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Russia Religion News Current News Items

Catholics face difficulties in building church

Interfax-Religiia, 5 October 2011

The head of the Catholic archdiocese in Moscow, Paolo Pezzi, expressed concern that on 20 September the authorities of Pskov denied the local Catholic parish of the Holy Trinity a renewal of permission for construction of a church building.

"The reason given was a violation of the standards of the city construction code of the Russian federation, according to which an extension should be denied in the event that construction work has not begun before the expiration of the previous permit," P. Pezzi said in his statement, a copy of which was obtained by Interfax-Religiia on Wednesday.

He thinks that such a reason evokes "extreme amazement with respect to the construction which has been going on for more than ten years now."

"Previously the parish was not able to get from the authorities an answer regarding the status of the plot of land on which the construction is being conducted. The local Catholic parish has been hopefully awaiting completion of the building," the statement says.

According to the archbishop, through the selfless labor of the rector of the parish, with help from numerous donors and efforts of parishioners, a parish house has already been erected and put into service, which constitutes a single ensemble with the church building.

"However now the future of both the church and the parish house have been called into question. One should have in mind that the parish in its time consented to constructing a new church building, although there are legal bases for laying claim to a historic building of a Catholic church that was consecrated in 1857," he noted.

He pointed out that not only among Catholics but also in Russian society as a whole "these events can create an impression of deliberate discrimination against the Catholic community of Pskov," and the archbishop called the authorities of Pskov and Pskov province "to cooperate in achieving a just resolution to this matter." (tr. by PDS, posted 5 October 2011)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Jehovah's Witness' defense in Siberian trial


The next regular session of the criminal trial of the leader of the local Jehovah's Witnesses congregation, Alexander Kalistratov, began on 3 October in the Gornyi Altai city court, the press service of the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia reports. In the upcoming working week it is proposed to finish questioning witnesses for the defense and presenting evidence of Kalistratov's innocence.

In the first half of the day on Monday, 3 October, the court heard testimony from Yaroslav Sivulskii, a member of the Directing Committee of the centralized religious organization "Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia," whose structure includes both the local religious organization of Gornyi Altai Jehovah's Witnesses and also religious groups in the Altai republic. Sivulskii described the structure of the Jehovah's Witnesses organization.  

He reported that when a court issued a decision finding 52 Jehovah's Witnesses' publications "extremist materials," the Administrative Center sent to local religious organizations as well as religious groups a letter containing the list of this literature. The list was read from the pulpit and posted on the bulletin board in every Jehovah's Witnesses' house of worship.

"Unfortunately, because of shortcomings in the law on combating extremism, massive violations of human rights have occurred in Russia. Peace-loving citizens have been illegally accused of inciting hatred," Sivulskii noted.

After the lunch break, in accordance with a defense motion, Aleksei Evgenevich Nagovitsyn, a Ph.D. and kandidat of Psychology, was questioned. As a specialist, Nagovitsyn analyzed the texts of the expert analysis that had found indicators of "extremism" in Jehovah's Witnesses' literature and pointed out in them a number of methodological errors and unscientific discussion and conclusions.

On 5 October the examination of the literature for whose proposed distribution Kalistratov is being tried continued. It turned out that a majority of the articles for whose distribution the defendant is on trial are autobiographies of Kalistratov's fellow believers in various countries of the world. In addition, the court's attention was called to the fact that several expressions interpreted by the prosecution as inciting inter-religious strife are either quotations from the Bible or paraphrases. "To charge someone as guilty of quoting from a permitted publication is incorrect and unscientific," Nagovitsyn indicated. (tr. by PDS, posted 5 October 2011)

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Jehovah's Witness wins court appeal

SOVA, 30 September 2011

It was learned on 28 September 2011 that a Vologda provincial court on 30 August 2011 ruled that the arrest of a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses congregation by police officers was illegal.

We recall that in September 2010 Nadezhda Vshivkova was arrested by police officers while she was witnessing. The woman refused to get into the police vehicle, which resulted in the opening of an administrative case on article 19.3 of the Code of Administrative Procedure (Disobeying a legal order of police officer).

The municipal judge sentenced N. Vshivkova to a fine and a district court supported this decision. However the provincial court found that "the orders of the police officer to get into the service vehicle for investigation were not based on the law." (tr. by PDS, posted 5 October 2011)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Moscow patriarch not welcomed in Ukraine

Head of RPTsMP completes first visit to western Ukraine
by Vladimir Adamenko, Elia Vermisheva, 3 October 2011

The first visit by Patriarch Kirill to western Ukraine has been completed. The Head of RPTs visited Chernovtsy, where he consecrated a monastery and disabled children's home. The president of Ukraine and the metropolitan of Kiev did not arrive to meet the primate of RPTs.

On Sunday the visit by the head of RPTs, Patrtiarch Kirill, to western Ukraine was completed. During the two-day trip the primate of RPTs visited the Chernovitsy diocesan administration, conducted an all-night vigil in the cathedral church of the Holy Spirit, consecrated the Trinity cathedral of the Bancheni Ascension monastery and a home for disabled children. Chernovtsy province of Ukraine is a special region, different from the rest of western Ukraine. Orthodoxy has been maintained here and there are more parishes of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate (UPTsMP) than other Orthodox and Greek Catholic parishes combined. While UPTsMP has 412 parishes, UPTsKP has 154, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAPTs) has 4, and there is a total of 25 Greek Catholic parishes.

The official purpose of the visit was the consecration of the Trinity cathedral of the Bancheni Ascension monastery. The head of the monastery, Hegumen Longin, is a man who is well known throughout Ukraine. He created a unique children's shelter where more than 200 children abandoned by their parents are being trained. There are patients with cerebral palsy and HIV infection. At first the priest adopted the children himself and later he built several buildings for them. The Ukrainian and Russian press has written about Father Longin (before he became a monk his name was Mikhail) and dozens of television stories and a documentary film have been made about his orphanage; he has been awarded the title Hero of Ukraine.

At the time of his visit Kirill bestowed church awards on officials and entrepreneurs who have helped Hegumen Longin build the children's home in the monastery. He decorated the gas tycoon Dmitry Firtash and Fuel and Energy Minister of Ukraine Yury Boiko with the order of Seraphim of Serov for this help.

It had been thought that President Viktor Yanukovich and Metropolitan of Kiev Vladimir would come to Chernovtsy. But neither did.

Yanukovich cited his busy schedule. Metropolitan Vladimir was not able to come because of the state of his health: the head of UPTs has suffered from Parkinson's disease for many years and he recently suffered a serious injury, a broken neck.

This was the first visit by the patriarch to western Ukraine, but he has been in the country five times in a year. In 2009 he had to cancel his trip to the west  Ukrainian city of Rovno at the last minute on the insistence of Ukrainian authorities who said that they could not guarantee the security of the head of RPTs.

This time, despite the absence of a clear political subtext of the visit, the arrival of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church also evoked protests. Several days before the patriarch's arrival, the site of the Religious Informational Service of Ukraine published an interview with Metropolitan Daniil, the local bishop in Chernovtsy of the Kiev patriarchate. The cleric stated that "there is nothing for the Russian patriarch" in Ukraine, adding that "Ukraine is the canonical territory of Constantinople, not Moscow." He quoted several other Ukrainian news media. Then there appeared statements of the "Freedom" party, known for its anti-Moscow position. Party members put up billboards in Chernovtsy with Kirill's photograph and the inscription "Bukovina meets its patriarch." "We remind you"—an appeal of the Freedom party addressed to the provincial administration says—"that Ukraine is an independent and sovereign state and Bukovina is an inseparable part of Ukraine and not an enclave of the Russian state, whose Orthodox church Patriarch Kirill heads." Similar statements are repeated every time Kirill comes to Ukraine. (tr. by PDS, posted 4 October 2011)

Russian original posted on site, 3 October 2011

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Government to pay for church repairs

Interfax-Religiia, 3 October 2011

Before the end of the year capital authorities will complete repair and restoration work on two objects of the cultural heritage with federal significance, the churches of John the Theologian under the Elm and of St. Nicholas in Khamovniki.

Information on conduct of an open competition for this kind of work is posted on the state procurement Web site.

For repair and restoration of the facades and roof of the church of John the Theologian under the Elm, which was built in 1825-1837 in the empire style, 38 million rubles have been allocated from the capital budget. For repair and restoration of the church of St. Nicholas in Khamovniki, which was built in 1679-1682 in baroque style, 24.8 million rubles have been set aside in the city budget.

According to the technical specifications, in the church of St. Nicholas on Timur Frunze street, it is proposed to carry out restoration of the roof coverings, decorative plasters, and stucco works, decorative paint, gilded items of all kinds, and to reinforce the surrounding construction and stonework.

In accordance with the condition of the competition, all work on the monuments of cultural heritage must be completed within two months, that is, before the end of 2011.  (tr. by PDS, posted  4 October 2011)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Baptist leader criticizes Putin and Medvedev

by Mikhail Nevolin, 1 October 2011

Recently there appeared on the Internet an interview with the former president of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, Pastor Yury Sipko, where he rather boldly expressed his opinion about recent events in the country, namely, about the nomination of Vladimir Putin as candidate for the presidency.

I completely agree with some of the things Yury Kirillovich said, and hardly agree with other things. I agree that the situation in the country is grave and there are plenty of problems. I completely agree that there is nothing good in a country where, as representatives of authority declare, there is no real alternative to the person who has been in power for so long. I agree that the level of corruption in our country has gone through the roof and to a great extent this should indicate the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the authorities. And the fact that there has arisen in the country practically a one-party system also cannot but disturb us.

But I do not very much like the form and style of some of the expressions in the interview, considering that they are coming from the lips of a minister. For example, the words "both fellows of the tandem" are hardly fitting when one is talking about the president and prime minister of the country. I think that Yury Kirillovich himself would not be very pleased if someone referred to him in such a way'—"this fellow of the Baptists."

In my view, what happens in some institution of the country (whether it is an institution of government, political parties, or churches) to a great extent is a reflection of what exists in the society. Is it really so unique what happens in the upper echelons of the government or the ruling party? Isn't there something similar with those who are in opposition? Don't we observe something similar when one and the same people have been in the leadership for decades? Doesn't something similar happen in religious organizations when the leader might be ready, in his words, to resign his position in which he has working many years but, unfortunately, there also "is no alternative"? Isn't it strange when it turns out that friends or relatives of leaders are those to whom key posts or financial tides go?

Yury Sipko stated what he thought. I can agree with some and dispute some things, but in any case this was a courageous act which evokes respect. It would be much easier to remain silent, when sharp questions are raised in an interview, or to confine oneself to quite general phrases. When you express your point of view you understand that there will be many critics. Including from your own side. So I say thank you again to Yury Sipko for his courage.

Of course, the church should be outside of politics, but that does not mean that Christians, as citizens of their country, cannot express their point of view. I think that one should not be afraid to criticize the authorities when their actions seem mistaken or to express one's support in the opposite case. Both require courage and both will always be criticized. So it seems that in any case one must pray. (tr. by PDS, posted 3 October 2011)

Russian original posted on site, 3 October 2011

Interview with former president of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, Pastor Yury Sipko
by Vladimir Oivin, 28 September 2011  How do you feel about the nomination of Vladimir Putin as candidate for the presidency of the Russian federation?

Yury Sipko:  It's the theatre of the absurd.  One recalls the lines:  "The throne is vacant. Faith has departed. In parliament there is uninterrupted performance. And the performers themselves are messengers from Satan's kingdom." Better are the words of sacred scripture:  "We all growl like bears; we moan like doves; we look for justice, but find none; for salvation, but it is far from us. For our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us; Our offenses are ever with us and we know our iniquities. Rebellion and treachery against the Lord, turning our backs on our God, fomenting oppression and revolt, uttering lies our hearts have conceived. So justice is driven back and righteousness stands at a distance, truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found. The Lord saw this and was displeased that there was no justice" (Is. 59.11-15). It gives a bitter feeling that these people are lawyers, as they themselves often remind us, and they do not understand what a pathetic scene they present. Such is our jurisprudence.

A leader of the nation that has nowhere to go—it's theatre. Indeed, there is only one clear path for the nation—exodus, flight from the motherland. Some go abroad with their last hope and some who have no hope go to hell, because we are dying out under the leadership of a wise national leader.  Morbid narcissism. Self-conceit. A picture with pots. "The sixth age." All the force of the unlimited power of the president was aimed at promoting and preserving this image of the infallible, omniscient, omnipotent, ageless and immortal divine incarnation.

Hence the fear and the main motivation. After all, one must die. And one must give an answer. From fear, all the fuss about distributing money to the moribund state corporations. From fear, support for friends like the leader of Iran. From fear, supporting the doomed president of Syria who suppresses his own people with tanks. And the suffering Syrian rebels are burning Russian flags and our noble press is silent about this.

Putin's and Medvedev's problem is lying as the main means of control. Of course, they are the product of their own time and they were trained by the lying, atheistic system, in which falsehood was the cornerstone. This system hated the truth and it drove it out of the country, and everyone who was not driven out rotted behind the walls of the GULAG.  Here are the words of our respected man from St. Petersburg:  "Only scoundrels lie" (F.M. Dostoevskii). Or one not from St. Petersburg, but also respected:  "The one who cannot lie is free" (A. Camus).  No comments are necessary.

--Had you hoped that Medvedev would seek a second term?

--I feel a little sorry for Medvedev. I always feel sorry for weak persons and those who are offended. Indeed, how could one not regret it! He did not conduct a single session independently. He is always under the watchful eye of Surkov. And the role of guardian of the throne, even with the rank of president, is a very pitiful role. And real pain is still awaiting him. You have seen how this pain from the realization of his humiliation erupted in attacks on Kudrin. The person who maintains that he holds power in his hands until May of next year has already lost the respect of those who tried to respect him.  I tried.

The fact that Medvedev must inevitably surrender his post is not in itself humiliating. If he would say publicly:  "The system of government is so flawed, corruption is so omnipotent, that all my attempts to let fresh air into the stifling regime came to naught. I am sorry. But I will depart. I do not have the power to change anything."  And he would be loved. But he said cynically:  "We agreed long ago. From the very start."  They have been lying for a long time to me and to everybody. They both lied. An immoral man cannot lead the state. Both fellows of this tandem have lost the right to rule.

For me, as a Christian, the worst thing is that they both, along with their entire entourage, go to church. They hold candles. They make the sign of the cross. They kiss icons. They genuflect. And the ministers of the church who are supposed to denounce sin and not admit sinners to communion are also deceived. The delight of those who feed from this kitchen is also immoral. The ones who are doing the feeding are immoral. Lying is destructive. Lying destroys the individual. "Idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake burning with sulfur" (Rev. 21.8).

I only recall Ella Pamfilova. She is the only person who was unable to live by the lie and she left office To her credit.

--What changes do you expect from this decision by the "tandem"?

--What lies ahead? I am afraid that we've already reached the point of no return. The national leader says "Beat them over the head with a club,"—he's talking about citizens of Russia who have committed no crime but simply tried to say that they feel uncomfortable at home in their own country. Not a single public organization has responded. The prosecutor's office threatened incitement of hatred and the result was the "electrification of the whole country," everybody turned on the lights. But it turns out that this was what the design was. It's so bitter. The crisis that the whole world is experiencing can be solved by the whole world. And we are assured of "unanimous indifference," that the oil and gas will last for our century. That means the money will last. And if it doesn't, we will raise the prices. And by that time there will barely be 100 million Russians. Whoever does not die will depart. It's a pity. "Man does not live by bread alone."

Actually, I believe that Pushkin's words "Russia will arise from sleep. . ." are coming true. As I understand it, this sleep is a pagan conflagration of living by lying and drunkenness, neglecting God's law and neglecting human rights and freedoms. The image of God has been reduced to the image of a worthless and meaningless lifeless bioproduct. The soul without bread—God's Word—will perish. We all need to repent. I believe in God's mercy.  "Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces, but he will heal us; he has injured us, but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. Let us acknowledge the Lord. As surely as the sun rises he will appear; he will come to us like the rain, like the latter rain that waters the land" (Hos. 6.1-3).

We await the second coming of the Lord for the church and we wish, we pray, that the peoples of Russia will turn to God and obtain salvation and eternal life. (tr. by PDS, posted 3 October 2011)

Russia Religion News Current News Items
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