Voices from Russia

Monday, 30 June 2008

Acclamations and Anathemas: The MP Archpastoral Council Completes its Work in Moscow

The final acts of the Archpastoral Council of the MP, which was in session last week in Moscow, were services held in the Kremlin and the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in honour of the 1,020th anniversary of the Baptism of Russia. The assembled bishops met with the leading figures of the government and also passed disciplinary actions against clergy who attacked the “common position” of the MP. On Friday, the leading hierarchs of the Council, as widely-expected, condemned the ultra-conservative faction led by Bishop Diomid of Anadyr and Chukotka. For activity “combining both the violation of canonical standards and by introducing temptation into church life, which was expressed in slanderous lies against the hierarchy”, Bishop Diomid was placed under an interdict, that is, he is barred from all sacerdotal functions such as serving the divine liturgy, performing the sacraments, and public preaching from the ambo. In his place, Archbishop Mark of Khabarovsk and Priamursky was appointed locum tenems of the Chukotka see.

Furthermore, the Council called Vladyki Diomid “on the carpet” at the next regular session of the Holy Synod scheduled for mid-July on the feastday of St Sergei of Radonezh. If the renegade bishop persists in his actions and if he does not repent, just as he did not come to the Archpastoral Council (let us recall that Diomid claimed that he was in ill-health, but, the patriarchate did not find this explanation convincing), then, the Holy Synod can “remove him from his post”.

“If Vladyki Diomid persists in his errors and disputes the decision of the Synod, then, after he is deposed from the episcopal office, he can also be degraded from the monastic to the lay state, and, finally, it can lead to an anathema against him, that is, excommunication from the church”, an MP spokesman explained to the Interfax press agency. It is quite likely that events shall work out that way, as yesterday, Diomid, in spite of the interdict laid against him, served liturgy at the Cathedral of the Transfiguration in Anadyr. The nephew of the disgraced bishop reported to journalists that Diomid intends neither to repent nor accede to the decision of the MP Holy Synod.

It is possible that “the Diomid Affair” shall be brought before the ecclesiastical tribunal, the formal charter of which was adopted by the Archpastoral Council at the end of last week. This sort of tribunal, which investigated canonical transgressions of the clergy, was in existence until 1917. The decision of the Council says that such tribunals “are intended to restore order in the institutions of the church when its life is disrupted, to encourage the observance of the holy canons and establishments of the Orthodox Church”. The Council appointed Metropolitan Isidor of Yekaterinodar and the Kuban as chairman of the ecclesiastical tribunal.

Assumption Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin

After work on all items on the agreed agenda was complete the Council switched from the consideration of practical questions to its holiday schedule. On Saturday morning, in the Assumption Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin, which is used for only the most solemn occasions, a molieben in honour of the 1,020th anniversary of the Baptism of Russia was celebrated. All of the delegates of the Council attended, more than 180 bishops, including clerics from the ROCOR. The clergy present were reminded of the celebrations this spring marking the first anniversary of the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion between the MP and the ROCOR by the singing of the chorus of the Sretensky Monastery of Moscow, an ensemble which had a world-wide tour in honour of that anniversary. At the conclusion of the molieben, Patriarch Aleksei of Moscow and all the Russias thanked the participants in the Council “for their oneness of mind, their union in prayer, and for the joy of their human friendship”.

In order to strengthen church unity even more completely, the highest church hierarchs issued a call to the governments of four Orthodox countries, Russia, the Ukraine, Byelorussia, and Moldova to declare 28 July, the feastday of the Baptiser of Russia, Grand Prince Equal-to-the-Apostles St Vladimir, a public state holiday.

Festivities marking the anniversary of the Baptism of Russia were also held in the State Kremlin Palace. The assembly that formally opened the celebration began with an address by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, “from the depths of my soul, I wish to thank all of you who contributed their share to the unity of the Russian world, for it is a good work. From this time forward, the state intends to support the programmes of the church directed towards secular and interreligious harmony, its social work, its efforts in the support and preservation of our cultural heritage, and its charitable mission”, Mr Putin emphasised. He noted, “Orthodoxy was always very tolerant of those who belonged to other confessions, and this very position of the Russian Orthodox Church contributed to the creation of a Russian state that was not only multi-national, but, multi-confessional as well”. It is interesting to note that one of the charges hurled by Bishop Diomid against the MP was that it embraced “the heresy of ecumenism and advocated permissive relations with the heterodox”. For instance, he accused Patriarch Aleksei of common prayer with the Roman Catholics during his visit to the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. Mr Putin also expressed satisfaction that “we have a substantial and multi-faceted dialogue between the Church and the State”. Bishop Diomid considered this interaction with the state gravely sinful.

President Dmitri Medvedev (1965- ) with his wife Svetlana Medvedeva (1965- )

On Sunday, the festivities moved from the Kremlin to the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. The last day of the Archpastoral Council began with a divine liturgy and a molieben served by Patriarch Aleksei. Once again, His Holiness stressed the importance of the maintenance of church unity and the integrity of the canonical territory of the MP. President Dmitri Medvedev congratulated the council delegates on the successful completion of their work. In addition, he confirmed the words of Prime Minister Putin regarding increased cooperation between the Church and the State by transferring holy relics now kept in the Moscow Kremlin State Museum back to Church control, free of all charges. “Amongst these treasures are a part of the robe of the Mother of God and a relic of the Baptiser of Russia, Grand Prince St Vladimir”, Mr Medvedev stated, adding that he understands “how important this news is for believers both here and in the entire Orthodox world”. In his thanks to the President, the patriarch emphasised, “the return to the Church of these long-lost ancient holy relics signifies, by itself, the restoration of good relations between the Church and the State”. It is worthwhile to note that several thousand believers (including Mr Medvedev) were present during the molieben in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, and the archdeacon intoned the “Many Years” for long life and health to the President.

30 June 2008

Mikhail Moshkin

Vremya Novostei (News Time)

Quoted in Interfax-Religion


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