Voices from Russia

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

The sin against the Holy Spirit goes unrequited in Maryland


The full import of what happened recently to Kristine Patico Koumentakos in Maryland has finally sunk in. It is so blasphemous that it is horrifying. Fr Raymond Velencia of the OCA publicised intimate details of a woman’s life that he heard in confession and counselling. Fr Alexey Karlgut of the Syosset apparat said the following to the victim, “As to allegations of violation of ‘pastoral confidentiality’ it should be stated that in the teaching, Doctrine, and Canonical rules, regulations, and tribunal for internal discipline and government of the Orthodox Church no such concept exists”. Velencia was a “goals-oriented priest”, according to Karlgut, and he’s still the rector of St Matthew parish in Maryland. Herman Swaiko is the diocesan ordinary responsible in this situation. Did he remove Rev Velencia for breaking the inviolability of the confessional? Did he discipline Rev Karlgut for supporting him?


He used Karlgut in an attempt to force the victim to sign a waiver stating that she wouldn’t sue the Church over a legitimate grievance where the priest involved overstepped his authority. As bad as that is, it isn’t the open scandal of Herman supporting a priest who contemptuously broke the seal of the confessional. This is the sin against the Holy Spirit naked and unashamed. I know what the late Archbishop Kyprian would’ve done. He would’ve jumped in his car and talked to a friendly judge in Maryland. Vladyki Kyprian and the Maryland state troopers would’ve come up to Velencia’s door. Vladyki would’ve kicked the door in, and a royal rumble between Vladyki and Velencia would’ve ensued. The Maryland state troopers would be there only to do the light work and pick up the pieces after Vladyki was finished. Velencia would’ve been dog-meat, and rightly so. In my time, I have heard of only four instances where a priest violated the confessional, including this one. In three cases, the bishop responsible swooped in like an avenging angel and planted his size-12 firmly into the backside of the priest involved. The priests in these cases were defrocked so quickly that it seemed instantaneous. In this case, Herman Swaiko SUPPORTS the priest involved. This is clear prima facie evidence, even for the obtuse, that the OCA central apparat is EVIL.


Ilya Repin. Tsar Ivan Grozny Killing His Son on 15 November 1581. 1873

Tsar Ivan Grozny After Killing His Son on 15 November 1581

Ilya Repin



This is what Herman Swaiko’s done to Christ’s Church. He supports a priest who broke the seal of the confessional.



I shall NOT be silent. I shall NOT be quiet. There’s NO possible justification or explanation for the public airing of private confidences told to a priest in confession and counselling. I believe that this is grounds for a legal suit. I stand under correction in this, but I think that attorneys, physicians, and clergy are responsible before the law if they break such confidence. It’s a violation of secular law as well as being an offence in the Church sense. I stand mute in the face of such EVIL. It’s beyond words. Herman Swaiko has the responsibility to remove Velencia from the clergy as expeditiously as possible, and to issue an apology to the entire Church for his laggardliness in so doing. If he doesn’t act, it shows his true character. I know of no bishop who’s ever shirked his duty in such a circumstance. This is the only time that I’ve heard of a bishop, either now or in the distant past, supporting a priest who broke the seal of confidentiality that all clergy enjoy. If anyone supports Herman Swaiko or Raymond Velencia in this, you share their guilt in their sin against the Holy Spirit. What’ll it take for this crucifixion to end? If the OCA Holy Synod refuses to act, shall one of the other local Churches step in to restore a proper Orthodox order? I’d say to His Holiness Aleksei, “It’s time to act. The inviolability of the confessional has been raped”. Is there anyone listening, dear God?

Barbara-Marie Drezhlo

Thursday 8 May 2008

Albany NY

Editor’s Update:

There’s been quite a bit of discussion of this case on Stokoe’s website. Let’s keep this simple. A priest violated the confidentiality of the confessional. Full stop. His bishop didn’t remove him. Full stop. Two priests, Alexey Karlgut and George Washburn (in his posts on the Stokoe site), appear to justify this abuse by their public statements. Full stop. In a well-run church, the Holy Synod would depose Metropolitan Herman Swaiko without delay, and they’d immediately defrock Raymond Velencia, Alexey Karlgut, and George Washburn. In Washburn’s case, it can be explained by the fact that he lacks a proper Orthodox formation as a priest. The other two have no such defence. A priest violated the confidentiality of the confessional and of counselling. Why, the old Okhrana wasn’t as invasive! Mr Washburn, what’s so difficult in that to grasp? Your lawyerly parsing is offensive and noisome. Withdraw it immediately, or stand accused of complicity in this. I’d like to hear from the last solid hierarch in the OCA, Vladyki Job of Chicago. Speak, sir, and don’t let Herman’s bullying stop you! This is truly too much of a muchness. When I think of what I saw at St Nick’s last Saturday and compare it with this rubbish, I weep. Either condemn this monstrous act or stand complicit with it. It’s that simple.



A Flame was lit at St Nick’s…

I knew that Nicky and I just HAD to go to the joint MP/ROCOR service at St Nick’s last Saturday. Albany is only some 250 kilometres from the city, so, it wasn’t an overly-long trip. We hopped in the car at 05.15, and we were off! Again, we chose not to take the main motorway. Instead, we took the Taconic State Parkway, which was much less crowded. We were on our way to Croton-on-Hudson in northern Westchester to park the car in a secure lot (without having to take out a mortgage) and catch the Metro-North train to the city. We had one unscheduled stop, but, we made fairly good time, and were in Croton by 07.50. It only cost us six bucks to park the car for the whole day. Any of you who know the prices for parking in the City know that’s a steal. In fact, if you factor in the gas used, bridge tolls, and astronomical parking fees, it’s cheaper to do what we did and take the train in (it was a 15 dollar fare round-trip for each of us).

We caught the 08.27 to Grand Central, and it was a fairly quiet and uneventful ride into town, and we arrived at about 09.25. Then, it was down into the subway station under Grand Central, I got the all-day passes (only 7.50, a bargain, considering that one ride on the bus or train is two bucks a throw), and we got on the platform for the Lex Ave IRT local. I was thrown for a loop at first, because it was a new subway car with a slightly different format for the line indication. The new job had a LED display in red, whereas the older Lex Av trains all had a white “six” in a green circle. See what happens when you’re away… It was quite pleasant, but, the trip from 42nd to 96th was not long, a little under 10 minutes. From the subway stop, it wasn’t long to the church. You walk uptown one block, then, you turn left at 97th, cross Park and Mad, and St Nick’s is on the right-hand side in the centre of a rather ritzy block (it is the Upper East Side, after all!). Nicky wanted to approach from the left-hand side to take photos, and he took some nice shots. From the outside, the church looked rather normal. I looked at my watch, 10.05… drat! Five minutes late… oh, well.



We opened the door to the church, and… WHAM-O! Wall-to-wall people. I’m not exaggerating; I’m not using hyperbole. There was so little space that a baba couldn’t swing her cane, if she wanted to. Then, there was the sound of the clergy and the congregation singing the “Khristos Voskrese”… hundreds of voices. The effect was palpable, it was almost physical. Of course, I joined in… I was absolutely FLOORED. I’ve heard this hymn hundreds of times, I’ve sung it hundreds of times, but this time was SPECIAL. There was an intensity that I have rarely felt. We MEANT every word and it SHOWED.

Khristos voskrese iz mertvykh, smertiyu smert po prav!

I sushchym vo grobekh, zhivot darovav!

(Christ is risen from the dead, trampling on death by death!

And upon those in the tombs, bestowing life!)

We were so crowded that we sometimes jostled one another as we crossed ourselves. Nonetheless, there was excellent order throughout it all. People were genuinely kind to one another in the crush, and we all helped those who were unfamiliar with the layout. There was a lovely family from Pennsylvania. It was their first time in New York, and they’d difficulty parking their van. I met a nice fellow, Aleksandr, a “New Russian”, and he translated a plaque in the back of the church for some people who couldn’t read it. Americans and Russians together, there was no difference in us, we were all Orthodox Christians celebrating the unity of our Russian Orthodox Faith. This did not come about through scholars, learning, or windy lectures. As is the custom at St Nick’s, the Creed and the Our Father were sung in simple settings that we all knew, so, of course, we all joined in. I can’t describe to you adequately the atmosphere of the service. Yes, we were so packed that we could hardly move. Yes, there was the usual hub-bub of a Russian cathedral service. However, I simply don’t have the words to describe the gut intensity of it all. This was something that I had dreamed of and longed for since 1991. It did NOT disappoint. There was a palpable power hovering over us, there was the sense that a great weight had been lifted off each of us individually. THE WAR WAS OVER. I remember the deluded sorts who told me, “The Reds are still in charge! These people are nothing but communists in disguise!” (Hmm… I did wear a bright RED hat at the service. Was that a statement? That’s for me to know…) Many people suffered for believing in unity in the 90s in time of the insane Ustinovshchyna, when the ROCOR dared to establish parishes in Russia (a clear violation of Ukaz 362). I despaired of seeing sanity and unity in my lifetime. Nevertheless, it came! It came on silent cat’s paws, there was no cataclysm; unity came as silently as the fall of the Soviet Union. Of course, there were those who left (noisily, I might add) in a snit because the MP did not meet their definition of “repentance”. If all the clergy of the MP, from Patriarch Aleksei on down, were to beat themselves bloody with whips of barbed-wire whilst kneeling on jagged shards of glass, it wouldn’t be good enough for them. For me, it is simple. “God forgives!” I felt that way in August 1991 and I continue to feel the same way today.



You couldn’t tell the difference between the MP and ROCOR clergy and faithful, and that’s as it should be. We have one heart, one soul, one blood, and one Orthodox Faith. Why, O Lord, did it take so long for that to be realised? To be honest, the rest of the day was taken up with some minor sightseeing as I took Nicky about town. We ate at Veselka’s in the Village, and I took him to Times Square. Nicky was a bit taken aback by the odd sorts to be found in the Village, to be sure! The ending was fairly anti-climactic. We hopped on the 17.56 train to Croton, picked up the car, retraced our steps and were home by 21.30. The last six weeks have been hectic. First, there was Vladyki’s funeral. Then, there was Easter at Jordanville. Lastly, there was the unity service at St Nick’s. The intensity of it all was almost frightening. The flame of the revival in the Motherland has come here to America. I saw that flame lit at St Nick’s on Saturday. I would say to all in the OCA, “It is time to come home. Leave all the silliness of the past behind. We want you and we are willing to forget the past. Only come forward and live!” God willing, there shall be those with ears to hear.

Barbara-Marie Drezhlo

Wednesday 7 May 2008

Voice of Russia Listeners are Grateful that the Soviet Soldiers Crushed the Nazis in World War II

Filed under: inspirational,military,patriotic,Russian — 01varvara @ 00.00

“We are grateful to the Soviet soldiers for the freedom they brought to Europe!” said a text message sent to the Voice of Russia by our listener Giancarlo Venturi in Rome, Italy. Giancarlo joined the hundreds of co-authors of the Voice of Russia’s Living Memory Book worldwide project devoted to the 63rd anniversary of the great victory over Nazi Germany during World War II.

This unique project pays tribute to the millions who died in that terrible war in a sign of our undying memory of all those who perished in the bloodiest war ever fought… The SMS messages we are getting from all over the world express their authors’ grief for the dead and their pride in the soldiers who scarified their lives to liberate mankind from the Nazi scourge. However, in his message to us, Neboija Radoslavlevic from Serbia worried about what he said is a thinly-veiled Nazi ideology making a global comeback, becoming even more inhuman and working from behind the scenes. “We should always keep in mind the fact that it was Soviet soldiers who killed the Nazi hydra when they entered Berlin”, Neboija wrote, adding that this is something some people now try to forget. His concern is fully shared by the author of a text message that we just received from Germany that said that the EU cannot become a single whole because some of its new members do not see Nazism as a crime, a clear reference to some former Soviet Baltic republics that recently joined the European Union.

Valentina Zlobina, the head of the Internet and multimedia service of the Voice of Russia said that even though some historians say that the events of the past war are closer to people of the older generation, the Living Memory Book project proves that young people in Russia and the rest of the world also take this matter very close to heart. In their messages they bow in respect to the war veterans and tell about their own relatives who fought in the war. We have already received hundreds of such messages and none of them has gone unanswered, Ms Zlobina said. The text messages in Russian and English keep coming in around the clock and are posted on the project’s website, which is http://www.ruvr.ru/09/index_eng.html.

The Living Memory Book action will run until 10 May and many messages are already being read out on our wavelength in 37 languages. Each one is getting a recording with the voice of the legendary Soviet announcer Yuri Levitan announcing the Great Victory that they can install on their cell phones. As part of the Hurray to Victory competition being held as part of the Living Memory Book project, we invite our listeners to send us video and photo materials about 9 May celebrations in your city or town. The results of the competition will be announced on 21 May and shall be posted on that very same website, http://www.ruvr.ru/09/index_eng.html and will also be announced on our programmes. The winners will receive the Voice of Russia’s Great Patriotic War multimedia album.

6 May 2008

lada-korotunLada Korotun


Voice of Russia World Service

Joint Service in New York is a Manifestation of Orthodox Unity

A joint service of the clergy of the patriarchal parishes in the US and clerics of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, which took place at St Nicholas Patriarchal Cathedral in New York on 3 May, demonstrated the growing unity inside the Russian Orthodox Church. The Divine Liturgy on Saturday was the first event of this type since the signing of the act of canonical communion within the Russian Orthodox Church. This document ended an almost century-long division caused by the Russian revolution of 1917.

The restoration of church unity means much to thousands of Orthodox believers and also to the descendants of white émigrés, who were forced to leave Russia more than 80 years ago. Archbishop Gavriil of Blagoveshensk and Tynda commented on the event, saying, “Almost a year ago a very important thing happened. Two branches of the same church signed an act of reunification. Today, we finally have a unique chance to hold a joint service together and share the joy of Easter”.

The service involved over 60 clerics and hundreds of Orthodox believers attended. For the first time, the Kursk-Korennaya Icon of the Sign, which is considered to be the guardian of the Russians abroad since 1925, was displayed during the service. Bishop Merkury said, “This miraculous icon was taken from Russia to unite all Russian emigrants. That is why it is also called the custodian of all Russian believers abroad and is venerated so highly”.

“Joy and peace now reign supreme in our much-suffering Church,” Patriarch Aleksei of Moscow and all the Russias noted in his message to the participants in the Easter festivities. “A united Church is the spiritual foundation of a revitalised Russia”, his message emphasised. “We look with hope to the future of our common Motherland”.

5 May 2008

Vyacheslav Solovyov

Voice of Russia World Service


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