Friday, August 05, 2005

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.