Voices from Russia

Friday, 7 March 2008

Uniates Create Blasphemous Icon of Yushchenko


An artist in Lvov, commissioned by Uniate priest Vasili Pantelyuk, depicted Ukrainian President Viktor Yuschenko sitting in the clouds, with the Equal-to-the-Apostles Prince Vladimir and Princess Olga standing on his right and left. The Ukrainian newspaper Segodnya (Today) reported that a little lower on the same icon-like canvas there is another image of Yushchenko sitting on a throne and holding a club in one hand and a vessel with poison in the other, believed to be that used to poison him during his election campaign. Spread about the throne is the revolutionary “orange” Maidan, picturing in the forefront the self-proclaimed Patriarch of Kiev, Philaret Denisenko, together with Lyubomir Husar, leader of the Ukrainian Uniates, as well as Yuliya Timoshenko, Anatoly Kinakh, Aleksandr Moroz, and other Ukrainian politicians.”‘It is so heartfelt that one can even pray before it”, Fr Vasili said, he was so pleased with the execution of his design.

29 March 2007



Editor’s note:

This is blasphemous in the extreme. I post this so that Orthodox Christians can see that Uniates are not our friends, and that US media praise of Yushchenko is, at best, misplaced. Compare this with the genuine Orthodox piety of President Putin.



Russia and the West: Film sparks discussion

Roman Emperor Ioannis II Komnenos (1087-1143) with his wife Empress St Eirene (?-1134, married in 1104) in a mosaic in the Cathedral of the Holy Wisdom (Agia Sofia) in Istanbul/Constantinople

Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov poses a very important question in his film: Who are we as Russians? Is Russia just a remote backwoods of Europe? Are we doomed to be obedient pupils of the West? On the other hand, is Russia the heir to ancient traditions passed down directly from classical Rome from which the West could also benefit? Should Russia follow the Western paradigm, as if it was indeed universal, or does Russia have its own path that is just as legitimate? This has always been a question for Russia, not only during the 19th century disputes between Slavophiles and Westernisers, but also during the reforms of Peter the Great and in the backroom discussions of speechwriters for Soviet leaders such as Leonid Brezhnev and Mikhail Gorbachev.

A fresh look at the history of Byzantium, an empire despised by Western and Soviet ideologues alike, presents us with an excellent opportunity to talk about contemporary Russia. For the first time, the average Russian television viewer heard that the Eastern Roman Empire was neither an “evil empire”, nor a centre of dark obscurantism and superfluous luxury, but the largest civilisation of its time, one that has something to offer modern Russia. It is little wonder, then, that the film upset those who have been trying to convince us that the sun rises not in the East but in the West. It is surprising that some critics have not bothered to discuss the film’s production quality or the facts and ideas it portrays, but simply lashed out at the very idea of “rehabilitating” Byzantium and the “Byzantine spirit” in Russia. Their arguments are weak. “The filmmakers are trying to take us back to the Middle Ages”, they say.

What we need here is a real dialogue with pro-Western Russians. Are they able to prove that the course of development they favour is the sole alternative, even though that path is causing an increasing number of crises in the West? What has the West come to, when its leading nations drop bombs in an effort to prove the truth of their cause (which is a sign of weakness)? Alternatively, does the ideal of an alliance between the people and the authorities suggested by Byzantium offer a viable model for the future? Might the West itself one day turn to such a model as well? We clearly do not have enough dialogue on these questions. Instead, we have heated arguments on the one hand, and demands that the film be all but prohibited on the other.

The film provides convincing arguments that the Byzantine model of society, one based on Christian social ideals, on the unity of faith and civil action, on the “symphony” and harmony of Church and State, and on mutual understanding rather than competition, has a very promising future. It was no coincidence that Russia survived when it adopted this model. In fact, one can say that it thrived. The main thing now is not to marginalise those who are sympathetic to this paradigm, whether in the East or in the West.

In my view, Byzantium would not have perished if it could have found a general modus vivendi with the Muslim world. It did find one, but, only when it was too late to save them. Russia did find such a solution. If the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke recently of the need of the West to reconcile itself with Islamic law, I must point up that in some of the regions of the Russian Empire such accommodation with Sharia existed for many centuries, and this only strengthened the unity of our country. Indeed, our respect for other traditions, and our realisation that alteration and “re-education” of other peoples and cultures was impossible, became the basis of harmony in our society.

It was necessary for Byzantium to have contacts and real dialogue with its Western neighbours. Not all who came from the West were enemies. Many of the participants in the first crusades sincerely wished to help the Byzantines, and they did help them, with the sacrifice of their money, well-being, and their very lives. Many contemporary Western Europeans considered the attack and pillage of Constantinople in 1204 by the Fourth Crusade as a tragedy, not excepting the Pope of Rome. It was only later that Westerners began to apply the disparaging term “Byzantium” to the Empire of the Rhomaioi, deeming it unworthy of respect. By losing contact with the Orthodox East, the West began to breathe with only one lung; it choked itself in spiritual isolation.

Russia needs dialogue with the West. It is not only indifferent egoists and our opponents that live there, we also have sincere friends in the West, and the copies of Russian icons hanging in the churches of Brussels, Paris, and Rome testify to this. However, this dialogue should not be a one-way street. Russia and the West need to respect each other and accept each other the way we are. Only in this way, can we offer each other our best qualities as friends, and correct the worst.

7 March 2008

Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin

Vice Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations

The Moscow Times

As quoted in Interfax-Religion


Editor’s note:

Paragraphs 5 and 6 are missing in the English version on the Interfax website. I have translated them from the Russian original.


Bishop Nikolai of Alaska is suspended…

Filed under: Alaska,Christian,Orthodox hierarchs,Orthodox life,religious — 01varvara @ 00.00

Firstly, here is the official pronouncement from the OCA Holy Synod:

On Tuesday, 4 March 2008, the Lesser Synod of the Orthodox Church in America met to address the current situation in the Diocese of Alaska. The remaining members of the Holy Synod also took part in the meeting by telephone. Subsequently, the Secretary of the Holy Synod, His Eminence Archbishop Seraphim, issued a letter to His Grace Bishop Nikolai, informing him that “(the members of the Holy Synod) received many letters of serious complaint from deaneries, clergy, and faithful of the Diocese of Alaska… Not relying on hearsay, yet acknowledging the seriousness of these letters, at your suggestion, all your brother bishops were contacted; and they unanimously agreed that the best course of action for you is that you be placed on a temporary Leave-of-absence (OCA Statute, Article II.1; II.7.a,f,I,j; Apostolic Canon 74, and 34)”.

The letter instructed Bishop Nikolai that, while on Leave-of-absence, “you will, according to the direction of Metropolitan Herman, absent yourself from the territory of the Diocese of Alaska”. During this time, the day-to-day affairs of the Diocese will be conducted by an Administrator appointed by His Beatitude and “a Committee will be appointed to investigate the complaints and accusations”.



If the OCA wishes to “put this crisis to bed”, it MUST follow exactly the course followed by the Holy Synod of the MP in resolving a similar predicament in the Diocese of Yekaterinburg in 1999. That is, the people looking for Nikolai’s blood shall be disappointed, and rightly so, in my opinion. Bishop Nikon Mironov of Yekaterinburg was removed from office as a diocesan ordinary, but, he was not defrocked. He was sent to the Pskov Monastery of the Caves to do repentance, and he has not served as a diocesan archpastor since that time.

Firstly, the canons state clearly that only one punishment may be handed out for a particular action. Removal as a diocesan archpastor is certainly a punishment, and a grave one at that. If the MP example is followed to the letter, and an immature body such as the OCA would do well to emulate the mother church exactly in this case, Nikolai would be removed as ordinary of the Russian Orthodox Diocese of Alaska and sent to a monastery far removed from the state of Alaska. In short, Nikolai should be given an obedience at St Tikhon Monastery in Pennsylvania, and he should be left in peace to repent.

Secondly, in the Orthodox Church, we do not so much punish miscreants as we make certain that they do no further damage to the Church at large. We should use the absolute minimum of coercion as possible; this is to facilitate the salvation of the person involved. The removal of Nikolai as archpastor, his relocation to a distant monastery, and a ban on his future service as a diocesan ordinary shall turn the trick nicely, so, there is no need to “rub his nose in it”. That is what forgiveness is all about. It is not giving a person a “get of jail free” card, it is giving them the opportunity to repent and turn a new leaf. All those wishing to tack Nikolai’s hide to the wall should be stopped, and all those wishing to “sweep it under the rug” should be exposed.

The Orthodox Church is not a rigid juridical monarchy as we find in the Roman confession, nor is it an unforgiving Calvinist assembly as we see in the Evangelical Protestant sectarians. The Church is not bound by its canons, rather, it “wields them as instruments of Divine house-building”. To punish Nikolai immoderately would not serve the purpose of “building the house”, so, we cannot do it, or, we would face the Divine wrath for doing so at the Last and Final Judgement.

This is why it is so difficult for Westerners to acquire an Orthodox weltanshauung. We do not follow a Pope, we do not follow a Law, we do not follow a Prophet, and we do not bow down in idolatry before the Holy Scriptures or the Holy Fathers. Rather, we recognise that we are part of a Living Reality, a Body that existed before all of the items that I mentioned in the previous sentence. The Church is an ontological construct that is beyond all of those things. Yes, we use the canons, Scriptures, Fathers, and the regulations of the recognised Ecumenical and Local Synods. However, it is always in the light of the Person that embodies the Faith. I fear that all too many (not just “converts”) think in “legal” terms, when what is needful is “incarnational” thinking.

If you hate Nikolai, you are Lucifer’s servant. If you wish to excuse his actions, you are the same. If you wish to remove him from a bad situation, and give him an opportunity to save his soul, you are an Orthodox Christian. It is quite that simple.

Vara Drezhlo

Friday 7 March 2008

Albany NY

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