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Patriarchal appearance refutes rumors

Mir religii, 2 May 2007

Tuesday morning Pariarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus led the festival divine liturgy in the Pokrov convent of Moscow.  Around 9:15, Moscow time, the patriarch was met at the gates of the cloister by a large crowd of Orthodox believers who greeted the primate of the Russian Orthodox church (RPTs) with the proclamations "Christ is risen" and "Many years."

Against the background of the festive peeling of bells and the singing of the women's convent choir, Alexis II entered the main cathedral of the cloister where the service began.  The cathedral of the Resurrection in Pokrov convent, where Alexis II celebrated the divine liturgy, was unable to accommodate all who wished to enter.

According to reports from RIA Novosti, around 1,000 believers gathered in the church.  About another 2,000 persons worshipped in the yard of the cloister, where the service was broadcast on a large screen.

The patriarch greeted the audience with the joyful paschal proclamation "Christ is risen."

An unusual atmosphere of animation and joy ruled within the convent. At the entrances to the cloister one could catch sight of a multitude of festively dressed people rushing to the service with flowers.  Also in festive robes were dozens of clergy who concelebrated the liturgy with the patriarch.

Before the beginning of the liturgy Alexis II venerated the relics of St. Matrona of Moscow, who is buried in the Pokrov church [church of the Protection of the Virgin] of the monastery.

The line of believers who came to venerate the saint's relics with traditional flowers wound for hundreds of meters beyond the gates of the cloister. Now approximately 3,000 persons were located in the yard of the convent, where those desiring to do so continued to arrive for venerating the relics.

This year, on 2 May, the Russian Orthodox church celebrates the 55th anniversary of the death of St. Matrona of Moscow, whose relics are located in Pokrov monastery.

Matrona Nikonova was born in 1885 in the village of Sebino in Tula province, into a poor family. The girl was blind from birth, but God granted her spiritual vision. From her early years Matrona was acquainted with human intents and sins and she predicted natural and social disasters. Through her prayers people received healings from diseases and consolation in their sorrows, according to the vita of the saint.

In 1925 St. Matrona resettled in Moscow. She would receive up to forty persons as day. Her aid to people was selfless. Matrona prayed for victims and she stressed that it was not she that helped, but God.  St. Matrona died 2 May 1952. According to her vita, before her death she said:  "Everyone, everyone, come to me and tell me about your life and your sorrows and I will see you, listen, and help you."  In the autumn of 2004 the bishops' council of RPTs canonized Matrona of Moscow as a church-wide saint.  (tr. by PDS, posted 2 May 2007)

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Patriarchate continues to answer rumors

Interfax, 1 May 2007

The Russian Orthodox Church has exposed a reason behind rumors on drastic health deterioration of Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and all Russia and is indignant over attempts by a number of journalists to use rumors in their work.

"The Patriarch lives a tense life devoting himself to serving people. He, as well as every one of us, has the right to remain alone and to take care of the health sometimes, several times a year. However, some do not respect the right," Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, deputy head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, told Interfax on Tuesday.

Speaking about origins of rumors, the archpriest said: "Someone from the Russian 'best society' wanted to speak with the patriarch about his problems, as usual the most important in the world; however, he was not allowed. This generated a rumor: if he does not speak with me, things are very bad The rumor was spreading among officials and diplomats for a couple of days, and then thanks to admirers of hot sensations, the rumor got on the Internet," he said.

Then, "a mean and dirty campaign began," the archpriest said. For example, one 'parareligious' website "was posting materials every hour that the unification with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia is under a threat," he said.

"Such publications go as following: dear foreign priests, do not come to Moscow, because chekists in budenovkas and with Mausers will sign a canonic communication act instead of the Patriarch. And of course a famous near-Moscow komsomolets in its declining years began to spread rumors on the health of the Patriarch, distorting statements made by religious figures and materials of various media organizations," he said.

The priest said that the journalist writing such materials was not embarrassed by the fact that representative of the Church came up with "absolutely clear comments."

"The person is unlikely to repent his main sins, lies and attempts to pit religious figures, at a confession, which does not help him," the Archpriest said, recommending the journalist "to ask a psychiatrist for a piece of advice."

"I am certain that there are people among Orthodox doctors, who will help him free of charge. However, should the issue deal with demons, other help is required in this case," he said.

Interfax, 1 May 2007

Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia ‘treated philosophically’ the rumors about his ‘demise’, Sergey Kravets, director of the Orthodox Encyclopedia church research center, told Interfax.

‘I inform you that I am still alive’, these were the words, according to Kravets, with which the patriarch greeted him the day after disturbing news appeared in some mass media.

Alexy II’s first reaction to these rumors was ‘a sincere astonishment at the incompetence of some journalists’, Kravets said adding that ‘the patriarch began to wonder even more why the false report continued to be replicated even after the official refutation’.

‘Significantly, Patriarch Alexy, contrary to what has been reported about him recently, has never undergone coronary artery bypass grafting, nor has he survived an apparent death, though some wrote there were even two of them. In other words, the only truth was that the patriarch’s name is Alexy’, Kravets remarked.

He said on May 1 the patriarch, as was expected, would return to Moscow and already on May 2 his rather tough schedule of divine services and working meetings would begin.

He also shared his opinion that ‘the mass media which put the patriarch into an intensive therapy ward and hastened to ‘bury’ him should apologize to the primate’.

Kravets described the rumors as ‘absolute nonsense’. ‘We will find out if there was a malicious intent. But I would remind my colleagues that they should learn to use the freedom of information they enjoy, not to turn it into a phantom’.

In conclusion, Kravets noted that ‘in popular belief, if a rumor seeks to ‘bury’ a person, it means he will live a long life’. (posted 1 May 2007)

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Churches have little time to comply with auditing law

From Slavic Legal Center

An audit form for religious organizations has been issued by the government of the Russian federation.  Religious organizations are required to submit an account of their activity no later than 1 June 2007.

In accordance with a decree from the government of RF, No. 213 of 10 April 2007, a form has been issued for giving an account of the activity of a religious organization, and information about the leadership and the composition of administrative bodies of a religious organization, expenditure of financial resources by a religious organization and its use of other property, including what has been received from international and foreign organizations, foreign citizens, and persons without citizenship, for the year 2006.

It is now clear that the deadline for submitting these accounts is 1 June 2007 and it will not be postponed any longer. We recall that previously religious associations were required, like all ngo's, to submit a detailed annual accounting of their activity, including persons participating in services and other kinds of events and financial actions.  Leaders of major denominations have noted frequently that this is impermissible interference in their activity.

Even though this document was worked out taking into account the opinions of representatives of religious associations, a number of provisions can be interpreted ambivalently. Thus, for example, it is not quite clear whether an organization must give an account regarding all of the property that it used or only that which was acquired by the organization in the past year. And there are rather many of such provisions.  Considering that only a month and a half remains until the deadline, religious organizations have to figure out urgently the true intent of the authors of the audit form in order that they will not, God forbid, make mistakes in filling it out.  Because then any organization could arbitrarily be accused of violation of legislation and undergo liquidation on that basis.  (tr. by PDS, posted 1 May 2007)

[tr. note:  this audit form was published 18 April 2007 in Rossisskaia gazeta. It is available through the Slavic Legal Center website. The following is a translation of the items that are to be entered into the lines on the form]

1.  Forms of activity in accounting period in accordance with charter
1.1 Basic forms of activity (indicate by check mark)
1.1.1 Conduct of religious rituals, sacraments, and ceremonies
1.1.2 Religious education
1.1.3 Dissemination of religious teachings directly or through mass media
1.1.4 Cultural-educational activity
1.1.5 Distribution of religious items and literature
1.1.6 Pilgrimage
1.1.7 Charitable activity and other activity in sphere of social services
1.2  Other activity  (list)
2.  Sources of acquired property (indicate by check mark)
2.1 Received from Russian legal entities
2.2 Received from foreign legal entities
2.3 Grants, technical or humanitarian aid from foreign states
2.4 Income from manufacturing activity
2.4.1 Commodities, labor, services
2.4.2  Other (list)
2.5  Other acquisitions
3.  Information about expenditures of financial resources, including those received from international and foreign organizations, foreign citizens, and persons without citizenship
3.1 Total expenses for accounting period
3.2 Forms of expenditures of financial resources received from international and foreign organizations, foreign citizens, and persons without citizenship
3.2.1 Expenses for basic activity
3.2.2 Expenses for wages
3.2.3 Expenses for obtaining basic resources
3.2.4 Expenses for construction, repair, and reconstruction
3.2.5 Taxes, duties, and other fees
3.2.6 Other forms of expenditures of financial resources (identify) Humanitarian aid
4.  Information about use of other property acquired from international and foreign organizations, foreign citizens and persons without citizenship
4.1 Basic resources (identify)
4.2 Other property (identify, grouped by type)

Appendix:  information about leadership and staff of administrative bodies of a religious organization (list A)
Accuracy and completeness of information confirmed:
Authorized person of the religious organization appointed (elected) in accordance with charter:

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Orthodox burials for Russian leaders

by Andrei Zolotov, Jr.
Russian Profile, 30 April 2007

The last contribution that Boris Yeltsin made to building a new Russia was that he inadvertently gave the country a new ritual of state funeral. What we all saw on Wednesday was an important step in the formation of a new canon. Future leaders may introduce some changes to it, but the precedent and the frame of reference are now set.

No longer will Russian leaders lie in state at the Hall of Columns of the House of the [Trade] Unions – Moscow’s former Nobility Assembly, where Lenin’s body was first displayed in 1924 and where all subsequent Soviet leaders lay in state. And no longer will they be buried near Lenin’s Mausoleum in Red Square – in the necropolis of the Soviet elite whose future is at present being debated.

Instead, on Wednesday the whole world watched the solemn beauty of the Orthodox Christian burial service, with CNN and BBC commentators using epithets like “grandiose” and “majestic” to describe the proceedings. Everybody has pointed to the fact that the funeral service was taking place in the Christ the Savior Cathedral, which was rebuilt under Boris Yeltsin as a symbol of the extraordinary revival of Russia and the Orthodox Church after the demise of the Communist era.

Similarly to Yeltsin’s own life and rule, the reconstruction of the cathedral was a controversial venture, and far from everyone was happy with it. But today it stands as a monument to our recent history and the desperate attempts to reconnect, however inconsistently, with our non-Soviet past.

“Boris Nikolayevich’s fate reflected the dramatic history of the 20th century,” Patriarch Alexy II wrote in a message read out in the cathedral before the service. Yeltsin felt “the people’s will for a free life” and helped to make it happen, the patriarch wrote, recalling Yeltsin’s kind treatment of the Russian Orthodox Church and his own personal relationship with the former president. “For the first time in more than 100 years, we are sending off the head of the Russian state in a church, with prayer,” he wrote.

Yet, despite their long-standing personal relationship, Patriarch Alexy chose not to interrupt his treatment in Switzerland to give Yeltsin the last blessing. The fact that the head of the Russian Orthodox Church goes several times a year to an unidentified Swiss clinic is never publicly announced, but it is widely known in church circles. He telephoned Yeltsin’s widow, Naina, and sent two official messages. But the funeral itself was led instead by three senior bishops: Metropolitan Yuvenaly, who presided and read the patriarch’s message, and Metropolitans Kirill and Kliment, who are both seen as potential successors to the patriarch.

It is hard to say whether the reason behind the patriarch’s absence was just his state of health and the importance of the ongoing treatment after the exhausting Lenten and Easter services and ahead of the historical reconciliation with the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad scheduled for May 17. Perhaps. But the fact remains that the head of the Russian Orthodox Church was away at a historical moment, when the eyes of the whole world were fixed on his church. Or maybe this decision added a subtle detail to the ritual being formed today – that a funeral conducted personally by the sitting head of the church is reserved only for the royals and possibly a head of state who died in office, not in retirement?

Much has been said about the monarchist instincts of most Russians and the authoritarian character of Yeltsin’s 1993 constitution, which made the Russian presidency more powerful than Tsar Nicholas II was after 1905. Yeltsin himself was rumored to refer to himself as Tsar Boris and was depicted as such by many cartoonists. Interestingly, this monarchist tendency was delicately reflected in the service, too.

While thousands of Russians filed past the casket to pay their respects, the Book of Psalms was read overnight, as befits laymen, over Yeltsin’s coffin by Moscow seminarians – and not the Gospels, as tradition prescribes for priests and the emperor.

But in a layman’s funeral service broadcast worldwide on Wednesday (the last rites for clergy are different), the priests prayed not “for the repose of the soul of Boris, the servant of God,” which would be the case in an ordinary funeral, but, using a formula that sounded odd to the ears of Orthodox Christians, for the “first President of Russia Boris Nikolayevich.” I don’t know if those who prepared the service were thinking about it, but the use of the patronymic form of the name in Russian Orthodox liturgy used to be reserved solely for royalty. That’s how the emperor and his immediate family were commemorated in the liturgy before the revolution – by their name and patronymic. It has never been done since then.

The honor guard and the gun carriage recalled the past funerals of Soviet leaders. But the site was not Red Square, but Novodevichy Cemetery – the country’s most esteemed place of internment, where Nikita Khrushchev was buried in near secrecy in 1971, seven years after he was ousted from the country’s top post. Priests, family members and the sitting president followed the carriage, not Politburo members. And the carriage itself was draped not in Communist red, but in the white-blue-red tricolor of present-day Russia. It was a new ritual, yet a very organic one.

Watching Yeltsin’s funeral, I recalled the only time I saw Boris Nikolayevich up close, at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior on Easter in 1996. It was Easter Vespers, a short festive service in the evening on Easter Sunday, which that year fell on April 14, and was the first service conducted on the main floor of the cathedral just two years after its reconstruction had begun.

The walls were already up, but none of the decorations were in place. Carpets were placed on concrete floors and, amid the immense grey walls and iron rods sticking out, the continuous chant of “Christ is Risen! – Indeed He is Risen!” sounded with particular joy.

For me, it was also the day of my engagement. As my wife-to-be and I were leaving the church, the bodyguards were making way for a giant man with a heap of white hair. He was indeed a head taller than the crowd around him. “Look, Yeltsin!” I told my bride. She couldn’t believe it.

Much has changed in Russia since then – for better and for worse. The cathedral’s interior, reconstructed according to the old designs, shines today with marble, paintings and gilded decor. Two empty thrones are the latest addition – for the tsar and tsarina. And in the middle of it stood the coffin with Yeltsin’s body, covered by the traditional shroud depicting Golgotha and the Russian national flag, brought back by Yeltsin in 1991. The choir intoned “Christ is Risen!” and  “Memory Eternal!” Eternal indeed!  (posted 30 April 2007)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Concern over patriarch's health


Rumors about the death of the head of the Russian Orthodox church, Alexis II, are being spread by the Internet. According to news media information, the patriarch experienced two clinical deaths and expired on Friday in a Swiss clinic.  The patriarchate categorically denied this report; they said in the church that the head of RPTs is in Switzerland for scheduled treatment and will soon return to Moscow.

On Friday, soon after the report of the death of Mstislav Rostropovich, the Russian internet carried a report that Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus had died in a Swiss clinic. Blogs reported even the time of death, 15:35 Moscow time. It was also reported that the church will not make this news public earlier that Saturday. Soon information appeared on several news sites on the internet. A bit later reports appeared in news media that Alexis II had not died on Friday, but had experienced clinical death twice and is in critical condition.

The Moscow patriarchate categorically denied reports of Alexis II's death as well as of his critical condition.

The patriarchate expressed surprise that "such information has appeared from somewhere."  "Recently the patriarch confirmed the schedule for events following divine liturgy on the next day," Vladimir Vigiliansky, director of Moscow patriarchate press service, told

In fact, the head of RPTs left some time back for scheduled treatment in Switzerland. According to's source, persons accompanying the patriarch reported that the head of RPTs is alive. They said that they were astonished when people began calling them Friday morning from Russia and persistently inquired about the state of Alexis II's health.

Somewhat later ITAR-TASS news agency, citing the patriarchate's information, reported that on Friday Alexis II called his aides and confirmed that he intends to return to Moscow on 1 May.

According to schedule, on 2 May he is supposed to conduct divine liturgy in the Pokrov monastery in Moscow on the occasion of the 55th anniversary of the death of St. Matrona of Moscow. On 5 May the patriarch is scheduled to celebrate the divine liturgy, a prayer service, and a requiem on the day of the Synaxis of the New Martyrs of Butovo Prison at Butovo Polygon.

Almost simultaneously with these assurances information appeared on news services that the patriarch had expressed condolences upon the death of musician Mstislav Rostropovich.

Reports about problems with the patriarch's health have appeared in news media for a long time. The patriarch has suffered from heart disease and has had several heart attacks. Information appeared in the press that he lost consciousness several times in public during trips abroad.

In October 2002 there was news that when Alexis returned from Switzerland, appearing in recovered health, he inspired the Orthodox community. During a visit to Astrakhan to mark the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the local diocese, the patriarch felt ill and was hospitalized for recovery in a local hospital. The next day Alexis was transferred to a clinic in Moscow. At first it was thought that His Holiness had experienced a crisis of hypertension, but later it was reported that Alexis II had undergone a minor heart attack, which led to problems with a brain hemorrhage.

In the first half of 2003 the patriarch was hospitalized twice. According to official information, that was for a cold. Doctors then gave assurances that there was no reason for concern about the patriarch's health. It later became known that in April Alexis ii had suffered a serious case of flu, complicated by bronchitis.

Following that illness the patriarch seldom conducted services and he was even unable to attend the Paskha evening service.

In the summer of 2004, it was reported, Alexis II had a stint inserted into his aorta at a German clinic. After ceremonies connected with the return of the Tikhvin Mother of God icon to the motherland, Alexis felt sick and was immediately hospitalized. The patriarch did not attend the 250th anniversary of St. Serafim of Sarov in Kursk on 20-21 July.

The communications service of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow patriarchate refrained from comment for some time. But in the end it reported that the patriarch suffered heart arrhythmia and needed rehabilitation treatment.

The patriarch's last public appearance was at the time of the Paskha divine liturgy in the church of Christ the Savior. Some news media then reported that the head of RPTs had been ill during the day.

There was concern about the health of the patriarch because of his absence from the funeral of the first president of Russia, Boris Yeltsin, held on 25 April. On the day of Yeltsin's death the patriarchate announced that Alexis II would not interrupt his vacation to return to Moscow.  (tr. by PDS, posted 30 April 2007)

Russian original posted on site of, 28 April 2007

Interfax, 27 April 2007

The entourage of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Alexy II has dismissed rumors alleging that his health has deteriorated.

"The rumors about the deteriorating condition of the Patriarch are untrue. His Holiness is in satisfactory condition," Sergey Kravets, head of the Orthodox Encyclopedia church research center, told Interfax on Friday.

He said the patriarch was on holiday abroad where he is receiving health-improving treatment. "The treatment of the patriarch proceeds successfully and literally several minutes ago he confirmed the schedule of his services for May," he said.

Kravets also said that the patriarch had extended his condolences to the families and friends of Mstislav Rostropovich, the world-famous cellist and conductor, and Kirill Lavrov, theater and film star and artistic director of the Tovstonogov Drama Theater in St. Petersburg, both of whom died on Friday.

In his turn, the Moscow Patriarchate representative reproached some journalists with ‘idle talk’ concerning a deterioration of the patriarch’s health. ‘The rumor about it is no more than an invention on those who seek after sensation. We believe it immoral’, he stressed.

He also noted that ‘the patriarch is staying in contact with his people in Moscow and discuss working matters with them’. (Posted 30 April 2007)


Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus will return to Moscow on Tuesday, 1 May, after a scheduled medical examination and vacation abroad. On the next day, 2 May, he will celebrate the liturgy at the Pokrov convent in Russia's capital.

The directory of the press service of the Moscow patriarchate, Fr Vladimir Vigiliansky, told RIA Novosti, that the wave of unsubstantiated rumors about the critical condition of the patriarch's health that spread on the Internet in recent days is "simply shocking."

"Especially disturbing are those news media reports that appeared even after official rebuttal of the rumors about the illness or even the death of His Holiness and after confirmation of the schedule for his upcoming liturgies," Vigiliansky stressed.

He said that such a news campaign could be viewed as even having evil intent, aimed at interrupting the signing of the Act on Canonical Fellowship between the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia and the Moscow patriarchate. The signing of the historic document is scheduled for 17 May of this year.

As reported earlier, Alexis II's regular vacation included a scheduled medical examination in Switzerland and thus he missed the funeral of Russia's first president, Boris Yeltsin.

Last Friday the patriarch confirmed the schedule of divine liturgies for coming days. On 2 May he will celebrate the divine liturgy at the Pokrov convent on the memorial day and 55th anniversary of the death of St. Matrona of Moscow, whose relics are preserved in the Pokrov cloister.  On Saturday, 5 May, Alexis II will celebrate the divine liturgy and a prayer service and requiem on the Day of the Synaxis of New Martyrs of Butovo. On 6 May, the memorial day of the holy martyr St. George the Conqueror, the patriarch will celebrate the liturgy in the church of St. George in Victory Memorial Park (Poklonnaia gora).  (tr. by PDS, posted 30 April 2007)

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