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St. Petersburg proposal for tsar's burial

Nezavisimaia gazeta, 13 January 1998

Controversy regarding the burial of the tsarist family is acquiring in Russia an ever more political and, consequently, irreconcilable character. The issue is not simply nor so much about the identification of the remains as about who will conduct the funeral and how. In terms of history, the burial of the family of the Russian autocrat that was shot in 1918, as all participants in the controversy understand well, has special significance since it is an essential step toward the state's repentance, an official admission that the entire historical path of Soviet Russia was mistaken. From this come the numerous disputes over the who and how and, chiefly, where of the conduct of this historically important ceremony.

The governor of St. Petersburg, Vladimir Yakovlev, has addressed a letter to Russian President Boris Yeltsin on this matter. "It is suggested that the place of burial should be the resting place of all Russian emperors, the cathedral of the Peter and Paul fortress," Yakovlev maintains. "At the same time, in the chapel of Saint Catherine of the cathedral, the remains of not only Nicholas II but of all the members of his family who were shot, along with their attendants, should be committed to the earth." It is suggested further that practically all of the currently living relatives of the deceased wish for this united place of burial for those who shared the common tragic fate in the last moments of life. Along with this, the governor of St. Petersburg considers, it is necessary "to make this common grave a distinctive place of repentance and reconciliation, irrespective of the social status of those who were murdered."

"July 17, 1998, will mark the eightieth anniversary of the day of the murder of the royal family," Vladimir Yakovlev writes further, "and in this regard it would be appropriate to designate this date the date of the burial."

There is a special question about the procedure of burial and the ceremony itself. It seems that "all the basic preparations for conducting this ceremony in St. Petersburg have been completed. The ritual of burial has been worked out in conjunction with the state heraldry of the Russian presidency."

The proposed ceremony has a completely distinctive character. This is not the burial of a deceased sovereign and members of his family, which would have to be conducted in accordancy with traditional protocol. This is not the burial of one of the members of the imperial family, who died abroad. In the opinion of the commission that worked out this procedure which is both solemn and tragic for Russia, "here there cannot be proposed a ceremonial that blindly copies the burial of emperors and members of the families of the past century. Since we are talking about saints, we cannot divide the ded into categories of grand princes and simple folk, since in this case . . . death united them all and the decades of the repose of their remains do not permit us to separate them." Thus desptie Russian tradition, but in keeping with the historical significance of this fact, all the remains, both members of the royal family and the people who accompanied them should be placed in a single vault. "The remains should be transported to St. Petersburg by train from Ekaterinburg along the route by which the royal family was taken from Tsarskoe Selo on their road to the cross. The date of arrival of the train with the remains should be Repentance Sunday 1998, 1 March. The place of burial will be the chapel of the holy martyr Catherine in the Peter and Paul cathedral in St. Petersburg.

Some time later "the train with the remains, laid in separate caskets or three shrines, which, in our view, would be preferable," the administration of St. Petersburg reports, "will arrive on the day of the burial in Tsarskoe Selo. The funeral cortege, consisting of one or more catafalques will move to St. Petersburg accompanied by an honor guard. Starting at Srednaia Rogatka the entire route of the funeral procession to St. Isaac's cathedral and then to the Peter and Paul fortress will be lined with military personnel and cadets of military schools. The route from Srednaia Rogatka to St. Isaac's will be Moskovskii prospect, Ismailovskii prospect, and Voznesenskii prospect. Upon arrival in the city there will be a canon shot from Peter and Paul fortress. Upon approach to St. Isaac's there will be another salute from the fortress. At St. Isaac's the procession will be met by the president of the Russian federation, patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus, governor of St. Petersburg, and other official persons.

In St. Isaac's there will be a funeral service. At the start of the procession from St. Isaac's there will be another salute from the fortress."

The commission of the administration of St. Petersburg and the state heraldry of the presidence considers that the route from St. Isaac's should go across Hay square and the Admiralty embankment, Palace embankment, Trinity bridge and Trinity square. Entry into the Peter and Paul fortress will be through the gate of Peter. At the west doors of the cathedral the procession again will be met by the president of Russia, patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus, governor of St. Petersburg, and other official persons. And finally the actual "burial in the vault, prepared in the chapel of the holy martyr Catherine, will be accompanied by an artillery salute."

NG has learned that at the present time Vladimir Yakovlev's suggestions are being reviewed by the president of Russia, Boris Yeltsin. (tr. by PDS)

Link to Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii

(posted 14 January 1998)


MOSCOW, Jan 12 (Reuters) - First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, head of a commission dealing with re-burying the remains of Russia's last tsar and his family, said on Monday the way had been cleared for their burial, hopefully this year. ``Experts have carried out enormous work, and now we can solemnly announce that the remains belong to the family of Nicholas II,'' Nemtsov said in remarks broadcast by Russia's NTV commercial television. ``Now no one, even the greatest sceptics, must have no doubts left,'' he added. The tsar and his family were shot in 1918 by Bolshevik revolutionaries in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg. The bones of Nicholas, Empress Alexandra, their children and four servants were dug up near Yekaterinburg, then known as Sverdlovsk, in 1991. Scientists in Russia and abroad have already agreed the remains are genuine. But the Russian Orthodox Church has raised doubts about their authenticity. Authorities in Moscow, St Petersburg and Yekaterinburg are contesting the right to bury the remains. A decision on where the remains will be buried now lies with President Boris Yeltsin. Nemtsov said his commission would meet on January 27 for the last time before it presents all the information and opinions of the tsar's relatives to Yeltsin. ``We will sum up all the data, the opinions of the relatives -- by the way Nicholas II has 200 relatives-- we will take into account views on where and when to bury them and will present the information to the president,'' Nemtsov said. ``I really hope that it (the burial) will take place in 1998.'' Nemtsov said his commission had prepared answers to all questions asked by the church. He said he would meet the church's head, Patriarch Alexiy II, soon to discuss the issue. (from Johnson's Russia list)

by Maura Reynolds, Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, January 14, 1998

MOSCOW (AP) -- The Russian Orthodox Church is prepared to proceed with a funeral for Russia's last czar before deciding whether he should be honored as a saint, a top church official said Wednesday.

In a rare interview, Metropolitan Yuvenaly, the church's chief representative on the subject, said the church would have no objection to holding a funeral as soon as the czar's bones are identified.

Nicholas II was executed by Bolsheviks in 1918, along with his family and four servants. Their remains were recovered in 1991, and since then the skeletons have been kept in a morgue in the city of Yekaterinburg.

A government investigation is expected to conclude later this month that DNA and other forensic tests have identified the remains as those of the royal family, clearing the way for a decision on a burial.

During his reign, Nicholas II was head of the Russian Orthodox Church, and some believers have been urging his canonization. He and his family already have been made saints by the exiled branch of the church.

``The Russian Orthodox Church does not tie the question of canonization to whether or not there should be a funeral,'' Yuvenaly said. ``Proceeding with a funeral should have no connection to the work of the church toward canonization.''

The church has said little so far about the czar's possible burial. Some have suggested the church would not approve a funeral before making a decision about canonization, which would affect the ceremony.

``If the emperor and his family were to be canonized before their funeral, the service would be the interment of sacred relics,'' Yuvenaly explained. ``But since at the current time they are not canonized, if their funeral takes place this year, there will be a burial service, a requiem, and prayers for them just as people.''

Canonization could put the church in a tricky political position, especially since it draws political support from the Communist Party, which reveres the Bolshevik Revolution.

Yuvenaly confirmed that the church's Council of Bishops decided last year that Nicholas does not deserve canonization based on his reign as czar.

The council did decide that the royal family may deserve sainthood for the suffering they endured at their deaths, a category known as ``passion sufferers.''

A final decision on canonization on those terms will not be made until 2000, at the next meeting of the church's Council of Parishes, Yuvenaly said. In the meantime, the royal family and their servants can be buried in a regular funeral service.

In part because of the canonization debate, the church has demanded thorough identification of the remains, including evidence to refute claims that the royal family was killed as part of a plot or a ritual murder.

Yuvenaly indicated that as the church's representative on the government commission, he was prepared to accept its conclusion on the identification.

c Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

International consultation on religion law


MOSCOW, JANUARY 13 (from RIA Novosti's Maria Balynina) - The Chamber for Public and Religious Communities under the presidential Political Consultative Council, and the international consultative committee of the De Burht Fund conference gathered today to discuss the implementation of the Russian law, "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Communities", adopted last year after many trials and tribulations. However disputable it might be, the country vitally needs this law, which grants equal rights and chances to all religions and confessions represented in Russia, said Alexander Tikhonov, council president. The law may be eventually amended and supplemented, which will be only normal as Russia is transforming into a law-based state, he remarked. Mr. Tikhonov quoted the latest statistics, saying that 15,000 religious communities have acquired an official status through registration by now, representing 150 religions and confessions. Russian Orthodoxy accounts for 8,000 of these, Islam 2,500, and Evangelical Christianity 700. The law alarms the Western public, pointed out James Billington, Director, Library of the US Congress, prominent on the De Burht delegation, which came to Moscow yesterday. He warned against dangerous prospects of the appearance of a new bureaucracy watching religious affairs, and against the over-complicated procedure of community registration. The law is harassing the emergence of Russian civil society, holds Mr. Billington as he cautions against government interference in the nation's spiritual life.

(from Johnson's Russia list)

Statistics of the Russian Orthodox church

. . . At present the Russian Orthodox church has 124 dioceses and counts 148 bishops (besides eight in retirement).

On 1 January 1997 there were about 18,000 parishes of the Russian Orthodox church. 15,347 priests and 1,737 deacons served in the parishes, that is, a total of 17,083 clergy.

At the present the number of monasteries has reached 438, of which 210 are for men and 228 for women, not counting the 64 monastery annexes [in cities]. In Moscow, the number of monasteries has remained constant: four for men and four for women. In addition, there are 24 stauropigial monasteries, under the direct administration of the most holy patriarchate.

The number of ecclesiastical schools of RPTs has grown, which includes five ecclesiastical academies, 23 ecclesiastical seminaries, 21 ecclesiastical schools, one theological institute, two Orthodox universities, five courses for preparing pastors, and two diocesan women's ecclesiastical schools. In addtion there are choral and iconpainting departments and a multitude of church parish schools.

In Moscow there are 404 Orthodox churches, of which 333 are parish churches. In 310 of these divine services are being conducted and 54 still have not been renovated. Forty churches have not been released by the former tenants. Besides there are 28 chapels and 19 churches that are being restored or constructed. In the parishes of Moscow 673 clergy are ministering, including 493 priests and 180 deacons. Thus, in the past year the clergy of Moscow has grown by 30 men. At the same time 10 men were retired and seven banned from ministry, and one was unfrocked. The ban was lifted from two. Seven moved to our diocese from other dioceses and two moved to other dioceses. Ten clergy passed on to the other world. May the all merciful Lord grant they rest in the habitations of the righteous. For all of them we sing "Eternal memory."

The number of churches in Moscow has grown nine times what is was in 1988 and the number of clergy, three and a half times. These came not only from graduates of of ecclesiastical schools but also by ordination upon the recommendations of rectors and clergy of Moscow churches.

In present 41 Muscovites are full time students in the Moscow Ecclesiastical Seminary, 42 are correspondence students, and 21 are external students. At the affiliate of the Moscow Ecclesiastical Seminary in the New Savior monastery, 133 people are studying. Those receiving advanced religious education in the Moscow Ecclesiastical Academy include 20 Muscovites and full time students, 35 in correspondence coures, and 19 external students. Five are studying in the iconpainting school under the Moscow academy and five in the choral school.

In 1996-1997, 14 Muscovites graduated from Moscow Ecclesiastical Seminary and one from the Moscow Ecclesiastical Academy, two from the choral school and four from the iconpainting school. The number of persons studying in the seminary is 385 and there are 788 in the correspondence section. The number of students in the academy is 161, with 200 in the correspondence section, 127 in the choral school, and 77 in the iconpainting school. External students of the seminary number 47 and of the academy 67. In sum, including the external students, there are 864 persons. The total number of persons studying in Moscow religious schools is 1852.

Great help in establishing cadres of clergy is being given by the Orthodox Saint Tikhon's Theological Institute where 255 teachers and 92 employees are working. A total of 870 people are studying there. The past year was the fifth of its official existence. In this time 319 have graduated with a bachelor's degree, of whom 39 were ordained to the clergy and two were tonsured monks. . . .

. . . After seventy years of horrible persecutions Russian Orthodoxy had lost all of its church parish schools, libraries, fifty ecclesiastical seminaries, 70,000 churches and more than 1,200 monasteries, to say nothing of the hundreds of thousands of murdered and martyred bishops, priests, deacons, psalmists, catechists, cantors, and church elders. One decade is not enough for restoring all of this. At the same time we well understand that time does not wait. The church called view kindly the way in which the Russian educational space is being disrupted in the form of sex education of school children and a program of corruption of the yonger generation. The task of the church, and in the first place of its synodal Department of Religious Educaiton and Catechesis, is to produce an alternative program of chastity and high Christian morality, mobilizing for this purpose the best Orthodox teachers who are able "at least to same some" (1 Cor 9.22). In this regard we are pleased that in more than 80 Orthodox churches in Moscow there are Sunday schools were people are learning the Law of God, Church Slavonic language, church singing, iconpaintiing, and various crafts. More than 6,000 persons are involved in these classes and around 1,500 are studying in 18 Orthodox general education high schools (gymnasia, lyceums) and elementary schools. . . .

The Metropolitan Alexis Central Clinical Hospital, run by the Russian Orthodox church, is really the only charitable medical institution in the capital, open for impoverished patients, residents of Moscow and other regions. Until recenty its authority was extremely great, but televisions programs about the replacement of the head doctor, unfortunately, made bad publicity for the hospital. Now modern medical procedures are being practiced in the clinic and each year more than 1,000 operations are performed. . . . (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Moscow patriarchate

(posted 9 January 1998)

Ecumenical missionary work

by Vadim Akentiev,

KEMEROVO, 7 January. The year 1998 marks the completion of five years of operation of the Christian "Gideons" mission in Kemerovo, which distributes free copies of the New Testament in hospitals, schools, army barracks, prison colonies, and nursing homes, that is in those places where people do not have the possibility of acquiring Christian literature. In these years the "Gideons" have distributed about 80,000 New Testaments which come from the international Christian orgniazation of the same name.

True, at the present time several of the public schools have begun to close their doors to the mission. Frequently the administrations' refusals to permit the missionaries into the educational institutions are motivated by their cooperation with the Orthodox church. Vice president of the mission Sergei Cheravov, who is a member of the Evangelical Christian Baptist church, thinks that no small role in the cooling of attitudes was played by the new law on freedom of conscience.

The Kemerovo Gideons mission began when Peter Latyshevich, a minister of a congregation of Christians of Evangelical Faith (KhVE), suggested to several Baptist brethren that they have a joint work of evangelism and distribution of Holy Scripture and three men agreed, becoming the first "Gideons." Originally they met monthly, reading the Bible, praying, and discussing plans for the up-coming evangelism. Today such meetings are weekly and include up to 13 people, members of the mission and volunteer helpers from the Baptist church and several KhVE congregations, "Regeneration," "Good News," and the Kemerovo Christian Center. Of course, today the mission sorely needs new members, according to the vice president.

It should be said that the mission worked most fruitfully in the first years of its existence. For example, in 1995 alone they distributed 40,000 New Testaments. Approximately 5,000 of them were given in one day to all students of the Kuznetsk Polytechnical Institute, and the Gideons were helped by ordinary members of three protestant churches of Kemerovo. The churches also gave financial support. Today this help has subsided and the number of new members joining the mission has slowed. In the past year they have had to face the question of closing the mission. Gideon vice president Sergei Chervov considers these difficulties have arisen because of inaccurate ideas about their work which the leadership of several congregations have gotten. "There is only one goal for our mission--to preach the gospel among the population, and I think," says Sergei Chernov, "that if there were proper statement of the matter it is not only possible but obligatory for us to work together."

It is worth noting that at the weekly meetings of the Gideons, missionaries try to avoid discusssing controversial religious questions and they pray together simply and reverently, whether they are Pentecostals or Baptists. Answers to such prayers have been amazing, for example, when two years ago the doors to the Kemerovo prison colony of general regime number five were opened, where the missionaries had for a long time been refused entrance. Although they were given permission to distribute the New Testaments only silently and quickly, when the administration saw the tears in the eyes of the hardened criminals and their hands hungrily grasping for Christian literature, they threw up their hands and the Gideons, after giving out 5,000 New Testaments, went to each zone of the colony and for a full two hours preached about the Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. After this several of the prisoners wanted to ask God to forgive their misdeeds. Today in colony number 5 an Orthodox church is operating, while in the past year more than 80 people have received baptism. (tr. by PDS)

Link to Russian original at Radiotserkov

(posted 8January 1998)

Alternative service law stalled

by Elena Agibalova, Viktor Tochkin
Ekspress khronika
4 January 1998

It is probably no secret to anyone that despite the existing requirement of universal military service in Russia, young people who object to being soldiers have the right not to go into the army. "If a citizen of the Russian federation has convictions or religious beliefs that forbid performing military service, as well as in other situations established by federal law, then he has the right to substitute for it alternative civil service," according to article 59, point 3 of the constitution of Russia, the document that has direct effect and supreme juridical force.

However the reality is that it is impossible to achieve the substitution of alternative civil service (AGS) for service in the army. The basic reason for this is the absence of a federal law on AGS (it is more accurate to say that the draft of this law has been shelved in the depths of the committee on defense in the State Duma of Russia for four years).

On 19 December the duma held a roundtable devoted to the problem of AGS. It was organized by the Moscow regional public charity fund "Social Partnership," which sees its primary task to be resolving socially significant problems of Russian society. Participants of the roundtable included representatives from many public and youth organizations from various regions of Russia, rights defenders, and representatives of the legislature branch. However the most substantive element that resounded at the roundtable was the declaration of duma deputy and rights defender, Valery Borshchev, and president of "Social Partnership," Vera Afanasieva. Borshchev and Afanasieva declared that they will do everything in order to have the law on AGS adopted.

While the draft of the law on AGS lies on the shelf in the duma committee on defense and the public and rights defenders are clamoring for its immediate adoption, the military and civilian authorities are making life miserable for Russian conscientious objectors.

The Antimilitarist Radical Association (ARA) reported that on the evening of 23 December officials of the 86th police precinct of Moscow arrested ARA member and conscientious objector Alexis Bykov. The police based their actions on the need to clarify the question concerning Bykov's summons into the army (it is worth noting that the case of a conscientious objector insisting on his right to AGS is now under review in the Moscow city court). Exactly an hour after the intervention of a representative of ARA, Bykov was released.

This story has not been finished. Early in the morning of the next day Bykov was again arrested. Police officers took him to the Golovin enroment office where the conscientious objector was told that he had no such rights and now he would be sent into the forces. Bykov unsuccessfuly tried to explain to Major Buiakov and Lieutenant Svetlich, who had threatened him the most. Finally the conscientious objector managed to get away from the office.

The story still did not end. On 25 December, by orders of Lieutenant Svetlich, Bykov was seized and stuffed into a vehicle that took him to the city muster point (GSP) on Ugresh street. There the conscientious objector was given his military card without a photograph attached or the dates of issuance and adoption of the decision on the draft. Alexis managed to flee.

On 26 December officers of the 86th police precinct broke through the door of Bykov's apartment, arrested him and again took him to the Golovin enrolment office. There Bykov declared that he would not tolerate this outrage any longer. Having declared that there would be a parliamentary complaint to the agencies of the procuratorship for all instances of violation of the law in connection with his summons, he refused to leave the office until he was released. The nonplussed officials at the enrolment office released him immediately.

Another conscientious objector, ARA member Sergei Konovalov, who was summoned at the Cheremushkin enrolment office of Moscow had a similar story. On 17 December a squad of police arrested him under similar circumstances. When they took Konovalov to the office, the police departed, leaving the conscientious objector in the keeping of Lieutenant Patskin, against whom last year there was a criminal case after the attempt to send a conscientious objects, ARA member Alexander Yakovenko, into the forces. Konovalov tried to get away from the premises of the enrolment office, but he managed to go home only when he, along with a group of other draftees, went by subway from the GSP to a military unit.

The Antimilitarist Radical Association connects the tyrannical acts of the police and officials at the enlistment offices directly with the absence of a law on AGS. For this reason the ARA is conducting most vigorous action in favor of adoption of this law. One such action is a "mail campaign to the State Duma." By 22 December the president of the duma, Gennady Seleznev, had received from Moscow and over 40 Russian regions 653 postcards with the demand for the immediate adoption of the AGS law. Do the deputies have enough shelf space for hiding all of these postcards? (tr by PDS)

Russian text at Ekspress khronika

(posted 8 January 1998)

Metropolitan answers tough questions


Church and believers: approaching God together or separately?
by Natalia Zhelnorova
Argumenty i fakty,
1 January 1998

Conversation with the president of the Department of External Church Affairs of the Moscow patriarchate, Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad.

"Christ came to earth for fullness of life, so that we might be happy."

--Master, all the world celebrates Christ's birth on 25 December. Why does our church have no desire to change to the Gregorian calendar so that all Christians could celebrate Jesus' birth one time and not twice?

--Both the West and we celebrate the birth of Christ on 25 December. It's just that they do so according to the so-called new, Gregorian calendar, and we, according to the old style, Julian calendar. The difference, as is known, consists of 13 days: 25 December in the old style is 7 January in the new. The Orthodox church has followed the Julian calendar for almost 2000 years. A calendar change in Greece, Romania, and Bulgaria turned into a church schism. Should we take a course that is perilous and painful for many people when for the majority the joy and celebration of the holiday are not in the least sullied by the consciousness that someone, somewhere is celebrating Christimas on different days?

--Orthodox people want the liturgy to be performed not in the incomprehensible Church Slavonic language but in contemporary Russia. Is that really not possible?

--In the wave of democratic transformation many people have begun to demand revolutionary changes of the church . But the church is alien to the path of radical reforms and revolutions. As regards the liturgy, back at the beginning of the century our church did not take the path of introducing the Russian language but that of editing Slavonic texts to make them more comprehsible to the contemporary person. A special liturgical commission was formed for this. It still exists today.

--But even the redacted Church Slavonic is not very comprehensible, especially since other confessions are not sleeping but are struggling for our souls.

--If some decisions about language are adopted, they must be made, of course, by the collective wisdom of the church. In the church there cannot be initiatives which are undertaken apart from the common traditions and sanctioned by the authority of the whole church. Of course, the liturgy must be made comprehensible for our people, but without straining church unity by radical liturgical reform.

--Really doesn't the collective wisdom warn you that if you do not change your attitude today, tomorrow our children might change their faith (if they do not understand it)?

--That's a problem which must be solved, but in a way that will not threaten the church with schism. Schism is a tragedy. There already was the Old Believer schism which, incidentally, also was on account of the liturgy. So for people not much involved in the church such things seem very simple. But when you turn to history you see that the seventeenth and twentieth centuries brought schisms and you understand just how dangerous it is to make sharp turns. Of course, the liturgy must be made comprehensible for our people, but without straining church unity by radical liturgical reform.

--While you fear schism within the church, you could be creating an external schism--between the church and the believing public. Does it turn out that you value your unity more than our community?

--We should do everything to prevent this. The unity of the church is not only the unity of the hierarchy; it is the unity of believers. And what is schism? It is when someone refuses to follow church laws and does not recognize the canonical leadership of the church in the persons of the patriarch, synod, local bishop, and priest, and creates a separate parish, and invites a foreign "Varangian" and forms some kind of new Russian Orthodox church. Nowadays there are attempts to create some kind of "true" Orthodox churches and "most true" Orthodox churches and so forth. Yes, we should respond to the legitimate wishes of the people, but in doing so we must not rend the fabric of the church body.

--Until now the church has been conservative. Church services are very long. New people are coming to the church who cannot stand so long. And the language is incomprehensible. All of this can drive people from the church.

--For those people who recently have come to God's temple, we should work things out so that they will understand what is happening in church. We have, for example, church choirs. But why not expand congregational singing? If you sing then you are participating in the services more actively and the two hours will go by without your noticing them. Sometimes people who are conducting the liturgy do not have very good taste. The services get dragged out artificially. I have had to correct some deacons who by embellishing their spoken parts deliberately drag out the service so that it becomes a burden for people. The liturgy must not be hurried, but it must also by dynamic with a spiritual approach so that the worshippers are not distracted and do not lose their attention and prayerful spirit. This is all possible without any grand church reforms. If you become tired in church and cannot stand any longer, then cross yourself and go home in peace. As the Russian proverb says: The lazy person is not pious. For example, when I visit the Middle East, I go to the Arab Orthodox church, although I do not understand Arabic, and I worship. I worship by myself and turn to the Lord. He sees and hears everything. What's the point of going to church? When we garden alone, that's one thing, but when we invite our neighbor, that's something else. This also is work, but it is spiritual work. When your energy is joined with the spiritual energy of those standing beside you then this energetic spiritual current goes to God. God hears this prayer. That's why you should go to God's temple.

--All of the prophecies say how many wrongs people did against Jesus Christ. Who betrayed Christ? Judas. Who condemned Christ? Pontius Pilate. Who denied Christ? Apostle Peter. All of these things were done by men. Only women succored him and wept for him. Why are there no women priests?

--Because a female priesthood is alien to the holy tradition of the church. The Mother of God is higher than the angels, archangels, and all the patriarchs and church hierarchies; higher than all the apostles; but even she did not head an apostolic community. Why, according to Christian tradition, have women never been priests? Because the rector of the congregation is Christ's deputy. When he performs the eucharist, the rector says: "Take, This is my body." He speaks in the first person. The image of the priest is an iconographic image of the Savior and a symbol of his presence. It pleased the Lord to be incarnated in a male form.

--Are there many sincere believers among the clergy? You know, some of them live with women, drink, and live loose lives. The flock sees this.

--That is not just a question but an assertion, and I do not agree with the assertion. In a certain sense our recent past has guaranteed that all our clergy, with perhaps extremely rare exceptions, are people of sincere personal faith. You know, to become a priest in the soviet period was to perform a great feat. Even today priests must deny themselves a great deal, for example, the life style that is attractive to the absolute majority of people. Why would you do this if you do not believe? For money? But the priest's salary usually has never been high. Therefore the very life style of the priest protects the church from intrusion of unbelieving people into its ranks . I don't rule out that there could be isolated cases. If a priest is not a believing man, his word will lost its force. Therefore an unbelieving priest will never succeed in his work and the church itself will remove him.

--I have a pamphlet from a church. According to it, it is a sin to despair, to be proud, to doubt, to grumble, to be angry, to judge, to make merry; that is sin is any human emotion. If you are alive, you are sinning. It turns out that the best Christian is a dead Christian. He cannot do anything, cannot desire anything.

--This pamphlet overstates what is really sinful. I do not know who is distributing these pamphlets. It is possible that not only atheistic propaganda can drive people from the church but the distortion of Christian teaching can do so, too. Take the Ten Commandments and those commands that the Lord gave us. Fulfill them and that will be sufficient. Rejoice to your heart's content and the Kingdom of God will be opened for you. You know, the Lord said that the ones who will not enter the Kingdom of God are those who did not visit the sick, fead the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, nor clothe the naked. The point is that Christ came to earth for fullness of life, so that we might be happy. And so that we could enjoy this happiness and fullness of life forever. For this he gives us such clear and precise commands how to live. There is no kind of gloom; there is only the optimistic embrace of life. Christianity's strength is just this, that it is a religion with an enormous optimistic fervor and with great living potential. Without faith life is terrible and meaningless.

--Then why is there the mortification of the body and exposing one's self to cold and hunger?

--It is the same thing as tempering steel. People form themselves. I don't know how fasting affects others, but for me at the end of a fast both my spiritual condition and physical state are much improved. Fasting not only facilitates the spiritual growth of a person but it is beneficial for the health, and restraint tempers the will. I am not bothered by the thought that someone is frightening and driving contemporary people from the church by presenting terrible pictures of the Christian life.

--Formely thorough atheists, leaders of the country, are going to church and standing with candles. Does the church believe their sincerity?

--The chuch has no basis to take candles away from such people. Perhaps there is some hypocrisy here and the Lord will deal with it. So let them light candles, and Lord and the people will decide where there is truth and where there isn't.

--Master, the church talks much about the need for peace and accord among people, but why does it enter into conflict with other churches? Why is there not even peace and accord within the church itself?

--Really, that's the most painful question, especially on the threshhold of the celebration of the second millennium of Christ's birth. Let's say that the children of God are not anywhere near as perfect as their Heavenly Father and righteousness will only be partial. This fact which is true not of the churches themselves but of the people who represent them does not explain everything. Christ bestowed upon humanity not the current multitude of churches but one, united church. Today a great family of Christians exists on earth and in it there are conflicts and reconciliations. The majority of churches and confessions have a proper view about the divine and human natures of Jesus Christ or about the descent of the Holy Spirit, while others question the triune nature of the Holy Trinity. However we are persuaded that this is no basis for rivalry and struggle. The Orthodox church is the church militant, but only in its adherence to the pure teaching of the Savior and the heritage of Christianity of the first century. As God's church it is motivated by Christ's love for all who call themselves Christians and are striving for peace and unity within the Christian family. We are ready to go our part of the way for the achievement of such a goal. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text: Rozhdestvenskoe interviu

(posted 8 January 1998)

Yeltsin's greetings for Orthodox Christmas


MOSCOW -- In a Christmas Eve message, President Boris Yeltsin on Tuesday praised the Orthodox Church for its rich contribution to Russian life and the country's top clergyman said Russia faced a more peaceful new year.

The Russian Orthodox Church, which has enjoyed a strong revival since the fall of atheistic communism in 1991, marks Christmas Day on Jan. 7, nearly two weeks after the Western churches.

Yeltsin, who is vacationing in the Valdai region of lakes and birch forests in northwest Russia, said he hoped that church and state would forge closer bonds in the future.

"For more than 1,000 years the Russian Orthodox Church has fulfilled its sacred mission, affirming spiritual and moral values on Russian soil," Yeltsin said in a congratulatory message to the church's head, Patriarch Alexiy II.

"The church is an inalienable part of the history and culture of our country and our people. Its selfless activities have deservedly earned it gratitude and respect," he said.

Such praise from the country's secular rulers would have been unthinkable in Soviet times, when the church labored under heavy political controls and religious believers faced official harassment and sometimes persecution.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union Yeltsin -- a former communist who is not known to profess any personal religious belief -- has assiduously courted the church, an ancient and colorful institution widely trusted by ordinary Russians during a time of wrenching social and economic changes.

Yeltsin is keen to rebuild Russians' national pride, shattered by the loss of empire and plunging living standards, and a sense of continuity with the country's pre-communist past.

Patriarch Alexiy, a bearded, frail 67-year-old, has shown himself a useful ally for the president during 1997, which was officially designated the year of national reconciliation, 80 years after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution.

In his traditional Christmas greeting to the Russian people on Tuesday, Alexiy sounded an optimistic note about the future.

"Social life in in previous years has brought us its share of both joys and sorrows," he said, noting that millions of Russians -- especially the elderly and the sick -- were still living in conditions of poverty and deprivation.

"But thanks be to God, the tension of political passions has abated somewhat, our society is gradually moving towards peace and concord," said Alexiy in his message, posted on the church's site on the World Wide Web.

Later on Tuesday the patriarch was expected to broadcast his message directly to the Russian people on television and radio.

Yeltsin was also due to address the nation at 9 p.m. (18:00 GMT) to wish his compatriots a happy Christmas.

In his message, Patriarch Alexiy painted a bright picture of Christian revival across Russia with the restoration of churches and monasteries and the spread of religious education.

Russians' pride in their religious heritage is perhaps most dramatically visible in the huge Christ the Savior Cathedral, rebuilt in just a few years to dominate the Moscow skyline after being destroyed on dictator Josef Stalin's orders in 1931 and the site turned into a swimming pool.

But the increasingly cozy ties between church and the state have alarmed some liberals who say they violate post-Soviet Russia's secular constitution.

In his review of the past year Patriarch Alexiy avoided mentioning a controversial law on religion, approved in 1997, that has drawn fierce criticism from human rights groups, the Vatican and U.S. lawmakers for allegedly discriminating against "non-traditional" religious groups in Russia.

The Orthodox Church strongly backs the new law, saying it is necessary to curb the activities of dangerous sects that have poured into Russia to exploit the spiritual vacuum left after the fall of communism. (Reuters)

Regional officials try to improve relations with protestants

by Vadim Akentiev,

KEMEROVO, 6 January. At the end of December in the offices of the administration of Kemerovo region there was a meeting with pastors of several of the largest Kuzbass churches of Christians of the Evangelical Faith (KhVE). They were invited to a roundtable by Nadezhda Kriukova, assistent to the governor and president of the Department for Communications with the Public and National Relations, and by Boris Kirpikov, administrator of the regional Department for Communications with Religious Organizations. The subject of the conversation was "the ministry of KhVE churches to society and ways to improve this activity."

In introductory remarks Nadezhda Kriukova called the meeting an historic one because never before had there been in Kuzbass such a broad and sympathetic dialogue with representatives of this denomination. Boris Kirpikov said that he well recalled the frequent but unsuccessful attempts of the former administration to have contact with old leaders of the Pentecostals. Today the young pastors at the meeting willingly discussed their churches and how they can help to solve social problems of the region. For example, Erik Muzart, pastor of the Kemerovo "Good News" church told how the in the four years of its existence the church has been able to organize humanitarian aid of medicines worth around 500,000 dollars for the residents of the Kuzbass. Of this sum, 170,000 were for medicines and baby food for children of prisoners in the women's colony of the city of Mariinsk. Several times "Good News" church has taken clothing to the city boarding school number 9, where members of the congregation have conducted religious and ethical discussions with youth and on each Christmas holiday they have brought presents.

The Novokuznets "On the Rock" church also has helped the population with medications, delivering them to clinics, prisons, and homes for the elderly. This winter the church has performed a ministry for the homeless where members of the congregation have done what they could to provide warm quarters for people without a roof over their head, feeding them and washing their clothes.

In many KhVE churches of the Kuzbass ministers have successfully worked out ways of cooperating with the representatives of the local administration and with leaders of the public schools. For example in the city of Topki the "New Life" church has worked with the city department of education to conduct joint religious and educational activity and members of the church have begun independently to organize youth fellowships in the schools on the subjects of moral purity and sin. This is particularly appropriate for Topki where of the 40,000 residents 1,000 are registered drug addicts, who each represent a group of five or six people who are not counted anywhere.

The basic problems for the KhVE churches themselves, if one does not count those that come from the still rather widespread public attitude that sees Pentecostals as sectarians, have to do with relations with the local authorities. For example in the city of Myski the head of the administration until recently forbade the Pentecostals to rent premises for their services. The believers were able to enjoy their legal rights only after intervention from the regional government. In Prokopievsk, according to local pastor Vasily Taran, someone removed his congregation from the tax-exempt rolls.

It must be said that at the roundtable in the regional administration offices, all appeals to the government were listened to attentively. The assistant to the governor, Nadezhda Kriukova, responded by asking the ministers to be prepared to recognize that possibly the frictions will continue for a while because the consequences of long years of distrust of Pentecostal churches will not quickly disappear. Moreover the new system of relations between church and state is extremely complicated and it has many nuances. Thus representatives of the regional administration asked the pastors of KhVE churches to learn not only how to be firm and steadfast adherents of their faith but also to display flexibility, gentleness, and patience.

On her part, Nadezhda Kriukova promised to assemble the leaders on the local level from time to time and to help them understand legal matters. As regards the social ministry of the churches of this denomination, Boris Kirpikova said that there is enough for all denominations to do even working at breakneck speed, and Nadezhda Kriukova asked the believers not to waste time on theological disputes and give full effort to the terrible problem of drug addiction which has flooded the Kuzbass.

In conclusion the organizers of the meeting asked all participants to send them complete and detailed information about the activity of KhVE churches in prisons, nursing homes, children's homes, and hospitals, about relations between the churches and executive agencies of the government and other offices, and about believers' evaluation of the federal law on freedom of concience, and to make specific suggestions about improving relations between church and state. After careful study all this information will be passed on to the regional governor in the form of possible recommendations. (tr. by PDS)

Link to Russian original at Radiotserkov

(posted 7 January 1998)

Orthodox in Jewish region help homeless

by Oleg Cherny,

KHABAROVSK. 3 January. Local Orthodox believers have submitted an official request to the mayor of Birobidzhan, the center of the Jewish Autonomous Region, to assign a building in order to create a shelter for homeless persons. Obviously their suggestion will get immediate review since with the onset of the cold the problem of the homeless in the region became especially acute.

In an interview in the newspaper Priamurskie vedomosti the rector of the city's Orthodox parish of the Holy Apostle James, Fr Dimitry Kaplun stated: "We, along with social workers, are among the first to have felt this. Having fallen into a hopeless situation people begin to seek salvation from God and in the end they come to us. Essentially we already have opened a permanent shelter in our church. We do not throw anyone out into the cold and we try to help everyone we can, irrespective of their nationality or religious confession."

It should be noted that the Orthodox parish conducts its charitable work round the clock. A soup kitchen opens in the early morning here where up to sixty needy people, including nine children, eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The parishioners and businesses donate the food and the believers have grown the vegetables themselves in two suburban plots. Many request to be allowed to spend the night. In the main these are the so-called down-and-out, generally men. There are living quarters in the church and thus the especially needy are sheltered. "But," Fr Dimitry continues, "it's crowded in our church. Many people are coming. If they would give us a two-story building, we would be prepared to organize believers into a special nursing department and to open a permanent shelter using contributions."

Aware of the Orthodox believers' plans, the vice president of the Committee for Social Defense of the Population, Svetlana Kulikov, declared in an interview in Priamurskie vedomosti: "Birobidzhan today very much needs a shelter. Not only for the down-and-out. Some old folk simply are not able to take care of themselves or to light a stove. And there are no openings in the nursing homes. Recently we gave two tents to one of the city hospitals in which we located the most helpless ones. But we still cannot help everyone." (tr by PDS)

Link to Russian original at Radiotserkov

(posted 7 January 1998)

TV news program spotlights diocesan conflict

by Vsevolod Lytkin, Radiotserkov

NOVOSIBIRSK, 2 January. On 27 December 1997 the Tomsk Television and Radio Company "TV-2" broadcast in its news program "Chas pik" an interview with the priest Alexander Klassen regarding the growing conflict of the diocese's clergy and laity with Bishop Arkady. The program took note of the strange cadre policy whereby the best known priests were being exiled to out-of-the-way places of the region and of the "lavish banquets and drinking" of the new bishop and punitive restrictions on those who disagree. The program gave prominence to the strange and unnatural attention the bishop pays to young priests and parishioners. In response to the broadcast two clergymen, Fr Alexander and Deacon Roman, were banned from ministry and new punitive actions ensued.

At the present time signatures are being collected for a letter to the patriarch requesting an investigation of the scandalous situation that has developed. Representatives of the Orthodox intelligentsia of Tomsk and prominent rights defenders have supported the appeal. Earlier one of the best known people of Tomsk, the leader of "Memorial," V.G. Fast tried to deliver a letter to Patriarch Alexis but he did not succeed in gaining an audience.

The conflict has gotten wide coverage in the local press. At the present time the conflict continues to grow. The bishop's staff has begun collecting signatures for an alternative letter ("all of this is slander. . .") and there are attempts at blackmail in order to find "witnesses" to say that there was no incident of attempted seduction of a young man with which the conflict began. (tr. by PDS)

Link to Russian original at Radiotserkov

(posted 7 January 1998)

Patriarchal Christmas message


MOSCOW, JANUARY 5, RIA NOVOSTI - Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Alexius II has congratulated Russian citizens on the great Christian festival in memory of the birth of Jesus Christ.

In Christmas greetings received by RIA Novosti, the patriarch notes that the social life in Russia and the former Soviet republics this year like before has been rich in joys and troubles. There are still millions of people suffering from malnutrition and inadequate living conditions. Privations are facing elderly people, the handicapped, families with many children, orphans, refugees and forced re-settlers. The economic difficulties and spiritual impoverishment have told most unfavourably on the birth rate and health state of the nation. Some places are stricken by inter-ethnic and political tensions and local conflicts.

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church notes that thanks to God the political frictions are somewhat abating and our society is heading for peace and accord. The message of greetings expresses hopes that with the Divine help the peoples will continue to live in peace, truth and dedication to their historical mission. Alexius II made a reminder that last year marked the 850th anniversary of Moscow.

An Orthodox service was delivered on September 7 at the Saviour Cathedral, with thanks to God for the great graces in the history of the city. The message emphasises the universal significance of the forthcoming two millennium since the advent of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. "We hope that the Christians will be joined by all the people of the Church in celebrating the universal jubilee," says the Holy Patriarch.

(from Johnson's Russia list)

Orthodox university in Moscow

by Marina Lakhman
New York Times, 4 January 1998 (excerpt)

. . . In Soviet times, it was common for church buildings to be confiscated by the state and turned into government offices, schools, museums or even granaries. But now, for the first time, people are studying secular subjects in a Russian religious institution. Ms. Nikolayeva is one of the students at the Russian Orthodox University of St. John the Theologian, the only church-run university in the country that is training young people for the professional world of the new Russia rather than priests.

"We did not create this university to train people to serve the church," said the rector of the university and head of the monastery, Ioann Economtsev. "Our purpose was to bring about a synthesis between scholarship and faith, and religion and morality, because scholarship without morality at its core is dangerous." . . .

Full text of article: "Russia's church-run campus"

(posted 4 January 1998)

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