Friday, November 11, 2005

Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church Meets

(SEV–Vertograd, Suzdal)

On October 1/14, in the Synodal headquarters building in Suzdal, the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church held a meeting with the blessing of the First Hierarch, Vladyka Valentine. Present at the meeting were: Archbishop Theodore of Borisovsk and Otradnaya, Secretary of the Synod of Bishops, Bishop Irinarch of Tula and Bryansk, and Bishop Ambrose.

Metropolitan Valentine of Suzdal and Vladimir, President of the Synod of Bishops was absent from the meeting by reason of illness.

Archbishop Seraphim of Sukhumi and Abkhazia, being in Suzdal, could not participate the meeting either, because he had had a stroke several days before. Both Metropolitan Valentine and Archbishop Seraphim signed the minutes later.

The Synod of Bishops discussed the events of October 13th concerning the violent act done to Metropolitan Valentine, and considered the possible reasons for its cause and its consequences.

The Synod heard Archbishop Theodore, who described the beating of the Metropolitan in the Synodal building and the police response. Police officers at the scene immediately put forth their version of the event as a robbery attempt. But this version cannot be true since not all items of value were taken. "Would someone coming to rob the place bring tape along? Why would thieves need to tear the bandages off of the Metropolitan’s sore feet and beat on them after rolling him up in a rug? All of these things point to another reason for the break-in, other than robbery. It would be more logical for simple thieves to quickly grab whatever valuables they could, and run. If this were the case, they could have just grabbed the antique icons from the church and quietly leave," said Archbishop Theodore.

In the Archbishop’s opinion, this incident should be viewed, not as a burglary, but as a malicious act to instill fear in, ruin the health of, and possibly end the life of the First Hierarch of the ROAC. "This was not a simple case of robbery," remarked Archbishop Theodore, "but a logical progression, a malicious step in the ongoing and never-ending persecution of the ROAC and its First Hierarch.

Bishop Irinarch, remarked that in the churches of the Moscow Patriarchate in Suzdal and in other places, there is a systematic propaganda campaign directed against Vladyka Metropolitan and against the whole Church. "People tell us," said Vladyka, "that when they go to the Kazan Church or the Protection Monastery, the priests, lay people, and nuns there unleash an entire barrage of insults directed at the Metropolitan upon them, although they personally know him and have never otherwise heard anything bad about him. One can be sure that anyone who goes into any church belonging to the MP, especially people coming for the first time, will be subject to the same treatment with the intent of fostering hatred towards Vladyka Valentine."

Archbishop Theodore went down the list of the many instances of where local officials in Russia had violated the constitutional rights of the faithful of the ROAC: refusing the incorporation of communities and dioceses, harassment of priests and lay people, and refusing to issue deeds for newly constructed churches. Behind these unfair and discriminatory actions on the part of local officials, as a rule, stands the Moscow Patriarchate, certain powerful leaders of which have assigned themselves the task of destroying the ROAC, and in connection with this are using every chance they have to influence secular authorities.

The Synod of Bishops resolved to appeal to various international and Russia-wide human rights organizations with the request to look into the continuing repression against the faithful of the ROAC and its First Hierarch, Metropolitan Valentine.