use the words "Russia, "Russian" and derivatives in its title, if before the given federal law went into effect it already used such words in its title and if at the moment of submission of application for state reregistration it was operating on the territory of the Russian federation on legal bases; at the same time no account should be taken of the suspension of the activity of the religious organization if it was deprived of the possibility of operation for reasons depending not upon itself but on the unlawful decisions and actions of state agencies and their responsible persons.

5.  Thus, in accordance with the provisions under review of points 3, 4, and 5, article 8, articles 9 and 13, points 3 and 4, article 27 of the federal law of 26 September 1997 "On freedom of conscience and religious associations" as applied to their action in regard to religious organizations that were established before said federal law went into effect, with regard to their constitutional and legal sense as explained in the ruling of the Constitutional Court of the Russian federation of 23  November 1999 and in the present finding, the constitutional rights and freedoms of the plaintiff have not been violated.

Determination of the legality and the specifics of the corresponding decisions in application of the law are not within the competence of the Constitutional Court of the Russian federation, which, in keeping with the sense of articles 118, 125, 126, and 127 of the constitution of the Russian federation, does not have the right to substitute for the instance that applies the law, including a court of general jurisdiction.  In fulfilling its mandate, the instance that applies the law may not assign to provisions of points 3, 4, and 5, article 8, points 1 and 2, article 9, article 13, and points 3 and 4, article 27 of the federal law "On freedom of conscience and religious association" any other meaning that departs from the constitutional and legal meaning declared by the Constitutional Court of the Russian federation in the ruling of 23 November 1999, which remains in effect, and in the present finding.

Proceeding from the aforesaid and guided by points 2 and 3 of part 1 of article 43, parts 1 and 2 of article 79 of the federal constitional law "On the Constitutional Court of the Russian federation," the Constitutional Court of the Russian federation finds:

1. The constitutional rights and freedoms of the religious association "Independent Russian District of the Society of Jesus" are not violated by the provisions of points 3, 4, and 5, article 8, articles 9 and 13, and points 3 and 4,. article 27 of the federal  law of 26 September 1997 "On freedom of conscience and religious association" as regards  their application with respect to religious organizations established before said federal law went into effect, inasmuch as such organizastions, as follows from the ruling of the Constitutional Court of the Russian federation of 23 November 1999 and point 2 of the operative part of the present finding, enjoy the rights of legal entity in full measure, without confirmation of a minimum fifteen-year period of existence on the corresponding territory, without annual reregistration, and without the restrictions provided by the fourth paragraph of point 3, article 27 of said federal law; upon reregistration they may indicate in their basic documents in the capacity of their organizational and legal forms any kind of religious organization provided by article 8 of said federal law, without creating new subdivisions, including territorial ones, in accordance with the requirements of the present federal law, as applied to such an organizational and legal form (kind) from the point of view of its structure; such organizations also have the right to use in their names the words "Russia," "Russian," and derivatives, if prior to the time said law went into effect they already were using them in their names and if at the time of submitting the application for state reregistration they were operating on the territory of the Russian federation on legal bases; at the same time no attention should be given to a suspension of the activity of the religious organization if it was deprived of the possibility of action for reasons that did not depend upon itself but on the unlawful decisions and actions of state agencies and their responsible persons.

The constitutional and legal sense of the provisions of points 3, 4, and 5, article 8, articles 9 adn 13, and points 3 and 4, article 27 of the federal law of 26 September 1997 "On freedom of conscience and religious associations," declared by the Constitutional Court of the Russian federation in its ruling of 23 November 1999 and by the present finding is generally obligatory and excludes any other interpretation in the practice of application of the law.

2.  In as much as for the resolution of the question posed by plaintiff in accordance with the federal constitutional law "On the Constitutional Court of the Russian federation" a judgment provided by its article 71 is not required in the form of a ruling by the Constitutional Court of the Russian federation, the complaint of the religious association "Independent Russian District of the Society of Jesus" is not subject to further review in the session of the Constitutional Court of the Russian federation.

3.  The present finding finally is not subject to appeal and takes effect immediately and does not require approval of any other agencies or responsible persons.

4.  According to article 78 of the federal constitutional law "On the Constitutional Court of the Russian federation," the present finding is subject to publication in Sobranie zakonodatelstva Rossiiskoi federatsii," "Rossiiskaia gazeta," and "Vestnik Konstitutsionogo Suda Rossiiskoi Federatsii." (tr. by PDS)

(posted 31 May 2000)


Russian Jesuits target of tax police action

NOVOSIBIRSK CATHOLIC CENTER SUBJECTED TO TAX POLICE SEARCH
by Olga Skvirskaia
Radiotserkov, 25 May 2000

Novosibirsk.  On 11 May a brigade of eleven persons entered the territory of a monastery of the Jesuit fathers in which are located also the "INIGO" Catholic Center of Spiritual Development, the "Kana" Catholic film studio, and the Moscow branch of the St. Thomas Aquinas Theological College.

As witnesses of this event reported to the "Radiotserkov" reporter, none of them understood just what the tax police were looking for. At the time of the inspection, which took three and a half hours, the monks and priests were forbidden to leave the monastery.  Officers of the tax police inspected the accounting department of "INIGO" and searched the "KANA" film studio. They confiscated documents, a computer, and more than a hundred cassettes with films of Catholic parishes for the Catholic "Video Journal," as well as a video recorder for examination.

The search and confiscation of equipment was conducted in the absence of the financially responsible person, the treasurer of the monastery. Security guards of the tax brigade did not permit him to enter the studio. Meanwhile, according to a statement from studio workers, the equipment is the personal property of Bishop Joseph Werth and the computer and cassettes belong to a correspondent of Channel One of Polish public television, Damian Woicjehovsky of the Society of Jesus, to whom the order assigned responsibility for the work of the Catholic film studio in Novosibirsk.

Responsible persons of the Catholic church report that over the course of twelve days they have not received any explanation of the purpose or reasons for the search.  As is known, the Catholic church exists exclusively on contributions and is a charitable and not a commercial organization.  Attorneys for the Catholics handling this case told "Radiotserkov" that the actions of the tax authorities violate the current "Law on freedom of conscience and religious associations," according to which, in their interpretation, religious associations may be inspected with regard to conformity to the goals of their activity only by the agency that has registered them or by the procurator. Workers of the tax police, asserting their right to conduct such measures, cite point 5 of article 11 of the federal law "Regarding federal agencies of the tax police," which states the right of officers of the administration of the federal service of tax police ". . .  to enter without hinderance any manufacturing, storage, trade and other premises . . ., used by taxpayers for making profit (income), and to inspect them."

However, in the opinion of the Catholic attorneys, it follows from this article that officers of the tax police do not have the right to inspect premises of noncommercial organizations.  Meanwhile, the group of armed guards with the tax police searched even the domestic chapel, which, as is known, is a sacred place for believers.

The bishop of the Apostolic Administration for Catholics of western Siberia, who is a member of the Council on Religious Affairs of Russia of the presidency, wrote a letter of protest against the arbitrary action of the tax police to Russian president Vladimir Putin. The attorney for the noncommercial religious organization, which "INIGO" is, sent a protest from the curia of the Catholic Apostolic Administration of Western Siberia and the "INIGO" center to the Procurator General of the Russian federation, with copies to the procurators of Novosibirsk province and the Dzerzhinsky district of the city of Novosibirsk.

At the time of the tax police action, Damian Woicjehovsky, to whom some of the seized equipment belongs, was in California (USA) for filming his graduation project. He is a student in Moscow of the Institute of Advanced Studies for Directors and Procucers. But now he has had to interrupt filming and go quickly to Novosibirsk in order to request the return of his things and assert his rights as an accredited foreign journalist.  On 18 May Damian Woichehovsky met with the responsible official from the Administration of the Tax Police for Novosibirsk province.  The press service of the administration recorded this meeting on video tape. Although in an interview with a "Radiotserkov" reporter Damian Woichehovsky said that he had been promised that his personal things would be returned immediately, in fact this has not happened yet. In reply to a question about what steps he intends to take now, Woichehovsky stated:  "I intend to report this violation of the rights of a foreign journalist to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian federation." (tr. by PDS)

(posted 30 May 2000)



 

If material is quoted, please give credit to the publication from which it came.
It is not necessary to credit this Web page. If material is transmitted electronically, please include reference to the URL, http://www.stetson.edu/~psteeves/relnews/.