Voices from Russia

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Metropolitan Vladimir Sabodan of Kiev Withdrew His Name from Consideration as a Candidate for the Post of Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias


Metropolitan Vladimir Sabodan of Kiev withdrew his name from consideration in the upcoming election to choose a new Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias. This became known just a week before the convening of the Local Council, which will elect the new First Hierarch of the Moscow Patriarchate. The sessions of the Council will be held in Moscow from 27 to 29 January. This announcement by Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev riveted the attention of not only believers, but, also, those who are more interested in politics than in religion. There are reasons for this fact. Without a doubt, for many years, religious life in the Ukraine has been anything but calm. Worldly affairs are the main culprit in this, that is, nationalist politics, which sought, as much as possible, to distance the Ukraine from Russia. Sadly, the nationalists were not shy in embroiling faith and religion in their designs. For example, part of the Ukrainian élite, led by President Yushchenko, has long supported schismatic factions within Ukrainian Orthodoxy and tried repeatedly to separate the Ukrainian Orthodox Church/MP (UOC/MP) from the Moscow Patriarchate. Today, there are three Orthodox bodies in the Ukraine. Only one, the UOC/MP, is canonical and recognised by the other Local Orthodox Churches in the world. The other two are nothing but schismatic groups. They agitate for an autocephalous Ukrainian Church independent of the MP, and are even willing to involve the Ecumenical Patriarchate in their plots.

The threat of a schism’s very real. However, an important event occurred this summer. Whilst taking part in the events marking the 1,020th anniversary of the baptism of Russia, which were widely celebrated in Kiev, the late Patriarch Aleksei Rediger of Moscow and all the Russias managed to prevent a schism in the Church. When he was in the Ukraine, he met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. Then, the two First Hierarchs came to an agreement not to allow a schism in Ukrainian Orthodoxy. However, after the death of Patriarch Aleksei on 5 December 2008, the political leadership of the Ukraine decided to re-assert their demand for a autocephalous Orthodox Church in the Ukraine. It’s possible that clamorous declarations shall be made during the time of the upcoming Local Council. According to Kirill Frolov, the head of the Ukrainian Department of the Institute of the CIS, “Metropolitan Vladimir’s withdrawal from the election for the First Hierarch of the MP changes everything. His Beatitude disrupted their plans by his refusal to stand as a candidate for the post of Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias. Moreover, he proposed no other figure from the Ukraine to take his place as a candidate. Thus, he foiled the plan of some in the Ukrainian leadership to nominate a single Ukrainian candidate for the post of Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias. He did it in such a way that the nationalists couldn’t take public offence. Thus, now, there’s no ‘Ukrainian’ candidate. Therefore, there’ll be no ill-effects in the UOC/MP due to the election of the Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias”.

What’s connected with the withdrawal of Metropolitan Vladimir? The Metropolitan, indicating that some saw him as a likely successor to Patriarch Aleksei, said, “Thank you for such a high honour, but, I wish to appear before God as the Metropolitan of Kiev. The Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias shall be someone whom God’s going to name and you’re going to choose him”. Some explain the decision of the Metropolitan by saying that he didn’t want to participate in political games. In addition, in doing so, Metropolitan Vladimir’s trying to preserve the unity of Orthodoxy in the Ukraine. In the opinion of Professor Frolov, “The Ukrainian hierarchy understands that the patriarch mustn’t be selected on the basis of nationality or ethnicity, but on the basis of his fitness for the historical tasks facing the MP. These historical tasks are the preservation and ingathering of historical Russia, and the returning of all of our people to the bosom of Orthodoxy, by going forth into the world beyond the church gate. It’s a global mission, both domestically and in the international arena. Besides, we must have a dialogue of equals with the other world religions. We’ll not take a subordinate role to anyone.  The Orthodox Church in Russia should be evaluated by others as an influential world force, not as a local ethnic religion”. Today, the future of the Ukrainian Orthodoxy largely depends on who will become the new First Hierarch of the MP. However, the withdrawal of Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev gives reason to hope that a schism within the MP won’t happen. If he remains at his post, the chief hierarch of Kiev would continue to defend the ideal of church unity.

21 January 2009

Yekaterina Antropova

Voice of Russia World Service


Editor’s Note:

Mark well that Vladimir doesn’t indicate, in any way, how he’ll steer the votes of his influential bloc. Therefore, no conclusions can be drawn, that is, conclusions with a basis in fact, not bootless speculation. Vladimir continues to smile the smile of the Mona Lisa… enigmatic, yet, full of purpose. Only time shall tell us the full import of this… prepare to be surprised.



Dr Leonid Roshal: Children Must Not Suffer at the Hands of Politicians


Palestinian fathers holding their dead children… the stones weep at this… what about you?

A group of Russian paediatricians headed by the prominent surgeon Leonid Roshal left Moscow for Gaza on Wednesday, 21 January. Their mission is to give medical aid to Palestinian children injured during the Israeli military operation “Cast Lead”. The group comprises a children’s trauma surgeon, a neurosurgeon, an expert on wounds, and a general surgeon. World-famous paediatrician Dr Leonid Roshal, chairman of the International Task Force of Paediatric Disaster Medicine in the World Association for Disaster and Emergency Medicine said that, on Monday, he received an official letter from the head of the Union of Health Work Committees, the largest professional association uniting Palestinian doctors and professors. Russian specialists were invited to Palestine to give medical aid to children in need.

According to data from Palestinian physicians, Israel’s military operation in the Gaza Strip in late December took a toll of over 1,000 human lives; amongst the dead were some 300 children. Dr Roshal said, “I usually take a cautious approach to statistics, because statistics are often mixed up with politics. Everything becomes clearer after one inspects the situation on-site. If statistical reports say that 200-300 children died, this means that the figure for the injured should be 1,000, and, amongst them, about 300 are badly wounded. I understand that this is an enormous tragedy! This group of paediatricians was formed as a matter of urgency. We are ready to leave for Gaza to examine those children together with Palestinian doctors. It may happen that everything is all right there. Or, probably, we shall give our consultations regarding some patients, and this will help to prevent permanent injury to those children. If evacuation is needed, this can be done via Egypt. I am an advocate of medical aid on site; patients should be evacuated to other cities or countries only if such aid cannot be provided locally”.

Dr Roshal said that the term of Russian doctors’ stay in Gaza was not specified. It depends on the number of children who need medical aid. If necessary, Russia can take about 100 of the worst cases amongst the Palestinian children who were seriously wounded. Aircraft of the Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations (MChS) can be used to evacuate them. Dr Roshal emphasised that there are several good paediatric medical centres in Moscow; their specialists are always ready to give qualified medical aid. Amongst such centres is, notably, the Moscow Scientific-Research Institute of Paediatric Emergency Surgery and Traumatology set up and headed by Dr Roshal. More than once, the institute’s specialists came to the rescue of children injured in the zones of natural calamities, man-made disasters, and hostilities. Dr Roshal said, “For us, the children have always been important. ‘Children must not be hostages of politicians, they must not suffer at the hands of politicians’; this is our credo”.

21 January 2009

Svetlana Kalmykova

Voice of Russia World Service


Editor‘s Note:

Dr Leonid Roshal is justly famous throughout Russia; he has received the highest awards that the Russian state can confer in recognition of his professional skill and for his work in negotiating in situations where children are involved, such as the Beslan hostage crisis and the Nord-Ost Theatre incident. He is a peerless doctor, a devoted humanitarian, and a great human being. The world is better for his being here. Three cheers for Dr Roshal… ura, Ura, URA!


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