Voices from Russia

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Priests seek removal of Russian Orthodox bishop

A Russian Orthodox priest from Ninilchik AK

Priests in Alaska’s Russian Orthodox Church have called for the removal of their top official in the state, Bishop Nikolai Soraich, claiming he has hurt the church and ruled by intimidation. “The clergy and probably a large percentage of the laity in the church have reached the point where they believe they can no longer serve with or under Bishop Nikolai Soraich”, said the Rev Michael Oleksa, archpriest at St Alexis in Anchorage. “It’s the accumulation of years now of what the clergy regretfully but sincerely believe is a matter of personal and collective abuse”, he said.

In one example, priests say that the bishop’s edicts prevent children without Orthodox Christian names from baptism in the church. They say he’s made hurtful comments about Alaska Native culture, church buildings, and ceremony. His second-in-command told a group of priests not to speak Yup’ik in front of the bishop and they say they are afraid of him.

Bishop Nikolai has served in Alaska nearly seven years and is one of just nine diocesan bishops in North America. He said he is dumbfounded by the criticism and has called a meeting next week in Anchorage to air the concerns. “There are people out there who obviously have an issue with everything that I do”, he told the Anchorage Daily News. He never told people not to speak Yup’ik, he said. “I even sent out letters telling them I wanted them to use their Native language”, the bishop said.

The Orthodox Church in America, with headquarters in Syosset, NY, has taken notice of the matter. “The OCA Chancery is receiving mail and e-mail from clergy of the Diocese of Alaska. There are indications that serious issues exist that may need to be addressed”, the OCA said in a release posted Saturday night on the church Web site. The church’s top official in the United States, Metropolitan Herman, has been in touch with Nikolai and the Holy Synod of Bishops, the church’s governing body, the release said.

Nikolai said he has no intention of stepping down voluntarily. “Absolutely not”, he said. He does not know why the priests are speaking out against him, he said, but he has tried to restore order in a diocese where things had been loosely run. The controversy is playing out on Web sites run by church watchdogs, including one called Orthodox Christians for Accountability. Discord has been building for years, Alaska priests said.

Fr Thomas Andrew, a confessor-priest of the Russian Orthodox Diocese of Alaska from Kenai (in Orthodox usage, a confessor is one who stands for the truth in times of great trial)

“In a nutshell, we were so … free to express ourselves until I’d say about six years ago when Nikolai came in, then pastoral theological teaching just kind of went down the drain”, said Archpriest Peter Askoar, of Elevation of the Cross of our Lord Church in Russian Mission and a priest for 28 years. In one of the bishop’s early visits to Russian Mission, a community of 329 on the Yukon River about 375 miles west of Anchorage, he criticised their new church building, made with love by local crews but quirky, with visible supports holding up a sagging roof, Askoar said. The bishop said it was not fit for worship, according to Askoar. The priest was too shocked to respond. He said he understands they need to give whatever they have to the Lord “but this was the best we had to offer”.

Priests are especially troubled by an edict Bishop Nikolai gave at a diocesan assembly last year that says babies cannot be baptised unless their legal, given name is Orthodox. In the past, children had two names, a street name and a church name, Oleksa and Askoar said. The bishop told the assembly “if the parents do not give the child an Orthodox Christian name, do not baptise them. Period”, Askoar said. Askoar said children in his village are waiting to be baptised while their parents work on getting their birth certificates changed by the state. Bishop Nikolai said the name requirement for baptisms is not a new rule.

In Juneau, the Rev Michael Spainhoward of St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church said that Bishop Nikolai has always treated him well, with kindness and generosity, but that he has seen the bishop’s other side. Spainhoward worked under Bishop Nikolai as a church deacon in Las Vegas years ago. “I served with him, and I personally have never been chastised or belittled or humiliated. I have not experienced any of the things they have, but I know it to be possible because I have witnessed it with others”, Spainhoward said. The bishop should resign, he said. “”To come and impose upon and to dismiss all criticism, to dismiss culture, to dismiss all of this, hurts the people, hurts the message of the gospel”, Spainhoward said.

2 March 2008

Juneau Empire


Editor’s note:

This is an exact analogue of the situation in Yekaterinburg in 1999. The MP Holy Synod removed the bad bishop and sent a saintly man to replace him as archpastor. The children of St Herman deserve the same. I say this to the faithful native Orthodox of Alaska: “If Syosset refuses to act, you know what to do. Don’t hesitate. Do what you must do…”



Russian gold and hard currency reserves are at record levels


Russian gold and hard currency reserve holdings hit a record of 483.9 billion US dollars, having increased by 2.6 billion USD in a week, the Central Bank said. Russia has the world’s third largest gold and hard currency reserves after China and Japan.

28 February 2008

Voice of Russia World Service


Editor’s note:

If one was to say, “Show me the money”, to Russia, it would say, “Sure!” and whip out a fat bankroll. Ask the same of the USA, and the reply would be, “Could I put it on my plastic?” Which of the two economies is the stronger? This means that Russia has 3,500 USD of hard currency/gold reserves per capita, which isn’t a Third World level by a long shot. It does put a new light on American boasts of economic superiority, does it not? Reflect on the fact that the US government finances its deficits by bond issues bought by Russia, China, and Japan. Who holds the whip hand? Donald Trump, George Soros, and Bill Gates suddenly don’t look so wise, do they? Hmm…


Behind Door Number One is…

Monty Hall (1921- ), on the stage of Let’s Make a Deal in 1975. The King of Kitsch, wasn’t he?

Those of us “of a certain age” remember the over-the-top antics of the nutter Monty Hall on Let’s Make a Deal. Some of the doors concealed treasures, others held gags, and still others were intended to make fools of the contestants to “entertain” a jaded television audience. It sounds like the current OCA crisis, does it not? If we choose the right door, we shall receive a prize, if we choose wrongly, we shall get a “booby prize” so ridiculous that we would be exposed to the world as fools.

There are three real choices facing the faithful of the OCA. One is to bury their heads in the sand and “trust Syosset” as a certain John Garvey is advocating. This is fatuous. If the present structure cannot generate the revenue necessary to function, how shall it be able to do so in future? If these apparatchiki had a practise of lying to the faithful in the past, they shall likely continue doing so in future. This course mandates ever-larger bites from the parishes, which in the end, would bring down the structure, probably within a year or so. This path is flawed because both the central administration and SVS are located in expensive metropolitan areas, and both refuse to move. Ergo, another financial crunch is inevitable, and this option is about as viable as buying a Trabbie for personal transportation.

The second scenario envisages a discrete OCA. If you wish to preserve a group formally known as the Orthodox Church in America, there is only one route open. The central administration and SVS would be abolished, the functions of Syosset would be devolved onto the dioceses, and priestly formation would be concentrated [in the lower 48] at St Tikhon’s in Pennsylvania, due to the much lower costs of doing business (as compared to the astronomical salaries required in the NYC metro area). The only administrative overhead needed would be an office for the metropolitan with a staff of 2 or 3 clerics and an admin assistant or two to assist them. There are only 115,000 members in the OCA, after all. This would mean returning to the cautious and prudent policies of the Metropolia, and rejecting Schmemann’s opium dream. Although this is the most prudent and fiscally responsible path (if one wishes a discrete OCA, that is), the Syosset and SVS fanatics shall fight this so hard that this plan has no hope of survival. The Syosset/SVS crowd is so wedded to the NYC metro area, and so despise the hinterland, that they would rather see the OCA crash to the earth rather than move. Of course, this begs the question of why such a foolish move was made in the first place… that, later. This option is like buying a sensible Toyota or Chevy for personal transportation, but, the ones who wish to have a flashy Caddie or Rolls are calling the shots.

The third choice, I believe, is being taken as we speak. As Syosset refuses to budge, and the people who have put forward the St Tikhon’s proposal (I have seen such on the internet) have been rebuffed by the powers that be, we are led, nolens volens, to door number three. That is, the OCA quietly implodes. Rather, it would be like a balloon loosing air slowly through a pin-prick. It is doing so now. If you doubt my words, look at Alaska. As this slow decomposition takes place, I believe that a new alignment of Orthodoxy in this country shall take place. What we see today is a situation that has existed since about 1965. Firstly, we must understand that the OCA is not going to go en bloc to the MP, even though that is the most prudent and canonical course for it to follow. I believe that the OCA is going to shatter into three discrete parts.

The Romanians in the OCA are going to return to their mother church in Romania. This body was the canonically squiffy group under Valerian Trifa that was for all intents and purposes Romanian samosvyatsy. With the fall of the communists, there is no longer any reason for an existence apart from the Patriarchate of Romania. If the crisis continues, the chances of this diocese returning to its mother church are so high that I would say it is almost a sure thing. If they leave, the OCA loses its most well-organised diocese, and the OCA reverts to being a Metropolia successor body. Without the Romanians, Syosset no longer shall have the funds to continue, which shall lead to an even faster decay.

SVS and the loud convert element are probably going to decamp to AOCANA. I must state that the converts I am referring to are a minority of all converts, but, unfortunately, they are the majority of voices on the internet. If one sees a radical position on a church issue, either on the right or on the left, it is almost always a canon-quoting convert that is the culprit. Why would they go to Philip Saliba and his minions? It would be that the Russian ethnic element in the OCA, which is still predominant, shall reunite with the mother church in Moscow. I can assure you that I am not the only Orthodox Christian of Russian descent who speaks Russian. I am not the only Orthodox Christian of Russian descent to have contacts in Russia. I am not alone in following the news of the mother church in Russia. I am not alone in considering myself “Russian Orthodox” and no one shall take that title away from me. I know that there are many Russian Orthodox faithful in America and Canada who feel as I do. I correspond with many of them, we exchange information and ideas, and some of my posts have been in response to the expressed ideas of my fellow Russian Orthodox Christians.



You see, the SVS/Syosset people think that we act like other American suburbanites. Any sociologist shall tell you that a discrete group retains behaviour and custom longer than it does language. For example, “Arab” Christians are the descendants of the pre-Muslim invasion population; they are not Arabs per se, even though they have adopted the Arabic language after some 1,300 years of Muslim occupation. Russians (and other Slavs) are famous for their endurance. We take it, and take it, and take it some more… then, “enough is too much already”. We are ready for reunion with our mother church. The loudmouth convert faction hates this, for they know that reunion with Moscow means a return to traditional faith and practises, and all experimentation would be halted (on both extremes, the right is as dangerous as the left). Philip Saliba is one of the most skilled and unctuous “politicians in a cassock” that I have ever seen. He would tell them, “I believe in an American church, see, most of my clergy are converts. Why, we just welcome you!” This sort of convert shall leave, and they shall find out the reality of the AOCANA just as the EOC did. I would refer people to the way Saliba handled the Ben Lomond affair. I would point up the actions of Bishop Antoun “the Enforcer” (he does all of Saliba’s dirty work so that Philip can wear the white hat). Of course, recently, there was the $1,000 “gift” from each parish to Saliba personally (if one balked, Antoun the Enforcer threatened the priest). Then, there were the folks that Saliba barred personally when the Toledo group merged with his in the ‘70s. Nice guy… In short, the converts shall find that AOCANA is no picnic, and that if they do not become part of the sycophantic choir praising Philip Saliba, they shall find themselves out, and very smartly at that.

You may listen to Syosset/SVS… but their crisis has dragged on since October 2005… some 30 months! Or, you can join yourself to the good tree of Moscow… they kicked out a pederast bishop and solved a later crisis in three months. I know where I stand… what about you?

Vara Drezhlo

Sunday 2 March 2008

A Portrait of Patriarch Aleksei exuded myrrh on Pentecost

Patriarch Aleksei Rediger of Moscow and all the Russias (1929- )

Droplets of myrrh came out on a portrait of Patriarch Aleksei on Trinity Day (Russian colloquialism for Pentecost: editor’s note) in the church of St Aleksandr Nevsky in the town of Nizhniaya Salda near Yekaterinburg. “It is a sign from God! The Lord himself has marked the patriarch’s image to strengthen our faith!” parishioners said, according to the newspaper Tvoi Den (“Your Day”).

The portrait of the patriarch was put in the church next to the iconostas three years ago. Passing by the church shop at the Church of Christ-on-the-Spilled-Blood in Yekaterinburg, the rector of the church in Nizhniaya Salda, Fr Mikhail Parygin, saw the patriarch’s portrait in a wooden frame in a shop window. “My heart rejoiced when I saw the image of His Holiness. I bought it immediately, as if angels stopped me before it”, Fr Mikhail said.

Parishioners discovered the miraculous myrrh. The portrait began exuding fragrance shortly before matins. “I came the other day to the church to pray for the health of my relatives. As usual, I came up to the patriarch’s portrait and suddenly saw droplets of myrrh beading up on the picture. I had a lump in my throat. I ran to Fr Mikhail straight away to tell him about the miracle”, parishioner Lyubov Ivanovna related. The priest admitted that, at first, he refused to believe what the woman said and it was only after he came to the Patriarch’s picture that he “was numbed as he saw myrrh trickling down in small drops from the right bottom corner of the portrait”.

Having learned about the portrait of the patriarch exuding myrrh, Archbishop Vikenty Morar of Yekaterinburg and Verkhoturye came to Nizhniaya Salda. Having seen the manifestation with his own eyes, Archbishop Vikenty said, “The myrrh may be a sign of tears of joy. The Russian Orthodox Church has united through the efforts of His Holiness, and the Lord is rejoicing in His children”.

4 June 2007



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