Voices from Russia

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Lavrov Warned Orthodox Churches Not to Play to Around With Politics


On Thursday, Minister of Foreign Affairs S V Lavrov expressed confidence that the Russian and Serbian Orthodox churches would manage to overcome the present “turbulent times” with dignity, whereas some in the Church in other countries play political games. Speaking at the solemn dedication of the new mosaic in the dome of St Sava Church in Belgrade, Lavrov said:

Today’s event symbolises the spiritual and cultural affinity of our peoples and our churches. It seems to me especially important to demonstrate this unity at a time when both the Russian Orthodox Church and the Serbian Orthodox Church are undergoing a test of their strength. We all see how churches are playing around with politics, whether in the Ukraine, or in Montenegro, or in Macedonia. Our Churches will overcome these turbulent times with dignity, as was always the case with Orthodoxy.

The new mosaic in the dome of St Sava depicts Christ. No other mosaic in the world is comparable to it. The total area of the mosaic is 1,248 square metres (13,434 square feet). It took nine months to create the work, done in a traditional early New Roman style. Seventy artists worked on the mosaic, the construction of which required 40 tonnes of glass. St Sava Church is one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world; it can accommodate 10,000 believers.

22 February 2018




Sadly, there are many in the OCA and ROCOR who are playing around with rightwing politics. It’s a sad day for the Church that Alexander Webster is now part of Holy Trinity Seminary… it means that the rightwing group around Potapov now controls the ROCOR. It means that the CIA is in the driver’s seat, just as it was in the Cold War. Did Langley dangle money in front of Jordanville? Probably… will Lebedeff defend this as he did the dalliance of Jordanville with the CIA during the Cold War (“We needed the money and we were grateful for it”)? Will this lead to the ROCOR repudiating its union with the Mother Church? Stay tuned… the hateful Vlasovtsy crowd around Potapov is in charge and nothing is set in stone anymore.



Saturday, 15 February 2014

Is Frankie Bag o’ Donuts Our Friend? Shall the Vatican Canonise Ustaša Monster Stepinac?

00 Utstasha. 15.02.14


According to Croatian media, the Vatican shall declare Alojzije Stepinac a saint by the end of the year, as his cause met the last condition for canonisation… the competent Medical Commission determined one case of a “miraculous healing through Blessed Alojzije Stepinac’s intercession”.

Efraim Zurof, the Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Jerusalem, said in announcing a letter of protest to the Vatican, “We should state that all associates of Ante Pavelić, all those who supported the policy of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), are war criminals, not saints. As soon as we learn more on this, we’ll address a letter of protest to the Vatican. This is outrageous! I don’t know how come, and about the process, but it’s on Pope Francisco to make the right decision”.

Dr Veljko Djuric Mišina, historian and director of the Belgrade Museum of Genocide Victims explained, “Stepinac was the ranking military vicar for the Independent State of Croatia (NDH)  armed forces; therefore, he’s responsible and bore the blame for the monstrous crimes of Catholic priests in the Ustaša militia and Domobrani units. He advocated the forcible conversion of Orthodox Serbs [in Croatia]; in a mid-1943 letter to Pope Pius XII Pacelli, he related the forcible conversion of some 244,000 Serbs… and that’s one of his ‘good points’. There isn’t any evidence that Stepinac ever protested against the crimes committed against the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) or against those committed against the Serbian and Jewish peoples. His intervention remained limited to only a few cases, even though he acknowledged what was going on in concentration camps throughout Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, being aware of the murder of many thousands Serbs, Jews, and Roma. Certain Croatian and German claims that Stepinac protested and intervened against Nazi crimes in Croatia are dishonest, as not a single notation of such is in his papers or in his diary, which are in the BIA archives in Belgrade, earlier, they were in the UDBA archives. After World War II, Tito (a Croat) and Bakarić (another Croat) made a backdoor deal, so, the monstrous Bishop wasn’t tried for crimes against Serbs, Jews, and Roma, but for  ”pronounced anti-communism, hiding treasures and archives of the Ustaša régime, and for aiding terrorist groups infiltrated into Yugoslavia“.

Historian Predrag Markovic emphasised the risk in perceiving Stepinac as a victim of the communist government, as an ordinary Catholic priest who merely followed Pius XII’s policy, whose crime laid in not speaking out against the Holocaust, saying, “We have similar cases in Estonia and Hungary; they rehabilitated Nazi criminals under the guise of rehabilitating victims of communism. However, Stepinac was a far more complex personality than the majority thinks. He wasn’t a criminal, but we can talk about his personal responsibility for abetting the suffering of over a million victims in the NDH. After all, the Ustaša killed his brother”. Archpriest Velibor Džomić of the SPC said, “It’s their (Catholic) decision about who they declare saints. If they want to make Alojzije Stepinac a saint… well, I think that he’s far from embodying the Christian virtues that adorn all the holy men that we learn about in the Gospels”.

12 February 2014

M R Petrović


Milojko Budimir, the President of the Association of Croatian Serbs, said that the Vatican’s intention to declare Stepinac a saint is fiercely condemned by the descendants of those whose fathers and grandfathers experienced the heinous crimes of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) (1941-45). He pointed up that Stepinac supported these atrocities within the Catholic Church, saying, “It’s a proven fact that Stepinac called on his clergy to support and defend the Catholic State of Croatia and that he was aware of the atrocities at Jasenovac and other camps around the NDH, but he didn’t publicly oppose them. Even after the liberation, Stepinac didn’t change his mind, which is why the Supreme Court of the People’s Republic of Croatia sentenced him to 16 years in prison and the loss of civil and political rights for three years, but they commuted his sentence to house arrest. This seems to me to that they rewarded him for his contribution to the NDH’s creation and for the crimes committed against Serbs, Jews, Roma, and others who opposed the fascist state. During this time, including physical liquidation, they violently repressed 250,000 Orthodox Serbs, who didn’t have a choice in the matter. I hope that progressive forces amongst Catholics could organise, oppose such an action, and stop this shameful canonisation, for this person was no saint, he did nothing to deserve such”.

The Vatican officially confirmed that it would soon declare Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac a saint. In Rome, at Mass commemorating the 54th anniversary of Stepinac’s death in Krašić, held at the Chiesa San Girolamo dei Croati a Ripetta at the Pontifical Croatian College of St Jerome, Cardinal Angelo Amato SDB, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, announced that Pope Francisco declared that Stepinac would be a saint, based on the findings of a medical commission that found that the “Blessed” interceded for a “miraculous healing” of a believer. We expect that Stepinac’s canonisation will occur later this year.

12 February 2014

Blic Online



Editor’s Note:

Blic is a mid-market tab… in orientation, it’s centre-left, with populist leanings. Therefore, I wouldn’t discount this report, but I’d wait for more Vatican confirmation before going ballistic about it. As for Francisco… nothing will change that I find his politics and societal stance congenial. However, if he allows this canonisation to go through, he’s our enemy. It’d torpedo all chances of any real dialogue with the Vatican. I’d hope that the papists would pull back from this one. Truly, they should… I don’t want to see more petrol tossed on the fire. There’s enough bad blood already, isn’t there? If this does happen, DO NOT take it out on individual papists… they didn’t propose it nor did they approve it. Keep it focused and keep it clean. We can oppose one another without rancour or hate… we’re Christians, after all…


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Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Yes, It Was Orthodox Christmas Yesterday… A Multimedia Presentation

00d Orthodox Christmas 2013. Serbia. Badnjak. 12.01.13





Typically, when they celebrate Christmas Eve, members of St Sava Serbian Orthodox Church in McKeesport PA gather outdoors for the traditional blessing of the badnjak. This year, due to the extreme cold, they held most of the ceremony indoors in the fellowship hall… as golden-robed acolytes brought in an oak branch with browned leaves… a symbol of hope in rebirth amid the dark of winter. Only the last part of the ceremony… the burning of the badnjak… took place in a fire pit outdoors. However, there was plenty of warmth indoors, physically and spiritually. Very Rev Stevan Rocknage of St Sava said, “Christ is born!” The worshippers crowded into the hall replied, “Indeed he is born!” Then, they repeated the phrases in Church Slavonic, “Mir Bozhi, Khistos se rodi!” “Vaistinu se rodi!” In beginning the evening’s festivities, Fr Stevan said, “Let’s get this show on the road”.

Whilst many Orthodox celebrate Christmas at the same time as Roman Catholics and Protestants, most Slavic Orthodox continue to follow the traditional Orthodox calendar based on the ancient Julian calendar, according to which today is Christmas Day. At St Sava, the priests and a small, but energetic, choir alternated with chants and hymns, some in English and others in Church Slavonic. Clergy blessed wheat, walnuts, and coins… auspicious symbols scattered in the straw on the floor for the children to pick up. Before the service, Mary Magdić said that she loves the annual Christmas gatherings, “You don’t get this everywhere”, pointing to the crowded room brimming with conversation and anticipation. Gary Trbovich agreed, saying of the congregation, “It’s a family. It doesn’t get any better than this”.

Fr Stevan said that the blessing of the badnjak, is a Christianised version of an ancient pagan custom symbolizing death and rebirth, noting, “It’s a way of showing Christ is the God of life”. Steve Kracinovsky, president of the parish board, said that many members are in inter-religious families and exchange gifts on the Western Christmas, they’re able to focus on the spiritual aspects of the holiday by marking the Nativity separately, saying, “There’s no rushing. All the gift-giving is over”. Fr Stevan added, “From the eve of Christmas on Monday through 12 days to Epiphany, which marks the visit of the Wise Men to the baby Jesus in Bethlehem, we celebrate and try constantly to remind ourselves through our actions, this is why we’re celebrating”.

After the blessing of the badnjak, parishioners went upstairs to the sanctuary for Christmas Eve liturgy, beginning with a familiar tune, Silent Night in English and Church Slavonic. They also gather for liturgy on Christmas Day. Fr Stevan said that he sees parishioners seeking comfort and peace in spiritual things during times of economic and other struggles, observing, “What a wonderful thing for the birth of our Lord to come, because the world is in such turmoil. People flock to our parish just to get away from the craziness out there”. He said that it inspires people to do something about that craziness. For example, at a recent youth group meeting, he said that the young people resolved to bring gift packages to nursing homes and visit an Orthodox monastery to help spruce it up.

Similar observances took place at Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Cathedral in Whitehall PA. The weather wasn’t ideal for an outdoor ceremony, but Very Rev Rajko Kosić, parish priest at the cathedral said, “You just have to do what you have to do. Even though Easter is the biggest holy day of all, Christmas is more joyous. When a child is born, everybody’s happy”.

6 January 2014

Peter Smith

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette



01i Bagpipes serbian gaide






Perched in a sunny spot on Mim Bizić’s kitchen counter is a glass bowl that, at first glance, appears to be green grass growing from a bed of pebbles. However, the pebbles are grains of wheat that broke open to release shoots of new life… a metaphor for Jesus’ death and resurrection taken from the Gospel according to St John. This tiny garden of wheat is a psenica (SHEN-it-za, literally, “grain of wheat”), a Christmas tradition in the Serbian Orthodox Church, which occurs on 7 January according to the Orthodox Calendar. Traditionally, one plants the seeds in a bowl on 19 December, St Nicholas Day, and waters them after reciting the Our Father. Waiting for them to grow is a spiritual exercise.

Ms Bizić, who retired five years ago as a librarian in the Quaker Valley School District, said, “Isn’t it a fun way to pass the short, dark days waiting for the birth of Christ?” The green wheat is held tall and straight by a circlet of ribbon in the Serbian national colours of red, blue, and white. She said, “When you first put the wheat in, you wonder if it’ll grow. Then, you see it put out these little knots, and, then, the shoots. You can see it grow the next day and the next. It fills you with happiness”. Her home in Moon PA is fully decorated for Christmas, which she joked that she celebrates three times. There’s St Nicholas Day on 19 December, then, 25 December, for what she calls “American Christmas”, complete with presents. However, the holy day, and the day of the most treasured customs, is always 7 January.

She’s the granddaughter of Serbian immigrants who grew up on the South Side. She never felt odd for celebrating Christmas in January. Her German and Lithuanian friends enjoyed participating in the family celebrations with her. There was the Christmas tradition of lighting three candles… in honour of the Holy Trinity… whilst reciting the Our Father. There’s also a tradition of baking a coin into a special loaf of bread, which the family passed around the table as they sang a hymn. The coin brings luck to whoever finds it. Ms Bizić records these traditions and many more on her website, its name means “Grandma Mim”. It’s a virtual museum of Serbian culture, which her home has been for many years. Just inside the front door, visitors see a portrait of Karadjordje, who led the First Serbian Uprising of the Serbian Revolution against the Ottoman Turks. Every wall has icons, folk art, and family mementos. She passed all of this along to her son, Nick, who’s teaching it to his 3-year-old daughter, Jocelyn. Ms Bizić’s website includes a series of photographs in which she and Jocelyn prepared a psenica. Her son also spread the tradition to some of his Texas neighbours.

This year her parish, St Elijah Serbian Orthodox Church in Aliquippa PA, sold kits to make psenicas. They’ll send the proceeds to Kosovo to buy firewood. She said, “Even though we mightn’t make that much money selling the kits, we’re keeping the custom alive for harried families who mightn’t have the time to go shopping to a speciality store to buy loose wheat”. On Christmas, the psenica takes its place at the centre of the family table, where it’s part of all the family prayers and rituals. Afterwards, one gives it to the birds. Ms. Bizić said, “We bless ourselves and make a grand send-off. We say, ‘We thank you, psenica, for being with us and making us happy through this whole season of expectation'”.

7 January 2010

Ann Rodgers

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette



St Nicholas. Serbian. 1987





This morning at St Nicholas Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church in Homestead PA, Fr Robert Buczak will celebrate Divine Liturgy, the choir will sing kolyadki, and everyone will eat an enormous feast. For his parish and Orthodox around the world, today is Christmas. Although many may think that Orthodox celebrate today because this is the day that the Magi, or three Wise Men, arrived to visit Jesus, Fr Robert said that it’s because it’s 25 December on the traditional Orthodox calendar. Most Orthodox follow the Julian calendar, not the Gregorian calendar, the civil calendar in widespread use. Pope Gregory XIII Boncompagni introduced the Gregorian calendar in 1582; eventually, it became the calendar used throughout the world. Some Orthodox adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1923 for fixed feasts. Those following the traditional calendar celebrate Christmas and other church holidays, except Easter, 13 days after Gregorian calendar dates. Fr Robert said, “So, it’s not that we believe [Jesus’ birth is] a different date. It’s the same date”.

Christmas for non-Orthodox Christians usually includes a church service, gifts, mangers, carols, and a large dinner. Orthodox Christmas includes all that, too, but with a few tweaks. Even though they celebrate Christmas and worship Christ, Orthodox don’t usually say, “Merry Christmas”. They prefer “Christ is born”. The Nativity scenes also differ. Like others, the Nativity displayed at St Nicholas shows the Holy Family, animals, a star, and a manger. However, it doesn’t have statues. This manger scene is an icon, a traditional painting. St Nicholas, like most Orthodox churches, has icons, not statues. The manger scene resembles others… Mary and Joseph crouch over a baby in swaddling clothes, whilst a donkey and ox look out from a cave. Then, Fr Robert asked, “Is Jesus’ face a baby’s face or a man’s face? Are his blankets swaddling clothes or a burial shroud? Is the cave a manger or a tomb? Icons tell stories”.

You can hear another difference in the music… the kolyadki sung a capella by the church choir during the Christmas Eve service aren’t the ones played on the radio. Fr Robert explained that Orthodox from Carpatho-Russia in Eastern Europe founded St Nick’s, so, the kolyadki, or Christmas songs, come from that area. He promised me, “[When the choir sings] you’ll feel like you’re in the kingdom of heaven”. Fr Robert said that the Orthodox celebration begins on Christmas Eve with a Holy Supper served “when the first star appears in the sky”. It includes twelve fasting dishes, including mushroom soup and bobalki… dough balls with kapusta. Families place straw under the table to represent the manger and always leave one chair empty for any stray guest. Fr Robert said, “So, there’s always room at the inn”. After supper, an evening church service is held, followed by a second service Christmas morning, and a second feast, this one including meat.

When does the gift giving start? It already happened… on 19 December. That, according to the Church calendar, was St Nick’s Day. Traditionally, families give gifts then, based on the legend of St Nicholas giving three women three purses filled with coins to help with their wedding dowry. The early gift giving leaves St Nick’s parishioners free to focus on the spiritual side of Christmas.

7 January 2010

Kate McCaffrey

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


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Saturday, 21 September 2013

“Greece Sticks to Policy of Non-Recognition of Kosovo”

Kosovo je Srbija


Aleksandar Vulin, the Serbian Minister Without Portfolio in charge of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija, said that Greece remains committed to a policy of non-recognition of Kosovo‘s unilateral declaration of independence, telling Tanjug in Athens after a meeting with Greek Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Dimitris Kourkoulas, which focused on the situation in Kosovo and Metohija and the upcoming local elections, that Greece also supports “everything that Serbia’s doing regarding the implementation of the Brussels agreement between Belgrade and Priština. We received support from our traditional friends that they’d continue to pursue the policy of non-recognition of Kosovo and Metohija”. Greece will assume the EU presidency from Lithuania on 1 January 2014.

Vulin said that successful local elections in Kosovo are the only way to normalise life in the province. On Thursday, Vulin said at a roundtable organised by the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP) that the issue of security is of key importance for Kosovo Serbs, which requires that crimes be solved, and that hasn’t been the case up to this point. He noted, “For us, the Serbian government, the November elections are the most important. We have invested our entire authority and called on Kosovo Serbs to go to the polls, which was a difficult and politically risky decision, but we know that’s the only way to normalise life in Kosovo”. Vulin emphasised that the stability of the entire region depends on establishing a lasting stability in Kosovo, warning, “If terrorists prevail, if they succeed… we’ll have constant instability of the entire region”.

Vulin noted that, according to the latest information, around 40,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) registered to vote in local elections, which is, as he emphasised, a very good outcome. Vulin restated that for Kosovo Serbs, security for all residents is the main issue and a prerequisite for everything. Vulin observed that since the arrival of the international community in Kosovo, there were 1,037 murders of Serbs due to ethnic bias, but that the courts only sentenced two perpetrators, whilst the other crimes are still unsolved. He cautioned, “There can be no security until that’s changed”, adding that there are also around 40,000 unresolved property cases. Vulin said that this is a reason why Serbs aren’t returning to Kosovo, and noted that around 40,000 Serbs lived in Priština before the 1999 war, but today, there are only 30-40 left there. According to international data, he pointed up that there are between 200,000 and 230,000 Serb IDPs.

Vulin informed participants of the roundtable, held at the representative office of the European Parliament in Greece, about Thursday morning’s murder of a EULEX staff member in Zvečan, saying, “That’s a tragedy. A lost human life, without any reason whatsoever… whoever did that is the greatest enemy of Serbia and Kosovo Serbs, an enemy of peaceful and normal life in Kosovo. On both sides, there are people who think that the Brussels agreement isn’t good and that it isn’t good that Kosovo Serbs in Kosovo can’t assume responsibility for their own future. The Brussels accord is a historic one, but it’s only a first step, the first of many agreements that Belgrade and Priština should reach. For us, maybe, our cultural heritage is the most important, the heritage of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo. We think that should be raised to the level of a new agreement between Belgrade and Priština, with the EU as an intermediary”.

Vulin voiced the hope that the negotiating teams would soon start working on an agreement on property. He noted that the parties reached an agreement on telecommunications and energy, but that they can’t complete solve the problems surrounding energy until they achieve an agreement on property. Vulin also voiced concern over changes to the Law on Amnesty in Kosovo, accentuating that Belgrade or Priština can’t change whatever agreement that comes out of Brussels, but they must be consistently adhere to it. Vulin was on a two-day visit to Athens, but he cut his trip short because of the killing of the EULEX staff member.

20 September 2013



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