Voices from Russia

Monday, 31 May 2010

They Did NOT Die in Vain… Memorial Day 2010

Memorial Day Pilgrimage at St Tikhon Monastery, South Canaan PA, sometime in the 1970s… Pannikhida served by Fr Daniel Ressetar (right). Photo from Sasha Ressetar of Harrisburg PA.


Yes, Memorial Day is picnics, fun, fireworks, and the beginning of the summer season. It’s one of the most favourite American holidays, just as Victory Day is in Russia. Yet, like Victory Day, it has its solemn side as well.

Say a prayer for the fallen, especially for those who fell in the Crusade against the Hitlerite Scourge. They saved the world from a long night… NEVER forget them… not just the Americans, but the English, Scots, Welsh, Irish, French, Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, Greeks, Czechs, Slovaks, Dutch, Norwegians, Flemings, Russians, Poles, Brazilians, East Indians, Mexicans, and all the other nationalities that joined hands to beat down the Nazi menace. If you see a WWII vet today, shake his hand… give him a hug… express your thanks and say it LOUD! They gave us freedom… they gave us life.

Raise a glass to all living veterans… Thank you for serving! Raise a glass to those in the forces now… Thank you for defending us! Most of all, raise a glass to the fallen, those who never came home… Thank you for your selflessness.

May we emulate that.

Cheers on the holiday.

Barbara-Marie Drezhlo

Memorial Day

Monday 31 May 2010

Albany NY


“One of These Things is NOT Like the Other…”

This high-res image is from the GOA site… neither of the sites below had one. Note that the centre figure is Archbishop Demetrios and Archbishop Yustinian is sitting next to him. Note the relatively minor position of JP… he’s being snubbed by both the EP and MP… he’s not in the front row (in fact, there’s no OCA bishop in the front row). Let’s put it plainly… this photo shows that Yustinian “outranks” JP… and the MP and EP wish this known publicly. It’s a “Lenin’s Tomb moment”, no?

These two posts are seemingly identical… bring both of them up in separate windows and have them at “small” size (the middle of the three icons in the upper-right corner) so you can have them up simultaneously and move between them easily:



Those without facility in Russian should run a machine translation on the latter post.

Look especially at the clergy listing. The OCA listing wishes to give you the impression that everyone signed as equals and as individuals. The MP listing makes it clear that the participants signed as (and were listed as) members of specific Churches and that there were officers of the Assembly (the OCA listing was deliberately unclear about the officers, it did not set them apart as distinctly as the MP list did). The OCA submission omitted the fact that the bishops signed as members of their respective archdioceses (note well that the “Ukrainians” were part of a generic EP delegation, they were not labelled as such). I submit that this is a deliberate distortion on the part of the OCA, for no OCA bishop was chosen as an officer of the Assembly. Note well the Vice Chairmen… one understands Philip Saliba being one, for this is the kind of political gabfest that he excels at. The other is a surprise, for it was Bishop Yustinian Ovchinnikov, the head of the MP diocese in the USA. That isn’t logical… it should have been Jonas Paffhausen. This signals that the EP still does not accept the OCA as a recognised Local Church. It also means that Yustinian was Kirill’s commissar to this undertaking. To compound matters, it means that Moscow is not arguing with the EP openly on this matter… no good news for the autocephalist fanatics such as Stokoe.

There is one item of notice in this boilerplate reportage of a bootless conference. The “North American” conference is being split into Canadian and American sections, and the Latin Americans are going to be joined to the South American group. This is an implicit condemnation of the OCA structure, for it claims to be the Local Church in these areas.

In short, this is not welcome news for the OCA. I wondered why there was a dearth of reportage of this on oca.org after all the publicity, and the bishops’ list on the Russian site gives the answer. The OCA was shoved to the sidelines; its opinions don’t amount to bubkes in the eyes of the EP and the MP. The OCA’s days may be numbered. Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say.

Here’s a little note on the coverage… on both sites, only a low resolution image was posted. That doesn’t surprise me as far as the MP site is concerned, North America is a rather minor and inconsequential outpost of the Church with no major influence on its larger life. However, the OCA doing the same was odd… after all, they’d been pumping this up unmercifully. I believe it’s because they got lower billing than they expected… bully for the other bishops! They did right.

Nevertheless, keep in mind that this “Episcopal Assembly” is Bart’s notional will o’ the wisp with no powers or authority. Nothing has changed… save for an “interesting message” on the future of the OCA (pictures DO speak louder than words, Virginia… that’s why it’s a cliché).

Barbara-Marie Drezhlo

Monday 31 May 2010

Albany NY

Bartholomew in Russia… a Strangely Muted Trip

Patriarch Bartholomew Archontonis of Constantinople (1940- ) and Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias (1946- ) inspecting the restoration work at the Naval Cathedral in Kronshtadt.

Patriarch Bartholomew Archontonis of Constantinople on Wednesday served a memorial litiya at the tomb of the Patriarch Aleksei Rediger of Moscow and all the Russias in the Epiphany Cathedral in Moscow. Before the service, he laid a wreath at the tomb, the website of the MP DECR reported. “I wanted to come here to pay tribute to His Holiness Patriarch Aleksei and to pray with you for the repose of his soul. He was a great patriarch, who had to labour much during his patriarchal ministry”, Patriarch Bartholomew said at the conclusion of the prayers. He emphasised that he gave great honour to the memory of Patriarch Aleksei, “for his heroism (подвиг) that protected the Church in those difficult times”. Then, Patriarch Bartholomew, along with his delegation, proceeded to the tomb of Patriarch Sergius, where they sang “Eternal Memory”.

The Patriarchs on their way to St Isaac Cathedral in St Petersburg to serve Liturgy

Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople praised the cooperation of President Dmitri Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin with the Orthodox Church in the Russian Federation. “I express gratitude on behalf of the Church of Constantinople, as well as from myself personally to these two great Christian leaders. They did not hesitate to publicly declare their faith and piety”, Patriarch Bartholomew said during a visit to the podvorie of the Patriarchate of Antioch in Moscow. He noted that his visit to Russia to see the MP “is proving to be a great success and is carried out with God’s blessings”, according to the website of the MP DECR. “This is evidenced by the fact that we have entered a new phase in the relations between the MP and the Church of Constantinople”, Patriarch Bartholomew said, emphasising that he believes this is largely due to such “energetic people” as Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, the head of the MP DECR. “God is with you! With Russia, with its people, and with its church!” Patriarch Bartholomew added.

The Patriarchs in St Isaac Cathedral

From 28 to 31 May, Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias will visit the Diocese of St Petersburg. He will arrive at Pulkovo airport on Friday evening, and the next morning he will visit Kronshtadt, where he will attend a meeting of the Board of Trustees concerned with the restoration of St Nicholas Naval Cathedral. Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople will also be in Kronshtadt, after he returns from a visit to Valaam. Both patriarchs will visit the Naval Cathedral and meet with soldiers of the Kronshtadt garrison of the Leningrad Naval Base of the Baltic Fleet. The same day, Patriarchs Kirill and Bartholomew will visit St Petersburg; in particular, they are going to the Kazan Cathedral, the Church of the Saviour on the Blood, and the St Aleksandr Nevsky Lavra. On Sunday, both patriarchs will serve Divine Liturgy at St Isaac Cathedral, and then view the working residence of the Moscow Patriarchate in the restored Synod Building. In the evening, Patriarchs Kirill and Bartholomew will visit Tsarskoe Selo. On 31 May, Patriarch Bartholomew will conclude his visit to Russia and fly from St Petersburg to Istanbul, he will be seen off by Patriarch Kirill along with the Holy Synod of the MP. The Synod will then hold a meeting, its second this year. The first was held in March, also in St Petersburg. In 2009, the Synod held six meetings, three were held outside of Moscow (two in the “northern capital” and one in Kiev). Earlier, Patriarch Kirill stated his intention to develop a tradition of so-called “peripatetic” Synod meetings.

Interior of St Isaac Cathedral, looking down at the Patriarchs

The MP has a special role in strengthening Orthodox unity, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople said. “The role of the Moscow Patriarchate in the Orthodox world is significant and extremely important. Like all Orthodox Churches, the Moscow Patriarchate should continue to contribute to the strengthening and deepening of Orthodox unity, placing such above all other local interests”, Patriarch Bartholomew said in an interview published in Русский Newsweek (Russian Newsweek) magazine. In his view, in this respect, the late Patriarch Aleksei gave a particularly important example. Despite his age and poor health, he attended a meeting of the First Hierarchs of the Local Orthodox Churches organised and conducted by the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Istanbul in October 2008, “with the most sincere intention to resolve difficult administrative issues and to promote Orthodox unity. The Russian Church, with its rich spiritual traditions, combined with the piety of its faithful, can serve as a vocal Orthodox witness in the modern world. It can be part of the formal theological dialogue of a unified Orthodox Church with non-Orthodox Christians, as well as do many other things”, Patriarch Bartholomew said. He said that his current visit to Russia was filled with “brotherly love and solidarity” and he meant it “to further enhance the unity of our Orthodox Church”.

Choristers at the Liturgy

Easter in St Isaac Cathedral… here’s the choir

Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all the Russias headed a solemn procession on Sunday morning from the Bronze Horseman on the Admiralty Embankment in St Petersburg to St Isaac Cathedral to serve Divine Liturgy, our RIA-Novosti correspondent reported today. According to an MP spokesman, the Cathedral in St Petersburg is the only one in the world dedicated to St Isaac of Dalmatia, who was of Greek origin and who lived in the 4th century in Constantinople (now Istanbul). On the new style used by the EP, the feastday of this saint is celebrated on 30 May (on the Julian calendar used by the MP, it falls on 11 June). As Pyotr Veliki was born on the feastday of St Isaac of Dalmatia, the cathedral on this site was dedicated to that saint. Pyotr laid the cornerstone of the church that was the predecessor of the current building on this site.

Another view of the choir in St Isaac Cathedral

The Patriarchs sailed to the Admiralty Embankment on a boat from the Constantine Palace in Strelna, which was their residence during the visit to St Petersburg. The procession to the cathedral, past the restored historical building of the Holy Synod, was accompanied by much bell ringing. Leading the way were hundreds of priests in golden vestments, lined up in two columns, carrying richly decorated crosses, icons, and banners. On both sides of the procession were Cossacks from the North-West Cossack District and the Terek Cossack Host. Cadets from the St Petersburg Naval Institute, the Mozhaisky Military Space Academy, and other military institutions of the northern capital lined the route of the procession. Over a thousand believers jammed into St Isaac Cathedral for the service led by the two patriarchs. Members of the MP Holy Synod (seven permanent and five temporary members) served Liturgy together with the patriarchs. They are in St Petersburg to attend their next scheduled meeting, which will take place in the historical building of the Synod on Monday. St Isaac Cathedral was built from 1818 to 1858 to the design of the architect Auguste de Montferrand, under the personal supervision of Tsar Nikolai Pavlovich, and was consecrated on 30 May (new style). The interior of the cathedral is decorated with rare marbles and unique columns of malachite and lapis lazuli. After the service, Patriarch Kirill showed the EP delegation the historical building of the Synod. After lunch, the Patriarchs visited Tsarskoe Selo and the Catherine Palace. The official visit of Patriarch Bartholomew in Russia ends on Monday.

A young boy in St Isaac before the start of the service

Patriarch Kirill took Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople on a tour of the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoe Selo as a part of the latter’s official trip to Russia, RIA-Novosti reported. On 22 May, Patriarch Bartholomew, who has the first place in the “order of honour” amongst the First Hierarchs of Local Orthodox Churches, came on an official visit to the MP, which is fifth in the order of the Local Churches. On Sunday, 23 May, the Feast of the Holy Trinity, Patriarchs Bartholomew and Kirill concelebrated Divine Liturgy at the Holy Trinity-St Sergius Lavra, and on 24 May, the feastday of the Greek brothers Ss Kirill and Methodios, the Enlightenment of the Slavs; they concelebrated in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. The Patriarchs went to Tsarskoe Selo from the Constantine Palace, their residence during their stay in St Petersburg. At the entrance to the Catherine Palace, an orchestra met them. Patriarch Kirill took his guests from Constantinople through the halls of the Catherine Palace, giving them information about the exhibits in English. Of particular interest to Patriarch Bartholomew and Greek clergy with him was the Amber Room. After going through the palace, a reception has held in the Throne Room of the Catherine Palace in honour of the visitors from the EP.

Patriarchs Bartholomew and Kirill join together in the Proskomidie

Patriarch Bartholomew urged the faithful in Ukraine belonging to schismatic groups to come back to the MP, to join the canonical Church, and expressed the hope that Metropolitan Vladimir Sabodan of Kiev and all the Ukraine Vladimir would solve the problem of the schism in the country. ”They should not hesitate; they should join themselves to the canonical Church, which is the ark of salvation”, Patriarch Bartholomew said in an interview broadcast on Россия-24 (Russia-24) on Sunday in Strelna. This was in reply to a question concerning words he had spoken to schismatics in the Ukraine in recent years. He went on to say, “Some who went into schism, have returned to the fold of the Moscow Patriarchate. Today, at lunch, I told Vladyki Vladimir (the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate)) that I wished that he would see a solution to this problem in his lifetime and an end to this schism”, Patriarch Bartholomew emphasised. Speaking about the future actions of the EP on the Ukrainian question, Patriarch Bartholomew said, “Whatever our Church does, it will be done according to the current canonical order”. In addition to the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is an autonomous and self-governing Church within the MP, there are groups in the Ukraine that are not recognised by the canonical Local Orthodox Churches. These include the so-called Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kiev Patriarchate), headed by Philaret Denisenko, a deposed MP clergyman, which is fairly large, and the smaller Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church headed by Metropolitan Mefody Kudryakov. Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko maintained relations with all the Orthodox groups, but gave preference to the UOC (KP). He repeatedly called for the establishment in the Ukraine of a “Unified Local Orthodox Church”, and appealed to the EP to back the request of the UOC (KP) for autocephaly (ecclesiastical independence).

27-30 May 2010










The Patriarchs together after concelebrating liturgy in Piter

Editor’s Note:

This is the strangest and most low-key trip that one could imagine. Compare and contrast it with the visit to the Ukraine in 2008. There were no posters… there wasn’t much in the secular news (certainly not in the Big Three: RIA-Novosti, ITAR-TASS, and Interfax). There were no speeches by secular politicians… all that Bart got was a low-key meeting with Medvedev in the Kremlin with less than ten people present in all. He didn’t get a public meeting or photo with Prime Minister Putin, and VVP was in Piter on Saturday, at least. He met with no higher RF ministers… and Kirill went off to Optino and didn’t bring Bart along. Optino is one of the holiest sites in Russia… and Bart was sent on a tour of embassies and podvorie.

I believe that Vladimir Vladimirovich paid Bart back for every stupid word he uttered over the past ten years. I noted that the trip to Valaam received little press coverage in the regular news, it only got coverage from the rather suspect DECR posts on patriarhia.ru (I don’t trust ‘em at all… and I note that the secular Russian agencies only use them if they must… the konvertsy who use them are simply ignorant). If there had been a meeting of Bart with VVP, there would have been a photo… there was one of the minor little audience with Medvedev.

Add it all up. No limos… no public speeches by Presidents… no big TV coverage (indeed, the Eurovision Song Competition got bigger billing (BTW… a German gal won it))… Bart being left to his own devices with the Boy Wonder as a minder… low-key welcomes… only at the end was there a spectacle in Piter… that I believe was to impress on Bart who was the Big Dog on the Block. Finally, Bart had to put a knife to the throats of those he had collaborated with in the Ukraine. He did it so easily… with such piety and sincerity. “They should not hesitate; they should join themselves to the canonical Church, which is the ark of salvation…” I shall refrain from the obvious remark about Greeks and gifts… One DOES wonder what Kirill offered in return… I don’t think that St Sergius and SVS should become complacent…

Overall, interesting in the extreme. Bart got his “Episcopal Assemblies”, but at what price? He’s had to repeat the Moscow line and eat every word that he’s spoken over the last decade. I simply observe that no one likes to do that…

There were too many smiles and too much talk of “unity” for there to have been much true amity and friendship… and as far as “unity” goes… “there’s always next year”, as the Old Perfessor put it…


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