Metropolitan Valentine Makes Pastoral Visit to Ukraine and Southern Russia, and Presides at Celebration in Moscow
(Suzdal Diocesan Bulletin - Vertograd, Smela (Ukraine) - Sukhodol (Ukraine) - Sovetka (Rostov province) - Sukhumi - Moscow - Suzdal)
On June 23rd, His Eminence Metropolitan Valentine, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox (Autonomous) Church, and His Grace Ilarion, Bishop of Smela, served evening services in the cathedral Church of the Mother of God dedicated to Her icon “Joy of All Who Sorrow” in the town of Smela in the Cherkassk province of the Ukraine. On the following day, June 24th, they served the Divine Liturgy, at which all present communed the Body and Blood of Christ.
On June 25th, Metropolitan Valentine, together with His Grace Geronty, Bishop of Sukhodol, served the all-night vigil, and the Divine Liturgy on the following day, June 26th, in the cathedral Church of St. Xenia of St. Petersburg in the city of Sukhodol, Lugana province, Ukraine. At the Divine Liturgy, at the behest of His Grace Geronty, Hieromonk Boniface, a servant of the altar for more than 10 years, was raised to the rank of Igumen, and Deacon Alexander Selikhov was ordained to the priesthood. After the Divine Liturgy, all present were invited to trapeza, at which Mr. S. I. Yakubov, head of the local city administration, and his staff, were in attendance. After the trapeza, Metropolitan Valentine awarded Mr. Yakubov, Mrs. V. I. Lisitsa, director of a local school, and Mr. V. V. Tokarov, the starosta of the church, with letters of appreciation. The Metropolitan inspected three chapels, which were built through the care and efforts of His Grace Bishop Geronty, Archimandrite James (Antonov), Mrs. V. I. Lisitsa, and Mr. V. V. Tokarov.
Metropolitan Valentine then met with Igumen Artemy (Smitchenko), rector of the Suzdal synodal metochion in the town of Sovetka, who was also given a letter of appreciation for his help in fixing up the metochion. The dean of the Stavropol circuit of the Suzdal diocese of the ROAC, Archpriest George Novakovsky, and the rector of St. Olga’s Church in the city of Zheleznovodsk, Archpriest Roman Novakovsky, informed the Metropolitan about the continuing persecutions against the clergy and people of the Russian Orthodox (Autonomous) Church, which are being organized by Theophan (Ashurkov), head of the Stavropol diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate, with the help of the local and regional authorities. During the course of his trip throughout the northern Caucasus, Vladyka Valentine also visited Abkhazia.
On July 16th and 17th, for the feast of the holy Royal Martyrs, His Eminence Metropolitan Valentine presided at the all-night vigil and Divine Liturgy at the Church of the Holy Royal Martyrs located in the Golovin cemetery in Moscow, where he was joined by the rector of the church and dean of the Moscow circuit of the Suzdal diocese, Archpriest Michael Ardov, and Fr. Deacon Alexis Sokolov.
On July 17th, Metropolitan Valentine returned to Suzdal.
Stavropol Judge Recognizes Rights of ROAC to Church in Zheleznovodsk
(Portal-Credo. Ru - Vertograd, Zheleznovodsk (Stavropol area))
On July 22nd, a civil affairs court in the Stavropol region has recognized the right of the parishioners of St. Olga’s Church in Zheleznovodsk to defend their church building, which early in 2005 had been arbitrarily transferred to the Moscow Patriarchate by the mayor’s office in that city.
As explained in an interview with a reporter for Portal-Credo. Ru, the rector of St. Olga’s in Zheleznovodsk, which is under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox (Autonomous) Church, Archpriest Roman Novakovsky, and thirty members of the parish, who were directly involved in building the church from 1982 through 1989, had decided to sue the mayor’s office on behalf of the entire parish. However, the Zheleznovodsk court refused to hear the case brought by the “alternative Orthodox,” declaring that the parishioners themselves could have no claim to the property of the church. After this, the community turned to the regional court in Mineral Waters, but there again, the judge simply declined to hear the matter. Only after an appeal was sent to the Stavropol regional court, did the case receive a hearing on its merits.
Fr. Roman Novakovsky further explained that the parishioners, and even the judges themselves, were shocked by the behavior of the city officials in the court of arbitration in Zhelznovodsk. On July 20th, while the court was in session, a letter from the city’s mayor, Anatoly Zubtsov, was read aloud in which he transferred all of his authority concerning the matter against the ROAC parish to the representatives of the Stavropol Diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate. The mayor of Zheleznovodsk announced in the secular court that he has full confidence in Bishop Theophan, and further stated that the MP diocese would be appearing as co-defendants in the suit brought by the “alternative Orthodox.” The judge ordered the MP diocese to present convincing documents showing why the church, built by the parishioners of the ROAC, should be considered property of the MP. Bishop Theophan (Ashurkov) was given until September to respond.
Representatives of the MP and ROCOR(L) hold another round of discussions
(Interfax - Vertograd, Moscow)
“Problems of an ecclesiastical/canonical nature” were the subjects of the fifth round of discussions on the unification of the ROCOR(L) and the Moscow Patriarchate. The meetings of the “unity committees” took place in Moscow July 26-28.
In particular, under discussion were the ecclesiastical status of several clergymen, the structure of certain establishments of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia located on the “canonical territory” of the Moscow Patriarchate, and relations between the ROCOR and church groups in Greece, Romania and Bulgaria not in communion with their official Local Churches.
In the words of one representative of the Dept. for External Ecclesiastical Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, Archpriest Nicholas Balashov, questions of a practical nature were also looked at, concerning relations between parishes in dioceses belonging to the ROCOR and the MP in countries with Russian emigrants.
As was explained to reporters by Archpriest Nicholas Artemov, ROCOR(L) member of the committee, clergy belonging to the ROCOR(L) inside Russia will be transferred to the MP after the unification; however, during the “transitional period” they will be administered by Bishop Evtikhy (Kurochkin), who will become a vicar bishop of Patriarch Alexis II. In turn the “Lavr-ites” have suggested that the MP parishes abroad should be transferred to the corresponding dioceses of the ROCOR(L), but the leadership of the MP categorically refuses to look at that question.
At the invitation of Archimandrite Tikhon, the local head of the Presentation Monastery in Moscow, the members of both commissions traveled to Ryazan province, where the St. Seraphim Skete of Presentation Monastery is situated.
New president chosen in the ROCOR(V)-TROC (True Russian Orthodox Church Lazarie brunch)
(Church Bulletin - Vertograd, Odessa (Ukraine))
An extraordinary meeting of the Synod of Bishops of a “branch” of ROCOR(V), which had been headed by Archbishop Lazar (Zhurbenko), took place in the town of Veliky Dal’nik, Odessa province (Ukraine). On July 7th, on the feast of the Nativity of the Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord, John, following the Divine Liturgy and a panikhida for Schema-Archbishop Lazar, elections were held for a new president of the Synod. By majority vote taken during secret balloting, the choice fell upon Bishop Tikhon (Pasechnik) of Omsk and Siberia, the youngest in rank of all the bishops.
The next day, Bishop Tikhon was raised to the rank of Archbishop. The rite of elevation was performed by Archbishop Benjamin of the Black Sea and Kuban, Bishop Dionysi of Novgorod and Tver, Bishop Germogen of Chernigov and Gomel, and Bishop Irenei of Verna and Semirechensk.
By a decision of the Synod, the orphaned Odessa-Tambov diocese was transferred temporarily to the administration of Archbishop Benjamin (the vicariate of Voronezh-Tambov with parishes in Russia is assigned to him) and Bishop Germogen (the parishes in the Ukraine).
Igumen Paul (Goncharov) was assigned as rector of the cathedral church of St. John of Kronstadt in Odessa. The parishes of Odessa province were assigned to a newly founded Odessa deanery.
The archiepiscopal residence where Archbishop Lazar formerly lived, together with its house church dedicated to the Derzhavnaya (She Who reigns) Icon of the Mother of God, was given the status of synodal metochion. According to the last will of Vladyka Lazar, the men’s skete will remain at the synodal metochion.
Three American ROAC Clerics Suspended by the First Hierarch of the ROAC
(Suzdal Diocesan Bulletin—Vertograd: Suzdal)
His Eminence Metropolitan Valentine of Suzdal and Vladimir, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox (Autonomous) Church, in his ukase #63 of July 13/26, 2005, has suspended three ROAC priests in the US from serving: Protopresbyter Victor Melehov, former dean of the ROAC parishes in the US and rector of the Church of the Holy Resurrection in Worcester, Massachusetts, Archpriest Spyridon Schneider, rector of St. John the Russian Church in Ipswich, Massachusetts, and another priest from the same church, Fr. Christopher Johnson. As stated in the ukase, these three clergymen became subject to canonical punishment for “violating church discipline, intrigue, ceasing to commemorate their ruling bishop at divine services, disseminating negative propaganda among their fellow clergy, and introducing disorder in the Deposition of the Mantle Convent” in Suzdal.
According to information received from the official publication of the Suzdal Diocese of the ROAC, “Suzdal Diocesan Bulletin,” in the middle of July, Protopresbyter Victor Melehov came to Russia without informing his ruling bishop, Metropolitan Valentine, or the hierarchical Synod. At the ROAC church in Dimitrov, a suburb of Moscow, he held a meeting to which he invited Archbishop Anthony of Yaransk and Vyatsk with the aim of involving him in schism, and with the participation of Archbishop Seraphim of Sukhumsk and Abkhazia, “whom they also intended to involve in the schism,” have an independent bishop consecrated for the US (their candidate for the episcopacy was Fr. Christopher Johnson). Protopresbyter Victor Melehov and Fr. Spyridon Schneider ceased commemorating their ruling bishop at divine services, Metropolitan Valentine of Suzdal and Vladimir, and in his place, they uncanonically began commemorating the name of Archbishop Anthony, a member of the hierarchical Synod of the ROAC. According to the magazine “Suzdal Diocesan Bulletin,” Frs. Victor and Spyridon pressured Archpriest Dionysi McGowan, rector of St. Basil if Kineshma Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, intending to lead him into their schism as well.
On July 19, two novices belonging to Fr. Victor’s community in Dimitrov, arrived in Suzdal and began calling on the sisters of the Deposition of the Mantle Convent, whose head is the catacomb skhi-igumenia Euphemia, and trying to induce them join in with the schism. They also made similar overtures to Archbishop Anthony and several other members of the clergy and laity in Suzdal.
At the meeting of the hierarchical Synod, which took place on July 21st in Suzdal, Archbishop Anthony related in detail the efforts of the suspended clergymen in trying to start their new schism. According to certain information, Protopresbyter Victor Melehov managed to get written agreement from Archbishop Anthony to separate from the Synod, which he later recanted at the hierarchical Synod meeting.
Frs. Victor Melehov and Spyridon Schneider are well known in True Orthodox circles as “errant clergymen,” as they have changed jurisdiction many times and started many conflicts. Before their acceptance into the ROAC, they were with the ROCOR(V), where Fr. Spyridon was suspended from serving, and Fr. Victor was defrocked.
Feasts, Awards and Ordinations in Suzdal
(Suzdal Diocesan Bulletin - Vertograd, Suzdal)
On July 20-21, in the Tsar Constantine Cathedral of the Suzdal Diocese of the Russian Orthodox (Autonomous) Church, the feast of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God was triumphantly observed with a large group of clergy in attendance. The all-night vigil and Divine Liturgy were served by His Eminence Metropolitan Valentine of Suzdal and Vladimir, His Eminence Archbishop Theodore of Borisov and Otradna, Administrator of the Synod of Bishops, His Eminence Archbishop Anthony of Yaransk and Vyatka, His Grace Bishop Irinarch of Tula and Bryansk, and His Grace Bishop Sebastian of Chelyabinsk. The sermon was delivered by His Eminence Archbishop Theodore.
The feast of the Kazan Icon is one of the most highly revered feasts in Suzdal; people come from many nearby towns and villages to take part in it. This is due to the fact that for many years during the Soviet period (1940-1970) the only church in Suzdal that was open was the Kazan Icon Church across the street from the shopping district (the church is now in the possession of the MP). In 1978, this church was closed and desecrated, and the Orthodox community was given the Tsar Constantine Church to use, which had also been desecrated. For a long time there was an ancient wonder-working copy of the Kazan icon there, which was stolen during a burglary in 2002.
At the services, several members of the catacomb communities belonging to the ROAC were in attendance.
On July 28th, the Orthodox people of Suzdal prayed especially hard while celebrating the feast of the holy Equal of the Apostles Grand Prince Vladimir. The festive service was held in the Tsar Constantine Cathedral. According to tradition, the holy Prince Vladimir, after his baptism, arrived in Suzdal, where he baptized his Suzdal regiment of soldiers in the waters of the Kamenka River. At the site of the baptism, in order to commemorate the event, St. Vladimir, whose baptismal name was Basil, ordered the construction of a monastery in honor of his patron saint, St. Basil the Great.
At noon, His Grace Bishop Irinarch of Tula and Bryansk, served a moleben to St. Vladimir at the St. Vladimir Chapel located in the Znamenny Cemetery in Suzdal. After the moleben, "Many Years" was sung for the Orthodox Episcopate of the persecuted Russian Church, and for Fr. Vladimir Shishkoff and his family. Fr. Vladimir is the rector of the St. Nicholas Parish of the ROAC in the New York area, and was celebrating his nameday that day. It was due to the care and donations of Fr. Vladimir that the chapel in the Znamenny Cemetery was built. In attendance at this moleben were His Eminence Metropolitan Valentine and Archbishop Theodore of Borisov and Sanina.
On Sunday, July 31st, at the Divine Liturgy in the Tsar Constantine Cathedral, His Eminence Metropolitan Valentine ordained a novice of the monastery dedicated to the Holy New Martyrs of Russia in Suzdal, Dimitry Karpenko, to the diaconate. Fr. Dimitry was born in 1985 in the village of Sovetka, in the Neklinovsky region of Rostov province, and from his early childhood had served as an altar boy in the Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul located inside the synodal metochion there. In 2003, he became a novice at the Suzdal Monastery of the Holy New Martyrs of Russia, and served as subdeacon for Metropolitan Valentine. He will be serving as deacon in Suzdal.
On August 1st, on the feast of St. Seraphim the Wonderworker of Sarov, His Eminence Metropolitan Valentine of Suzdal and Vladimir served the all-night vigil and Divine Liturgy at the Tsar Constantine Cathedral. During the Liturgy, at the minor entrance, Vladyka Metropolitan awarded the gold pectoral cross to one of the monks of the Monastery of the Holy New Martyrs, Hieromonk Seraphim (Kataev), and wished him a happy nameday. The clergy and people also prayerfully remembered His Eminence Archbishop Seraphim of Sukhumi and Abkhazia, who was away on a pastoral visit to his catacomb communities.
Volgograd Diocese of MP Begins Persecution of ROAC Community
(Suzdal Diocesan Bulletin - Vertograd, Volgograd)
A community of the Russian Orthodox (Autonomous) Church named for St. Michael the Archangel in Volgograd, and in particular its pastor, Archpriest Victor Ulyanov, have become subjects of a slander campaign begun by the local diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate.
On May 4th, Aleksei Pluzhnikov, a clergyman of the Volgograd Diocese of the MP, who serves as a priest at the Sts. Peter & Paul Chapel in the city of Volgograd, region of Sovetka, appeared at the parish icon shop, which is located in the trade center, and demanded that it cease its operations, threatening one parishioner, T. A. Pakhomova, with physical blows. This all took place in the presence of many witnesses, who were scandalized by the behavior of this "pastor." Several days later, Pluzhnikov crudely insulted and threatened a lady parishioner of St. Michael the Archangel Church who happened to be passing by his chapel.
On May 17th, this "pastor" started distributing leaflets throughout the region containing lies and calumny against Fr. Victor Ulanyov, claiming that "Victor Ulyanov stole the church of St. Michael the Archangel in the village of GES and began to illegally and blasphemously perform services, and to buy and sell ecclesiastical merchandise. For this reason, all of the merchandise sold in the icon shop is "hot," not blessed, and defiled, and all of the rituals and prayer lists ordered in the icon shop are without grace and invalid, and that all of the donations are being stolen." Fr. Victor was called a "thief and a schismatic."
On May 23rd, Fr. Victor Ulyanov submitted a statement to the district attorney pointing out that the actions of this "priest" are subject to articles 129 and 148 of the UK RF (legal code of the Russian Federation) and article 1 of Federal Law #114-FZ of July 25, 2002. He also informed the administrative head of the Bureau for the Liaison and Cooperation Department of Religious Organizations of Volgograd province and the region of OVD.
Soon afterwards, Metropolitan German of Volgograd himself decided to get involved. On June 17th, he sent a letter to the director of the trade center, in which he asserted that Fr. Victor had no right to engage in the trade of church supplies, collect donations, and represent the "Orthodox Church." Concluding his letter, he called Fr. Victor a "thief and a fake," and asked for "cooperation with the Russian Orthodox Church" in throwing Fr. Victor out of the store. Fortunately, however, the authorities demonstrated reserve and did not give in to the provocations of the MP.
In the words of Fr. Victor, "through these actions of one of their psychologically unbalanced "priests," the MP has again shown its true face to the community at large; the face of a "commercial enterprise" servicing the "religious needs of the population." "For these newly reformatted pastors, unfortunately, what comes first is not Christ the Savior, but mammon; not the preaching of the truth, and love, but the desire to make a killing, and avoid losing market share for their religious supplies and services. It is disgusting to see their attempts to pressure the authorities and the community, to impose their own opinions, their own understanding of Orthodoxy, and their own judgment. They think that they are still in the days of pre-revolutionary Russia, and that the government is obliged to take their side and meet all of their demands. But these dirty tactics, PR, and smear campaigns against those who don't agree with them--these are not the signs of the disciples of Christ, but rather to the contrary, of the servants of antichrist."
The Volgograd community of St. Michael the Archangel was received into the Russian Orthodox (Autonomous) Church on June 12th, 2001, and its rector is Fr. Victor Ulyanov. After the Moscow Patriarchate evicted the community from the church that it itself built, Fr. Victor began to hold services in a house church in the village of GES. His community consists of parishioners of varying ages and an active core element. They are well acquainted with the catechism and history of the Church, and are learning how to read Church Slavonic. Being closely situated nearby a hospital that periodically treats children from local orphanages, the parish helps them out with clothing, shoes, and food. All of these things come from the parishioners themselves; the community has no wealthy sponsors. The parish has also taken a pediatric rehabilitation center for disabled children under its wing, where they arrange parties, teas, and discussions.
Ninth Clergy-Laity Congress to be Held in Suzdal in September
(Suzdal Diocesan Bulletin - Vertograd, Suzdal)
By decison of the Hierarchical Synod of the Russian Orthodox (Autonomous) Church, the Ninth Clergy-Laity Congress of the Russian Orthodox Church will be held from September 3rd through the 9th in Suzdal. As in the past, the congress will be of a general nature, i. e. it will be open to all interested members of the clergy and laity of the Church of Russia.
Expected topics for discussion include current problems facing Church life, in particular, the convocation of the first Hierarchical Council of the Russian Orthodox (Autonomous) Church and its related expenses.
The previous congress (#8) took place in May, 2001, in Suzdal,and was incorporated into the festivities surrounding the canonization of the 20th century confessor of Orthodoxy, St. Philaret, First Hierarch of the ROCOR. Almost immediately after this congress, an apparently well planned attack started up against the Church in connection with the activities of Fr. Andrew Osetrov, as well as the persecution against Metropolitan Valentine, First Hierarch of the ROAC, that was done through the courts. All of these things upset the normal course of Church life and caused a postponement of any further congresses and councils.
Former ROAC Archbishop in USA receives radical Greek Old Calendarist Priests
(NFTU - Vertograd, Denver, Colorado)
Two priests have left the True Orthodox Church of Greece in order to join the synod of the former Archbishop Gregory (Abu Assaly) of Dormition Skete near the American city of Denver--Fr. Athanasios Tsorvas, and Fr. Komnenos Hatzileris.
Fr. Athansios, well known for his extreme ecclesiastical views and his unconcealed sympathy for the position of the former archbishop, had been serving lately in a house chapel belonging to the GOC Synod of Greece, but his views differed greatly from those of the Synod. For many observers, his sudden departure for another jurisdiction came as no surprise.
The story with Fr. Komnenos is a completely different one. According to various sources, he was suspended from serving for three years in the year 2000 after it became known that he figured in a police report in a matter concerning soliciting the services of a prostitute. Citing reasons of health, Fr. Komnenos retired, apparently for purely practical reasons.
As far as concerns the former Archbishop Gregory, he was removed from his membership in the Synod of the ROAC after accusations of having re-baptized members of the True Orthodox Church, and for making claims of having jurisdiction over the entire Church of the diaspora.
In the middle of July, 2005, the former archbishop stated in a communiqué that he was the victim of a slander campaign by "self-proclaimed lay people," and that the First Hierarch of the ROAC, Metropolitan Valentine, should be removed from his position. He also faulted the Synod of the ROAC for not standing up to the Metropolitan and for caving in to his will.