NEWS ABOUT RELIGION IN RUSSIA

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Protestant affiliations move forward

PENTECOSTAL MERGER PROPOSED
by Lilia Solomonova, Radiotserkov

MOSCOW, 16 March. According to the press service of the United Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith (OSKhVE), its president, Sergei Riakhovsky, addressed the conference of KhVE of Russia (president Vladimir M. Murza), held in Moscow on 3-5 March. He greeted its participants and proposed the creation of a single confederation of the two Pentecostal unions. According to assistant to the OSKhVE president, Mikhail Odintsov, "this proposal by Riakhovsky does not mean that OSKhVE wants to join the KhVE union."

According to information from the ministry of justice of Russia, these two Pentecostal unions will be registered within the next ten days as two autonomous organizations.

According to information of the United Union of KhVE, its members include the following Christian organizations: Russian Union "Church of God," Charismatic Association of Russia, Association of Churches "Word of Life," the Russian department of "Golgotha," and other churches of charismatic, Presbyterian, and Methodist denominations as well as "Calvary Chapel." Steve Riuter, president of the Association of Independent Churches of Russia, which comprises around 800 churches, applied for membership in the Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith of Russia (V.M. Murza), which now is being reviewed by the presidium of the Union of KhVE. (tr. by PDS)

CONGRESS OF EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS-BAPTISTS by Lilia Solomonova, Radiotserkov

MOSCOW, 16 March 1998. The thirtieth congress of the Union of Evangelical Christians Baptists (SEKhB) of the Russian Federation will be held in Moscow from 17 to 20 February (sic) 1998. SeKhB is an affiliation of 1200 churches comprising around 100,000 members, baptized upon profession of faith, which has existed in Russia more than 130 years. More than 400 delegations of all districts and regions of Russia will participate in the work of the congress. The congress will consider the following questions, among others, which confront Russian Evangelical Christians-Baptists:

1. Relationship of SEKhB to the federal law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations;"
2. Relationship of SEKhB to foreign Christian churches and missions active within Russia;
3. Determination of the strategy of development of SEKhB in Russia;
4. Election of new leadership of SEKhB of RF.

The congress will send messages to President B.N. Yeltsin, the government, and the State Duma. About 100 guests from Germany, Hungary, Romania, USA, Brazil, and countries of FSU are expected at the congress. Among them will be representatives of the World Baptist Alliance, Denton Lotz, general secretary, and Nilson Fanini, president.

The WBA is an association of 187 national Baptist unions and conventions representing a community of approximately 100 million members from more than 200 countries. WBA is registered with the UN as a nongovenmental organization in the role of observer and consultant. Also present at the congress will be Karl Haints Walter, general secretary of the European Baptist Federaion, and Jerry Rankin, president of the department of foreign missions of the Southern Baptists Convention (USA). (tr. by PDS)

Link to Russian text at Radiotserkov

(posted 18 March 1998)


Doubts about ecumenical activity

MEETING OF DELEGATIONS OF THE RUSSIAN AND GEORGIAN CHURCHES

On 11 March 1998 there was a meeting in the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow patriarchate of delegations of the Russian Orthodox and Georgian Orthodox churches devoted to the entire complex of questions associated with participation of the two churches in the ecumenical movement.

The sides certified the agreement of their approaches to the basic problems associated with the participation of Orthodox churches in the ecumenical movement. It was noted that in both churches there is criticism of this movement. In many cases the criticism has the goal of discrediting the church leadership and entails calls for schism and it this sense it represents a threat to the unity of Orthodoxy. But at the same time it was noted that there also is constructive criticism which is guided not by bad intentions but has a substantial basis: those difficulties which at present Orthodox churches experience within the World Council of Churches and other ecumenical organizations. It was emphasized that Orthodox churches must make a decisive rebuff against all who use ecumenism in their struggle with legitimate and canonical church leadership insofar as participation of Orthodox churches in the ecumenical movement from the very start was predicated on the attempt to testify about Orthodoxy before the rest of the world. Both sides agreed that the present forms of participation do not facilitate the adequate achievement of this mission. Specifically therefore currently Orthodox churches are reviewing their attitudes toward the forms of participation in inter-Christian dialogues. Changes in the forms of participation in the ecumenical movement, however, are possible only on the basis of church discussion of these questions and not under pressure from schismatics.

At the same time the sides recognized that church leadership in the past did not devote sufficient attention to a broad acquiantance of the believing people with information about the reasons, nature, and forms of participation of their representatives in the ecumenical movement and were not concerned for a responsible theological conceptualizatin of this activity.

Both sides certified their common positions in relationship to the ecumenical movement in generaly and the WCC in particular. At the present there are various models of relationships between Orthodox churches and international Christian organizations, as members or as nonmembers of these (as the Georgian Orthodox church is not now a member of WCC and other ecumenical organizations while the other Orthodox churches, including the Russian Orthodox church, continue their relationships with them). But this difference of the specific forms of contacts and communications with ecumenical organizations does not change the fundamental essence of attitudes towards them on the part of the Georgian and Russian Orthodox churches, as well as their concerns which already have been expressed frequently. The Russian and Georgian Orthodox churches agree that the WCC in its present form and the manner of participation of Orthodox churches within it do not fully conform to the Orthodox ecclesiastical self-perception. In this regard they are awaiting from it a radical review of its structure and the need for seeking new forms of the participation of Orthodox churches which will permit them to be more adequately represented.

Both churches view with regred those tendencies which exist in several protestant churches who are members of WCC, in particular the inclusion of women in the priesthood, use of inclusive language in the Bible and prayers, and the revision of biblical ethical standards, and the like. They consider mutual communion with those of other beliefs (intercommunion) impermissible as a means for achieving Christian unity. The sides certify that in their churches the practice of participation in ecumenical prayers provokes confusion of the church public.

Representatives of the Russian and Georgian Orthodox churches view positively the possibility of discussing the topics of participation of Orthodox churches in the ecumenical movement at the upcoming meeting of representatives of Orthodox churches in Thessalonika on 28 April to 3 May, expressing the firm conviction that this meeting will serve to strengthen pan-Orthodox unity. (tr. by PDS)

Russian original at Moscow patriarchate

(posted 17 March 1998)


Extreme punishment of Filaret of Kiev

ON SUNDAY OF TRIUMPH OF ORTHODOXY, ANATHEMA AGAINST FORMER MONK FILARET
News from Ukrainian Orthodox church

On 8 March 1998, the Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, an anathema against the former monk Filaret Denisenko resounded in many Orthodox churches of Ukraine.

As is known, in May 1992 the then Metropolitan Filaret was removed from the Kiev see and banned from priestly ministry by the bishops' council of the Ukrainian Orthodox church and in June of the same year he was unfrocked by the bishops' council of the plenitude of Mother-Church.

However, heedless to the call for repentance and the warning of the council in 1994, he continued his antichurch schismatic activity, which reached beyond the border of the Ukrainian church, and having entered into fellowship with schismatics from other local churches he continued to perform sacriligeous "liturgies" and blasphemous false consecrations, and he did not cease hurling abuse against the episcopacy, clergy, and true servants of UPTs who remain in canonical fellowship with the Orthodox church universal.

The bishops' council of the Russian Orthodox church in February 1997, in accordance with a representation from the Ukrainian bishops, resolved: "To exclude the monk Filaret (Mikhail Antonovich Denisenko) from the Church of Christ. Let him be anathema before all people." The primates of all local Orthodox churches have agreed with this decision.

A single text of the anathema upon Filaret still have not bee worked out. We present the text that was composed with the blessing of the administrator of affairs of UPTs, Archbishop Ioanafan of Sumy and Akhtyrsk, which was published from the pulpit of the Holy Transfiguration cathedral of Sumy and in all churches of the city of Sumy:

"To the persecutor of the Orthodox church of Christ and reviler of the divine sacraments, and to the creator of the schism of pseudo-autocephaly and of disorder in Ukraine and other countries which brings deception and eternal ruin not only to himself but also to the least of our brethren; and to the unrighteous thief and debaser of the clerical rank, Mikhail, son of Anton, Denisenko, who falsely calls himself 'Patriarch Filaret of Kiev'--anathema." (tr. by PDS)

Russian original at Ukrainian Orthodox church

(posted 17 March 1998)

OPEN LETTER TO FILARET

Mikhail Antonovich!

We, the delegates of the Eighth Congress of Orthodox Brotherhoods of Ukraine of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, are very saddened by the fact that now we must address you in this way, as Mikhail Antonovich. But we assure you that it is not our fault.

With profound regret Orthodox people of Ukraine have received the news that the bishops' council of the plenitude of the Russian Orthodox church has expelled you from church fellowship, since God gave you enormous talents and set you at the head of the most respected episcopal see of our church, the Kievan metropolia, as its exarch and later as the primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox church. It is most infortunate that you now have forfeited that talent given to you by God along with all of his gracious gifts. We do not have the right to judge you. God is Judge of all. Life is fleeting and we all sooner or later will come to his Judgment. But for the sake of all that is holy we beg you seriously to think about your eternal future.

Your return to the holy church would soothe the hurt of the tragedy of your life and have great significance for the fate of Orthodoxy in Ukraine.

The salvation of your soul would bring great happiness to the Holy Mother Church in which you were born, baptized, and ministered almost all your life.

With prayerful hope for the salvation of your soul, your repentence, and your return to your paternal home.

Participants of the eighth congress of Orthodox Brotherhoods

1998, Kiev

(tr. by PDS) Russian original at Ukrainian Orthodox church


Hostility to foreign missions in FSU

FIGHTING WITH EXTREMISTS AND SPIES, LIKE RUSSIA
by Mekhman Gafarly
Nezavisimaia gazeta, 7 March 1998

In accordance with the principle that "nature abhors a vacuum," preachers from Muslim countries and the protestant West are trying to fill the ideological vacuum which formed after the collapse of communist ideology. Specially trained people have been sent to the Commonwealth of Independent States (SNG), who engage in distribution of religious literature, hire local citizens as personal lackeys, organize the construction of churches and mosques, and register religious congregatins. Sometimes it turns out that the activity of missionaries is conducted under the "roof" of various political parties. A great deal of money is being ear-marked abroad for these purposes.

The results of this are well known. In Tajikistan the activity of Islamic emissaries who have joined the ranks of local political parties and of the armed opposition culminated in civil war. In Ukraine the White Brotherhood nearly brought about a mass suicide of local youth. In Russia the activity of Aum Sinrikyo was halted only after the terrorist act in a Tokyo subway carried out by adherents of this sect. Finally, in Azerbaijan the activities of the Islamic party called for the overthrow of the current government and the creation of an Islamic state of the Iranian type.

The same problem, as NG already has reported, has become acute in Kirgizia. The activity of foreign sectarians has become for the government such a real threat that in the ministry of national security of Kirgizia a special subdivision has been created for supervision of religious organizations. At a briefing held recently in Bishkek, the minister of national security of Kirgizia, Feliks Kulov, declared that currently on the territory of Central Asia a number of extremist sects and organizations are operating. The minister said that Kirgiz counterintelligence, in particular, does not rule out the possibility that representatives of one of the Wahabi sects participated in the recent murders of agents of law enforcement in the Namangan district of Uzbekistan that neighbors on Kirgizia. Recently also in the south of Kirgizia local Wahabi preachers, as well as preachers from Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other countries have displayed rather vigorous activity. In the last six years more than 1100 mosques have been built in the republic, a large portion of them at the expense of foreign sponsors.

The ecclesiastical board of Muslims of Kirgizia sent a protest to the commission on religious affairs and the ministry of justice of the republic because these administrations have permitted the registration in Kirgizia of the International Center of Islamic Cooperation. In the opinion of representatives of the ecclesiastical board of Muslims, this center presents a danger for the state and for Muslims because it is under the influence of Wahabism.

In the north of Kirgizia today there is the danger of the outbreak of hostilities on an interreligious basis. This is connected not only with the activity of Wahabis. According to information from the ecclesiastical board of Muslims of Kirgizia, there has recently been noted a tendency toward christianization and baptism of Kirgiz who, in masses, are joining the protestant churches of various denominations. This is happening mostly in the northern regions and in Bishkek, where foreign missions are distributing the Bible in the Kirgiz language and literature of a protestant orientation. There has been an increase in threats against people converting to another religion, particularly of expulsion from villages and even of physical viiolence. At the present time the ministry of justice of the republic has registered twenty-four protestant churches and congregations.

Conflicts on religious bases may also arise in neighboring Uzbekistan, where the activity of Islamic organizations has increased. For the time being the leadership of the republic has resisted the intrusion of extremists into the corridors of power, but the influence of Islam on the population has clearly grown. In the opinion of local experts, if the islamization of Uzbek society continues at such an intense pace, within five or six years the situation will become unmanageable.

The experience of the six years of independence of the former soviet republics has shown that it is futile to struggle against religious extremism in isolation. They face the threats to the foundations of their governments in common. Thus the time has arrived to declare a struggle against fanatics as an international affairs similar to that of the struggle against drug traffic. What is more, there is a great deal in common between the production and distribution of ordinary opium and of the "opium for the people." (tr. by PDS)

(posted 16 March 1998)


Patriarch marks "Triumph of Orthodoxy"

DATE FOR MEETING ELUSIVE
by Vladimir Abarinov
Rossiiskii telegraf, 12 March 1998

The Russian Orthodox church still does not have complete information about the events in Yugoslavia; however if the conflict should intensify it will summon its fellow believers to resolve the problem by peaceful means. Patriarch Alexis II declared this during a visit recently to the embassy of Greece. The visit of the primate was scheduled for the feast of the restoration of icon veneration that marks the end of the first week of Lent. This day signifies the end of iconoclasm within the Byzantine empire and the Triumph of Orthodoxy.

Responding to reporters' questions, the patriarch touched a broad range of problems that affect society. In particular he declared that after his meeting in Odessa in October of last year with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew there have been "no cases which have clouded our mutual relations" between the Constantinople and Moscow local churches.

The patriarch is planning to concelebrate the liturgy with Bartholomew for the second millennium of the birth of Christ. It is possible that there will be a council of Orthodox churches in 2003, although Alexis II exmphasized that there must be a preliminary pan-Orthodox conference for preliminary discussion of the agenda. The head of RPTs pointed in this regard to the "complications in inter-Orthodox relations" arising from the positions of the Estonian bishops.

The patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus illuminated in detail the present state of relations between RPTs and the Holy See. He indicated that at the present time he is not planning to meet the pope, althugh he has prepared for it. The primate indicated that a meeting of with the head of the Roman Catholic church should not be a ceremonial affair. "It should promote relations between the churches." With this goal the sides intend to sign a declaration, although the draft of the document has produced sharp disagreements. According to the patriarch, the Vatican has decisively refused to condemn in the text of the declaration proselytism, that is the practice of converted to another faith. At the same time, Alexis II emphasized, the Russian Orthodox church has refused to condemn the Uniates, inasmuch as, according to the patriarch, "Greek Catholics are a part of the Roman Catholic church." Besides the RPTS has insisted on a point which states that the Uniates do not promote the unity of Christians. Citing the papal nuncio in Moscow, the primate said that John Paul II has not agreed with this.

Alexis II denied information that the president of Russia, during his recent meeting with the pope, invited him to visit Russia. According to the patriarch, Boris Yeltsin told him that the meeting was "long" and "cordial," but that they "did not touch upon sharp questions" pertaining to "the jurisdiction of the church." The patriarch specified that the president "did not invite the pope officially; he had been invited by Gorbachev in 1991." (tr by PDS)

Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii

(posted 15 March 1998)


Religion law not operating

IMPLEMENTATION OF RELIGION LAW DEALYED

by Sergei Fomenko
Radiotserkov

KHABAROVSK. 13 March. Almost a half year has passed since the law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations" came into effect. With regard to this occasion, on 12 March the vice president of the commission on relations with religious organizations of the administration of Khabarovsk territory, Viktor Nikulnikov, was invited to the studio of Radiotserkov for participation in a live broadcast. He responded to questions from radio listeners and described how the new law is working within the territory. Nikulnikov said that for the time being the law is not working, since the procedure for registration of religious organizations has not been determined. "Everyone is looking to the government and awaiting instructions from Moscow, but so far the only thing received is the regulation on registration of foreign religious representations."

Viktor Nikulnikov responded to a listener's question about the notorious "affair" of the Korean missionary Son Jon Sik, who twice was deported from Russia, the second time after he entered Khabarovsk under an assumed name: "This is a single missionary who has committed so many violations of Russian laws that he could be punished much more seriously than by deportation. But this incident has nothing to do with the new law 'On Freedom of Conscience.'" (tr by PDS)

(posted 15 March 1998)


Lutheran mission still harassed

NEXT ROUND IN TUIM?
by Yuri Kolesnikov, Radiotserkov

NOVOSIBIRSK. 11 March. The director of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission in the settlement of Tuim (Khakassiia), Fr Pavel Zaiakin, reported that today at 9:00 a.m. the procurator's office conducted a verification of registration documents of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission in the premises of the Tuim Lutheran church. The verification was conducted by the assistant procurator of the district, Olga Mikhailovna Kvasova. To the mission director's question about what was the basis for the verification and what authorization she had, Mrs. Kvasova declared that "the procuracy may verify any organization and require any documents for the verification for purposes of assuring legality, without any sanctions."

Fr Pavel told the Radiotserkov reporter by phone that he could not find such a broad authorization in the text of the law on the procuracy other than the vague indication that "the procuracy carries out oversight of the legality of any organizations and administrations." Nevertheless, as the basis for the verification of the activity of the Lutheran mission Mrs. Kvasova offered a circular of the procuracy of the republic of Khakassiia.

This document, according to Far Pavel, says that on Khakassiian territory several religious associations "have directly violated the law on freedom of religious profession." Cited as an example are the activities conducted by the "Proslavlenie" church involving foreigners as well as activity of the church among prisoners. As regards ELM, the procurator of Shirin district, in which the settlement is located, is mandated to conduct verification, whether ELM can confirm its fifteen-year term of existence, whether it attracts minors into its activity, etc.

Thus it is quite clear that having lost two rounds [see "Lutheran mission prospering"] for the closure of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission in arbitration courts, the procurator of the republic has again entered the ring in hopes of delivering a knock-out punch against ELM below the belt. Contemporary jargon gives another way of defining such activites. Fr Pavel said: "Judging from this letter, it seems to me that a 'raid' on protestant organizations has been prepared." (tr by PDS)

Russian text at Radiotserkov

(posted 15 March 1998)


Three quarters of a million Russian Pentecostals

THIRD CONGRESS OF UNION OF CHRISTIANS OF EVANGELICAL FAITH OF RUSSIA
by Lilia Solomonova, Radiotserkov

MOSCOW. 7 March. From 3 to 5 March the third regular congress of the Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith Pentecostals (KhVE) of Russia was held in Moscow. The motto of the congress was "Strive to preserve unity of the spirit in the bond of peace." The congress was attended by heads of all protestant denominations, public and political leaders of Russia, the assistant chief of staff of the presidency of the Russian federation, Loginov, members of the government, and others.

The basic issue at the congress was the inclusion of charismatic and other churches under the juridical "roof" of the Union of KhVE of Russia. This matter ignited serious disagreements among participants of the congress and only through the wise leadership of Vladimir Moiseevich Murza (who was reelected bishop of the Union of KhVE RF) was the blaze of conflict extinguished.

The post of assistant to the bishop of the union was filled by the pastor of the "Christian Church" of the city of Rostov-on-Don, Pavel Okara, who, in the opinion of the members of the presidium of the union, will be able to create the necessary balance between the Pentecostal and charismatic movements in Russia. The talented and young (41 yrs) Okara represents the radical wing of the Russian Pentecostals and has proven himself in the creation of a large church (more than 600 members) in Rostov and of a Christian store. He is a good family man, with five children. At the present time Okara is moving to Moscow where he will become pastor of the Rodnik church and is being groomed for the post of chief bishop of the union of KhVE of Russia.

Data from the presidency of the Russian federation shows that the number of Russian citizens who are of the Pentecostal-charismatic confession of faith as of January 1998 is 730,000. (tr. by PDS)

Link to Russian text at Radiotserkov

(posted 11 March 1998)


Official identifies "church interests"

POWERFUL COURSE

Government of Russia sympathizes with the fundamentalists

Maksim Shevchenko, Sergei Chapnin
Nezavisiaia gazeta, 18 February 1998

At the end of the past year an alliance of the Orthodox society Radonezh and a number of officials of the government of Russia was formed. Specifically in the small Orthodox newspaper Radonezh for the first time there appeared the "personal commentary" of the assistant director of the government apparatus, Andrei Sebentsov, regarding the law "On Freedom of Conscience," which evoked not only bewilderment but also criticism on the part of law specialists and religious organizations.

NG-religion also addressed this theme in the January issue. We remind readers that the response of the Russian Orthodox church to Sebentsov's commentary was made by the head of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow patriarchate, Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kalingrad. He pointed to the contradictions and inconsistencies in the text of Sebentsov's commentaries, thanks to which the "ideal loophole" for those trying to evade the law was revealed. In answer to his opponents Sebentsov again chose the newspaper Radonezh. The editor headed his interview with a libertarian come-on: "The law is about freedom for all!" The unnamed reporter for Radonezh directly asked Sebentsov: "How to you evaluate the ideas expressed there (i.e. in Metropolitan Kirill's article)? Do you agree with all the conclusions of the metropolitan?" Both reporter and Sebentsov operate by the rules of ideological struggle: the position of the metropolitan, which in matters of church-state relations represents the church, has not been set out. However an extremely typical answer has been laid out for it. It seems that Metropolitan Kirill "understands the interests of the church in too narrow a sense; he defends its short-term interests, which to a certain extent is harmful to the long-term ones, as regards both the Russian Orthodox church and, perhaps, Russia as a whole."

We would not give any attention to the deeper meaning of the narrow understanding of the church's interests and to the absence of comments, were it not for two circumstances: (1)The absence of an editorial commentary reflects a radical change in the position of one of the ultraconservative publications. For a long time Radonezh expressed sharp criticism of totalitarian sects. But in publishing without commentary Sebentsov's assertion that a person has the right "to worship whatever god and in whatever way his conscience dictates," Radonezh actually recognizes the right of totalitarian sects to perform missionary activity in Russia. (2) For the first time in the history of postcommunist Russia an official has made a judgment about the position of the church like a commissioner of the Committee on Religious Affairs of soviet times. Even Konstantin Pobedonostsev did not permit himself to speak about "interests of the church," as if he knew them better than did members of the Holy Synod. Patriotic leaders who are ready "to stand in justice" have long ago compromised themselves in word and deed by their readiness to bow before the regime. It is a pity that even Radonezh today has joined this shameful cohort. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text: Silnyi khod

(posted 9 March 1998)


Antiecumenism in Sergiev Posad

YOUTH REVOLT
Seminarians accuse professor of theology of heresy
by Sergei Chapnin
Nezavisimaia gazeta, 18 February 1998

A loud uproar climaxed the 28 January visit at the Holy Trinity Saint Sergius lavra by a delegation of the World Council of Churches (WCC). ["Ecumenism threatens Orthodox schism"] It is known that the elite educational institutions of the Russian church, the Moscow Ecclesiastical Academy and Seminary, are located there. They prepare clergymen who combine knowledge of Holy Scripture and the traditions of the holy fathers with the ability to hear and listen to an interlocutor. The leaders of WCC and prominent foreign Orthodox theologians who took part in the ecumenical dialogue intentionally wished to meet with the future clergymen and theologians.

The meeting did not promise to be an easy one. The position of the majority of teachers and students with regard to the most critical problems of church life is known rather widely. A clear rejection of ecumenism at the Moscow ecclesiastical schools is associated with the influence of the monks of the Holy Trinity lavra, but on the whole the position of the academy and seminary is distinguished by sober analysis and a considered theological approach. At least that is how it was until recently.

At the meeting reports by the general secretary of WCC Konrad Raiser and the famous theologian Professor Nikolai Lossky of the Paris Saint Sergius Institute were read. After the presentations the auditorium livened up. Students and graduates of the academy and seminary, mostly monks, began approaching the microphone set in the center of the room but serious discussion was not achieved. The main topic of all statements was displeasure that foreign ecumenicists dared to meet with seminarians and defile the room with their presence. "Comrade general secretary, why have you come here?" the assembly shouted out.

The most impolite were the remarks of the monastic priest Klement Berezovsky and the monk Savvaty Titkov. They charged that Doctor of Theology Konrad Raiser had not read Holy Scripture in general and that he headed an organization that advocates homosexuality. The majority of the assembly supported them with stormy applause, drowning out all attempts by members of the delegation somehow to answer the resounding accusations. Forgetting all rules of decency, the excited seminarians shouted at Nikolai Lossky, son of the famous Orthodox theology of the Russian emigration, Vladimir Lossky: "What you are saying has nothing in common with Orthodoxy. You are a heretic!"

The seminarians went on to declare that bishops and priests of the Russian Orthodox church who participate in ecumenical gatherings are representing not the church but themselves only. This resounded as a direct accusation of the patriarch and the church's leadership, who determine the forms of the church's participation in intra-Christian dialogue. Moreover these words were a slap on the face of Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk and Slutsk and other members of the synodal theological commission who were present in the room. In a word, the bursaks [an uncomplementary nineteenth-century name for seminary students, tr.] had a field day.

One may talk long and eloquently about the rebirth of Orthodox spirituality, but when one encounters ignorance and rudeness in the church, these words do not ring true. It is doubly painful when monks and priests are acting boorishly. Although they are called, in Christ's words, to be "good shepherds," they betray their vocation when they engage in baseless denunciations of everyone and everything.

It is terribly difficult for the church to conduct dialogue with society when it cannot manage to do so with the Christian world. Upon the kind of choice young priests make hangs the fate of Russia to a great extent. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text: Molodezhnyi bunt

(posted 5 March 1998)


Shamanist session interrupted in Siberia

SUPREME SHAMAN OF SIBERIA TURNED OUT TO BE A FELDSHER WITHOUT LICENSE
Novaia Sibir

TOMSK, 3 March. An imposter who posed as the supreme shaman of Siberia, Oyurom, was arrested last week by agents of the Tomsk Department for Combatting Economic Crimes. He was detained directly at the time of an evening performance in the Tomsk "Rodina" movie theatre. Two of the imposter's assistants were detained with him. All three were charged with illegal business practices. The income from only one of his performances reached to about five million rubles. At the interrogation the shaman admitted that he has only training as a feldsher. At the same time it emerged that several months ago the Ministry of Health rescinded his license for activity in the area of medicine. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii

(posted 4 March 1998)


Ritual murder theory of tsar's death refuted

PROCEDURE FOR THE EXECUTION WAS WORKED OUT COLLECTIVELY Moskovskie novosti 3 March 1998

The activity of the commission that dealt with the identification of remains of the royal family was subjected to harsh criticism from the very beginning and especially of late.

The Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, by whose decision the tsarist family was canonized long ago, was dissatisfied since RPTsZ considers small fragments of bones resting in this denomination's church of Saint Job the Longsuffering in Brussels to be tsarist relics. They were brought from Russia by the investigator Nikolai Sokolov, who examined the incident of the execution of the imperial family on authorization from Admiral Kolchak.

The desire to give a proper burial to the royal remains disturbed the leaders of the radical opposition: they wondered whether the current state authorities were trying to strengthen their authority by an appeal to monarchist traditions or by restoration of monarchy in Russia in a ceremonial form.

The work of the commission evoked complaints from Black Hundred ultranationalist circles: the conduct of the investigation placed into doubt their preferred story about a "ritual murder," that the tsar was killed by Jews in accordance with secret rituals. A resolution adopted by the third congress of the Union of Orthodox Brotherhoods is noteworthy: the conclusions of the commision were called a "forgery, [done] in order to conceal the ritual character of the crime."

It seems that the leadership of the Russian Orthodox church came under the influence of the fundamentalist wing. The Holy Synod, meeting on the eve of the session of the Russian government (26 February) considered (it is not clear why) that the drawn-out work of the authoritative commission and its decisions provoke "serious doubt." Thus the synod proposed for the time being to bury the "Ekaterinburg remains" (we note, not tsarist) in a "symbolic grave monument", and to designate a place in the end when "all doubts have been removed."

Perhaps it is worth recalling that at the end of last year among the questions posed to the investigative group of the General Procuracy by the Moscow patriarchate was the question, which stunned the investigators: "Was the murder of the royal family in Ekaterinburg ristualistic?" Expert criminologists tried to answer this question too. At the last session of the state commission (end of January) a report was read by the head of the investigation group, justice counsel, senior procurator of the General Procuracy, Vladimir Soloviev. Excerpts of this investigation, appended to the report, follow:

From the point of view of the law, the discussion of the question of "ritual murders" is inappropriate, since existing Russian criminal and civil legislation does not recognize such a concept. Russian legislation before 1917 also did not recognize such a juridical concept, although there were frequent attempts to conduct trials of murders as criminal "rituals." We do not know of a single investigatory case or judicial procedure regarding "ritual murders" in the period after October 1917. It is noteworthy that such trials did not occur even in fascist Germany, where Jews were universally persecuted.

In July 1918 the presidium of the Urals Soviet and Collegium of the Urals Cheka decided in principle the matter of executing Nicholas II, in connection with which the military commissar of the Urals Isaak Goloshekin (party name Filipp) at the beginning of July sent to Moscow for permission for the execution. Judging by extant documents, such permission was granted by Lenin and Sverdlov, although only for the former tsar himself and on condition that he be placed on trial.

Having received permission to execute the tsar, the presidium of the Ural Soviet made the corresponding decision to shoot the entire royal family and attendants. The motives for this decision were of a political nature and were in no way connected with any religious secret cults. Among the bolsheviks who made this decision, persons of Jewish ancestry were in a minority. Of five members of the presidium, one was Jewish; of six member of the Urals collegium of the district Cheka, two were Jews. A study of the personal affairs of members of the Urals Soviet and Urals Cheka shows that among them there was not a single person who actively participated, before or after the revolution, in any religious organizations. It is possible to say with confidence that all participants in the decision to execute, including those in the Kremlin and the executioners, were nonreligious people. The decision to execute the royal family was not connected with any kind of religious or mystical motives. It was made on the basis of the attitude of the leadership and the broad masses of the Urals, and the occasion for it was the worsening military situation and the imminence of the fall of Ekaterinburg.

The execution of the sentence also gives no evidence in support of the "ritual version." On 15-16 July 1918 the military commissar of the Urals, Goloshchekin, gave instructions to the commandant of the "House of Special Purpose," where the royal family was detained, Yakov Yurovsky, to conduct the execution of all of its members and attendants. At this time there was no indication of the procedures for the execution or of weapons to be used or of the involvement of persons of a particular nationality. The day of execution was not timed to correspond with any Jewish religious holiday.

The procedure of the execution was worked out "collectively" by the Urals chekists. Various suggestions were made: to destroy the Romanovs with explosives, poison them, and finally to shoot them. The last suggestion was accepted. Among the persons that discussed the various forms of execution, Russians dominated (Medvedev, Nikulin, Kabanov). Of those whose identities can be established, only one person of Jewish nationality, Yakov Yurovsky, participated in the execution which happened in the night of 16-17 July 1918. Besides him Russians participated, Nikulin, Medvedev, Medvedev (Kudrin), Strekotin, Kabanov, and Ermakov, as well as several Latvians, whose family names cannot be established for certain. According to data available to us, there were no activities like the performance of religious rituals at the time of the execution. In subsequent treatment of the bodies there also were no "ritualistic" actions. Transport of the bodies, their concealment and their destruction were entrusted to a brigade of Urals workers, local residents, who included no Jews.

There is no information that confirms a version of "ritualistic actions" with regard to the bodies after they reached the district of Ganinaia Yama, fifteen kilometers from Ekaterinburg. All actions of the participants for concealing and destroying the bodies were unorganized, and they were of a hasty and covert nature.

Later, during examination of the room where the execution of the royal family happened, a German inscription was found on the wall, lines from Heinrich Heine, "Beltazar ward selbiger Nacht Von seinen Knechten umgebracht" (Tonight Belshazzer was killed by his subjects). The inscription evoked many interpretations, but it gives no bases for affirming the ritual nature of the actions of the initiators and participants of the execution. The presence of this inscription only testifies that there was a person who knew German and was acquainted with the works of Heine in this room.

Advocates of the "ritual murder" have to use the argument of the inscription on the windowsills of the room containing, in their opinion, "cabalistic signs" which supposedly depict the murder of the royal family mystically. The time when the quote from Heine's verse and the "cabalistic inscription" appeared has not been established and it also is not known who wrote them. It is not impossible that they could have appeared after 19 July 1918, well after the guards had left the building. Interpretations of the "signs" in question, in the corresponding literature are extremely tendentious and they require great "stretches."

Summarizing the data examined, it is possible to reach the conclusion that the decision to execute the family of the former emperor, Nicholas II, and persons attending it, as well as the treatment of the bodies of the deceased after the execution contain no evidence of so-called "ritual murder" and they are directly linked to political and logistical questions. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Russian Story

(posted 4 March 1998)


Bitter inter-religious polemics

ORTHODOX BOOKLET SLANDERS PROTESTANTS
by Yuri Kolesnikov
Radiotserkov

NOVOSIBIRSK, 2 March. For the religious public of Novosibirsk, the past year of 1997 was marked by, among other things, the appearance of a brief guide, "Religion and sects in contemporary Russia," published by the Information and Consultation Center on Problems of Sectarianism of the cathedral of St. Alexander Nevsky, known commonly as the "Antisectarian Center." Local mass media have stated that this guide was intended for use within the civic and military administrations.

The issuance of informational literature which can objectively reflect the various forms and types of religious devotion is certainly needed. However, unfortunately, the publication of a brief guide that bears the stamp of a clearly expressed prejudicial approach to the selection of information does not fulfill the basic need that such literature is intended to: an impartial statement of facts with citations from reliable and authoritative sources of the information included. The guide's introduction itself is filled with a spirit of the opposition of Orthodox doctrine, as the true faith, to other denominational confessions. While the opposition itself is based upon a pattern reminiscent of the usual propaganda of "agit-prop" workers, who were employed in their time by the atheistic regime in its struggle with dissident thinkers, of the type: "the cruder, the more reliable." A clear example of this appears on the fourth page which purports to be a citation from a speech of former director of the CIA Allen Dulles: "We have invested everything we have, all the gold and material might, into deceiving and bamboozling the Russian people . . . . We have created chaos and confusion in the administration of the state. Honesty and decency will be ridiculed and no one will heed them. . . . Boorishness and impudence, lies and deception, alcoholism and drug addiction, mutual fear and lawlessness, betrayal, nationalism and ethnic hostility--all of these we shall cleverly and covertly cultivate . . . and we will always focus on the youth and begin to lure and corrupt them."

Such a citation itself from an unreliable source (a reference is made to obviously propangadistic material of an overtly chauvinistic type "Awake, Russia, and Rise Up! The Ecological War against Russia," published by "Moskvitianin," 1994), placed in the introduction of an informational tool, which should not be serving as a "cold war" instrument, is improper. Moreover it expresses a painfully familiar approach of transfering guilt from the "sick mind to the healthy" in an attempt to attribute all the problems and disorders of contemporary Russia to the "external enemy." And the approach itself of several guides reminds one more of effluence of garbage than of an objective illumination of the worship forms and rituals of religious devotion that typify one or another confession. For example, the reference to the adherents of the teachings of the Seventh-day Adventists is outlined: Characteristics, History of the sect, Doctrine, Criminal activity. The category "Criminal activity" includes newspaper material of a slanderous nature which in the intention of the writers is supposed to give evidence of the criminal inclination of the particular religious confession.

Besides this, the brochure which claims to be a guide to the religious situation of contemporary Russia reveals the incompetence of the writers, who include among Russian Baptists, for example, organizations that are not characteristic for them, such as "Christian Baptists," "Baptist Dunkers," "Baptists of the Six Principles," etc.

In connection with the publication of this book the Association of Churches of Evangelical Christians-Baptists of Novosibirsk, Kemerovo, and Tomsk regions prepared an appeal which will be sent to the Moscow patriarchate and Patriarch Alexis II of all-Russia with copies to the local diocesan administration and the Moscow Institute of Religion and Law. It notes, in particular, that the "contents of this guide with regard to several Christian confessions promote misunderstanding by their inaccuracy and incompetence" and that "special concern is evoked by the assertion that Baptists 'maintain a negative attitude toward civic obligations.'"

One can only regret that this brief guide "Religion and sects in contemporary Russia," which tries to promote the aspirations of the Russian Orthodox church (Moscow patriarchate) to become the general state religion, has robbed itself of what is most important, the confidence of many readers of other confessions who are offended by being associated with the adherents of the satanic cult. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Radiotserkov

(posted 3 March 1998)


Ukraine has a dozen satanist groups

SATANISTS ARRESTED
by Svenlana Stepanenko
Radiotserkov

KIEV, 27 February. At the beginning of February several members of a sect of satanists were arrested in Kiev. Offices of the Podol department of police caught the satanists in one of the unfinished blocks of the Pavlov psychiatric hospital on Lysa hill while there were performing cultic rituals. Among the eleven arrested, six were minors. Although in commemoration of their "holiday" the satanists had killed several dogs, the police agencies had to release them because of insufficient evidence of criminal activity. According to information from law enforcement agencies, there now are approximately ten such sects, comprising around 300 members, active in the Ukrainian capital.

Russian text at Radiotserkov

(posted 3 March 1998)


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