Voices from Russia

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

The Ukrainian Orthodox Community Considers Membership in NATO “A Crime before the People”

Filed under: church in society,patriotic,politics,Russian,Viktor Yushchenko — 01varvara @ 00.00


Leaders of Ukrainian Orthodox patriotic organisations spoke again against that country’s membership in NATO. “When you continue pushing Ukraine to NATO, you, dear leaders, commit a crime before God, before your people, and before the millions of our forefathers who gave their lives for our freedom and independence, for our unique East-Slavonic Orthodox civilisation”, read the letter of Orthodox Ukrainian leaders to Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko.

Its authors stressed that the main values of this civilisation are “not comfort and a high material standard of life, but, absolutely different life objectives based on Christian spirituality and morality”. Leaders of the country’s Orthodox organisations also stated, “In case the opinion of Orthodox patriotic community on joining the Ukraine to NATO is ignored, believers will insist on the voluntary dissolution of the parliament and pre-term parliamentary and presidential elections”. “Why do acting Ukrainian leaders not consider the will of the Ukrainian people, which is the supreme authority in compliance with the constitution?” the letter continued. Its authors also urged believers to oppose the plan of actions for the Ukraine in NATO on 2 April, the opening day of NATO’s summit in Bucharest, where the question would be considered.

1 April 2008




Metropolitan Laurus Škurla: Conciliatory Orthodox leader

Metropolitan Laurus Škurla (1928-2008)


Although he was the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), Metropolitan Laurus Škurla might have remained an unknown figure to his fellow Americans until the Russian president Vladimir Putin invited him to the Russian Consulate General in New York in 2003. Officially, Putin had arranged the meeting to hand over a letter from the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Aleksei inviting Laurus to visit Moscow. But Laurus and Putin went on to discuss how the two wings of the divided Russian Church could conduct a closer dialogue. Canonical unity followed at a triumphant ceremony led by Aleksei and Laurus at the newly rebuilt Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow in 2007. For die-hard opponents, the New York meeting was the clinching proof that it was all a KGB plot… the Moscow Patriarchate leadership was under total KGB control, Putin was a KGB man, and ROCOR, once defiantly anti-Communist, had been brought to its knees by KGB infiltration.

Laurus had come far from his roots in rural Slovakia. He was born Vasil Mikhailovich Škurla in the village of Ladomirova near Presov into a devoutly Orthodox family. He decided early on he wanted to be a monk, and, in 1939, soon after the death of his mother, he entered a monastery in his village. He was just 11. As Soviet forces approached in 1944 and the Nazis fled, the monks feared the worst. Clutching their treasured icon of St Job of Pochaev, they fled first to Bratislava, then, westward to Germany and Switzerland. In 1946, the monks left for the United States at the invitation of a ROCOR bishop. They settled at the Holy Trinity Monastery at Jordanville in New York State, making it the biggest Orthodox monastery in the US. As well as their icon, the monks brought their printing press, the only one in North America that could print in the Church’s liturgical language, Old Church Slavonic. The young Vasil graduated from the Jordanville seminary in 1947, and the following year he was tonsured as a monk, taking the name Laurus (Lavr in Russian). In 1954, he was ordained priest. In 1967, he was named Bishop of Manhattan and became secretary to the ROCOR Synod of Bishops. In 1976, Laurus was elected Bishop of Syracuse and abbot of the Jordanville monastery.

On travels in the Holy Land and to Mount Athos, and (unofficially) in Russia from the 1990s, he was open to wider Orthodox contacts, even with the Moscow Patriarchate. When the leader of the ROCOR, Metropolitan Vitaly Ustinov, a fellow member of the pre-war Ladomirova monastery, retired on health grounds in 2001, Laurus was elected in his place. Vitaly immediately regretted his decision, began denouncing his successor and agitating against growing ties between ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchate. Amid bitter disputes between those who believed the time for enmity with the Moscow Church was at an end and those who believed in preserving their purity in isolation, Laurus maintained an irenic calm. At the crucial May 2006 ROCOR council that approved canonical (though not administrative) unity with the Moscow Patriarchate, Laurus declined to argue his case for the agreement, merely calling delegates to pray over the decision. Laurus was not one for pomp and politics. When he and another monk were left on their own at the home of a parishioner, the family were astonished on their return to find Laurus and his colleague engrossed in playing with their children’s train set.

Vasil Škurla, bishop; born Ladomirova, Czechoslovakia 1 January 1928; tonsured as a monk 1948, taking the name Laurus; ordained priest 1954; Bishop of Manhattan 1967-76; Bishop, then Archbishop, of Syracuse 1976-2001; First Hierarch of ROCOR 2001-08; died Jordanville, New York 16 March 2008.

1 April 2008

Felix Corley

The Independent (UK)


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