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Russia Religion News Current News Items

Salvation Army wins case in European court

The Associated Press, 5 October 2006

Russia's refusal to register a Moscow branch of the Salvation Army violated the religious organization's rights to freedom of religion and association under Europe's human rights convention, a European court ruled Thursday.
The European Court of Human Rights said the Moscow authorities "did not act in good faith" when they refused to register the Salvation Army in 1999, and awarded the organization €10,000 (US$12,700) in damages.
The Moscow branch of the Salvation Army was officially registered as a religious organization in 1992. But after a new Russian law on religious associations took effect in 1997, the Moscow Justice Department did not re-register the branch on the grounds that its founders were foreign nationals.
The Salvation Army was founded in 1865 by English Methodist minister William Booth and has its international headquarters in London.
A Moscow district then ruled on the Salvation Army's appeal, saying the branch should be denied registration as a religious body because it was a 'paramilitary organization' whose members wore uniforms and served in an 'army'.
The human rights court ruled there was no reason for Russia to treat foreign nationals differently from Russians when it comes to their ability to exercise freedom of religion.
It also ruled that although members of the Salvation Army — an organization best known as a charity — wore uniforms, "it could not be seriously maintained" that it was a paramilitary organization advocating violence or undermining the integrity or security of the state.
The European Court of Human Rights deals with violations of civil liberties under the European Convention of Human Rights, a treaty legally binding on all 46 members of the Council of Europe. (posted 15 October 2006)

See related article at Forum 18 News Service:  "Will Salvation Army's Europoean court victory set a precedent"

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Pentecostal leader fights back

Press Release, Slavic Legal Center, 10 October 2006

Sergei Riakhovsky, a member of the Russian Public Chamber and leader of the Russian Associated Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith (ROSKhVE), is prepared to file suit in court to defend his honor and dignity and professional reputation against the leader of the Irenaeus of Lyons Center, the "sect-scholar" Alexander Dvorkin. Sergei Riakhovsky reported this to the press service of the Slavic Legal Center. The occasion for the suit was Dvorkin's statement about him in which the "sect-scholar" maintained that Sergei Riakhovsky is supposedly "planning an Orange Revolution."  The accusation was broadcast on 30 September 2006 on the "Russia" TV station's program "National Interest," which was conducted by the famous reporter Dmitry Kiselev. The broadcast included the following:

Dvorkin:  "If one speaks of sects in positions of power, this pertains not only to Ukraine. The chief Neopentecostal of Russia is a member of the president's council for relations with religious organizations and of the Public Chamber."

Kiselev:  "Who is that?"

Dvorkin:  "Sergei Riakhovsky, who is planning an orange revolution, just like the Neopentecostals of Ukraine participated in the orange revolution."

Sergei Riakhovsky intends to ask the court to find Dvorkin's statement to be baseless and not in accordance with reality and as slander against his honor and dignity, since Sergei Riakhovsky is not planning any kind of revolution nor planning the liquidation of the existing system and he is totally opposed to any kind of revolutions. In addition he wants the court to require that the defendant broadcast a denial relative to the untrustworthy and slanderous information broadcast by the "National Interest."

Sergei Riakhovsky noted that over the course of many years, the "sect-scholar" Dvorkin, in his interviews and his articles, has often spread false and explicitly slanderous information about not only Riakhovsky personally but also about evangelical churches that are members of ROSKhVE. According to Riakhovsky, believers are tired of the continuous flow of "filth" which comes out of Dvorkin and which are all fantasies that the "sect-scholar" devises about Christian churches, which do not so much offend and denigrate evangelical believers as they denigrate the "sect-scholar" himself. However this time Dvorkin has tried to accuse one of the leaders of the protestant community of Russia, Sergei Riakhovsky, of activity that violates the law, and that means he wished to discredit the evangelical movement, which has taken an active part in Russian civil society as a whole.

The "sect-scholar" Dvorkin has not paid attention to the fact that Sergei Riakhovsky has often cautioned Christian churches of Ukraine not to participate in political activity. On 28 December 2005 Sergei Riakhovsky noted in an interview with  "I cannot evaluate the political situation in Ukraine. However, even before the Ukrainian presidential elections and afterwards, ROSKhVE issued special statements in which participation by Ukrainian evangelical churches in political disputes is called a great mistake. This must be viewed as a temptation and spiritual seduction. Any citizen who is a parishioner of any church may participate in demonstrations, but only representing himself and his own political views, not his church. The Christian church must represent exclusively its Lord Jesus Christ and not the camp of the opposition. In this case the church as the "embassy of God" has ignored its ministry for the preservation of souls in favor of political ambitions. It is well known that revolution devours its own children. And that has happened in Ukraine."

An interview with Interfax on 13 June 2005 by Sergei Riakhovsky was entitled "Pentecostals will not become an instrument of the orange revolution." In it the head of ROSKhVE stated directly that often in the country political passions are enflamed artificially. In Riakhovsky's opinion, "Somebody is trying nowadays to damage the authority of the leadership of Russia and Moscow, for political ends. They are trying to cause the authority to be diminished in the eyes of both Russians and the western public."   Thus, Riakhovsky emphasized, "activity is going on by certain institutions of the so-called 'sect-fighters,' who are trying to create a mood among the public and officials that is directed against protestants, and specifically against Pentecostals, in a number of Russian provinces."

Sergei Riakhovsky's suit will be submitted to court in the near future. In it the member of the Russian Public Chamber has no intention of demanding from the "sect-scholar" Dvorkin any  kind of compensation for moral harm, since the unscrupulousness and falsehoods which have become ever more evident will cause moral harm only to Alexander Dvorkin himself. (tr. by PDS, posted 13 October 2006)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Catholic-Orthodox tensions remain

Interfax, 13 October 2006

Catholic Bishop Klemens Pikkel of Saratov criticized the plan of the Russian Orthodox church to build a church building at the site of the Beslan tragedy.

"It is important to take into account what the parents themselves want and the churches should not have the last word. And it is obvious that they do not want something more established here," the bishop stated in a recent telephone interview with the CNS Catholic news services.  He also mentioned that in the gymnasium, where the greatest number of victims perished, there already has been a large cross for a long time.

However, in Pikkel's opinion, the majority of parents of victims are non-Christian and he personally was a witness to how some of them brought various pagan symbols to the graves, such as vessels with water.

Meanwhile, at the beginning of September representatives of the episcopate of the Russian Orthodox church stated in an interview with Interfax that the decision regarding the construction of an Orthodox church building in Beslan had been adopted by a majority of residents of the city, including mothers of the dead children after frequent meetings and votes, and now a collection of signatures in support of construction of an Orthodox church memorial is being conducted in Beslan.

In his turn, Pikkel noted that he had heard nothing about any voting.  "No matter what kind of monument is built there, it will last a long time, and thus it would be good if it would be designated as a house of worship. But Northern Ossetia is neither Orthodox nor Muslim, and it would be inappropriate to erect here an exclusively Christian monument," the Catholic bishop declared.  (tr. by PDS, posted 13 October 2006)

Interfax, 13 October 2006

The Moscow Patriarchate is surprised at the protest expressed by Catholic Bishop Clemens Pickel of Saratov against the plan to build an Orthodox church at the site of the Beslan tragedy.

‘It is not clear why a Catholic bishop is so vigorously against the construction of an Orthodox church in Russia, seeing something negative in it’, Rev. Igor Vyzhanov, responsible for inter-Christian relations at the Moscow Patriarchate department for external church relations, told Interfax.

Earlier this week, Bishop Pickel, in an interview to the Catholic News Service, made this statement about the plan to build a memorial church at the site of the ruined school: ‘It is essential to accept what the parents want - it's they, not the churches, who should be given the last word. And it's clear they don't want anything more here.’

He also reminded that the school's sports hall, where most hostages died, was currently marked by a large cross.

Moreover, Bishop Pickel believes that most parents of the dead children are non-Christians and he himself saw some of them bringing animist symbols like water to their children's graves.

‘If Bishop Pickel really holds this opinion, and these quotations are not fruits of misunderstanding between him and journalists, then such statements certainly puzzle us’, the representative of the Moscow Patriarchate told Interfax.

Father Igor recalled that ‘from the very first hours of the tragedy, representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church, beginning from ordinary priests to the ruling bishop of the North Caucasus, took an active part in the efforts to help the victims’.

‘The comforting and healing role of the Russian Church in the Beslan tragedy was obvious, and when representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate say the plan to build a memorial church in Beslan was supported by people, there is no reason to doubt it’, Father Igor stressed.  (posted 13 October 2006)

Interfax, 13 October 2006

Cardinal Peter Erdo, president of the Council of Bishops’ Conferences in Europe (CCEE), pointed to some cardinal changes in religious life in Russia.

In his interview to Svet Evangelia, a Catholic newspaper in Russia, he said that along with a discussion (at the recent CCEE assembly in St. Petersburg - IF) on problems very important for all Europe, some Western bishops discovered a new reality. It is the rapidly developing Catholic Church in Russia, overcrowded churches, a living faith and sincere devotion.

Last week, a plenary assembly of presidents of European Episcopal Conferences took place in St. Petersburg. The forum, which was the first to be held in Russia, was attended by 34 ministers from 22 European countries, who summed up the recent developments and outlined further thrusts in the work of the CCEE.

Commenting on the problems discussed, Cardinal Erdo said that the participants had to state with bitterness the general and rather deep crisis of the institution of family in Europe, the tendency to marginalize the right to freedom of religion by giving an ungrounded and therefore distorted interpretation of the notion of equality.

He stressed that attempts to secure legally the principle of equality in all areas of life leads to an equality of norm and deviation, virtue and sin, the sacral and the profane. As a result the fundamental human rights including religious rights are violated.

Christians, he said, cannot let this principle of equality violate the church canons and the actions of the Ecumenical Councils when in the name of equality a priest may be appointed not by a bishop but secular authorities and the holy mass may be celebrated by anyone who fancies doing it.

At the same time, the CCEE president remarked that he was looking into the future with optimism and this optimism was prompted first of all by the opportunity for common Christian witness in Europe.

‘Christians in Europe can and must be united in defending the values of the gospel. Therefore, we, participants in the assembly, were very much gratified by the call to common witness in the message of the primate of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia’, Cardinal Erdo added. (posted 13 October 2006)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Antisemitism remains in Russia

Interfax, 12 October 2006

Israeli Ambassador to Russia Arkady Mil-Man says that grassroots anti-Semitism in the country is a social reason for Alexander Koptsev’s attack on people in the Moscow synagogue.

‘Grassroots anti-Semitism is still to be seen in the new Russia. Koptsev’s crime demonstrated this phenomenon,’ the Ambassador said in his interview to Interfax.

He regrets that law enforcement agencies ‘do not always take effective measures’ to combat this phenomenon. The diplomat thinks that these measures may include sequestration of publications of ‘blatant anti-Semitic nature openly sold in Moscow.’

Mil-Man remarked that the most important thing is that Russia is lacking the notion of the state anti-Semitism. ‘The new Russia has not left behind the state anti-Semitism that had existed both in the Imperial and Soviet Russia,’ the interviewee underscored.

On September 15, the Moscow City Court found Koptsev guilty on charges of fomenting ethnic and religious hatred and attempted murder of two and more persons and sentenced him to sixteen years in a strict regime colony. Nine persons were injured because of his attack on 11 January 2006. (posted 12 october 2006)

Interfax, 11 October 2006

The condition of Jews in Russia has improved and Russian-Israeli economic and cultural relations have expanded, Russia's Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar said.

"Russia and Israel have developed close economic relations in various areas - from telecommunications to gas, and from high technology to agriculture," Lazar said in a statement circulated by his press service on Wednesday.

Hundreds of Israeli businessmen are freely investing in Russia, and about as many Russian businessmen are freely working on the Israeli market, Lazar said. The two countries' special services are also cooperating actively, he said.

"We remember that only about twenty years ago that, in the eyes of Jews in Israel and the rest of the world, the USSR was above all a sponsor of radical Arab regimes and organizations, which were seeking to eliminate the Jewish state. Everybody knew that Israel was waging wars for its existence not only against Arab counties but also against Soviet weapons, military advisors, and special services," he said.

When Jews were leaving the USSR for Israel, they all thought they were doing so forever, "there would be no ties, and if so, why build a Jewish community [in the USSR] and why set up an infrastructure for it!" Lazar said.

"Now a Jew can live in Russia and lead a Jewish life, observe all commandments, and eat kosher food. Nobody is limiting them - on the contrary, their neighbors respect their special traditions just as much as they respect traditions of the Russian people and other peoples living in Russia," the chief rabbi said. (posted 12 October 2006)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Critic of church in court

Interfax, 10 October 2006

The Preobrazhensky district court of Moscow began on Tuesday the review of the substance of the suit by journalist Sergei Bychkov against the vice-chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow patriarchate, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin.

During the hearing, testimony from three witnesses for the defendant were heard:  Archpriest Boris Razveev, soviet dissident Alexander Orogodnikov, and Professor Alexander Dvorkin of the Moscow St. Tikhon's Orthodox University.

"We may conclude that not a single one of the claims of the plaintiff was supported in today's judicial investigation," the attorney for Fr Vsevolod, Mikhail Kuznetsov, told journalists after the session.

He reported that the next session will be held 24 November because the plaintiff filed a petition for questioning witnesses for his side, and the court, on its own initiative, decided to summon to the session a representative of one of the Russian radio stations, "to the extent that the interests of a third person (the radio station) may be affected by the court's decision."

For his part, Fr Vsevolod told reporters that "one can fight against a lie only with the truth, the truth of what this man (Sergei Bychkov) has done.  He has exploited fears to a great extent and he has threatened many people with writing dirty and false articles about them," the priest noted.  He said that, unfortunately, people fear this journalist and the "chief result of the trial" will be that "nobody will refear Mr. Bychkov any more."

On his part, attorney for the plaintiff, Mikhail Voronin, noted that the "confusion, chance, and emotional outbursts" are obvious.  "Father Vsevolod is a very intelligent man and everybody has a right to his own position. The main point is that people should reach mutual understanding and then we will build civil society," the attorney said.

During the session representatives of the Orthodox student population of Moscow distributed in the courtroom pamphlets which said, in particular:  "we are deeply disturbed by the overtly anti-church position of several slanderous articles and by the very fact of the discrediting of democratic values by the idea of freedom of speech."

The writers of the pamphlets are concerned that the plaintiff, in their opinion, tries in his articles "to denigrate Orthodoxy by striking a blow against those who, out of Christian humility, never give public answer to an outright lie." (tr. by PDS, posted 10 October 2006)

Interfax, 14 September 2006

The Preobrazhensky District Court in Moscow will have a preliminary hearing of journalist Sergey Bychkov’s suit against Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, vice-chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s department for external church relations, at 15:00 on September 25.

As Father Vsevolod explained to journalists on Thursday, it will be a judge’s preliminary talk with the parties behind closed doors to be followed by open sessions to consider the case on its merit.

Late last July, the priest subjected Bychkov to strong criticism for his regular articles about the Russian Orthodox Church as scandalous, discrediting and provoking utterly negative responses among the faithful.

Father Vsevolod believes ‘one should not hesitate to tell the truth about his man (Bychkov - IF) considering the lies he keeps circulating in his articles’ and ‘publishing only gossip, foul things and falsehood about the Church to solve his inner intricate problems’.

Bychkov, on his part, denied all the accusations brought against him by the priest, considering them to be ‘slander’.

Commenting on the upcoming hearing in court, Father Vsevolod has stated today that ‘Mr. Bychkov commits political suicide by letting a court consider his nightmarish past and his so-called journalism’.

‘I am glad that he has nowhere to retreat now. I am sorry for you, Mr. Bychkov. What you have tried to avoid and conceal all your life will finally become a subject of public discussion. People should know the truth about you’, the priest said.

Meanwhile, his opponent has refused to tell Interfax what he feels about the upcoming court hearing. ‘Never call me again. All the best to you’, Bychkov said in a telephone talk. (posted 10 October 2006)

By Peter Sergeev
Moskovskii Komsomolets, 27 September 2006

At the beginning of the week the first hearing was held in Preobrazhensky court on the suit for the defense of the honor and dignity of Moskovskii Komsomolets journalist Sergei Bychkov against the priest Vsevolod Chaplin. On air with "Echo of Moscow" radio Chaplin called the MK journalist "an insane denunciator."  With this recent event the extreme foolishness of Mr. Chaplin has exceeded all bounds. On Friday, on air in the ATV program, he called the priest Mikhail Ardov "a member of the pedophile sect."

On the eve of the judicial hearings, the Orthodox guild of reporters issued an extremely rational judgment:  "One hears the opinion that journalists supposedly do not have the right to comment upon inner-church life. This is not so. If the church has declared its desire to play a substantial, and ever growing, role in the life of Russian society, then it cannot be closed to the news media. And under the circumstances that the religious factor is playing an ever greater role not only in public life but also in world politics as a whole, the professional requirements of journalism regarding religion expand many times."

At a preliminary hearing, Fr Chaplin arrived in an official black "Volga" accompanied by his attorney and a small group of supporters. For some reason, the attorney did not deliver to the court any documents, although he promised that he will certainly produce them at the next session. Federal Judge Olga Ulianova gave the impression of a calm and restrained professional. The hysteria that has developed on web sites under the control of Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad has still produced no results. And the fact that it is Master Kirill who has inspired his "war elephant" is beyond doubt.

The presence of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the religious forum in Astan in the middle of September again confirmed the accuracy of the MK journalist, who reported the low level of the professionalism of the staff of the Department of External Church Relations of the Russian church. (tr. by PDS, posted 10 October 2006)

Posted on site, 27 September 2006

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Russians favor religion in schools

Interfax, 10 October 2006

More than half (51.7%) of parents surveyed by the independent research company "Bashkirova i partnery," in the course of a study of the opinion of Russians regarding teaching "Foundations of Orthodox Culture," supported the academic subject.

At the same time, 23.6% opposed the study of Foundations while almost a quarter of those surveyed had difficulty answering the question, the company's Internet site reported on Tuesday.

The greatest proportion of supporters of  "Foundations of Orthodox Culture," according to data of the survey, now live in Nizhny Novgorod (60.5%) and Novosibirsk (60%), while the greatest proportion of opponents live in Moscow (28.9%).

The survey conducted by "Bashkirova i partnery" in September 2006 questioned 500 residents of eight large cities of the country aged 18 and older. (tr. by PDS, posted 10 October 2006)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Russia as monoconfessional Orthodox country

Interfax, 10 October 2006

The chairman of the Moscow patriarchate synodal department on relations with the Army and Law Enforcement agencies Archpriest Dimitry Smirnov calls a statement that Russia is a multiconfessional country a myth.

Speaking at the ‘round table’ meeting in the State Duma on Tuesday he said that the mass media are ‘inculcating myths that have no scholarly ground.’

‘For instance, a myth that Russia is a multinational country. UNESCO asserts that if 60% of the population represents one ethnos, it is a mononational country. 84% of people belong to one ethnos in Russia, yet we are told that it is a multinational country,’ the priest remarked.

According to him, statements that Russia is a multiconfessional country are also groundless. Rev. Dimitry said: ‘Let us take a country that is not multinational, for instance, Armenia. The Orthodox, Buddhists, Judaists and even Baptists live there, but no one would ever say that Armenia is a multiconfessional country. They say it only about Russia,’ he added.

He refuted a statement that Russia has allegedly inherited its multiconfessional character from the USSR.

‘Indeed, the USSR was such a country, but half of the population has left Russia, and we are now a mononational and monoconfessional country, as in 1913. Certainly, Muslims, Jews and Buddhists live here. Incidentally, they can be neither offended, nor oppressed according to the Orthodox tradition,’ Rev. Dimitry underscored. (posed 10 October 2006

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Catholic administrator praises Orthodox cooperation


To His Eminence Metropolitan of St. Peersburg and Ladoga Vladimir Kotliarov

Your Eminence

We view the broad representation of the Russian Orthodox church at the plenary Assembly of the Council of Episcopal Conferences of Europe, which was held successfully on 5-8 October at the St. Petersburg "Mary Queen of the Apostles" Advanced Ecclesiastical Seminary, as a clear sign of a substantial "thaw" in Orthodox-Catholic relations.

The forum of hierarchs in St. Petersburg is an official recognition that the small Catholic community in Russia has become sufficiently mature and developed so that it could organize such an important event and actively participate in ecumenical dialogue, which was conducted in an effort at unity of Christians.

The warm and heartfelt greetings from Patriarch Alexis of Moscow and all-Rus, which were read at the forum by the rector of the St. Petersburg Ecclesiastical Schools, Archbishop Konstantin, and the large delegation from the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow patriarchate, headed by Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, and the open discussion of problems and a readiness for cooperation, which at the time of the assembly was manifested by both sides, permit us to hope in reliance on the Lord for a rapid and irreversible improvement in relations between the Russian Orthodox and Catholic churches.

There is no doubt that the service of Your Eminence in this matter was great. We thank you for your openness and honesty in regard to Catholic structures that are functioning on the territory of St. Petersburg and the region, for your attention to our problems, and also for support in this difficult moment and for manifestation of solidarity in the face of the challenges of the contemporary world.

Please be assured of our steadfast prayers for Your Eminence's health and for the granting of God's grace, that is so necessary in your very difficult ministry.

With prayers to the Lord,
Metropolitan Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz

Interfax, 9 October 2006

Monsignor Aldo Giordano, secretary general of the Council of Episcopal Conferences in Europe (CCEE), has stated that Russia needs aid in Christian preaching.

‘Russia certainly has a great tradition of spirituality and a great cultural tradition tied with religion, but on the other hand, Russia has also realized recently what we in the West call the presence of secularism’, he said in an interview to Vatican Radio, which has been published in Russian by the Agnuz Catholic news service.

Therefore, Mgr. Giordano continued, a certain alienation from the Church, ‘a certain ignorance’ with regard to Christianity is felt in Russia. also as a result of the long years of communism.

‘So, it is important to understand that aid is needed here in the field of evangelization and to ask how can we carry on cooperation in this great task’, he said.

Speaking about Russia, the CCEE secretary general also pointed to the need to clarify what authentic evangelization is, ‘what it means to serve the Catholics of this country and, on the contrary, what proselytism understood negatively means’. (posted 9 October 2006)

Interfax, 6 October 2006

The dialogue between the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches is necessary both for them and the contemporary European society, the deputy chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for external church relations archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin is convinced.

‘I am confident that our two Churches need cooperation today. Even more this cooperation is needed by people seeking spiritual truth in many European countries, in the west of the continent in particular,’ Rev. Vsevolod told Interfax in the intermission of the plenary session of the Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (CCEE) being held in the Catholic seminary in St. Petersburg.

He congratulated the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Russia and its president bishop Joseph Wert on the success of the CCEE plenary session in Russia.

‘This assembly is an unexampled one in our country, as so many Catholic hierarchs, eleven cardinals including, never gathered at one place and at one time in Russia,’ Rev. Vsevolod underscored.

He remarked that Russia is experiencing religious revival, which can be also seen in that even more people adhere to church traditions, keep the fast, read religious literature and keep religious symbols and icons at home. He recalled the words of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia: ‘Undoubtedly, elderly women are in minority among the believers today.’

‘We must make this spiritual revival the property of the entire Europe,’ said the representative of the Russian Orthodox Church and added that there are many fields of cooperation between the Orthodox and the Catholics today, for instance, ‘witness about Christian moral values, dialogue with the authorities at the European and national levels, support of the family life and many others.’

According to Rev. Vsevolod, one cannot say that there are no problems in the relations between the two Churches at present. He recalled that these relations ‘arrived at their climax in the 1960-70s, but, unfortunately, retrogressed in the late 1980s and in 1990s.’

‘Certain external religious forces attempted to see the territory of the former Soviet Union as a spiritual desert that may be subjected to their religious influence very soon,’ the Moscow Patriarchate’s representative said.

He added that certain problems had surfaced in Western Ukraine at that time. ‘Nationalistic groups attempted to settle difficult relations between the Orthodox and Greek Catholics by force.’

‘Many Orthodox Christians have been saddened with the behaviour of Catholic missionaries, in particular when children baptized in the Orthodox Church or of the Orthodox background were raised and educated in the Catholic orphanages.’

The similar feelings of the Orthodox are provoked by the situations in which ‘the missionaries treat Orthodox culture and Russian culture as a whole with disdain, saying openly that they would have liked to change the religious and cultural code of the country.’

‘Certainly, the acute problems of the early 1990s are not so tense at present. However, we must exert our efforts so that the believers do not feel pain that may stand in the way of our cooperation,’ the representative of the Moscow Patriarchate said. (posted 9 October 2006)

Interfax, 9 october 2006

Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, deputy head of the Moscow Patriarchate department for external church relations, thanked the Catholic Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, for his clearly-voiced disapproval of the incorrect missionary policy that had been pursued by some Westerners in the 1990s in Russia and Eastern Europe.

During his meeting with Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia on October 2, Cardinal Tettamanzi said in particular that the intensified activity of some Western missionaries at that time did not always looked ‘ecumenically correct’ and sometimes proved even ‘offensive’ for the Russian Orthodox Church, ‘which had historically and continues to have the gift of proclaiming the gospel in this land and the mission of witness in it’, and stated that proselytism today ‘is denounced by many, not only Orthodox Christians but also Catholics’.

‘I would like to express gratitude for so clearly stated a position. Then other high-ranking hierarchs of the Roman Catholic church, expressing the Vatican’s official position on this matter, also stated on numerous occasions that it was not the intention of their Church to carry out mission among the Orthodox wherever they may be’, Father Vsevolod told Interfax on Monday.

He also stressed that in his comments on the Archbishop of Milan’s statements, he proceeded from the theses the archbishop ‘had sent to His Holiness before their meeting’.

‘It is important of course that the details of this attitude should be clarified, and it is my conviction that in this case the matter concerns all those who were baptized in the Orthodox Church and all those who are tied with Orthodoxy by their family and historical roots’, the Moscow Patriarchate spokesman stated.

He also expressed the wish ‘that this official attitude (of a representative of the Roman Catholic Church - IF) be always practiced by the priests and monastics who work in various countries’. (posted 9 October 2006)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Metropolitan compares current Orthodox rifts with 1920s

Mir religii, 9 October 2006

Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad warned of the danger for the life of the Russian nation of attempts to compromise the Orthodox church in the eyes of the people.

"Up to now there have been those who, under the guise of regenerating the church, have been prepared to weaken its life and to compromise the hierarchy in the eyes of the peole and engender internal division," the metropolitan said, in response to letters of TV viewers in one of the recent programs of "Pastor's Word," broadcase on the first channel, Interfax reported today.

According to the metropolitan, today there also are "other 'sages,' who under the guise of special purity of Orthodoxy and a struggle for Orthodoxy are inciting schism," and who are publishing newspapers and distributing them at monasteries, attempting to provoke division within the church.

"On the pages of these newspapers one may read that some bishops are good and others are evil, and that it is necessary to support some and to act against others.  Even under the slogans of struggle for the purity of Orthodoxy, if you are summoned to fight against someone within the church, you must remembers that this one is an enemy," the metropolitan stressed.

In his opinion, "there is no difference between the new false prophets and provocateurs and those who destroyed the unity of the church in the horrible years of the twenties."

In this regard he mentioned the personality of one of the leaders of "renovationism, " "Metropolitan" Alexander Vvedensky who, "in accordance with the orders of the state did whatever he was instructed to do." His chief work, "and not only his, but all the leaders of 'renovationism,'" Metropolitan Kirill said, consisted in proving the "counterrevolutionary" essence of the Orthodox church and clergy, under the leadership of  Patriarch Tikhon.

"In tandem they composed denunciations for GPU, as a result of which bishops, priests, and theologians were arrested and shot. This was not some harmless game within 'renovationism.' This was an attempt at a bloody revolution within the church. Gut is the judge of these people; it is not for us to judge them, but we should know about these horrible deeds," the Orthodox hierarch noted.

He said that "the enemy of humankind" was not trying for either the first or last time through Russian "renovationism" to deal a blow against the unity of the church. "He tried for neither the first nor last time to compromise the church in the eyes of the people and to engender confrontations and weaken church life. These attempts arise occasionally here and there. And our time is no exception," Metropolitan Kirill thinks.

Calling the church the spiritual supporter of Russian, he noted that a split in church unity means a "horrible blow against national life and the weakening of the most important support for our national existence."

However, the metropolitan continued, the Russian Orthodox church, by God's mercy and by the prayers of the martyrs, "including even the 'renovationists' who composed those denunciations, will preserve its unity, responding to provocations from the right and left." (translated by PDS, posted 9 October 2006)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Harassment of Georgian services in Moscow

Interfax, 9 October 2006

Moscow law enforcement services checked the IDs of visitors of the city's St. George Cathedral, which belongs to the Georgian Orthodox Church, on October 7, Mamuka Putkaradze, spokesman for Metropolitan of Tskhum-Abkhazia Daniil, told Interfax.

"A police car was parked outside the church. All people who entered had their ID documents checked, regardless of whether they were citizens of Russia or Georgia. The information contained in the documents was copied," he said.

Two church choir singers were detained ahead of the religious service, "although they had valid documents and one-year invitations," Putkaradze said. "The choir is made up mostly of Georgian citizens. Religious services are conducted in the Georgian language," he said.

"They were not released until the church's clergy stepped in. As a result, the service started 40 minutes late. The church's senior priest, Father Fyodor Krechetov, called the Presnenskoye interior affairs department and asked them to remove the picket. However, police units could be seen even on Sunday. But no ID checks were conducted," he said.

The church was due to host a funeral service, but the deceased's relatives, having learned of the ID checks, "said they did not want to endanger people who would attend the service," Putkaradze said.  (posted 9 October 2006)

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