Sunday, April 09, 2006

ROAC Church of St. Olga in Zheleznovodsk Given Over to Stavropol Diocese of the MP With Help From Cossacks and OMON

( – Vertograd, Zheleznovodsk)

At about 9:00 AM on Monday, April 3rd, the Church of St. Olga, which belongs to the ROAC (Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church), was transferred by officers of the court to the authority of the Stavropol and Vladikavkaz Diocese of the MP. This information was given to a reporter for Portal-Credo.Ru during his conversation with one of the priests of the ROAC Orthodox community there, Archpriest George Novakovsky.

According to him, approximately five hundred parishioners of St. Olga’s Church, together with the community’s clergy, Frs. Anatoly, Roman, and George Novakovsky, assembled at about 7:00-8:00 AM in order to serve a supplicatory prayer service. The parishioners did not wait for the court officers since office workers of the court had earlier told community representatives that the officers might come at any time during the course of the day. Nevertheless, at 8:00 AM, Cossacks from the town of Mineral Waters arrived, which began to force their way into the church. However, the parishioners formed a human barricade and would not let them get through.

Fr. George remarked that the MP Diocese had purposely invited Cossacks from Mineral Waters since the Cossacks from Zheleznovodsk had refused to be involved in any action against the most well-known and largest Orthodox community of the ROAC in town. After the Cossacks failed to take immediate control of the church, police officers and members of the OMON (paramilitary police), together with officers of the court, arrived. They forced the parishioners and the Cossacks out of the way, and the three priests—the Novakovsky brothers—and their wives, who had remained in the church, ceased opposing the representatives of the court and turned over the church keys to the bailiff. The bailiff in turn gave them to Vasiliy Chechil, representative of the MP Diocese of Stavropol.

According to Fr. George, the rector of the Church of the Holy Protection of the Mother of God in Kavminvody, Fr. Ilya Ageev, has been named as the new rector of St. Olga’s Church. Archpriest George Novakovsky made a special point of saying that when it came to the question of removing the furnishings from the church, the community had been willing to leave the icon screen in the church, but the MP’s representative said that they had their own icon screen.

The police in Zheleznovodsk, who are well acquainted with the community led by the Novakovsky’s, offered the use of a vehicle to the parishioners for moving the church furnishings. After all of the icons and other furnishings were moved, the parishioners and clergy of St. Olga’s Church marched in procession to Fr. George’s home, where the parish will continue to meet after their eviction.

The ROAC community, which had been using the church built by the Novakovsky brothers for the last sixteen years, is planning on petitioning the Zheleznovodsk city administration for a parcel of land where they can build another church center, especially now that relations between the ROAC community and the Zheleznovodsk city administration have improved since Victor Lozovoy replaced the MP sympathizer Anatoly Zubtsov as mayor. According to Fr. George, Lozovoy had been promising from the start that the church would not be taken away from the parishioners.

We remind our readers that what took place on April 3rd, was nothing other than the fulfillment of the decisions handed down by the Stavropol and Krasnodar (arbitrazhny) courts concerning the transfer of the buildings of St. Olga’s Church to the jurisdiction of the Stavropol Diocese of the MP. In the fall of 2005, the judges had confirmed the claims of the Stavropol Diocese of the MP to property belonging to the ROAC, and had given the parishioners until the spring of 2006 to cede their property.