Voices from Russia

Monday, 30 June 2008

Meanwhile, in Chukotka… The Conclusion of the Archpastoral Council of the United Russian Church at Home and Abroad

Pochaev Lavra of the Assumpton, two of the three dissenters voting against the deposition of Diomid claimed they were following the elders of this monastery. Were they?

Yesterday, the first Archpastoral Council that united the Church at home and the Church abroad concluded. The hierarchs of the Church assemble every four years to consider matters of church policy, and, it must be said, that the meeting was harmonious. President Dmitri Medvedev was present for the closing ceremony. He prayed in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour after the liturgy and spoke to the 182 bishops present. The day before that, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin spoke to the bishops in the Kremlin.

President Medvedev returned to the Church holy relics that have been in the museums of the Kremlin since they were confiscated from the Church in the 1920s. This was Mr Medvedev’s first speech to the bishops, and he declared that the Council confirmed the unity of the Russian Orthodox Church in its fullness, and it had erected a strong defence against any attempts at schism. However, the situation surrounding the disgraced Bishop Diomid of Anadyr and Chukotka continued to disrupt the serenity of the proceedings. Over some 18 months, the Bishop of Chukotka has circulated internet postings in criticism of the policies of the hierarchy of the MP. He laments that the Archpastoral Council has erected barriers so that the bishops cannot hear the voice of the people in the church, they do not heed their miserable cries, and they do not see the poverty of the people or their powerlessness before the secular government.

At the opening of the Council on Tuesday, several hundred people with posters in defence of Diomid assembled in front of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. They met members of the youth group Nashi (Ours), who were carrying placards supporting Patriarch Aleksei. Many of the placards were destroyed in the ensuing brawl, and the police moved the disputing demonstrators to different areas. The Nashi group was around the Engels monument and the Diomid supporters walked along the parapet to the cathedral. The only hierarch who accepted leaflets from the group and chatted with them was Metropolitan Vladimir Sabodan of Kiev and all the Ukraine.

It was only on the fourth day of its sessions that the Council turned its attention to the subject of the rebel Diomid. With only three dissenting votes and three abstentions, the Council voted to depose Diomid from the episcopal dignity if he does not repent of his actions. Metropolitan Hilarion, the First Hierarch of the ROCOR was amongst those abstaining from the ballot. Those casting dissenting votes were Bishop Pitirim of Sytktvkarsk and Vorkuta, Bishop Fyodor of Kaments-Podolsky, and Bishop Vladimir of Pochaev. The last two bishops named claimed that they were expressing the opinions of the elders of the Monastery of Pochaev in the Ukraine. The Holy Synod, assembled in haste after the Council adjourned, laid an interdict upon Diomid. However, yesterday, Diomid served liturgy in the Cathedral of the Transfiguration in Anadyr.

Yelena Chavchavadze, the vice president of the Russian Cultural Fund, fears that Diomid shall mislead people who are relatively new to the Church. “There is a fight going on in the Church for truth and integrity. Non-church people perceive the measure of the Council as cruelty, but, it holds out to the bishop a chance, there were many who went down such blind alleys, but, they repented and returned”, she noted. One item of concern for Ms Chavchavadze is the support given [by some of Diomid’s faction] to the glorification of Tsar Ivan Grozny and the mystic Rasputin.

Fr Nikon Belavinets, the chaplain to the Faith and Motherland Association is disturbed that Vladyki Diomid did not come. “He was hierodeacon to the patriarch in 1990-91, he personally knows His Holiness, he was his assistant, and, so, they could easily come to an understanding. But, there is no gain, only confrontation”, he said to our Gazeta correspondent. Bishop Diomid attended the Council of 2004, but, he did not speak there.

Aleksandr Ogorodnikov, the director of the Orthodox shelter The Island of Hope, who served nine years in the camps for his participation in the Christian Seminar, considers that this is the wrong treatment for the disease. “Hundreds of people from all over the country stand in the freezing rain to express their feelings. Diomid spoke their opinions, not his. To think that they are just blowing off steam and shall forget it is naïve. Indeed, the laity is the main support of the church and the hierarchs fear them. Truly, one can only depose a bishop for heresy, but, not for his opinions, and not even for insubordination. It must be taken to a proper court so that the bishop can give his defence. The Church should grieve over persecutions and reveal the persecutors, not chase their defenders”, Mr Ogorodnikov stated.

30 June 2008

Nadezhda Kevorkova

Gazeta (The Newspaper)

Quoted in Interfax-Religion

http://www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=print&div=8591

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