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Skeletons found at site of tsar's murder

by Irina Kriuchkova 24 May 2002

Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus was informed about the discovery of two human skeletons during the construction of the Church-on-the-Blood, which is being erected on the site of the killing of the family of Nicholas II in Ekaterinburg. was told this on Friday by the president of the Center for Investigation of the Circumstances of the Deaths of Members of the Family of the House of Romanov, Vadim Viner.

As has already been reported, the unidentified skeletons were found late in the evening of 22 May during the construction of the memorial church on the spot of the shooting of the tsarist family. It has been preliminarily suggested that the remains belong to a woman and child. This has led to the theory that the builders discovered the grave of the bodies of tsarevich Alexis and princess Anastasia, about whose fate nothing was known hitherto. At the present time the remains have been transferred for study at the bureau of forensic medical experts of Sverdlovsk province. The question of initiating a criminal case with regard to the find of fragments of human bodies is being reviewed.

Vadim Viner heads the public organization of monarchists that already for several years has been engaged in the study of the circumstances of the deaths of the most august family name. A year ago the foundation declared that the remains buried in 1998 in St. Petersburg as belonging to the Romanov family really had no relationship to the imperial house. Vadim Viner and those who agree with him cite the results of an investigation by Japanese geneticists who in recent years have studied the tests of DNA taken from the bones found in Ekaterinburg.

According to Viner, he is sure that the bones found Wednesday have nothing to do with the family of the last Russian emperor. However he reported the finding to an advisor of the head of the Russian Orthodx church. There has been no reaction from the patriarch yet. However the administration of the Ekateringurg and Verkhotur diocese of RPTs has already expressed a skeptical attitude to the grave that was found. The mood of the diocesan authorities is evidenced by a statement made Friday by an official representative of the diocese, hieromonk Dimitry Baibakov. He said that the church "does not see in the grave that was found anything sensational or unusual" and "it calls for refraining from spreading the unfounded opinion of unstable Ekaterinburg sources that the grave that was found was that of the tsarevich Alexis and one of the princesses."

According to Baibakov, in 2001 a similar discovery was made at the site of the construction of the church of All Saints Resplendent in the Russian Land. However it turned out that the grave had been made several centuries before the tsarist family was shot in 1918. It is suggested that on the side of the Voznesensky hill on which the house of the engineer Ipatiev had stood earlier, where Nicholas II and his family were killed, there once had been a cemetery, Baibakov noted. In the opinion of the special representative of the diocese, all questions should be answered by archaeologists and forensic medicine specialists and not by self-appointed investigators of the deaths of the most august family. However local archaeologists already have declared that the new Ekaterinburg remains may be considered lost for science. The issue is that scholars were not called to the place where the bones were found. Police officers who were summoned to the construction site by workers of the evening shift simply removed the body fragments and transferred them to forensic medical specialists. Moreover, it turns out, the bones were found in a spot where the scoop of a excavator had penetrated. Scholars say that now it will be difficult to prove that these are the remains of members of the tsarist family even if genetic analysis confirms it. (tr. by PDS, posted 26 May 2002)

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Bush receives religious leaders

Mir religii, 24 May 2002

American President George Bush made a good impression on representatives of leading religious societies of Russia.  They stated this to the Interfax news agency after the meeting with the American leader that was held Friday in Moscow.

Thus, the vice chairman of OVTsS of the Moscow patriarchate, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, was impressed by the emotional mention of God that George Bush made at the end of his speech delivered to public and political leaders of Russia. In the archpriest's opinion, the American president is a "sincere, believing man, who respects Russia and the patriotism of the Russian people.

In the course of communication with the president, Archbishop Arseny of Istria relayed to George Bush greetings from Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus, who at the present is on a trip to the Novosibirsk diocese.

At today's reception there also was a brief conversation of the American leader with the head of Russian Catholics, Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz. In an interview with Interfax, he reported that the president seemed to be informed about the difficulties that the Catholic church is experiencing in Russia and he asked about the current state of affairs. Along with this Kondrusiewicz acknowledged to reporters that he especially liked the phrase in George Bush's speech about the way in a democratic country all people must be equal, regardless of national and religious affiliation.

In his turn the chairman of the Central Ecclesiastical Board of Muslims of Russia and European CIS countries, Talgat Tajudin, called George Bush a "pleasant man in conversation" and expressed the hope that the strengthening of trust between our countries will be the main result of this visit. The spiritual leader of Muslims also liked the comparison between Russia and USA that the American president made, saying that these great states are multinational and they are united by faith in God.

Finally the chief rabbi of Russia, Berl Lazar, in conversation with the American president, expressed regret that yesterday the Senate of USA refused to rescind the Jackson-Vanik amendment that discriminates against the Russian economy. According to Berl Lazar, the Jewish community in Russia today enjoys full freedom, including freedom to emigrate, whose absence in its time was the reason for adopting this amendment.

According to the rabbi, George Bush agreed with his assessment and suggested continuing the conversation on this topic on Sunday in Petersburg at the time of his visit to the Great Choral Synagogue of the northern capital. (tr. by PDS, posted 25 May 2002)

Reuters, 24 May 2002

President Bush met privately Friday with the head of the Catholic Church in European Russia, which says its clergy has been harassed by the authorities at the instigation of the powerful Orthodox Church.

Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz held brief talks with the U.S. president after Bush had spoken to religious leaders on the need for freedom of belief to be respected in Russia.

Details of the talks were not immediately released, and it was unclear whether Kondrusiewicz had asked Bush to raise the plight of the Catholic Church with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is hosting a summit with Bush.

In his public comments to religious leaders, including from the established Russian Orthodox, Jewish and Buddhist faiths, Bush said "freedom of religion and separation of church and state are so important."

But he made no direct reference to the problems suffered by Catholics in Russia.

Kondrusiewicz has written to Putin over case of the Catholic Bishop Jerzy Mazur, a Polish national declared persona non grata as he arrived in Moscow bound for his diocese in Irkutsk, in eastern Siberia. The move came after an Italian priest in Russia for 12 years was also stripped of his visa.

Relations between the Vatican and the established Orthodox Church have sunk ever lower over accusations by the Russian hierarchy that Catholics are poaching Orthodox believers.

Patriarch Alexiy II, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, is blocking a visit to Russia by Polish-born Pope John Paul, even though Putin favors it. (Copyright © 2002 Reuters Limited, posted 25 May 2002)

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Lavish procession celebrates saints Cyril and Methodius

by Natalia Pashkalova
Izvestiia, 25 May 2002

Yesterday in Novosibirsk a procession of the cross was conducted that was devoted to the Days of Slavic Letters and Cultures. For the first time in ten years the epicenter of the all-Russian holiday was moved from the European part of the country to Siberia. Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus headed the procession of the cross, so more than 25,000 persons gathered for the celebration.

The procession was extraordinarily beautiful and festive: an icon with images of saints Cyril and Methodius in full stature headed the procession. Behind it followed an endless file of clergy, from novice monks to bishops in robes embroidered with red gold, under which periodically cell phones rang. The whole sparkling brotherhood formed a corridor for Patriarch Alexis II. He moved slowly, leaning on his staff. Behind him walked the presidential plenipotentiary for the Siberian federal district, Leonid Drachevsky, Minister of Culture Mikhail Shvydkoy, provincial Governor Viktor Tolokonsky, and Mayor Vladimir Gorodetsky. Behind the leadership came thousands of believers. The procession moved from the cathedral of the Ascension to the chapel of Nicholas the Wonder-worker, which is considered a symbol of Novosibirsk. Within the ranks of spectators were whispers of amazement: "My God, how beautiful!" By the end of the prayer service, thousands of high school graduates began arriving at the square. In the crowd of pupils were heard approving and happy shouts: "Orthodoxy--Wow!" At the chapel the patriarch blessed Novosibirsk and inhabitants of Siberia.

"It is unfair that up to now this Orthodox holiday has been held only in central Russia," the patriarch said in explaining the transfer of the celebrations to the east of the country. "I assign enormous significance to the scientific, cultural, and spiritual life of Siberians. Novosibirsk is the center of culture and religious of the Siberian country."

The patriarch also thinks that there is now no conflict between religion and science in Russia and thus for him, as a religious leader, it was interesting to meet with representatives of the world famous scientific schools of Akademgorodok. The chairman of the Siberian department of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Nikolai Dobretsov, earlier noted that "science needs to adopt morality and humanism from religion."

It seems that the organizers of the activity did not themselves expect that such a large number of people would gather. People came not only from neighboring cities but even, for example, from the Kuban. The holiday had been thoroughly prepared. The central streets had been repaired with patches of new asphalt, the grounds of the churches had been well groomed, and the advertisements of alcoholic beverages and cigarettes had been removed from billboards.

At the end of the holiday the vice governor of Kaluga province, Viktor Ignatov, presented to Viktor Tolokonsky a large bell, symbol of the holiday, which will ring in Novosibirsk for a whole year until the next Days of Slavic Letters. For now it is not known which city will host the holiday next year. But, as Mikhail Shvydkoy acknowledged to Izventiia, whereas previously it had been necessary to cajole cities to become the center of the days, now there is no end to those desiring it. (tr. by PDS, posted 24 May 2002)

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Moscow patriarchate's statement on pope's Bulgarian visit

Kommersant-Daily, 24 May 2002

"So far as we know, the meeting of the Roman pope with Bulgarian Patriarch Maxim had been planned in advance. In our view, all autocephalous churches, of which the Bulgarian Orthodox church is one, have the full right to arrange independently their relations with any other church, including the Roman Catholic church. We are grateful for the position of the Bulgarian patriarch with respect to the creation of Catholic dioceses in Russia. On 5 April of this year he sent to the Vatican a letter expressing the official point of view of the patriarchate and synod of Bulgaria on this matter. The letter condemns the creation of dioceses in Russia and says that "these actions hinder the establishment of a spirit of mutual understanding and the quest for ways of inter-Christian convergence." It is possible that at the meeting with the pope Patriarch Maxim will manage to discuss this matter and, perhaps, the Vatican will again hear concern about the situation that has developed."

Vsevolod Chaplin,
Vice chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow patriarchate
(tr. by PDS, posted 24 May 2002)

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Bush to attend Orthodox divine liturgy

Mir religii, 24 May 2002

"To see how Orthodox worship"--that is how George Bush expressed his desire on the eve of his arrival in St. Petersburg, where he will be given the opportunity along with Vladimir Putin to visit the main church of the northern capital, the Kazan cathedral church, ITAR-TASS reports.

The president will visit it at the time of the Sunday divine liturgy which will be conducted by Metropolitan Vladimir Kotliarov of St. Petersburg and Ladoga.  At the local diocese it is suggested that this will not disrupt the strict order of the liturgy. The honored guests will receive gifts as mementoes of their visit to the church. What kind of gifts still remains secret.

Kazan cathedral, as is known, is the center of the spiritual life of the northern capital of Russia and a remarkable monument of history and architecture. It was erected according to the design of Andrei Voronikin in 1811 and consecrated to one of the chief sacred objects of Russian Orthodoxy, the Kazan icon of the Mother of God. This miracle working image has saved Russia many times from enemy attack. Last year a revered copy of it, before which the citizens of the city prayed in the days of the fascist blockade, was returned to its historic place.

The cathedral was named a monument of Russia's military glory. It contains the grave of Field Marshall Mikhail Kutuzov with an eternal flame and military relics of the years 1812-1814. It is a place of worship that is constantly visited by foreign tourists, descendants of Russian emigrants, and fellow countrymen from abroad.

The return of the cathedral to the Russian Orthodox church and the grant of cathedral status to it has raised the question about the effective combination of the functions of using the building as a working church and a monument of culture. Excursions usually are conducted here after the liturgy, but an exception will be made for the president of USA. (tr. by PDS, posted 24 May 2002)

Mir religii, 24 May 2002

This information was reported to RIA Novosti by the president of the Russian Jewish Congress (REK), Evgeny Satanovsky. George Bush and his wife will visit the synagogue in St. Petersburg on Sunday morning. As the head of REK noted, this will be the first time in the history of relations of the two countries that a president of the United States will visit a Russian synagogue.

Today Evgeny Satanofsky, along with representatives of various Jewish organizations, including the chief rabbi of Russia, Adolf Shaevich, the president of the Jewish community of Moscow, Gennady Khazanov, the chief rabbi of Moscow, Pinkhas Golshmidt, and other Jewish leaders will attend a meeting of the American president with representatives of religious communities of Russia that will be held at the Moscow "Spaso House." (tr. by PDS, posted 24 May 2002)

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Novosibirsk priest on trial

by Konstantin Voronov
Kommersant-Daily 23 May 2002

The case of the former rector of the church of the Protection of the Most Holy Mother of God, Viktor Smetannikov, has been presented in the Zheleznodorozhny district court of Novosibirsk. The first priest to have conquered the North and South Poles has been accused of misuse and embezzlement of around 800,000 rubles from the church treasury.

Father Viktor (secular name, Viktor Smetannikov) headed the church of the Protection of the Most Holy Mother of God about seven years ago. In the Novosibirsk diocese he was in charge of relations with the power ministries and the cossacks, and he often was in the northern Caucasus during the first and second Chechen wars. Familiar servicemen even named Mr. Smetannikov "military chaplain of the guard."

The priest's scholarly work (he holds the degree of kandidat of sociology) and practical activity in spiritual rehabilitation of participants in local wars have frequently been given attention at the very highest levels. A couple of years back Fr Viktor consecrated the submarine "Novosibirsk" at one of the bases of the Northern Fleet, he organized a nurses' walkout at a district hospital, and he began publishing an army-church newspaper, "Pokrovskie versty," with a circulation of 9,000.

Fame came to Fr Viktor in 1999 when as part of an expedition he made a parachute jump onto the North Pole, where he erected a three-meter Orthodox cross. Viktor Smetannikov completed a similar expedition to the South Pole. "I was happy to pray there," Fr Viktor later described. "The North Pole has the power of self-cleansing. Thus it is the most extraordinary place on earth." In the future the priest had intended to make an ascent of one of the 8,000-meter peaks.

Father Viktor's plans began falling apart in May 2000 when law enforcement agencies began taking an interest in him. At the same time, under suspicion, the diocese banned Viktor Smetannikov from conducting services (he now teaches sociology in one of the city institutions of higher education). According to the investigation report, the priest had damaged the parish on the order of several hundreds of thousands of rubles.

As the police have determined, at the end of 1999 Viktor Smetannikov obtained credit at one of the city banks in the name of the church for purchase of 600,000 rubles worth of grain.  It was intended that income from the sale of the harvest would be spent for the benefit of the parish. The grain supposedly was planted at the "Pokrovsky dvor" farm, which belongs to the natural brother of the accused. Mr. Smetannikov was not able to pay the loan and interest on it, declaring to the bankers that "the harvest did not ripen." Another approximately 200,000 rubles he took by expense vouchures from the church treasury, which, according to investigators, he lost "on something unknown." At the prosecutor's office it was reported that, under investigation, Semtannikov did not admit his guilt and, invoking his constitutional right, he refused to give evidence. Recently the materials of the criminal case were presented for review of the Zheleznodorozhny district court. In addition, the Directorate for the Struggle with Economic Crime has conducted another audit with regard to Mr. Smetannikov. In one of the Novosibirsk firms, antique books worth one and a half million dollars were found, which according to the owners were given to them for payment by the infamous priest. One of the books had belonged to the father of Pushkin's wife, Natalia Goncharova.

At the Novosibirsk diocese they were not prepared to comment on the situation of Viktor Smetannikov's being taken to court. Father Andrei Romashko, who is responsible in the diocese for communications with the news media, referred to the intense preoccupation in connection with the visit to Novosibirsk of Patriarch Alexis II. According to the current rector of the church of the Protection of the Most Holy Mother of God, Fr Vladimir Manichev, so far the parish has been unable to settle accounts with the creditors of his predecessor. Kommersant-Daily will report the sentence.  (tr. by PDS, posted 23 May 2002)

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State and church leaders celebrate Slavic culture in Novosibirsk

Religiia v Rossii, 23 May 2002

At a press conference before the opening of an international conference "Slavic world: unity and diversity" Alexis II reported that he was taking part for the first time in the Days of Slavic Letters that are not being conducted in Moscow. The patriarch said that previously when the days were conducted in cities of the central part of Russia he remained in the capital. But the patriarch accepted an invitation of the Novosibirsk organizing committee for the holiday since he considers Novosibirsk "not only the capital of Siberian scholarship and culture but also a center of religious life."

Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoy, who also is participating in the celebration, told reporters that, as a rule, the Days of Slavic Letters and Culture are conducted in central regions of Russia, but in his opinion that is unfair to the Transurals. Shvydkoy noted that whereas five to seven years ago Russia had to cajole over the conduct of events associated with the days, now there is no end to those wishing to become the Russian center for holding this holiday. But this year pride of place fell on Novosibirsk province.

The chairman of the Siberian Department of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Nikolai Dobretsov, responding to a question about cooperation between science and religion, noted that Novosibirsk is the third Russian center, with deep traditions of archaeography and slavistics, and therefore Siberian scholars have taken an active part in creating the Russian Orthodox Encyclopedia under the patronage of the patriarch.

At present, the fourth volume of this work has already come out and by 2012 another 21 volumes will appear. Alexis II noted the work of the Novosibirsk co-editors of the encyclopedia and bestowed on Academic Nikolai Pokrovsky the order of St. Nicholas, third degree, and on Archpriest Boris Pivovarov the order of St. Makary, third degree.

Opening the conference "Slavic world: unity and diversity" Alexis II declared that before the revolution "there was no barrier to fellowship" between science and the church. The first time the Days of Slavic Letters and Culture began to be celebrated was in the eighteenth century at Moscow University, and now he feels that the conflict between science and religion has been eliminated.

Speaking of the role of Orthodoxy in the life of the country, Mikhail Shvydkoy declared: "Now a process is beginning in the world of a loss of self-identity against the background of globalization. Therefore Orthodoxy has become a factor which will help Russia not to lose its spiritual and cultural self-consciousness." The minister found agreement from the presidential plenipotentiary in the Siberian federal district, Leonid Drachevsky, who declared that Orthodox plays a special role in preserving the Slavic world, reports. (tr. by PDS, posted 23 May 2002)

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Patriarch strengthens ties with Belorussian president

by Vladimir Efanov
Rossisskaia gazeta, 23 May 2002

The fifth visit by Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus to Belarus has concluded. The three-day trip of His Holiness about the territory of the Minsk, Novogrudok, and Brest dioceses, as always, was busy.

Alexis II visited Orthodox parishes, took part in a divine liturgy in the Holy Dormition cathedral of the Zhirovichi monastery, and consecrated the site for the cornerstone of a new church in Baranovchi. Besides this, the patriarch met with scholars of the National Academy of Sciences of Belorus and deputies of the National Assembly.

However the main event of the current visit was the opening in the Belrussian capital of a House of Charity, which was conducted under the supervision of the patriarch and Belorussian President Alexander Lukashenko.  Built in accordance with the latest technology and designed in the form of a cross of Evrosiny of Polotsk, this edifice really is the first social institution of its type in the Orthodox church; there are no places like it on the territory of CIS. As the director of the House of Charity, Fr Fedor, noted, the Holy of Charity should not be considered an ordinary home for the elderly. It is designed as a rehabilitation center for those who need held--medical, spiritual, and social.  The House of Charity can accommodate 167 patients, and by turns elderly people, orphans, and invalid children will stay there.

According to Alexis II, the House of Charity should become an example for supporting the needy and for the creation of an effective system of charity in both Belarus and Russia.

Incidentally, the construction of this building can be called an extremely successful example of the social partnership of state and church. The project was begun using resources of the Orthodox church. Later, when the financing of the work practically halted because of lack of funds, Alexander Lukashenko stepped in. A council of trustees was created and the construction was carried out by both contributions from citizens of Belarus and Russia and help from private and state enterprises. Firms and charitable organizations from Germany, France, and Italy took part in the delivery of the modern equipment, some of which was donated.

The church greatly values the efforts of the Belorussian president. During his visit Alexis II awarded A. Lukashenko an order of the Russian Orthodox church. (tr. by PDS, posted 23 May 2002)

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Russian public skeptical toward required religious education

by Mara D. Bellaby,
Associated Press, 23 May 2002

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church acknowledged Thursday that communism's legacy means religious education would still not be welcome in the country's public schools, but he expressed hope that Russian students could be taught about the country's main faith.

"We are not raising the question of introducing classes on the scripture and (Orthodox) religious teachings in high schools," Patriarch Alexy II said during a conference in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, in remarks shown on Russian television stations.

"We recognize and understand that 70 years have left their mark, and today the scriptures would not be accepted," Alexy said referring to the state-enforced atheism of Soviet times. But he added that Russia's dominant church would like to see young Russians taught about "Orthodox culture or Orthodox ethics" in public school.

Russia's post-Soviet Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but the Orthodox Church enjoys strong support from government officials. About two-thirds of Russia's 144 million people are Orthodox, but opinion polls indicate the Russian public is skeptical toward required religious education.

Since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, the Orthodox Church has expressed increasing fears about outside religions streaming in to Russia and seeking converts.

Tension has been highest recently between the Orthodox Church and Russia's small Roman Catholic community, numbering about 600,000 people. Orthodox leaders were infuriated earlier this year when the Vatican upgraded its structure in Russia to full-fledged dioceses.

"We are strongly against any unilateral actions, which are unbrotherly to the Russian Orthodox Church," Alexy said Thursday, according to the Interfax news agency.

At the Vatican, "they sometimes say that it is an internal affair," Alexy said. "It would have been an internal affair if it happened in a Catholic country. Yet such steps need to be coordinated in Russia, where most of the people are Orthodox."

Alexy spoke as Pope John Paul II wrapped up a visit to the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan, a predominantly Muslim country with only 120 Catholics. The pontiff has long expressed the desire to visit Russia to promote Catholic-Orthodox reconciliation, but the conflict between the churches has kept the pontiff from realizing his dream.

Also Thursday, Alexy conferred high church awards on a group of scientists who had helped put together a new Orthodox Encyclopedia. "No more confrontation exists between religion and science," he said. "We look on scientists now as our partners and allies, rather than opponents." (Copyright 2002 Associated Press, posted 23 May 2002)

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Two highest patriarchate prelates snubbing Bush?

Mir religii, 23 May 2002

Prominent religious leaders of Russia will be guests of American President George Bush at a reception which is planned for Friday at the Moscow residence of the American ambassador, Interfax reports.

According to representatives of the embassy, within the bounds of this meeting the USA president plans to meet with leaders of a number of organizations in order to discuss with them questions pertaining to the life of civil society.

As the agency has learned, those who are planning to attend include the supreme mufti of Russia and the European CIS countries, Talgat Tajuddin, the head of the Council of Muftis of Russia, Ravil Gainutdin, the chief rabbis of the country Berl Lazar and Adolf Shaevich, the chairman of the Buddhist Traditional Sangkha of Russia, Sanjai Lama Balzhirov, and the head of Russian Catholics, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusevich.

At the reception in "Spaso House" the Russian Orthodox church is expected to be represented by one of the bishops of the Moscow patriarchate and vice chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of RPTs, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin.

According to Interfax information, Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus will not be able to meet with the American president inasmuch as at the present time he is making a pastoral trip in Novosibirsk. As regards the head of the Department of External Church Relations, Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, who also was invited, on Friday a celebration of the Day of Slavic Letters and Culture is planned in his diocese. Besides this, on 24 May the metropolitan plans to take part in the inauguration of the new governor of Smolensk province, Viktor Maslov. (tr. by PDS, posted 23 May 2002)

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Patriarch complains again about Catholic actions

Mir religii, 23 May 2002

The Russian Orthodox church (RPTs) has spoken out against the Roman Catholic church's manifestation of unfraternal relations "in unilaterally and secretly creating its 'church province' on the territory of Russia." As reported by RIA Novosti, Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus declared this again. He spoke at a press conference in the House of Scholars of Novosibirsk's Akademgorodok devoted to the opening here of an international conference and the Day of Slavic Letters and Culture.

The patriarch explained that in the civilized world even when there is a change of a Catholic bishop the state offices are informed about it. He said that everything that was done in Russia was done secretly.

As Alexis II noted, in a Catholic country such actions on the part of the Roman Catholic church are an internal matter, but in a country where the population is Orthodox, this touches upon the interests of both church and state, since the Vatican is not only a church but also a state.

The primate of RPTs also stressed that in Novosibirsk province good relations among various confessions have developed and, judging from the report of Archbishop Tikhon of Novosibirsk and Berdsk, there also are no religious tensions here. In this regard the patriarch said that RPTs will strive in the future for good relations with all confessions that exist on the territory of Russia. (tr. by PDS, posted 23 May 2002)

by Olga Kostromina, Vadim Manenkov
TASS, 23 May 2002

Patriarch Alexy II, head of the Russian Christian Orthodox Church, said the setting up of Catholic episcopal chairs in Russia affects its interests.

"The creation of a so-called church province of the Roman Catholic Church in Russia, where most of the population is Orthodox, cannot be a personal affair on the Vatican only," Alexy said at a press conference in Novisibirsk, a Siberian city he is visiting. One of the four chairs has been recently founded in Novisibirsk.

The patriarch said "good relations have formed between different denominations, and there is no religious tension in the region".

"We on the whole keep contacts with several conferences of Catholic bishops, Catholic monasteries and educational centers," Alexy said.

However, the Russian Christian Orthodox Church "is against unilateral and fait accompli formation of Catholic structures on the territories of Russia without agreeing this with state authorities and the Church which is a church of the majority", he added.

"One should not forget that the Roman Catholic Church is not only a church, but a state within the Vatican state. For this reason, the formation of the Catholic structures in some or another country simultaneously means the creation of a state within a state," the patriarch said.

He cited the experience of other countries where it is accepted to inform the state and a main church about such initiatives. (Copyright 2002 ITAR-TASS, posted 23 May 2002)

Agence France Presse, 23 May 2002

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexis II Thursday poured fresh criticism on the Vatican's decision to create four Catholic dioceses in Russia, as Pope John Paul II was completing a visit to the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan.

The Russian Orthodox church "is against the unilateral creation of new Catholic structures ... without the agreement of the state authorities or of the (Orthodox) church, which is the church of the majority (of Russians)", ITAR-TASS news agency quoted Alexis II as telling a press conference in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk. "We should not forget that the Roman Catholic church is not merely a church, it is also the Vatican state. So that the creation of Catholic structures in any country also means the foundation of a state within the state," the Patriarch added.

Traditionally difficult relations between the Holy See and the Moscow patriarchate have worsened since the Vatican upgraded its presence in Russia by setting up four new dioceses in February.

Russia subsequently refused to grant a visa to the Polish bishop who heads the diocese in Siberia.

The Russian Orthodox church has repeatedly accused Roman Catholics of seeking to convert its followers in the Orthodox heartlands of Russia and Ukraine.

Pope John Paul II earlier this month announced the creation of two more dioceses in Ukraine, bringing the total there to seven.

The 82-year-old pontiff was set on Thursday to complete a two-day visit to the mainly Muslim ex-Soviet republic of Azerbaijan, where he led a mass early in the day to pay tribute to the country's tiny Catholic community.

The pope, who is battling Parkinson's disease and arthritis, had to be lowered from his aircraft by a hydraulic lift when he arrived there on Wednesday, the first time this had been done on a foreign trip. (Copyright 2002 Agence France Presse, posted 23 May 2002)

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