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Ukrainian politicians attend Christmas services

Interfax-Religiia, 7 January 2011

On the holiday of the Nativity of Christ, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich expressed confidence that the Ukrainian people, having been united, will overcome all difficulties.  "I believe first of all in our own strengths and that united together we will overcome everything. Such strengths have been given to us by the Lord," he said in the Holy Dormition cathedral of the Pochaev lavra after the Christmas liturgy.

V. Yanukovich recalled that this year Ukraine celebrates the twentieth anniversary of independence. He said that these years were difficult for every person and for every family, "irrespective of who attends which church."

"The last five years were the most difficult because discord and frustration never bring good to a country and society. The world crisis added to the bitterness of the situation. I cannot say anything about this because we must overcome it together. The Lord teaches us: only by good deeds is it possible to achieve the improvement of life and to build a strong country," the president emphasized.

"Only together, with faith, with love, are we able united to overcome the challenges of fate and to pass through trials, which the Lord has sent to us on this path," V. Yanukovich is sure.

The president of Ukraine wished for everybody to live in accordance with God's laws and to perform good deeds.

The abbot of the lavra, Archbishop Vladimir, presented V. Yanukovich a Pochaev icon of the Theotokos. In his turn, the president of Ukraine donated to the lavra a set of church silverware.

The Christmas liturgy at Pochaev lavra was attended also by the speaker of the Supreme Soviet, Vladimir Litvin; the minister of justice, Alexander Lavrinovich; the minister of culture, Mikhail Kuliniak; and the artistic director of the Franko Theatre, Bogdan Stupka.

In their turn Ukrainian Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov and the head of the Kiev city administration, Alexander Popov, attended Christmas services at the refectory church of the Kievan caves lavra. (tr. by PDS, posted 7 January 2011)

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Russian leaders observe Orthodox Christmas Eve vigil


Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin arrived in the night of 7 January for Christmas divine worship in the church of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos located in the village of Turginovo in Tver province, near to where Putin's ancestors lived since the 17th century. The head of government took his place among other parishioners in the church, RIA Novosti reports.

Puten was dressed in a sweater which, as the government press service explained, had been presented to him by a resident of the village of Verkhniaia Vereia. Several times the premier has been in this village, which was completely burned out from the summer fires and then was rebuilt.

After the Christmas service Putin chatted with the rector of the church, who described for him the restoration work that was done in the church three years ago. The work was carried out with, inter alia, personal funds from the head of the Russian government that were donated to the church.

The premier presented the rector an icon of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos, the work of an unknown master dated to the beginning of the 19th century.

The head of government also conversed with parishioners and extended to them holiday greetings.

Original sources mention a wooden church in the village of Turginovo in the first half of the 17th century. The first stone church appeared on this site in approximately the middle of the 18th century. In 1911 Putin's future parents were baptized here, who were natives of these parts and lived in surrounding villages, of which there is evidence in confessional records found in the archives of Tver province. In the village there also is an old cemetery where Putin's grandmother, Elizaveta Alekseevna Shelomova, is buried. (tr. by PDS, posted 7 January 2011)

Interfax-Religiia, 6 January 2011

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev arrived at the cathedral of Christ the Savior for the nighttime Christmas service that was being performed by Patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus Kirill.

The head of state arrived at the main cathedral of the country along with his spouse after the conclusion of the first part of the service, Christmas Matins, by the time of the beginning of the holiday liturgy.

On days of major church holidays D. Medvedev always attends divine worship. When he was still in the post of first vice-premier and head of the administration of the Kremlin, he most often attended the chief church of the country on Nativity and Pascha. Last year and the year before the president also attended the Christmas service in the cathedral of Christ the Savior. (tr. by PDS, posted 7 January 2011)


Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus Kirill exchanged Christmas presents in the night of 7 January in the altar area of the Moscow church of Christ the Savior, the press service of the patriarch reports.

The patriarch presented the Russian leader a mother of pearl manger from the Holy Land. The president in his turn presented the primate of RPTsMP a picture of the Nativity of Christ and a bouquet of flowers.

Medvedev also expressed to Russians greetings for the upcoming holiday on his Twitter account.  "S Rozhdestvom Khristovym!" wrote the president. (tr. by PDS, posted 7 January 2011)

Russia moves to implement return of religious property

Interfax-Religiia, 6 January 2011

State Duma President Boris Gryzlov called governmental agencies to approach carefully the implementation of the law on transfer of property of religious significance and promised that the deputies will keep track of this.

"I also call the executive authorities at all levels to approach the implementation of the law attentively. The process of transfer should be transparent and civilized," B. Gryzlov said to reporters on Thursday.

He recalled that the law was adopted at the end of last year. The document defines a single procedure for transfer of state and municipal property of religious significance to the ownership of religious organizations. In Gryzlov's opinion, implementation of the law will permit religious organizations and believers to reclaim their sacred sites.

"At the same time, implementation of the law should not worsen the condition of those who occupied those buildings before their transfer. The deputies will keep track of this attentively," the speaker of the State Duma emphasized.

As B. Gryzlov noted, while it was still a draft the document evoked great response. According to the speaker, for five months deputies and experts discussed in detail its provisions and sought to respect the positions of all sides to the maximum extent.

"Special attention was given to questions of protection of institutions, enterprises, and cultural organizations, and of provision for them of equally valuable space.  The law regulates matters of the arrangement of access to buildings and premises which a religious organization receives, and also to the maintenance of the property, protection of renters, and protection of residents who reside in the transferred premises conditionally," Gryzlov said.

Now, he said, the basic attention should be concentrated on implementation of the law, especially the part of the preservation of objects of culture.

There are in Russia about 16,000 monuments of culture that have something to do with religion, the speaker said, expressing the opinion that "the state and religious organizations are equally interested in preserving monuments, because they are part of our history and of our great culture."  (tr. by PDS, posted 6 January 2011)

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Russia faces demographic crisis


Archbishop Ioann provided in his address to the diocesan congress on 3 January information about the performance and dissolution of church marriages in Belgorod diocese of RPTsMP, a correspondent reports, citing a television program about the work of the congress of Belgorod clergy made by the "Prosvetitel" studio of the Belgorod Missionary Seminary.

At the same time, the number of baptisms of children under the age of one year has remained the same for several years, higher than 90%. Last year in Belgorod province 18,000 newborns came into the world.

According to data from November 2010, in 2010 the numbers of marriages and divorces in Belgorod region were equal at 6030. The bishop called these numbers "alarming" and he noted especially that they "speak most clearly of a certain crisis of the family as the foundation of our society."

The decline from 30% to 9% of the number of church marriages throughout the diocese, Archbishop Ioann said, "on one hand speaks of the responsibility" of those who decide to marry in the church as some "passing fashion." On the other hand, as the chief evangelist of RPTsMP noted, "the general background of the development of social life in the country is such that people more often than not try not to take responsibility onto themselves."

In the diocese there were 349 requests for dissolution of a church marriage (the speaker did not specify the period involved) and 185, or 53%, of them were granted. "It is clear that here we pay careful attention to the questions, but we do not need to analyze the situation where dissolution of a marriage has already occurred but we need to prevent" the breakup of the family, the bishop declared.

For the record:  By an order of the governor of Belgorod province of 7 July 2010, there began in the region a process of creation of commissions for preventing the breakup of families. The tasks of the commissions include reconciliation of spouses by means of recommendations for the preservation of families. The membership of such commissions includes representatives of ZAGS [Registry of civil acts], custodial institutions, lawyers, psychologists, educators, physicians, and representatives of the RPTsMP diocese.

In December 2010 Governor E. Savchenko announced a proposal for economic stimulus for having several children in Belgorod region and he proposed to test it as a pilot project in the provincial center. In the event of the birth of a third child the family is granted a loan of one million to one million 200 thousand rubles for building a private home. Upon the birth of a fourth child, the loan is cut in half, and a fifth child gives the right to free housing.

The head of Belgorod region thinks that it is better for a woman to give birth and then to abandon the child than to have an abortion. "We have many families who wish to raise such children and we must do everything to assure that birth takes place," "" quoted the head of the region.  (tr. by PDS, posted 6 January 2011)

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Moscow on alert against holiday violence

Authorities fear disorders, 6 January 2011

On the eve of Nativity Moscow police have intensified the protection of churches; a total of about 7,000 police officers have been activated for ensuring order and security, the head of the office of information of the capital's Department of Internal Affairs, Viktor Biriukov, told RIA Novosti.

"The police have taken under special protection 268 functioning monasteries, cathedrals and churches of the capital where divine services will be conducted for the celebration of the Nativity of Christ. Police squads will patrol around every church building; in all, around 7,000 officers have been activated," Biriukov said.

He noted that on 7 January holiday festivities will occur on Tsvetnoi Boulevard. Special attention will be devoted to the security of the territories adjoining the cathedrals of Christ the Savior and the Epiphany and the Novodevichy and St. Daniel's monasteries.

Last year more than 160,000 persons took part in the celebration of the Nativity and in festivities.

Biriukov emphasized that Moscow police will continue to work on emergency status. An operational headquarters has been set up for coordination of the deployed forces, which is headed by the commander of the Moscow OMON [special forces], Viacheslav Khaustov. (tr. by PDS, posted 6 January 2011)

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Temporary Ukrainian church of Moscow patriarchate destroyed

Interfax-Religiia, 4 January 2011

A criminal case has been opened regarding a fire in a tent church of the Ukrainian Orthodox church, which occurred in Chernigov on New Year's Eve, the official site of the regional directorate of the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs reported on Tuesday.

"As a result of the fire, the tent was entirely burned up and things that were in it were damaged. Several persons were on the premises of the tent at the time the fire broke out, none of whom was injured. All necessary expert investigations of the incident have been ordered and a criminal case has been opened on the basis of part 2, article 296 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine ('hooliganism')," the communication from the press service of the provincial government says.

Police officials have requested all residents of Chernigov to report any information about the circumstances of the crime or about persons who aided its occurrence, by telephone: 619-924, 619-952, 619-911 or 102. Confidentiality is guaranteed.

As was reported, this is now the second case of arson of the tent church; the first was committed in April 2008.

There is a large identically named church in the immediate vicinity of the tent church, which was seized by adherents of the self-proclaimed "Kievan patriarchate." In protest against the seizure of the church, its parish has been gathering since 2006 for divine worship in the tent church that was destroyed. (tr. by PDS, posted 6 January 2011)

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State support of church strong in Belgorod province


The 19th congress of the clergy of Belgorod diocese of RPTsMP was held 3 January in the auditorium of the Belgorod city administration, a correspondent reports.

The annual congress of the diocesan clergy, held in accordance with established tradition at the beginning of January, was similar to diocesan meetings. The main item on the agenda of the diocesan forum was the address of the ruling bishop Ioann, summing up the past year and setting out goals for the coming year.

Participants in the work of the diocesan congress included representatives of the provincial and city governments, Governor Evgenii Savchenko; chairman of the provincial duma, Ivan Kulabukov; and Belgorod Mayor Vasilii Potriasaev.

At the present time the diocese has still not published a detailed record of the work of the congress, its summary document, and the transcript of the ruling bishop's address.

Brief information was given by, the web sites of the governor and Belgorod provincial government, the diocesan press service, and the "Prosvetitel" television studio of the Belgorod Missionary Ecclesiastical Seminary of RPTsMP. The sources single out the problems of the family and "spiritual moral" nature as actively discussed at the congress.

In the opinion of Governor Evgenii Savchenko, posted by, "proper training" is "able to virtually eliminate completely" the crisis of the family and to improve the demographic indicators. "It is necessary to start this from early childhood." To achieve this "it is necessary to accustom the children to church." The governor expressed new suggestions for teaching Foundations of Orthodox culture. It was on his initiative that Foundations of Orthodox culture became a required element of the curriculum in Belgorod province from second through eleventh grades since the 2006-2007 academic year (the Belgorod version is called "Orthodox culture"). The head of the region considered it necessary at the present stage to introduce changes in the method of teaching:  "Half of the lessons in Foundations of Orthodox culture should be held outside of the schools, in church buildings and evangelistic field trips."

The governor noted that 2011 is a jubilee year, when the diocese will mark the 100th anniversary of the canonization of one of the saints of the Belgorod region recognized by the Russian church, Bishop Ioasaf. "This is yet another opportunity to raise and resolve new tasks and to devote special attention to the spiritual and moral improvement of Belgorod region," the information on the web site of the governor and government of Belgorod province indicates. This same source extracts parts of the governor's speech pertaining to the work of the division of the World Russian People's Council that was established before the visit to Belgorod by the primate of RPTsMP in May 2010. According to Evgenii Savehenko's understanding, its work "should be so structured as to reach strategically important, considered, spiritual and moral decisions and to devise a vector for conflict-free movement and development."

Regarding the topic of religious education, the ruling bishop and simultaneously chief evangelist of RPTsMP, Archbishop Ioann, expressed a suggestion for the revision of the principles of the work of parish Sunday schools. The Sunday format of work per se "must go," according to the information posted on The bishop proposes to make Sunday schools "accessible" and "open" by merging them with the general educational institutions:  "In conditions of good relations with the general educational institutions, Sunday schools could be held there as elective classes." (tr. by PDS, posted 5 January 2011)

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