Voices from Russia

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Western Christians Celebrate Christmas

Fireworks display at Church of the Immaculate Conception in Moscow on 25 December 2007

Western Christians around the world, including in Russia, are preparing to celebrate Christmas. The Gregorian calendar holiday falls on the night of 25 December. According to the Gospel of St Luke, Jesus was born in Bethlehem after the appearance of the stars in the sky. Today, about 500,000 Russians practise Western-rite Christianity, both Catholic and Protestant.

In Moscow, at the Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception, the service started with a spectacular fireworks show. Christmas services will be in the Russian and Polish languages on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. At midnight, the Head of the Catholic See in Moscow, Archbishop Paolo Pezzi, will celebrate the Christmas mass in Russian, Interfax news agency reported.

In an interview with VOR, Igor Kowalewski, the Secretary General of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Russia, said that the principal service of the festival is the Christmas Midnight Mass and worship on the day of the Nativity. The MP emphasises that Christmas is a significant event for all Christians, because it stresses the importance of the salvation of the human race through Jesus Christ. Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas in two weeks time on 7 January.

According to statistics from the Levada Centre, 4 percent of Russians are going to celebrate Catholic Christmas. That is 2 percent lower than last year, and 12 percent less than in 2004. The decrease may have a connection with the lengthy 10-day New Year vacations in Russia. Russians may be saving their energy for the celebrations at the beginning of January, sociologists say.

Click on the second URL below, and it shall take you to an English-language video on Western Christmas in Russia. Click on the third URL below, and it shall take you to an English-language video on charity in Russia during the holidays. Both are short in duration.

24 December 2009

Voice of Russia World Service

http://rus.ruvr.ru/2009/12/24/3245638.html

http://english.ruvr.ru/rtvideo/2009/12/24/video_3246570.html

http://english.ruvr.ru/rtvideo/2009/12/24/video_3246065.html

Patriarch Kirill believes that Secular Ethics is a Stalking Horse for Atheism

Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias (1946- )

Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias wished the parents of all students to understand unambiguously that if they choose “secular ethics” within the academic field of “Fundamentals of Religious Cultures”, it means that their children shall be force-fed atheism. Addressing the Moscow clergy on the occasion of the annual diocesan conference on Wednesday at Christ the Saviour Cathedral, His Holiness noted that, today, many parents think that “secular ethics” in the schools is the same thing as the foundations of etiquette, that is, cultured and human behaviour in today’s world. “That is why they opt for secular ethics, not realising that they are voting for atheism”, he said.

In his view, it is the duty of every priest to give his parishioners a précis of the school subject and stress the importance of parental choice in it. “Pastors must clearly say to parents facing this choice, ‘The future direction and way of life of your child lies in your hands’”, Patriarch Kirill said. In the patriarch’s viewpoint, the choice of subjects in this course that every parent is given is equivalent to the choice of whether or not they choose to teach their child to live only by the law of immediate pragmatic gain, or, to have them guided by their traditional beliefs”.

23 December 2009

Interfax-Religion

http://www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=33490

Patriarch Kirill Believes Homosexuality is a Sin, but, Opposes Discrimination against Gays

Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias (1946- )

______________________________

Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias reiterated the unchanged position of the Orthodox Church regarding homosexuality. “We accept any human choice, including in the field of sexual orientation. This is the private affair of an individual. However, recognition of this fact in no way changes our position with regard to the phenomenon itself”, he said at a meeting with Thorbjørn Jagland, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. Patriarch Kirill reminded Mr Jagland, “The religious traditions of all nations show that homosexuality’s a sin; it’s the loss of the moral orientation of the individual. However, we shouldn’t punish people with homosexual tendencies, so, we’ve always stood firmly against any repression or discrimination against people of different sexual orientation”. At the same time, he continued, “We recognise homosexuality as a sin; we’re firmly opposed to equating homosexual relations with natural ones”. In addition, Patriarch Kirill expressed the hope that the Council of Europe would transform itself into an organisation that would declare views of the millions of Orthodox believers in Russia and “of all people who share our religious disposition”. His Holiness pointed up that the recent decision of the Strasbourg court to ban crucifixes in Italian schools was “very painful” to most Russian Orthodox Christians. As the patriarch noted, Russian believers have their own sad experiences of a time when the Soviets “filed the crosses off the churches”, and, so, today, they have every reason to warn Europeans of the harmful effects of such actions.

23 December 2009

Interfax-Religion

http://www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=33485

A Priest Fought Alcoholism… Alcoholics Killed Him: Fr Aleksandr was Shot in Front of his Wife and Three Daughters

The hallway where Fr Aleksandr Filippov was murdered

This brutal murder shocked the residents of sleepy rural Podolsk. On Tuesday evening, around 21.00, Orthodox priest Aleksandr Filippov returned home from Moscow from a meeting of the local clergy. At the entrance, he stumbled into a bunch of drunks. They warmed themselves and drank beer straight from the bottle. Then, one of the drunks unzipped and peed right at the priest’s apartment. Fr Alexander was furious and made a sharp remark. He pushed his way through them, came to his door, and knocked. When his wife Yelena opened the door, the thugs shot the priest in the back.

Yelena was crying as she spoke to us. “I just couldn’t understand what happened. My husband suddenly fell onto the wall, and I dragged him into the hall. Those who shot him immediately took off like the wind. For about five minutes, he was still breathing a little. Then, he died in my arms and right before our daughters. It turned out that the crooks got him right in the heart…”

Literally, within minutes, the cops were on the scene. Neighbours say that, at other times, the police didn’t respond and didn’t hustle the yobs out of the building. Yet, this time, such speed…

Natalia, a resident in the same wing (“02”) of the building, said, “We heard a commotion, and, a moment later, the terrible cries of our neighbour below.. It surprised us that the cops arrived so quickly”.

Looking at the painted fire extinguishers on the wall and the beer bottles scattered on the floor, I asked, “Do you often see drunks hanging out here?”

She sighed, “We’ve resigned ourselves to that. When it’s hot, the alkies and the teenagers hang out on the street and drink. As soon as it gets cold, they head for the entrances. We don’t have an intercom on our front door. It’s not a scandal to anybody, so, to keep out of harm’s way, we lay low in the evenings. You’d best look out or they’ll smash a bottle over your head. Fr Aleksandr had enough of it, so, he said something. He paid for that”.

Matushka Yelena Recognised the Murderer

That very same evening, the cops nicked the murderer. It was midnight when the cops brought 39-year-old local resident Oleg Shekhov to the Podolsk UVD (police station), where the grieving widow and her daughters were still giving their testimony to the detectives. When Shekhov passed by her, Matushka Yelena immediately recognised him as the murderer of her husband. At the homes of his friends, 35-year-old Vladimir Mitrofanov and 28-year-old Alexei Abramov, investigators found a Saiga shotgun and a IZh-79-9TM starter’s pistol converted to fire actual bullets. Shekhov used the pistol to shoot the priest.

The sobered-up perps said in justification that they were near Fr Aleksandr’s entrance to deal with the cohabitating girlfriend of one of them. They said that she was continually making life hard for them. They wanted a showdown with her, so, they packed a gun.

The detectives said to us, “After he shot [the priest], the suspect Shekhov picked up the spent cartridge case and fled the scene. By the bye, he’s already been tried for murder, but, he only did two years for it. Now, he faces up to 15 years in prison”.

He Healed Drunks

Yesterday, people spent the whole day praying for the soul of Fr Aleksandr in a little church in the village of Satino-Russkoye, 15 kilometres (9.32 miles) from Podolsk. The murdered priest was the rector here, in the church of the Ascension of our Lord. Two of the shaken parishioners, Yelena and Nadezhda, said to us, “Batiushka came to our village from the cathedral in Podolsk in 1996. Back then, it seemed impossible that we could restore the church. The Soviets had turned it into a warehouse for storing manure”.

Fr Aleksandr Filippov served the first liturgy here outdoors in the open air because it was impossible to hold a service inside the church. He pledged that he would restore the church building even though he had no experience in construction and restoration.

The locals remembered, “He just walked through the village, he asked the assembled men what to do. They restored the bell tower, and, after that, the church itself. Many of our men, who used to be drunken sots before, went to Fr Aleksandr, now, they carry icons. Would you believe it? On Christmas and Easter, the peasants didn’t guzzle vodka, but, they went to services to celebrate!”

Since then, every Saturday, Fr Aleksandr began to meet with those who couldn’t defeat drunkenness. Candles burned continually before the icons of the martyr St Boniface and the Mother of God “The Inexhaustible Cup”, before which supplicants traditionally pray for deliverance from addictions. People believed in this priest and it helped.

Wiping away tears, Fr Oleg, the Dean of the Podolsk district, told our KP correspondent, “Every week, he went to a drug treatment clinic a few kilometres from his church. He talked with the patients, and he healed them. He wanted to build a small chapel and go more often to visit the sick, for he believed in their healing. However, in the end, it turned out that he himself suffered from drunken louts”.

With the approval of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, Fr Aleksandr Filippov shall be buried near his church. He shall lie near his mother and brother, who died several years ago.

His youngest daughter, Sashenka, was born sickly and is in need of regular treatment by doctors. The Patriarchate promised us that it would not leave the orphaned family of Fr Aleksandr in the lurch.

24 December 2009

Rinat Nizamov

Комсомольская Правда (Komsomolskaya Pravda: Komsomol Truth)

As quoted in Interfax-Religion

http://www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=print&div=10783

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