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Wednesday, 5 December 2012
Attacks on Church Pre-Revolution Reminder - Patriarch
Topic: Russian Church


After the Revolution, the Bolsheviks led brutal attacks against the church in Russia that led to the looting and destruction of churches and monasteries, as well as the persecution and murder of thousands of clergy and Orthodox Christians  

In a speech to a group of Cossack commanders, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church has warned the recent string of attacks on the church is similar to what happened before the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.

Just like now, back then they performed a reconnaissance by engagement – to see what will be the Orthodox Christians’ reaction. They performed acts of blasphemy, humiliation and provocation,” Patriarch Kirill told the heads of the Cossack hosts of Russia Ukraine and Belarus.

The Patriarch noted that the methods of the “enemies of the Church” (that he again did not name) were too uniform to his taste. “It is all the same, these accusations – in the beginning of the twentieth century, after the revolution and now “. However, he expressed hope that the people of Russia would understand the dangers that come with the attempts to resurrect the spectres of the past.

The violations of religious rights are committed under an invented excuse of freedom of expression. We all know very well that there can be no freedom of expression if it violates the rights of ethnic groups but it is somehow possible, through the wrongly understood freedom of expression, to insult the believers, destroy their inner world and humiliate their dignity,” the top cleric added.

The Patriarch thanked the Cossacks for their vigilance for preventing many acts of blasphemy and called on them to continue their work to defend the church.

This was not the first time the representatives of the church accused some mysterious unnamed forces of launching a concerted attack against Christianity in Russia. These statements became more often after the mass media started reporting of the clergy’s growing interference in public life, as well as the impious and luxury lifestyles of some of the priests.

The public discussion led to the preparation of a bill that criminalized insults to believer, that is expected to be submitted for approval next year. Also the Church has officially allowed the clergy to take part in elections  though their participation in political parties is still banned.

© Russia Today. 05 December, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 11:50 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 5 December 2012 3:26 PM EST
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Thursday, 29 November 2012
Religious Association Rises in Defense of Russian Orthodoxy
Topic: Russian Church


Chairman of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society, Sergei Stepashin and Patriarch Kirill 

Russia's Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society has called for setting up "a public system" in Russia that would "rule out insults to the religious feelings of believers."

"In condemning attempts by certain forces to sow discord in society and question the role of Orthodox tradition in shaping the identity of the Russian people, we state our readiness to act resolutely in national interests, defend Christian values and help promote national unity, civil peace and harmony in Russia," the Society said in a statement passed at a meeting in Moscow on Wednesday.

After "humiliating persecution and accusations," the people of Russia have a right to establish "a public system that would rule out insults to the religious feelings of believers," the Society said.

The Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society was set up in 1882 by Emperor Alexander III to organize Russian pilgrims' journeys to sacred places including Palestine, Mount Athos and Bari, assist the Russian Orthodox Church's service abroad, do cultural and educational missionary work in the Middle East and study the historical heritage of Holy Land.

After the 1917 Revolution, the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society was closed, but a Russian Palestine Society was formed at the Academy of Sciences, which continued the traditional studies of the historical heritage of Holy Land.

The Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society was registered again in May 1992 under its historical name. It has 18 regional branches and is chaired by Sergey Stepashin.

© Interfax. 29 November, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:37 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, 29 November 2012 6:45 AM EST
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Tuesday, 13 November 2012
Patriarch Kirill visits Convent of St. Mary Magdalene in Jerusalem
Topic: Russian Church


As he continued his pilgrimage to holy places in Jerusalem, the Primate of the Russian Church visited the Convent of St. Mary Magdalene at the Garden of Gethsemane and said a prayer there for the holy martyrs Grand Duchess Elizabeth Fyodorovna and Sister Varvara.

The mother superior of the convent, Elizaveta (Schmelts), presented Patriarch Kirill with a portrait of the wife of Emperor Alexander II, Empress Maria Alexandrovna, noting that she gave a great support to the work of Father Antonin (Kapustin), the founder of ‘the Russian Palestine’.

Addressing the archpastors, nuns and pilgrims, Patriarch Kirill said that the last time he had been in that church it looked desolated, but in recent years it was transformed ‘as the golden cupolas of the Convent of St. Mary Magdalene began to sparkle again over Jerusalem’.

‘Looking at this beauty… we cannot but recall the feat performed by those who laid the foundation for the presence of Russian holiness and Russian devotion here’.

It was Father Antonin (Kapustin), he said, who proposed to Grand Dukes Sergey and Pavel Alexandrovich, who came to Jerusalem together with Grand Duke Constantine, that a church and a monastery be erected there, and the royal brothers accepted it and expressed the wish that the church be devoted to their pious mother, Empress Maria Alexandrovna.

In 1888, he continued, the church was consecrated in the presence of Grand Duke Sergey and his wife Elizabeth Fyodorovna, who was not yet Orthodox at that time. ‘And we know that she became Orthodox not only of necessity but also because of her beliefs. All that was to happen to her later pointed to the profundity of her faith with which she adopted Holy Orthodoxy’.

Elizabeth Fyodorovha did not choose an easy way during the 1917 Revolution. She stayed with her suffering people ‘who rose in rebellion against each other and God’. She suffered martyrdom at Alapayevsk in the Urals. ‘Later, by God’ mercy’ her honourable remains were taken through Siberia, the Far East and China to the Holy Land to rest here’, Patriarch Kirill said.

‘For a long time the Russian Church bore the stamp of terrible divisions, but by God’s mercy and through the intercession of the Royal Passion-Bearers the spiritual, canonical and Eucharistic communion of the parts of the Russian Church divided by human ill will has been restored… Many believed that the 1917 Revolution and the Civil War was the end of the world, the coming of Antichrist, the end of history. One can imagine what our devoted ancestors felt seeing the destruction of churches, defilement of shrines, the triumph of the theomachist power who insulted people’s deepest religious feelings – the feelings which have always been inherent in our people. It seemed there was no deliverance. Later, it took only a few days to have the chains cast off and our Church was given an opportunity to unite and, most importantly, to bear witness to the inscrutable ways of Divine Providence.

‘Today our people, tempted by new attacks of godliness based on a somewhat different ideology but having the same goal, face the risk of repeating the terrible mistakes of the past. Standing here we realize with special clarity how important it is not to repeat the same mistake, not to blaspheme holy places, not to destroy God’s cause which has been built by many generations in our Motherland’.

Patriarch Kirill thanked Archbishop Mark of Berlin-Germany and Great Britain for his concern for the part of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission which is under the jurisdiction of the Synod of the Russian Church Outside Russia.

© DECR Communications. 13 November, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:50 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 13 November 2012 7:55 AM EST
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Wednesday, 24 October 2012
Pskov-Caves Monastery
Topic: Russian Church


Photo: Restoration of the frescoes in the Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos. Photo Credit: Elena Patria 

The Pskov-Caves Monastery, also known as the Monastery of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, is a male monastery located near the town of Pechory, west of the city of Pskov, Russia, near the Estonian border.

The monastery was founded around caves that were used by hermits before the monastery was formally established and that are now the resting place for the relics of reposed monastics, in a manner similar to that at the Kiev Caves Monastery.

The caves at Pechersky were used by monks looking for solitude long before St. Jonah (Shesnik) built the Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos into the hillside near the caves. The church was consecrated on August 15, 1473, which is considered the date of the founding of the monastery.

For almost three hundred years the monastery was an important outpost of the Russian nation, defending its western border against attack from the west. The area was involved in almost constant warfare during these centuries.

Photo: Tsar Ivan IV asks St. Cornelius to admit him into the monks. Artist: Klavdiy Vasilevich Lebedev (1852-1916) 

During the middle of the sixteenth century Pskov-Caves monastery rose to its greatest level of prominence under the leadership of St. Cornelius, abbot of the Pskov Caves. In 1529, the monk Cornelius became an igumen and abbot of the monastery, at the age of twenty-eight. In addition to expanding the intellectual and spiritual efforts of the monastery, that included missionary work, the Pskov chronicles, and books that he wrote, he sponsored many physical changes to the monastery. He enlarged the monastery caves, moved older churches, built the Church of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos in 1541, and the Church of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos in 1559. Between 1558 and 1565, St Cornelius had the stone wall built around the monastery including a stone church dedicated to St. Nicholas over the gates of the monastery. He also encourage the preaching of Christianity to the pagans in the occupied cities of the area during the Livonian wars. During his tenure as abbot the monastic population of the monastery increased from 15 to 200, a number that has not been surpassed since.

Even in his death, St. Cornelius left his mark on the monastery. On February 20, 1570, Tsar Ivan IV (the Terrible), arrived at the Pskov Monastery in a raging anger over a false slander. St. Cornelius met him with a cross at the monastery gates, where upon Ivan attacked the sainted abbot, beheading Cornelius with his own hands. Ivan immediately became remorseful and repented his deed. Ivan then picked up Cornelius’ body and carried it down the path from the gates to the Dormition Cathedral, making a pathway scarlet with the Saint’s blood, a pathway that became known as the Bloody Path.

During the peace negotiations after the Bolshevik ascendency after World War I, the drawing of the borderline for Estonia placed the monastery in Estonia. As a result the Pskov-Caves monastery escaped the destruction meted out to the Orthodox monasteries and churches in the Soviet Union before World War II. The area of the monastery became part of the Soviet Union only after the Baltic States, including Estonia, were occupied by the Bolsheviks in 1939.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union the monastery has flourished.

© 24 October, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:58 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 24 October 2012 7:16 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 11 September 2012
Church Is Under Attack, Russian Patriarch Says
Topic: Russian Church


Photo: Patriarch Kirill speaking in an interview to Rossia 1 television on Sunday. 

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church used a Sunday prayer service and a state television interview to argue that the church he presides over is under attack from foes who he said fear its post-Soviet revival and want to destroy its places of worship.

Patriarch Kirill did not name the punk music group Pussy Riot but was clearly referring to the collective, three of whose members were sentenced to jail time for performing a "punk prayer" at the altar of a Moscow cathedral during which they criticized President Vladimir Putin.

Since the verdict on Aug. 17, which drew sharp Western criticism that Moscow said was politically motivated, vandals in Russia and Ukraine have cut down a handful of wooden crosses in support of Pussy Riot, but band members have condemned the vandalism and said they had nothing to do with it.

Kirill suggested that "opponents" were trying to derail the post-Soviet resurgence of Russian Orthodox Christianity, the dominant faith since tsarist times, and he warned: "We will not stop."

Speaking in a state-television interview and at a service at Christ the Savior Cathedral commemorating the 1812 Battle of Borodino, which helped Russia defeat Napoleon, Kirill used military imagery to make his point.

"I cannot shake the thought that this is an exploratory attack … to test the depth of faith and commitment to Orthodoxy in Russia," Kirill told Rossia television. "And today, I think those who launched this provocation have seen that standing before them is not a faceless, quiet mass … but a people that is capable of protecting what it holds sacred."

He portrayed anyone attacking the church as an enemy of Russia, saying aggression against the church was "aggression against our cultural core, against our code of civilization."

At the service, where a crowd of thousands spilled onto the street outside, Kirill said the fight against Napoleon's forces 200 years ago was a lesson for today's Russia, which he suggested was threatened by "blasphemy and outrage."

"Those who would invite us all to mock our shrines, reject our faith and, if possible, destroy our churches" are "testing the people's ability to protect their holy places," he added.

Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich were sentenced to two years in jail for their stunt, during which they beseeched the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Putin.

They were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, a charge they have denied. They said they were protesting Putin and the church's political support for him in what the Constitution says is a secular state.

Shortly before the Pussy Riot performance, Kirill likened Putin's time in power to a "miracle of God." Putin was prime minister at the time and in the midst of a campaign for the March presidential election.

Many Russians found the Pussy Riot protest offensive, but critics of the Russian Orthodox Church's leadership say it has overreacted and risks fomenting violence by repeatedly calling for believers to protect holy places.

Russian Orthodox activists have formed vigilante groups to conduct patrols and protect churches and cemeteries, and activists have harassed people expressing support for Pussy Riot.

Putin's opponents say the prosecution of Pussy Riot was part of a Kremlin crackdown on dissent. Lawyers for the three appealed the verdict and sentences late last month.

Kirill rejected concerns about growing ties between his church and the state, saying what is happening is "not a merger but the Christianization of society."

"That is what frightens our opponents. … It is fear in the face of the fact that [Russian] Orthodoxy, which was practically destroyed in Soviet times, has been able to return to the life of the people — not as much as we would like, of course. But maybe this whole uproar is being raised to stop us," he said. "I want to say: We will not stop."

Some 70 percent of the country's citizens describe themselves as Russian Orthodox Christians, but far fewer regularly attend church, though all major faiths have enjoyed revivals since the 1991 collapse of the communist Soviet Union.

Putin, a former KGB officer in power since 2000, has tried to balance promoting the church, which is identified with the country's ethnic Russian majority, with celebrating a secular state of many religions.

© The Moscow Times. 11 September, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:40 AM EDT
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Thursday, 30 August 2012
Relics of Orthodox Saints Stolen from St. Petersburg Church
Topic: Russian Church


Photo: Church of Saint Catherine the Great Martyr, St. Petersburg 

Relics of several prominent Russian Orthodox saints were stolen from a St. Petersburg cathedral along with gold and silver jewelry, regional police said Wednesday.

The relics were stolen Tuesday night from the Church of St. Catherine the Great Martyr along with a communion chalice and five neck crosses, the police said in a statement.

The relics were of Prince Alexander Nevsky, Saint Nicholas the miracleworker, and Pyotr and Fevronia, Interfax reported, citing the police.

The robber climbed through a window and broke into the cabinet of the church's chief priest, taking the chalice and the crosses, the police statement said. The relics had been kept in the reliquary icon, which was wrenched apart, it said.

Police opened a criminal investigation on theft charges, which carry a maximum sentence of six years in prison in this particular case.

Police estimated the damage, not counting the relics, at 350,000 rubles ($11,000). 

Oleg Tairov, vice president of the Appraisers Guild with the International Confederation of Antiques and Art Dealers, said the relics have no retail value, only historical value. He suggested that the relics were stolen for a collector or as an “act of revenge” for the Pussy Riot verdict.

Three female punk rockers were sentenced to two years in prison on Aug. 17 on charges of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred over a February performance denouncing Patriarch Kirill and President Vladimir Putin at Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral.

© Interfax. 30 August, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:01 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 29 August 2012
Solovetsky Monastery, Its Past and Present Day
Topic: Russian Church


The snow-white buildings of the Solovetsky monastery – a kind of spiritual fortress with its own laws and rules, with its own inhabitants, have been scattered on many islands in the White Sea in Russia’s North for centuries. However, the history of these sacred places begins in the 2nd millennium BC. The remnants of ancient sanctuaries and burial grounds are as numerous as the monuments to monasterial time are. The famous Solovetsky mazes, barrows and ridges keep guard to the mystery of old faiths and notions concerning the surrounding world that used to be embraced by the ancient inhabitants of the White Sea area. Monuments resembling Solovetsky sanctuaries can be found in the northeast of Scandinavia and on the Kola Peninsula. Whereas in Finland, Sweden and Norway these structures were destroyed with the introduction of Christianity, on the Solovetsky Islands they were preserved. That was a kind of dialogue between heathen and Christian cultures. We have inherited it in its primordial shape, and the unique environment of the Solovetsky Archipelago only strengthens the impression of the extraordinary northern civilization.

Since the first years of its existence, the Solovetsky Monastery – the heart of the Orthodox Church – has been an enclave of truly religious people. Solovetsky monks have entered into theoretical disputes with Moscow patriarchs and prelates more than once. History records have a mention of the revolt of the monks against reforms in the Orthodox Church introduced in the 17th century. The monks refused to accept the corrected church books brought from the mainland. No coercion could break their resistance. Finally Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich lost patience and confiscated the monastery’s mainland property. In response, the monks sent a letter to Moscow. It said: “If you, Your Majesty, do not wish to adhere to the old faith, order to punish us by sword and transfer us from this tumultuous life to a life eternal and tranquil”. In this way the monastery that no foreigners dared to attack rose against the authorities. The siege laid to the cloister continued for eight years. Finally, the monastery was overtaken, but its monks remained firm in their faith.

The history of Solovetsky fortress and monastery has many facets. The cloister outlived all Russian tsars and many patriarchs while remaining the spiritual bulwark of believers.

Perhaps the hardest time for the Solovetsky monastery was the 20th century, which saw World War Two, the mounting atheism in society, change of authorities and ideologies… In the 1920s the monastery was shut down and turned into a prison. A labour camp for political prisoners was set up on the Solovetsky Archipelago. It contained about 30,000 prisoners of more than 60 nationalities, many of whom were former army and navy officers, the gentry, intellectuals, clergymen, members of the political parties which tried to oppose bolshevism – anarchists, Mensheviks, social revolutionaries. The Solovetsky monastery saw the death of outstanding Russian philosopher, mathematician and priest Pavel Florensky and of many other prominent historians, writers, poets, musicians, scientists. Well-known Russian scientist, philologist, historian, philosopher and academician Dmitry Likhachev languished in Solovetsky dungeons. “What did I learn at Solovki? In the first place I realized that every man was a human. Criminals who are usually despised by society saved my life in the labour camp more than once,” the scientist wrote in his memoirs. Dmitry Likhachev, the last survivor of the Solovetsky labour camp, died in 1999, 60 years after the special prison ceased to exist.

Only in the early 1970 did the state pay attention to the unique historic and architectural monument, which had stood abandoned for over a half a century. The monastery was proclaimed a cultural preserve. And a decade later, on October 25, 1990 the Holy Synod led by Patriarch Alexi II decided to revive the Solovetsky monastery. Soon the relics of the Reverend founders of the cloister, Zosima, Savvati and Herman, were transferred there. Today not only the clerical authorities do much to rebuild the architectural monument. Russia’s Ministry of Culture worked out a special program for maintaining the sacred place of Russia’s North.

“Don’t fear Solovki, Jesus Christ is near them,” said well-known Russian artist Mikhail Nesterov with reference to the Solovetsky Monastery.

© The Voice of Russia. 29 August, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 10:16 AM EDT
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Friday, 13 July 2012
St. Petersburg's Kazan Cathedral to be Restored
Topic: Russian Church


The Russia Ministry of Culture has ordered a project for the restoration of the Kazan Cathedral in St. Petersburg.

Now they are looking for a project documentation development contractor. The initial price of the state contract is nearly 2 million rubles. The performer will have to measure fragments of the western facade of the cathedral, traces of fastenings of letters on grapholites of the western portico and to carry out engineering survey with photofixing. The winner of the competition will prepare working documentation on restoration of fragments of the western facade with the reconstruction of frame board inscriptions, present scientific and methodical recommendations about restoration of the facade stone and iron-cast bases of columns of pilasters.

The project preparation is planned to be finished on November 15, 2012. Applications are admitted till August 7. Results of the competition will become known on August 21.

The Kazan Cathedral located on the Nevsky Prospekt in St. Petersburg was constructed under the decree of Emperor Paul I. The architect of the monument is Andrey Voronikhin. The cathedral appeared in all its glory in 1811.

© 13 July, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:53 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 13 July 2012 5:59 AM EDT
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Monday, 2 July 2012
Orthodox Believers in Washington Celebrate Life of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco
Topic: Russian Church


Photo: St. John arriving in Shanghai in 1934 

Today, July 2, the Russian Orthodox Church commemorates the life of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco – one of the most venerated saints of the Russian diaspora. Services will be held in his honor at churches around the world.  However, this is a particularly special occasion for the Church of John the Baptist in Washington DC. This is the only parish personally founded by St. John in the United States for emigrants in 1949, ITAR-TASS reports.

On July 2, 1966, St. John died while visiting Seattle at a time and place he was said to have foretold. He was entombed in a sepulcher beneath the altar of the Holy Virgin Cathedral he had built in San Francisco dedicated to the Theotokos, Joy of all who Sorrow on Geary Boulevard in the Richmond district. In 1994 he was solemnly glorified on the twenty-eighth anniversary of his death, and 14 years later his canonization was confirmed by the Russian Orthodox Church.

His feast day is celebrated on the Saturday nearest to the 2nd of July. He is beloved and celebrated worldwide, with portions of his relics located in Serbia, Russia, Mount Athos, Bulgaria, United States, Canada (Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church, Kitchener), England (Dormition Cathedral of the Russian Orthodox Church, London) and other countries of the world.

© ITAR-TASS. 02 July, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:15 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 2 July 2012 5:19 PM EDT
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Sunday, 24 June 2012
New Jerusalem Monastery to Become Major Exhibition Venue
Topic: Russian Church


The new museum complex being constructed at the New Jerusalem Monastery will become a main exhibition centre of the Moscow Region.

 Its repository will also become the center for storage of collections of several museums located around Moscow.

The New Jerusalem Monastery housing the museum is a unique phenomenon in the history of Russian architecture. Its founder Patriarch Nikon (1605-1681) wanted to create near Moscow an image of the Holy Land - "Russian Palestine" - which became a grandiose architectural and landscape complex.

A new museum building is under construction now, and the museum repository will be ready by the end of 2012. Construction of the new museum building will be completed in 2012, with about one billion rubles planned to be spent on its construction.

© 24 June, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:25 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 25 June 2012 8:37 AM EDT
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