Thursday, December 08, 2011

Representatives of Various True Orthodox Churches Attend Conference on “The Underground Church in the USSR”

Representatives of the Russian True Orthodox Church (RTOC), the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church (ROAC) (under both Metropolitan Valentine of Suzdal and Bishop Gregory of Petrograd), and the Holy Orthodox Church in North America (HOCNA) as well as many well-known historians and scholars gathered to attend an international conference on “The Underground Church in the USSR,” which took place in Chernigov on November 18-19, 2011, reports Portal-Credo.Ru. The conference was organized by the Chernihiv State T.G. Shevchenko Pedagogical University and the Keston Institute (Oxford) with the support of the Chernihiv Oblast State Administration of Ukraine. The conference assembled on the eve of the memory of the Fathers and Confessors of the Catacomb Church associated with the day in 1937 on which two of the greatest luminaries of the Russian True Orthodox Church were shot: Metropolitan Joseph (Petrov) of Petrograd and Metropolitan Kirill (Smirnov) of Kazan.

Nowhere and never before, let alone in an academic atmosphere, had dozens of scholars from various countries who study the underground Church in the USSR gathered together alongside the “remnants” of this Church itself.

Nun Evphrosinia (Molchanova) (Provemont, France) from the Lesna Convent lectured on the theme of “The Catacomb Church in the Perception of the Russian Church Abroad.” Alexander Ogorodnikov, a prisoner of conscience from the Soviet period, noted that the catacomb period has been all but expunged from official church history, and even in textbooks for theological schools it is mentioned in passing and dismissively. Alexander Soldatov, editor in chief of Vertograd and Portal-Credo.Ru, related the history and ideology of the canonical structures of the Russian Church Abroad in Ukraine in the 1970s to the beginning of the 1990s.

Lev Regelson, the well-known scholar and author of the book The Tragedy of the Russian Church, in his speech entitled “The Question of the Nature of Ecclesiastical Authority in Connection with the Non-Commemorating Movement,” lamented that Russia and the official Church “have not learned a lesson from the history of the underground Church.” Mikhail Shkarovsky, a scholar of the Catacomb Church, related that the St. Petersburg Diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate suggested canonizing Metropolitan Joseph and his “Josephite” followers who suffered for the faith, but the Synodal commission rejected these candidates. Talks were delivered by Archpriest Alexei Paro (RTOC), Archpriest Alexei Lebedev (ROAC), Irina Osipova ("Memorial" society), and many others.

At the conference an exhibition of photographs, books, manuscripts, and liturgical objects collected in various catacomb communities was on display. Following the meetings the participants of the conference enjoyed many and fruitful discussions in an informal setting. Photographs of the conference can be seen at Portal-Credo.Ru: