Voices from Russia

Friday, 20 November 2009

Orthodox React to the Murder of Fr Daniil Sysoev

Fr Daniil Sysoev (1974-2009), renowned contemporary Orthodox missionary.

Today, the parishioners of St Thomas church are praying for the repose of the soul of Fr Daniil Sysoev, who died last night after an unknown assailant shot him. “This morning, we celebrated three Pannikhidas for Fr Daniil. In spite of it being a working day, people continue to come forward”, a spokesman for the parish told our Interfax-Religion correspondent. They told us that Fr Daniel had many friends in the clergy, and, probably, they will continuously perform Pannikhidas for him until the day of his funeral. “Anyone can come to our church and pray, however, we don’t allow reporters to use photo and video equipment here”, the sexton on duty said.

On early Friday morning, at St Thomas church in the Kantemirov district of Moscow, there was continuous reading from the Psalter in honour of Fr Daniil Sysoev, killed the night before. Parishioners and spiritual children of Fr Daniil read from the Psalms and offered prayers for the repose of his soul at an analoi {Editor’s note: A reader’s stand, but, not the same as the kliros.} set up for the purpose in the centre of the church, according to our Interfax-Religion correspondent. Mourners lit dozens of candles at the kanon (a memorial table with a crucifix).

One constantly sees all sorts of people bringing flowers to the church, including priests, members of the parish community and missionary clubs that Fr Daniil sponsored, and friends and relatives of the deceased priest. Most of them are weeping disconsolately. People light candles and quietly discuss the tragedy amongst themselves, as they recall their personal contact with Fr Daniil; they remember his care and assistance for his parishioners in their specific needs.

In the small wooden church, a memorial to the right of the altar marks where an unknown assassin murdered Fr Daniil the night before. Two white and two red roses lie crosswise around bouquets of flowers on the rug where he fell. Meanwhile, on the street outside, believers have laid more bouquets of flowers at the entrance to the church. Announcements of parish events signed by Fr Daniil still hang on the door of the church. Near the church fence, a few cops are on duty to keep order, but, the church is open to anyone who wants to come and pray. Several Russian television crews are on the scene, as well.

Hundreds of Russian-speaking users of the internet service Live Journal passed on a message urging everybody to participate in a procession on the day of the funeral of Fr Daniil Sysoev, who died early Friday morning after being shot in the head on Thursday evening. “We would like 400,000 to show up for a procession to remember the murder of a priest in Moscow. It would stretch from Tver to the Kremlin. However, it will not happen. There won’t be anything here”, political scientist Aleksandr Morozov wrote on his blog. In turn, Arkady Maler, a member of the Synodal Theological Commission said in his blog, “I think that the idea of a large religious procession is absolutely correct, and, moreover, it is one of those very rare cases where our differences do not matter… you just need to demonstrate that the Orthodox people really are there. It is not politics, it is much more important”. “If there are Orthodox in Moscow, then, our farewell procession to Fr Daniil Sysoev should attract several thousand marchers. If it does not, then, they will see that we are nobodies and they will just kick us aside”, a blog-owner with the user-name “samurfila” wrote. On Friday morning, hundreds of Live Journal users reprinted these three posts. Thousands of bloggers all over Russia confirmed their willingness to come to a procession in memory of Fr Daniil Sysoev. According to most Orthodox bloggers who expressed a desire to come to any such procession, it should be a prayerful religious event blessed by the Archpastors of the Church without any political dimension.

Boris Yakemenko, the head of the Orthodox section of the youth movement Nashi, a member of the Public Chamber of Russia, sees the murder of Fr Daniel Sysoev as evidence of our country’s moral crisis. “This heinous crime shows just how far society has gone in its spiritual degeneration. If the walls of a church, or an ordained priest, or even the cross itself didn’t stop such scum, it means that we see the onset of a crisis that is much worse than any global economic crisis… a crisis of consciousness, a crisis of the heart and soul”, Boris Yakemenko told Interfax-Religion on Friday. In his opinion, “Everyone with a heart and a conscience, not only Orthodox, but, anyone with an open soul, must oppose this spiritual decay now, or, we shall pay once again for our indifference with the best things in our lives, leaving our house in ruins. Fr Daniil was a bright, talented, and very active missionary; he was a very significant figure. He preached, spoke, wrote books, and dashed off anywhere at a moment’s notice to where anyone needed his help, pastoral support, or word of comfort”.

Mr Yakemenko noted that Fr Daniil worked with Muslims, with migrant workers, with counterculture types, “with very different sorts of people. Like any other exceptional or gifted man, not everyone cared for his ways, but, no one could say that he wasn’t the kind of missionary that people really need today”. He told us that Fr Daniil spent the entire term of the Orthodox youth camp this summer at Lake Seliger “because there were thousands of people there, and he just couldn’t stay away. He baptised, preached, and talked to the kids… It seemed that he was everywhere doing everything. We collected petitions in support of his church (when some wanted to tear it down), and he and I met on several occasions, and we discussed our plans for next summer”.

According to tentative plans, the funeral service of Fr Daniil Sysoev shall be on Monday at Ss Peter and Paul church in the Yasenevo district in Moscow. “In addition, people may pay their respects to Fr Daniil on Saturday and Sunday at St Thomas church in the Kantemirov district of Moscow, where he was the rector and where he was shot”, a source in the MP told Interfax-Religion on Friday. According to our source, on one of those days, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all the Russias shall come and pay his respects to the late Fr Daniil. At one time, Fr Daniil was a cleric at Ss Peter and Paul church in Yasenevo, which is a podvorie of the Optina Pustyn Monastery. His father, Fr Aleksei Sysoev (also a priest), is rector of St John the Evangelist church in the Yasenevo Orthodox classical gymnasium, also served in this podvorie as well.

20 November 2009







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