Saturday, October 15, 2005

Metropolitan Valentine Beaten, Robbed, By Unknown Assailants In Suzdal

(Suzdal Diocesan Herald – Vertograd, Suzdal)

On Thursday, October 13th, eve of the feast of the Protection of the Mother of God, unknown criminals burglarized the Synodal headquarters and residence of Metropolitan Valentine, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox (Autonomous) Church.

Between the hours of 4:00 PM and 7:00 PM, the Metropolitan was home alone, recuperating from an illness. At around 7:00 PM, Archbishop Theodore, returning from services, was unable to enter the Synodal headquarters due to a malfunctioning lock on the front door. However, Vladyka quickly figured out how to get the door open and discovered Metropolitan Valentine rolled up inside a carpet on the floor. All of the closets had been opened, and their contents were strewn around the room.

The criminals, probably two or three of them, used axes, sledgehammers, and breaker bars to get into the house through the garage after breaking through four metal doors, which lead from the attached garage to the altar of the Synodal house chapel dedicated to the Iveron Icon of the Mother of God.

According to Metropolitan Valentine, he was standing with his back to the entrance of his living quarters when he heard a noise from behind him just before receiving a hard blow to the head, which knocked him down. He fell and lost consciousness. Then, the criminals repeatedly beat him about the stomach and liver, tore the bandages from his ulcerated foot, then they dragged him to a large room where they bound his hands and feet with lamp cord and a towel, taped over his mouth, and rolled him up inside the carpet, which was covering a couch.

Police at the scene also constituted the facts of the robbery. The thieves grabbed two silver chalices, three valuable panaghias, which had formerly belonged to Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), Bishop Gregory (Grabbe), and Metropolitan Anthony (Romanovsky), and several very old icons, from cabinets in the living room. The criminals also tried to break into the office safe, which contained important documents. A very old icon of St. Dimitry of Rostov was stolen from the Synodal chapel. In their hurry to escape,the thieves abandoned several very old and heavy icons at the doors of the garage.

Doctors arrived by ambulance and administered first aid to Vladyka Metropolitan. Vladyka quickly regained consciousness. A quick examination revealed signs of concussion, as well as trauma to the face, entire body, and Vladyka’s ulcerated feet.

In all probability, the main goal of these criminals was not robbery, but to cause physical harm to the aged and ailing Metropolitan. In Suzdal, in anticipation of mayoral elections being held on October 16th, several members of the extremist organization "Chechen Veterans Union", also known as "Nashe Delo" (Cosa Nostra), were seen around town again. These people engage in negative PR for hire, and everyone in Suzdal remembers their activity during the last mayoral elections in February/March, 2002, which were marked by a long drawn out campaign of harassment against the First Hierarch of the ROAC and the Russian Church, including beatings of several of the clergy and active lay members of the ROAC in Suzdal. The press played a particularly active role in persecuting the Metropolitan. The Vladimir regional newspaper "Prizyv" and the newspaper "Russian Vestnik" called for direct physical reprisals against Metropolitan Valentine. This time, Metropolitan Valentine arrived in Suzdal from Zheleznovodsk, and on the eve of the elections, was preparing to publish a statement addressed to the authorities and citizens of the city.

All of this is going on against the background of general persecution against the ROAC carried out by the local authorities, who, as a rule, are guided by directives from the Moscow Patriarchate. In December of 2002, Archbishop Evlogy of Vladimir (MP) gave the church award called the Order of Daniel of Moscow 3rd class to the head of the bureau for state security for the Russian Federation (FSB RF) in the Vladimir region, a Mr. P.V. Sivanov, in advance, for his "help in returning property belonging to the ROC, which was in the hands of schismatic religious factions". To this day, the Suzdal diocese has not been able to get the deeds to its church properties belonging to the ROAC in Suzdal (Church of the Holy New Martyrs of Russia), and in the town of Pavlovsk, Suzdal region, (Nativity of the Forerunner Church). In Zheleznovodsk, the MP is trying to seize control of the Church of St. Olga by hook or by crook. Everywhere, ROAC communities are being denied the right to incorporate. Churches belonging to the ROAC in and around Suzdal have been repeatedly robbed. The smear campaign in the press continues non-stop, especially by "Orthodox" journalists. And now, it has come to physical violence. The facts of these events have caused the City of Suzdal’s investigative authorities to open a case.