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Secular press coverage of bishops' council


The church canonized the last Russian emperor

by Aleksei Makarkin
Segodnia, 15 August 2000

The bishops' council of the Russian Orethodox church yesterday made the decision to enroll in the canon of saints the new martyrs who perished at the hands of the bolsheviks. There are now 860 names in the synaxis of new martyrs. It is especially necessary to note that the group of new saints does not include those clergy and laity who either were informers for the "organs" or denounced either themselves or others.

The canonization of Emperor Nicholas II and members of his family was a separate question in the agenda. The decision was unanimous. However the council in essence enrolled in the canon of saints not the sovereign emperor but a citizen of the Russian republic, Nicholas Alexandrovich Romanov.

Actually, Metropolitan Yuvenaly's report makes the following formulation:  "In concluding its study of the governmental and church activity of the last Russian emperor, the commission did not find in this activity alone sufficient basis for his canonization."  Although "in the sufferings borne by the tsarist family in their imprisonment with humility, patience, and meekness and in their martyrs' deaths in Ekaterinburg on the night of 4/17 July 1918 the light of the faith of Christ that triumphs over evil was shown."

Despite this it is quite likely that the more ardent adherents of the monarchy will make their prayers not to the humble citizen Romanov, who died as a passion bearer, but to the autocrat whose role in Russian history bears, to put it mildly, an ambiguous nature. It cannot be ruled out that new life will be given to the absurd account about a "ritual murder" which, however, was rejected in the official church account for total lack of evidence.

We recall that the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia canonized the royal family in 1981. However one should not expect reconciliation between RPTs and ROCOR; the "Rocorites" demand not only the glorification of the new martyrs in the canon of saints but also complete rejection of ecumenical contacts with Catholics and protestants as well as the resignation of the entire leadership of the patriarchate. (tr. by PDS, posted 15 August 2000)

by Pavel Korobov
Kommersant, 15 August 2000

On Sunday in the Hall of Church Council of the church of Christ the Savior Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus opened the jubilee bishops' council. Early in the morning more than 140 bishops of the Russian Orthodox church gathered in the patriarchal Dormition cathedral of the Kremlin for a solemn liturgy in honor of the opening of the council. Then they went to the church of Christ the Savior.

After admiring upon their entrance into the Hall of Church Councils the artificial winter garden with golden birds on the branches of trees and lighted fountain the bishops of RPTs began to take their seats in the well of the hall, leaving the amphitheater to reporters and the side seats to guests. By 3:00 p.m. the presidium began filling, which consisted of members of the Holy Synod and Moscow Mayor Luzhkov.

In opening the council Alexis II noted that it was "called to mark the path along which the church will go in the twenty-first century." Then the patriarch thanked the Lord and Mayor Luzhkov that the present council was taking place in a new hall.

After unanimously confirming the program and regulations of the closed sessions and selecting, as is done at congresses, a secretariat and editorial and credentials commissions, the council heard a four-hour report by the patriarch, "The Russian Orthodox Church at the turn of the century." In the report Alexis II as the monarchical head of the church touched on practically every question of church life. And this report of the patriarch was distinguished from any other accounting: it was not an account before comrades but an exhortation to the flock.

The patriarch emphasized that now, at the beginning of a new stage in the regeneration of Orthodox church life, the greatest attention should be given to religious education. After saying that it is necessary to build and decorate more churches the patriarch at the same time sternly condemned the parishes and dioceses where they buy expensive liturgical churchware, build comfortable homes for the clergy, and organize lavish hours-long dinners but refuse to allocate the means for Sunday schools, church newspapers, Internet web pages, and the training of personnel.

Having dealt further with the topic of the organization of parish life, Alexis II stated that "the greatest attention must be given to seeing that people who have only recently found their way to the church will not abandon it because of insensitivity and rudeness on the part of church ministers which, unfortunately, can be found in our parishes. Each person coming to church should find a hospitable environment and feel love and care. People are driven from the church by the careless attitude of priests toward their pastoral responsibilities and by indifference."

After this the patriarch expressed disapproval of the establishment of prices on sacraments that create problems for poor parishioners. In his words, the contributions of parishioners should be fully voluntary and not have the character of a kind of tax on ritual services.

Reviewing the problems of monasticism, Alexis II called the bishops' attention to "the appearance in recent years of beggar monks, nuns, and priests who collect contributions for construction of churches, help for the sick, etc.  It is well known that the greater part of such people not only are not priests and monastics but do not have anything to do with the church at all. In order to avoid temptation and reproach directed against the church it is desirable that the decision be made to forbid monastics and priests from collecting any contributions on the streets and in public places." In developing the topic of monasticism the patriarch suggested establishing a minimum age for tonsuring of no less than thirty years.

The patriarch called the general financial state of RPTs one of the chief problems. In his words, the budget deficit of the Moscow patriarchate was 16 million rubles. It has been covered by the accumulations of previous years, but Alexis II warned that if the situation does not change, next year the Moscow patriarchate will be forced to end the financing of ecclesiastical educational institutions and synodal institutions. This part of the report sounded like an veiled rebuke of the luxurious parishes and dioceses about which the patriarch spoke at the outset.

Dealing with the problem of the external activity of RPTs, the patriarch dwelt on the problem of overcoming the schism in Ukrainian Orthodoxy (to which Ukrainian officials immediately reacted, supporting the so-called autocephalous church and the Kievan patriarchate that have withdrawn from the Moscow patriarchate [see "Ukrainian official reacts to council"]).

As regards relations between state and church, Alexis II emphasized that the church supports the secular authorities in every good deed and decisively opposes attempts to weaken it, but at the same time it raises its voice when it sees unethical actions or inaction in some important area on the part of the authorities.

Concluding the report Alexis II said that the council must assess the state of the life and activity of RPTs as well as make the most important decision regarding the canonization of the Russian new martyrs, among whom are the last Russian emperor, Nicholas II, and his family. (tr. by PDS, posted 15 August 2000)


by Maxim Shevchenko, Oleg Hedumov, Elena Smirnova
Nezavisimaia gazeta, 15 August 2000

The bishops' council of the Russian Orthodox church unanimously decided to canonize Emperor Nicholas II and members of his family. Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra, Tsarevich Aleksei, and grand princesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia were enrolled in the canon of saints. The determination of the bishops' council declares:  "In the last Orthodox Russian monarch and members of his family we see people who sincerely strove to embody in their lives the commands of the gospel. In the sufferings borne by the tsarist family in captivity with humility, patience, and meekness, and in their martyrs' deaths in Ekaterinburg . . . the light of the all-conquering faith of Christ was displayed."

After the canonization of the last emperor, who abdicated the throne under pressure from the people, RPTs cannot talk any more about its "nonparticipation in politics." It is completely obvious that despite attempts of the chairman of the commission on canonization, Metropolitan Yuvenaly of Krutitsy and Kolomna, to present the canonization of Nicholas not "as a politician but as simply a man," the majority of Orthodox believers will take this canonization in a political context.

At the present time the Moscow patriarchate does not have any serious informational resources which could help believers establish a "nonpolitical interpretation" of the sanctity of Nicholas. Therefore this flood of pseudoorthodox propaganda which calls citizens of Russia to mass "repentance for the sin of regicide," hints at a masonic-liberal conspiracy against "autocracy, Orthodoxy, and nationality," and quite openly speaks of the ritual murder of the tsar will be dominant.

The Moscow patriarchate made a real concession to national Orthodoxy. The council's participants did not pay attention to the serious evidence that Nicholas participated in spiritualist seances (as was noted in the memoirs of the French ambassador at his court Maurice Paleologue) and, in particular, "summoned up the spirit of his father, Alexander III." There were no accountings or accusations against Nicholas in connection with his role in the outbreak of the world war in which millions of his subjects perished senselessly for the sake of the interests of the Entente. The bishops paid no attention even to the multitude of other facts that are dubious from the point of view of sanctity.

On the basis of the formula of the episcopacy of RPTs it is possible to canonize just about any political leader if one pays attention only to whether he was a good person or not. The next logical step of the Moscow patriarchate in the direction of concession to the national Orthodox hysterical mythology, associated with the glorification of monarchy as a social ideal, will be the canonization of Rasputin.

Will this canonization be pleasing to the authorities? Playing with monarchism was undertaken back under Yeltsin so that those who had emerged from the party nomenklatura could condemn their "secret past" and build a historical bridge to the prerevolutionary epoch. But Putin's Russia is a state of a different type. Canonization of the tsar presents the government serious problems; a national Orthodox monarchical opposition soon will replace the national communist Ziuganovite opposition. Yesterday's marginalized  persons have received the serious support of the authority of the episcopacy of RPTs, who yesterday actually canonized monarchist utopia. Whether this will be pleasing for Putin in the situation of the growing confrontation with the liberal West only time will tell.

As Patriarch Alexis II declared in addressing the opening of the council:  "The church addresses the world through its councils which are called for discussing and resolving critical problems of church life. . . . The present jubilee council has special significance for the Russian Orthodox church because it is called to mark out the path along which it will go in the twenty-first century. This circumstance lays upon us high responsibility for the fate of the church in the third millennium from the birth of Christ which is beginning. . . ."

In his report "The Russian Church at the turn of the century," devoted in the main to an assessment of the life of RPTs in the period after the bishops' council of 1997, His Holiness touched upon the most critical problems of the contemporary Russian church and the tasks that it faces.  After noting that despite all difficulties, the regeneration of church life was continuing to develop successfully, Alexis II emphasized the need for improvement of church administration. The means for this improvement is supposed to be a new edition of the statute of administration of the Russian Orthodox church, which will be reviewed at the council. The need to introduce changes in the earlier one was dictated in the first place by the fact that it was adopted back in the soviet epoch and church life accordingly corresponded to the peculiarities of the state structure of USSR.

According to His Holiness a serious problem of contemporary church life is the tendency to particularity found in many dioceses of RPTs when parishes, occupied with dealing with difficulties of an economic nature, completely withdraw into themselves and live in their own little world, breaking off vital communication with neighboring parishes and the diocesan bishop. Such a situation threatens to transform the church into a conglomeration of separate elements.

To keep this from happening, in the opinion of His Holiness, it is necessary to arrange for exchange of information and operational communications of the dioceses with the center using contemporary communications technology. His Holiness emphasized that in the past ten years of church rebirth much, sometimes genuinely unique experience of church construction and the organization of diocesan and parish life has accumulated. In his opinion it would be very useful, after appropriate systematization, for this experience to be utilized in future work. At the diocesan level this could mean creation of structures that facilitate active aid and cooperation for newly opened parishes through providing consultation and necessary materials on a great variety of questions, juridical, engineering, construction, artistic, pedagogical, and the like.

Alexis II emphasized the impermissibility of a situation where priests spend enormous sums of money on the exterior decoration of churches and the construction of fancy homes for themselves while not finding the means for a full-fledged Sunday school, church newspaper, web page on the Internet, training of personnel, and work with youth.

As before, the problem of the insufficiently high level of theological education of the clergy is acute. According to the patriarch, in our days it is extremely difficulty for pastors to fulfill the mission of care of souls and preaching without appropriate preparation. Therefore diocesan bishops must attach primary significance to the resolution of this problem. There now is open in the Russian Orthodox church a sufficient number of ecclesiastical educational institutions. It is from among their graduates that the candidates for ordination as priests must be chosen.

After noting the successes of the publishing of church books and periodicals the patriarch nevertheless emphasized that there are publications that purport to be Orthodox and in some cases are covered by the blessing of famous bishops and church leaders (including deceased ones) while in reality they have nothing to do with the hierarchy and they express only the private position of the writers. Under the pretext of a struggle for the purity of Orthodoxy these publications create disorder in church life, undermine the authority of the hierarchy, and spread slanderous and false information. Alexis II noted that from time to time books, brochures, and other publications appear supposedly with his blessing, but in reality they do not have it. This contradicts not only the standards of church discipline but also the elementary notions of ethics and honesty. If the blessing of the higher church authorities is arrogated to themselves by such publications then the publishing council of the Moscow patriarchate must take measures to inform the church public of this. In certain cases these publishers can be subjected to canonical discipline and even brought into the civil court.

The patriarch noted that the financial state of the Moscow patriarchate has become substantially complicated since 1997. The cause of this is not only the general economic situation in the country and the August 1998 crisis but also a significant curtailment of designated contributions of dioceses to the Moscow patriarchate for churchwide needs. The Moscow patriarchate has curtailed centralized financial aid for restoration. However, as Alexis II noted, diocesan bishops must remember that the churchwide programs are a communal activity and all church structure must take an active part in them. The restoration of churches and monasteries is a good work although if we do not finance religious education it could turn out that there will be nobody to serve in these churches.

Regarding the recent dispute that broke out in church circles with regard to the introduction by the tax agencies of an individual taxpayer's number (INN) that patriarch reported that an agreement had been reached with state authorities whereby an application for INN would not be required of those who consider this unacceptable for religious convictions. It will be enough merely to fill out a form.

* * *

The enrolment of the Romanov family in the canon of saints could become a significant event for Sverdlovsk province, which makes it more strange that in the Severlovsk churches Nicholas is considered an ordinary servant of God. Official opinion of the Ekaterinburg diocese never opposed the canonization of the last Russian emperor. Nevertheless, despite unanimous support by Sverdlovsk priests, Nicholas II still has not been declared worthy of local veneration in the Ekaterinburg diocese. For Sverdlovsk province the procedure of canonization at the bishops' council is a long-awaited event; both secular and ecclesiastical authorities have dreamed many years that the place of the shooting of the tsarist family would finally be turned into a zone of pilgrimage for believing tourists from the whole world so that the money of the foreign emigration will flow into the Urals.

It is enough to recall how in the course of several years the Sverdlovsk governor Eduard Rossel literally "sat" on the tsarist remains that were found near Alapaevsk on Koptiakov road. Two years ago the Romanov remains had to be surrendered to the capital for burial. Now all hopes are on the decision of the bishops' council; if the tsar is canonized, the status of Ekaterinburg and the whole Sverdlovsk province will grow and be politically elevated.

In the Sverdlovsk region there is the necessary condition for enrolment in the canon of saints:  evidence of the emperor's working miracles. Thus monastic priest Germogen has described how at the time of a robbery he was mortally wounded, and when he realized he had been stabbed he began crying out "Tsar martyr Nicholas! Save me." And a miracle happened. The wounded priest survived.

So why is Nicholas not considered a saint in Ekaterinburg diocese? This question was answered by the first aide of ruling bishop Vikenty of Ekaterinburg, Archpriest Vladimir Ziazev:  "Sverdlovsk province is very influential in the question of the canonization of Nicholas II. This is why, in order not to put any pressure on anyone so that the question will be resolved by a democratic process, we have not distinguished ourselves from the general structure. If hitherto the sovereign emperor has not been canonized, that means it is not pleasing to God. This is perhaps why a church-on-the-blood has not yet been built in Ekaterinburg. Let the upper hierarchy of the church now decided this question with God's permission."

Back under the episcopate of Nikon (who last year was accused of sodomy and sent by the patriarchate to the Pskov caves monastery to pray for forgiveness of his sins) the church conducted a detailed mass survey of clergy of the diocese in an attempt to clarify their attitude toward canonization. It was determined that there was unanimous support for the sanctity of the emperor. We note that the survey was not anonymous.

Civil society was not so unanimous in the matter of canonization. One of the popular Sverdlovsk television stations attempted to determine the opinion of the public regarding the necessity and legitimacy of canonization and conducted a life interactive survey. More than 900 viewers replied to the question "Is Nicholas II worthy of enrolment in the canon of saints?"  The position was divided almost equally, 49 percent advocated canonization and 51 percent was against.

The bishops' council does not have to be completely unanimous in the matter of canonization. A substantial majority of votes is sufficient. And if Nicholas Romanov and his family are canonized (and a majority of priests predict just this), for Sverdlovsk province this could become an important sign and the beginning of great changes. (tr. by PDS, posted 15 August 2000)

Ukrainian official reacts to council


Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 14 August 2000

Ukraine's splintered Orthodox Christians should resist Russian efforts to unify them under Moscows control, a senior Ukraine official told Interfax Monday.

"It is critically important that Ukrainian Orthodox Christianity, which today is split into three branches, should be one," said Nikolai Zhulinsky, Ukraine vice premier minister. "But it should unite Ukrainians."   Zhulinsky was commenting on efforts to heal divisions in the faith  by the leader of Orthodox Christians in Russia, Patriarch Aleksei II.

Before the Soviet Union fell apart, the hierarchy of the Orthodox Christian church in Ukraine was strictly run from Moscow.

But after 1991 Ukrainian members of the Orthodox Christianity broke into three groups: one remaining loyal to Moscow (9,000 worshippers [sic, parishes?--ed.]), a second headed by Kiev-based Partriarch Filaret (3,000), and a third centred in west Ukraine (1,000).

Aleksei II repeatedly has called for all Ukrainian Orthodox Christians to return to the fold. He rejects giving the Kiev-led branch of the church equal status.

An Orthodox Christian church headed by a Ukrainian patriarch in Kiev is in Ukraine's national interest, Zhulinsky said.

Orthodox Christianity is Ukraine's most popular faith, followed by Catholicism and Greek Orthodox Christianity.
(posted 16 August 2000)

Third day of bishops' council; social doctrine approved

from Communications Service, Department of External Church Relations
15 August 2000

On 15 August the jubilee bishops' council of the Russian Orthodox church continued its work. In the first half of the day the report of Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow patriarchate and chairman of the synodal working group for drafting the bases of the social concept of the Russian Orthodox church was presented.

After having heard the report and engaging in thorough discussion the fathers of the council resolved to approve the bases of the social concept. The full text of the document has been posted on the web site of the patriarchate.

On 15 August, during the bishops' council of the Russian Orthodox church, a prayer was raised for the rescue of the crew of the Russian submarine "Kursk," which suffered an accident in the Berents Sea. The prayer was conducted by His Holiness Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus. Addressing the assembled audience His Holiness said, in particular, "As an entire consecrated council we pray for the rescue of those who are on this submarine and for their families and associates who are enduring this tragedy, and that the Lord will help the rescuers to save the lives of the people who are in underwater captivity."

In the second half of the day the reports of the directors of synodal institutions of the Moscow patriarchate devoted to their activity in the period between council meetings were presented for the participants' consideration.

The report on the evangelistic ministry of the Russian Orthodox church was presented by Archbishop Ioann of Belgorod and Starooskolsk. The report of Metropolitan Sergius of Solnechnogorsk, chief of staff of the Moscow patriarchate, was devoted to questions of social ministry and charity work. Hegumen Ioann Ekonomtsev dealt with the ministry of the Russian Orthodox church in the area of religious education and catechesis. The report of Archbishop Tikhon of Bronnitsy was devoted to the publishing activity of the Moscow patriarchate. Problems of religious education in the Russian Orthodox church were reviewed in the report of Archbishop Evgeny of Vereisk. The theme of the report of Bishop Savva of Solnechnogorsk was the relationship of the church with the armed forces and law enforcements agencies. A brief discussion took place regarding the reports. (tr. by PDS, posted 15 August 2000)


Interfax, 15 August 2000

The Council of Bishops on Tuesday approved a Russian Orthodox Church social doctrine that expounds the official position of the Moscow Patriarchy on basic issues facing today's society.

The Church has a right to disobey the state if the authorities compel Orthodox Christians to commit sinful acts, it says.

A chapter of the document covers personal, familial and societal morals. "The Church insists on the faithfulness of man and wife for life and the permanence of Orthodox marriage," it says. The traditional list of grounds for divorce such as unfaithfulness, inability to consume the marriage, leprosy, syphilis or incurable mental disease is supplemented with AIDS, chronic alcoholism or drug addiction and abortion without the husband's consent.

As for abortions, "if the continuation of pregnancy threatens the mother's life, especially if she has children already, pastors may be lenient," the doctrine said.

The doctrine denounces contraceptives that act as abortions by ending the embryo's life at any stage. It does not equate other means that do not end a life that has already begun with abortion.

The social doctrine also criticizes numerous medical practices such as the sale and purchase of human organs, euthanasia and fetal therapy, which implies the removal and use of tissues and organs from human embryos in trying to treat various diseases or "rejuvenate" the organism.

The very concept of cloning "is a challenge to the nature of man as an image of God endowed with freedom and the uniqueness of the human personality. Man is not entitled to act as a creator of beings just like himself or select for them genetic prototypes or dictate their personal traits at will," the doctrine said.

The Russian Orthodox Church defines homosexuality as "a sinful injury to human nature" that is to be "treated by sacraments, prayer, fasting, repentance and the reading of the Holy Scripture."

The clergy have denounced "every kind of homosexual propaganda" and said that "people advocating homosexual practices should not be allowed to carry out teaching or educational work with children or young people or take positions of authority in the army or in penitentiary institutions.  (posted 16 August 2000)


Interfax, 15 August 2000

The Council of Bishops currently meeting in Moscow has condemned the Vatican's expansion onto the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Yesterday evening the participants of the religious forum adopted the basic principles of the Moscow Patriarchate's concept for relations with non-Orthodox churches. Before that they listened to a report by Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk and Sluzk, who heads the synodal theological committee.

The Council of Bishops came out against the fact that representatives of churches that are non-traditional for Russia, including Catholics, "win over believers" "especially with the use of material wealth." At the same time, the top clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church "acknowledge the right of Christians of other faiths to testify[ their faith] and the right to a religious education of those groups of the population which traditionally belong to them," but they cannot reconcile with "the destructive missionary activity of sects," they said.

The participants of the Council believe that "today the topics of a union and proselytism still remain an extremely important subject for dialogue with the Catholics." One of the most promising forms of cooperation with the Roman Catholic Church is "the strengthening of regional ties with its dioceses and parishes, as well as the establishment and development of relations with Catholic episcopate conferences."  (posted 16 August 2000)

by Andrew Kramer, Associated Press Writer
Associated Press, 15 August 2000

The Russian Orthodox Church criticized the Roman Catholic Church on Tuesday for sending missionaries to Russia, claiming they used promises of material wealth to tempt potential converts, a news report said.

The Council of Bishops, the church's highest ruling body, said non-Orthodox churches recruited believers from traditionally Orthodox areas using "destructive missionary activity," the Interfax news agency quoted a church statement as saying.

The criticism of Catholic proselytizing was included in a resolution on Orthodox relations with other faiths. Orthodox leaders frequently have criticized other churches for their missionary work in Russia.

The document said Catholic and other foreign missionaries recruit in Russia "with the use of material wealth." It didn't elaborate on the accusation.

A Roman Catholic Church spokesman in Russia said Tuesday the church disagrees with the Orthodox contention and denies recruiting with promises of material well-being.

"It is not true that our attendance is increased at the expense of the Orthodox Church," the priest, known only as Father Bagdan, told The Associated Press.

"There are a few cases when people come to Catholicism from Orthodoxy, but it is very rare and you have to respect the decision of the individual person."

The resolution said the Russian Orthodox Church respects freedom of worship for foreign churches in Russia, but only among "those groups which traditionally belong to them."

Russia has many religious minorities, including Catholics and other Christian faiths, but only a few are characterized as traditional under a 1997 Russian law on religious activity.

The Catholic church rejects the argument that ethnic Russians have a "traditional" religion. "If a person is not baptized, why should we consider his national background?" Bagdan asked.

The Vatican had no comment.

The resolution Tuesday called for forming ties between individual Orthodox and Catholic congregations, rather than among church leaders in Moscow and Rome, according to Interfax.

The two churches split in 1054 in the Great Schism. Current talks between Orthodox and Catholic officials have focused on resolving a dispute over churches in Western Ukraine that profess loyalty to the Pope but practice an Orthodox liturgy. That dispute dates to the 16th century.

The Council of Bishops opened Sunday in Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral, and was to consider key church business for the new millennium throughout the week.

In a historic decision, the council Monday canonized Russia's last czar Nicholas II and six members of his family as martyrs for their death by a communist firing squad in 1918.  (posted 16 August 2000)


Excerpts from report delivered at bishops' council, 15 August 2000  (full text of report at Moscow patriarchate web site)

. . . As regards Ukraine, the schism in Ukrainian Orthodoxy continues to remain one of the most painful problems. The most numerous and the only canonical Orthodox church on the territory of Ukraine is the Ukrainian Orthodox church of the Moscow patriarchate under the administration of His Beautitude Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev and all-Ukraine. While on the state level in Ukraine attempts are made to conduct a policy of equality in relations to all branches of Ukrainian Orthodoxy, in political circles with nationalistic orientation there is support for the group of the self-appointed false patriarch Filaret Denisenko. Parishes of the Ukrainian church often are subjected to discrimination on the part of local administrations with nationalistic inclinations. There are cases of seizure by adherents of the uncanonical group "Ukrainian Orthodox church Kiev patriarchate" of Orthodox churches and church buildings belonging to the Ukrainian Orthodox church under the jurisdiction of the Moscow patriarchate. Meanwhile after the death in March 2000 of the head of the schismatic "Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox church," false patriarch Dimitry Yarema attempts were made on the part of this grouping to bring the structure of the Ukrainian Orthodox church in America into the jurisdiction of the patriarch of Constantinople.  This problem was the topic of negotiations of delegations of the Constantinople and Russian Orthodox churches in Zurich on 28 March 2000.  Participants in the negotiations expressed concern with the complications in the church situation in Ukraine and agreed on the necessity of coordinating joint actions for the purpose of achieving peace and canonical unity in church life in Ukraine. . . .

[On relations with Catholics]   In characterizing the situation that has developed it is necessary to note that despite some lowering of the tension of the conflict in western Ukraine by the end of the nineties, the situation there continues to be extremely unpleasant for our church. The Uniates have seized practically all of the churches and since then not one has been returned and agreements for reasonable joint use of them have not been fulfilled. Reports constantly arrive of incidents that can rightly be called persecution of Orthodox believers. At all bilateral meetings the delegation of the Russian Orthodox church was forced from year to year to call to the attention of representatives of the Vatican the same cases of violations of civil and property rights of Orthodox believers. In the course of the meeting in 1998 the Catholic side acknowledged that it was powerless to do anything to influence the situation. Therefore the sides concluded it would be beneficial to draw the Ukrainian Orthodox church and the Greek Catholic church into the negotiations in which special working groups would be created. At a meeting at the end of June and beginning of July 1998 representatives of both church in Vienna  reached certain positive agreements, although the meeting actually broke up after Greek Catholic representatives refused to have a joint press conference regarding the results. At the Moscow meeting in 1999 the talk was specifically of the need to create on the basis of the working groups a joint commission for review of the problems between Orthodox and Greek Catholics and the process of forming this commission is underway at present.

In discussion of the question of Catholic proselytizing in Russia and other former republics of USSR we continually confront the fact that the Catholic side denies the very existence of proselytizing activity by their institutions. However the mutual activity between the local Catholic bishops and such institutions is more than obvious; representatives of the latter often occupy high posts both at the diocesan and parish level. As a result of this the work of conversion of the traditionally Orthodox population into Catholicism is going on in Catholic parishes, which we consider to be a phenomenon that is absolutely impermissible in inter-Christian relations. . . . (tr. by PDS, posted 16 August 2000)

Second day of bishops' council:  Nicholas' canonization approved

from Communications Service, Department of External Church Relations
14 August 2000

At 4:57 p.m. the jubilee bishops' council of the Russian Orthodox church made the decision to glorify for churchwide veneration in the canon of saints the assembly of new Russian martyrs and confessors of the twentieth century, some known by name and others hitherto unrecognized by the world but known to God. The assembly includes the names of 860 martyrs and confessors. A number of locally venerated saints also were included in the assembly.

The council glorified as passion bearers among the collection of new martyrs and confessors the Russian emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra, tsarevich Aleksei, and grand princesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia.

The act on the council states in particular:  "In the last Orthodox Russian monarch and members of his family we see people who sincerely strove to incarnate in their lives the commands of the gospel. In the sufferings borne by the royal family in prison with humility, patience, and meekness and in their martyrs' deaths in Ekaterinburg in the night of 4/17 July 1918 was revealed the light of the faith of Christ that conquers evil."

Also canonized were other saints who served God and the church in various historical periods.  (tr. by PDS, posted 14 August 2000)

from Communications Service, Department of External Church Relations, Moscow patriarchate
14 August 2000

On 14 August the bishops' council of the Russian Orthodox church continued its work. At the present time 146 bishops are participating in the sessions.

At the beginning of the day members of the council discussed the report "The Russian Orthodox Church at the turn of the century," presented the day before by His Holiness Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus. The greater portion of time was devoted to a discussion of the situation in Ukraine, including the question of the status of the Ukrainian Orthodox church, and corresponding aspects of inter-Orthodox, Orthodox-Catholic, and church-state relations.

Also discussed was the topic of the situation of Orthodoxy in Estonia. The discussion included a resounding call for general recognition of the Estonian Orthodox church of the Moscow patriarchate as a subject of state law, which did not interrupt its existence in 1940 but continued without change to operate on the territory of Estonia, accommodating its structure to the circumstances of the time.

Among other topics raised in discussion of His Holiness' report were the practice of pastoral and spiritual advising, theological education, monastic life, attitude toward inter-Christian communications, and a number of questions of church order and administration.

Then the chairman of the synodal commission on canonization of saints, Metropolitan Yuvenaly of Krutitsy and Kolomna presented a report and materials for the glorification of new martyrs and confessors of the twentieth century and other zealots of the faith and piety. Note: a full press release of the result of the day will be distributed later. (tr. by PDS, posted 14 August 2000)

from Communications Service, Department of External Church Relations
14 August 2000

The bishops' jubilee council going on in Moscow from 13 to 16 August heard a report from Metropolitan Yuvenaly of Krutitsy and Kolomna, chairman of the synodal commission on canonization of saints, regarding the results of the activity of the commission in the period between meetings of the council. On the basis of Metropolitan Yuvenaly's report a decision was made regarding the glorification for churchwide veneration in the canon of saints of an assembly of Russian new martyrs and confessors of the twentieth century, known by name and hitherto unrecognized by the world but known to God. The council reviewed materials about 814 heroes whose names are known and 46 heroes whose names could not be determined but about whom it is reliably known that they suffered for the faith of Christ. Evidence about these saints came from 30 dioceses and five stauropigial monasteries.

To this number of 860 heroes in the assembly of Russian new martyrs and confessions were added the names of 230 new martyrs for churchwide veneration who earlier had been glorified in the canon of locally venerated saints in the following dioceses: Almaty, Kostroma, Kazan, Krasnoiarsk, Moscow, Omsk, Perm, Riazan, Tver, Ufa, the Ukrainian Orthodox church and the Belarus exarchate.

Having reviewed the question about canonization of the royal family, members of the council decided for the glorification of Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra, and their children, Aleksei, Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia, as passion bearers within the assembly of Russian new martyrs and confessors.

The council decided on the churchwide glorification of zealots of the faith and piety from other times, whose achievement for the faith was different from that of the new martyrs and confessors. These included the following:

Metropolitan Makary Nevsky (1835-1926), who occupied the Moscow see from 1912-1917, a zealous missionary, enlightener of the Altai territory, a man of prayer and ascetic, who was abundantly endowed with gifts of the Holy Spirit;

Archpriest Aleksei Mechev (1859-1923), "elder in the world," as contemporaries called him. Like the holy and righteous Father Ioann of Kronstadt, Fr Aleksei embodied the ideals of a good pastor in his life and ministry, which went on in Moscow, in seeking the lost sheep, praying, and working miracles;

Monastic priest Aleksei Soloviev (1846-1928), an elder of the Zosima hermitage in Vladimir diocese. The Lord endowed Elder Aleksei with many gifts, among which stood out the gifts of elder's wisdom, humility, love, and sagacity.  It was through his hand that the providence of God regarding the holy bishop of Moscow Tikhon was accomplished when Elder Aleksei drew out the lot with his name at the election of the patriarch on 5 November 1917 in the cathedral of Christ the Savior. He led many to the salvation of their soul, performed signs and wonders, and he called people to repentance and to seek for the "one thing that is needed" (Lk 10.42);

Monastic priest Serafim Vyritsky Muraviev (1866-1949), who while still a layman was distinguished not only by high Orthodox piety but also be the genuinely miraculous gift of spiritual consolation of all "who labored and were heavy burdened" whom he met along his life's way. The elder's great ministry abounded in gifts of sagacity, healing of the sick, and other miracles, the memory of which was devoutly venerated by contemporary generations of Orthodox Christians not only in the Petersburg diocese but also throughout all Russia and beyond its borders.

Thirty-four holy martyrs of the Valaam monastery of the Transfiguration; on 20 February 1578 "18 holy elders and 16 novices were destroyed as martyrs for steadfastness in the Orthodox faith";

Metropolitan Arseny Matseevich of Rostov (1697-1772), a zealous holy bishop of the church who accepted a martyr's death for Christ and his church, who is venerated by the people of God for humbly bearing troubles and for his generosity;

Bishop Innokenty Smirnov of Penza (1784-1819), a righteous man venerated for his ascetic manner of life and miracles performed through his intecessory prayer;

Archimandrite Makary Glukharev (1792-1847), venerated for his righteous life and labors equal to the apostles in the translation of holy scripture and in spreading the faith of Christ in the Altai;

Priest Aleksei Gneushev (1762-1848), a hero and ascetic of Nizhny Novgorod diocese, for righteousness confirmed by God in gifts of healing and sagacity, who merited many visions and revelations. He did numerous miracles during his life and to the present time miracles are being worked by him;

Hegumen Parfeny of the Kiziltash monastery (1816-1867), the memory of whose labors for the good of the church and of his good deeds and martyr's death at the hands of Muslim Crimean Tatars is still carefully preserved in the Crimean diocese.

Having reviewed the righteous life that was filled with humility and gracious gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the widespread popular veneration, miracles, and zeal in prayer of St. Iov (d., 1720) of Anzersk (in schema, Iisus), founder of the Solovki skete of the Golgotha Crucifixion, a locally venerated saint of the Solovki cloister; and testimony concerning miracles and the broad popular veneration in the dioceses of the Russian Orthodox church of the locally venerated holy elders of Optino, the bishops' council decided to glorify as churchwide saints in the canon the holy schema monastic priest Iov (in schema, Iisus) of Anzersk and the Optino elders, monastic priest Lev Nagolkin (1768-1841), Monastic priest Makary Ivanov (1788-1860), Archimandrite Moisei Putilov (1782-1862), Hegumen Antony Putilov (1795-1865), monastic priest Ilarion Ponomarev (1805-1873), monastic priest Anatoly Zertsalov (1824-1894), Archimandrite Isaaky Antimonov (1810-1894), monastic priest Iosif Litovkin (1837-1911), Archimandrite Varsonofy Plikhankov (1845-1913), monastic priest Anatoly II Potapov (1855-1922), monastic priest Nektary Tikhonov (1853-1928), monastic priest Nikon Beliaev (1888-1931) as a righteous confessor, and Archimandrite Isaaky II Bobrikov (1865-1938) as a righteous martyr, for churchwide glorification. . . .

As a result of the activity of the council the decision was made for the enrolment of 1154 zealots for the faith and piety in the canon of churchwide saints.


Moscow, Church of Christ the Savior, 13-16 August 2000

Having reviewed the report of the chairman of the commission of the Holy Synod on canonization of saints, His Eminence Metropolitan Yuvenaly of Krutitsy and Kolomna and the materials prepared by the commission that he presented, which were associated with the question of the glorification of the assembly of Russian new martyrs and confessors and other heroes of the faith, the consecrated bishops' jubilee council determines the following:

1.  To approve the report of the chairman of the synodal commission on canonization of saints and the activity of the commission.

2.  To adopt the text of the act of the jubilee consecrated bishops' council of the Russian Orthodox church regarding the joint glorification of the Russian new martyrs and confessors of the twentieth century.

3.  To adopt the text of the act of the jubilee consecrated bishops' council of the Russian Orthodox church regarding the canonization of Metropolitan Makary Nevsky (1835-1926), Archpriest Aleksei Mechev (1859-1923), monastic priest Aleksei Soloviev (1846-1928), monastic priest Serafim Vyritsky Myraviev (1866-1949), 34 holy martyrs of the Valaam monastery of the Transfiguration (d., 1578), Metropolitan Arseny Matseevich of Rostov (1697-1772), Bishop Innokenty Smirnov of Penza (1784-1819), Archimandrite Makary Glukharev (1792-1847), priest Aleksei Gneushev (1762-1848), Hegumen Parfeny of the Kiziltash monastery (1816-1867), and regarding the churchwide glorification of Saint Iov (in schema, Iisus) of Anzersk and the holy elders of Optino.

4.  For the ruling prelates in conjunction with the synodal commission on canonization of saints to continue the collection and study of traditions and acts of martyrdom of witnesses to the faith of the twentieth century for subsequent inclusion of their names in the assembly of Russian new martyrs and confessors.  (tr. by PDS, posted 14 August 2000)


MOSCOW, Aug 14 (AFP) - Even his supporters admit that his life was anything but saintly.

"Bloody Nicholas", as the Soviet regime dubbed him after his death, was by general consent inept, irresolute, autocratic, anti-semitic, complaisant, dominated by his wife and a leading contributor to the misfortunes that befell both his family and his country.

Now Nicholas II, emperor of all the Russias, has been canonised by the Russian Orthodox Church in a decision that could cause deep divisions among the faithful.

The Orthodox Patriarch Alexis II had warned that canonisation of Russia's last tsar, if granted, could only come about because of the manner of his death and not because of his actions.

The execution of the Russian royal family in the cellars of the Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg was indeed the stuff of myth, all the more potent for the secrecy with which generations of Soviet authorities surrounded it.

On July 17, 1918 the tsar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra, their five children and some of their servants were placed against a wall by Chekists, the Bolshevik political police, and shot.

Those who did not die outright were finished off by bayonette. Their bodies were doused in acid to prevent identification and then dumped in a common grave.

The fledgling Soviet regime had no difficulty tarring a reputation already deeply tarnished by years of misrule marked by repression and indecision.

Succeeding his father as tsar on November 1, 1894, Nicholas married the strong-willed German-born Alexandra three weeks later and fell totally under her sway.

A believer in the divine right of kings, he dismissed as "senseless dreams" the aspirations of ministers and liberal deputies for more democratic forms of government.

Having agreed under duress to create a representative council, the Duma, in 1905, and concede a few civil liberties, he did his best to render the reforms meaningless and continued to rule as an autocrat.

He moreover patronised right-wing groups that sanctioned terrorist methods and disseminated anti-semitic propaganda.

His rule was punctuated by events such as the massacre at Saint Petersburg on January 22, 1905, when army troops fired on workers during a 100,000-strong demonstration, or the massacre of striking workers at a gold-mine at Lena, in Siberia in April 1912.

He stood by while his wife came under the spell of the charismatic monk Grigory Rasputin, allowing the court to fall into disrepute amid rumours of debauchery and corruption even as the country slid into war.

Oblivious to the growing gulf between the ruling group and public opinion, overruling and frequently dismissing his best ministers, Nicholas assumed command of the war effort but succeeded only in creating a power vacuum filled by the empress and her advisor Rasputin.

By the time riots broke out in Petrograd (as Saint Petersburg was then known) on March 8, 1917, Nicholas had few remaining supporters.

The government resigned, and the Duma, supported by the army, called on Nicholas to abdicate. A few days later he did so.

Detained at Tsarskoye Selo by the provisional government which planned initially to send them to England, Nicholas and his family were removed to Tobolsk in Siberia and then, in April 1918, to Yekaterinburg in the Urals.

There, as anti-Bolshevik "White" forces approached and appeared set to rescue them, the royal family's fate was sealed. (from Johnson's Russia List, posted 15 August 2000)

First day of bishops' council

from Communications Service, Department of External Church Relations, Moscow patriarchate
13 August 2000

On 13 August after the completion of the divine liturgy in the Dormition cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin His Holiness Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus opened the work of the jubilee bishops' council of the Russian Orthodox church, which will last until 16 August.

Speaking at the opening of the council, His Holiness said in particular:  "By the will and grace of the Holy Spirit we have gathered in the capital city of Moscow in order by our conciliar actions and prayers to crown the ceremonies of our church devoted to the celebration of the great jubilee, the bimillennium of the advent on earth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. . . . Twenty centuries have passed since the angel's great words, joyous for all humankind,  resounded:  'Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord' (Lk 2.11).  All these centuries the one holy catholic and apostolic church has untiringly proclaimed to people the good and saving news about the coming of the kingdom of God. True to the tradition of the apostles and holy fathers, it has addressed the world through its councils which are convoked for the discussiion and resolution of critical problems of church life. Conciliarity is the soul of the church, the evidence of the fullness of its vital forces.  The present jubilee council has special significance for the Russian Orthodox church because it is called to outline the road along which it will travel in the twenty-first century. This circumstance lays upon us high responsibility for the fate of the church in the third millennium from the birth of Christ that is now beginning. . . .

By means of the current bishops' council the Russian Orthodox church is bringing to a close the tragic twentieth century in which is had to endure one of the most fearsome and terrible persecutions in the history of Christianity. By God's mercy the gates of hell did not overpower our church which adorned itself literally in purple and fine linen, the blood of many thousands of those who suffered for Christ. . . . By the prayers of all the saints who were resplendent in our land may the all-merciful Lord grant us 'the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the spirit of counsel and of power, the spirit of knowledge and piety' (Is 11.2) so that the current jubilee bishops' council will go into the history of conciliar acts of the Russian Orthodox church as an example of genuine unity and love in Christ Jesus our Lord."

After noting that the session was being held in the Hall of Church Councils of the church of Christ the Savior, which he had consecrated on 11 August, His Holiness the patriarch expressed thanks to the mayor of Moscow, Yu.M. Luzhkov, who was present in the hall, and to the government and workers of the city who had made a tremendous contribution to the reconstruction of the national shrine and to the preparation of the jubilee celebrations in the Russian capital.

The bishops' council unanimously approved the program and bylaws of its sessions, elected a secretariat, comprising four bishops led by the secretary of the council, Metropolitan Sergius of Solnechnogorsk, chief of staff of the Moscow patriarchate, an editorial commission comprising eleven bishops under the chairmanship of Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow patriarchate, and a credentials commission comprising three archpastors under the chairmanship of Metropolitan Agafangel of Odessa and Ismailsk.

Then His Holiness Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus delivered his report "The Russian Orthodox church at the turn of the century," the full text of which will be published presently on the official Internet page of the Moscow patriarchate and distributed to recipients of informational communications by e-mail.

At the conclusion of the session the report of the credentials commission was presented according to which there were 144 bishops at the council.  (tr. by PDS, posted 14 August 2000)


Moscow, 13th August: Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksiy II has protested against "attempts by external forces to split the Russian Orthodox Church and shatter its unity".

Addressing the participants of the Bishops' Assembly currently being held in Moscow, the patriarch recalled that "even the disintegration of the Soviet Union was not able to destroy the multiethnic nature of the Moscow patriarchy". It is no surprise that "efforts to confine the church to the limits of the Russian Federation have also been fruitless", he added.

The patriarch made these comments in relation to the intentions of the Ukrainian and Estonian state leadership and a number of religious figures to set up independent churches in these countries despite the fact that Orthodox believers living there have been "fed by the Moscow patriarchy" for many centuries.

"The Russian church also opposes a state forcefully thrusting its will on other countries and nations," Aleksiy II stressed and said that, in his view, the recent tragic events in the Balkans are an ominous warning.

Speaking of "pseudo-missionaries and totalitarian sects" whose emissaries are working in Russia, the patriarch asserted that their activity "has subsided" today. "They tried to lure our congregation, but this audacity has now been discredited and rejected by our people," he noted.

In this connection, Aleksiy II yet again reminded the bishops of the Russian church of the huge responsibility that lies with them as ministers "in these hard and deceitful times"...

"The greatest attention should be paid to spiritual enlightenment," he went on. "The situation cannot be considered normal when a parish or a bishopric purchases expensive liturgical utensils, builds comfortable mansions for the clergy and holds sumptuous meals lasting many hours while at the same time refusing to allocate funds for a proper Sunday school or a church newspaper, an Internet site, refresher courses for personnel or youth work," he said.

"If this continues to happen, these priests could face the danger of remaining alone behind glorious walls and fences," Aleksiy II warned.

The patriarch described as "basically satisfactory" the current state of the bishopric and parochial life of the Russian church. The Moscow patriarchate currently includes the Japanese and Chinese autonomous churches and 130 bishoprics with 128 bishops and 25 vicars serving there, 545 monasteries and 19,417 parishes...  (from Johnson's Russia List, posted 14 August 2000)



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