Welcome to , 25 May 2014
Fortnightly Report on Christianity in Former Soviet Bloc Countries,
by Dr. Robert D. Hosken
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FIRST, THE NEWS:

THE RUSSIAN CHURCH IS THE ABSENT PLAYER AT THE POPE-PATRIARCH SUMMIT
from
Reuters

Pope Francis and Metr. Hilarion (19 May) When Pope Francis meets Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew this week, the speeches and symbolism will focus on how these ancient western and eastern wings of Christianity want to come closer together. After almost a millennium apart, however, the key to the elusive unity they seek may not lie in Jerusalem, where the Catholic pope and the spiritual head of the world's Orthodox Christians will embrace on May 25. If anywhere, that key lies in Moscow. The Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), by far the largest church in the Orthodox world and increasingly influential at home and abroad, has long been wary of the closer ties Francis and Bartholomew want to work towards.

Its opposition has only stiffened in recent months amid the crisis in Ukraine, where the political standoff between Russia and Europe has deepened tensions between the Moscow Patriarchate and three competing churches, one of them linked to the Vatican which Moscow accuses of trying to woo away its worshippers. "All these unfortunate events ... take us back to the situation when Catholics and Orthodox didn't consider themselves as allies but as enemies," said Metropolitan Hilarion, the ROC's "foreign minister" at the unusually young age of 47.

The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which supports pro-European movements there rather than the pro-Russian ones the ROC favors, "is becoming once again ... a huge obstacle for any progress in our bilateral relations," he told Reuters in an interview in Moscow's Danilov Monastery. The dream of overcoming the Great Schism of 1054, one of European history's greatest splits, is still far off, but both sides try to work together to promote Christian values and avoid the disunity Jesus warned his disciples against. [read more...]


RUSSIA: AUCTION TO END OLD BELIEVER CHURCH RESTITUTION HOPES?
by Victoria Arnold,
Forum 18 News Service

(23 May) Despite a verbal promise from the regional governor, Old Believers in Yekaterinburg in the Urals fear that they may never get restitution of their church, seized during the Soviet period. Sverdlovsk Regional Property Fund is due to auction the historical church on 11 June. "Logic, common sense, the Governor's promise, and historical justice compel us to believe that the church building will be handed over to its rightful owners," Maksim Gusev of the Church's Urals Diocese told Forum 18 News Service. "But officials are doing everything to obscure the situation and delay the outcome."

Lutherans in Vyborg in north-western Russia have been refused the restitution of their former parish house, which they hope to use as the pastor's accommodation and a Sunday school. A 21 May court decision claims this is not a "religious purpose" as required under the 2010 restitution law. And Catholics in Barnaul have been promised the return of their Soviet-confiscated church "no later than 3 February 2018."

Three and a half years since it came into force, Russia's 2010 Law on the Transfer of Religious Property to Religious Organisations has proved to be no guarantee that the restitution process will be easy or unchallenged, or indeed that religious property seized during the Soviet period will be returned at all, Forum 18 News Service has found. Some religious communities fear they may never get back their historical property. Religious communities have made hundreds of applications for the return of former places of worship under the 2010 Law. These include 734 requests for federally owned properties alone, according to the Federal Agency for State Property Administration (Rosimushchestvo). [read more...]


ORTHODOX PRIEST ABDUCTED IN DONETSK REGION
from
Interfax-Religion

(20 May) Vladimir Ocheretyanin, a clergyman from the Church of Peter and Paul in the town of Khartsyzsk, Donetsk Region, has been abducted by unknown individuals. "Father Vladimir was abducted from a hospital, where he was receiving treatment," Kirill Frolov, the head of the department on liaisons with the Russian Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Community of the Institute of CIS Countries, told Interfax-Religion on Tuesday.

Frolov said he does not have any other details, adding that the priest sympathized with representatives of the Donbass resistance movement and has recently visited Slavyansk. Interfax currently does not have confirmation of this information from other sources. According to earlier reports, Archpriest Pavel Zhuchenko, a clergyman of the Gorlovka Diocese, was recently killed at a checkpoint in the Donetsk Region. [read more...]


UZBEKISTAN: "TO PREVENT ILLEGAL RELIGIOUS MATERIALS"
by Mushfig Bayram,
Forum 18 News Service

(13 May) A court in Uzbekistan's capital Tashkent has fined both Grigory Kasparov and his wife Yelena for "illegally storing" Kasparov's Christian books in their private home. This was despite Yelena Kasparova refusing to sign a confession police attempted to force from her for this offence. The verdict in Kasparov's case states that the books were destroyed even before the Court had found Kasparov guilty and decided what to do with the books. A court official admitted to Forum 18 News Service that bailiffs destroyed the books, but refused to state whether bailiffs are allowed to do this before a verdict.

In another case, the NSS secret police and ordinary police have ignored a court order stating that they must return confiscated books and other material. In the Kasparov case the court verdict states the fine followed "investigation and search operations with the purpose to prevent illegal religious materials." In a very similar recent case, the verdict states that the NSS secret police conducted "an operation .. to identify persons who illegally store religious materials." [read more...]


ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH DOES NOT REPRESENT US IN MEETING POPE, SAYS METROPOLITAN HILARION
from
Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(23 May) The chief spokesman of the Russian Orthodox Church for foreign relations has expressed some misgivings that Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople will be meeting Pope Francis during the Pontiff's visit to the Holy Land. Metropolitan Hilarion said that because Patriarch Bartholomew had not consulted with other Orthodox leaders before scheduling his meeting with the Pope, he would be acting on his own behalf, not as a representative of the world's Orthodox faithful.

Although the Patriarch of Constantinople is traditionally recognized as the "first among equals" in the Orthodox hierarchy, the Russian Orthodox Church argues that he exercises that primacy only when other Orthodox patriarchs explicitly authorize him to do so. In the absence of such a mandate, Metropolitan Hilarion said, Patriarch Bartholomew will be representing only his own particular church, the Patriarchate of Constantinople. [read more...]


RUSSIA DEMANDS KIEV'S EXPLANATIONS OVER DENIAL OF ENTRY TO CHURCH HIERARCH
from
Voice of Russia

(12 May) The Russian Foreign Ministry demanded explanations and apologies from the Kiev authorities over the denial of entry to Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk. "Russia is concerned about the continuing measures being taken by the Kiev regime which lead to destabilization of the political situation in the country," the ministry said on Monday, May 11. "The fragile religious situation in Ukraine has been harmed lately, with the canonical Orthodox Church being the target."

"On May 9, an unprecedented provocation took place at Dnepropetrovsk's airport. When passing passport control, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department for External Church Relations, was denied entry to Ukraine without any explanation even though he had come to Dnepropetrovsk on a solely peaceful mission to congratulate Metropolitan Irinei of Dnepropetrovsk and Pavlodar on his 75th birthday, give him a message of congratulations from Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and present a church award - the Order of St. Prince Daniil of Moscow," the ministry said. [read more...]


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:

SOLEMN BLESSING HELD IN FRONT OF SAINTS CYRIL AND METHODIUS MONUMENT IN SOFIA
from
Focus Information Agency

KAZAKHSTAN: TWO MONTHS' JAIL FOR RELIGIOUS MEETINGS WITHOUT STATE PERMISSION
from
Forum 18 News Service

ODESSA METROPOLITAN LEFT CITY, WHEREABOUTS UNKNOWN
from
Interfax-Religion

BAPTISTS BLAMED FOR UKRAINE CONFLICT
from
Mission Network News

PRAYER TENT IN DONETSK ATTACKED
from
Religious Information Service of Ukraine

UKRAINIAN REBELS ADVERTISE LOYALTY TO MOSCOW PATRIARCHATE; UKRAINIAN CHURCH PROTESTS
from
Portal-credo.ru

CAN A 'RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHEKIST' MAKE A REVOLUTION ABROAD?
from
Window on Eurasia

RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH AIDS FLOOD VICTIMS IN SERBIA
from
Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate

UKRAINIAN PENTECOSTAL BISHOP RELEASED BY SEPARATISTS; PRESSURE ON CHURCH REMAINS
from
BosNewsLife

ROMANIANS CONTINUE TO TRUST THE CHURCH, BUT SHOW LEAST TRUST IN GOVERNMENT
from
Romania Insider

See HOSKEN-NEWS Daily for more of the latest news!


NOW, OUR VIEWS:

Cyril and Methodius Our first "other news headline," SOLEMN BLESSING HELD IN FRONT OF SAINTS CYRIL AND METHODIUS MONUMENT IN SOFIA, highlights the celebration this weekend of Saints Cyril and Methodius, two great missionaries to the Slavs in the ninth century. Their father was a Greek, and some scholars think their mother was a Slav. Cyril was first sent as a missionary to the Khazars in Chersonesos, Taurica (modern-day Crimea). They were highly learned: Cyril was a professor of philosophy and knew the Greek, Hebrew, Slavonic, Arabic, Khazar and Samaritan languages. Methodius was active in Byzantine political and administrative affairs and was an abbot of his monastery.

Both brothers then were sent to Pannonia and Moravia (modern-day Hungary and Slovakia) to evangelize, where they translated Scripture and the Liturgy into the Glagolitic alphabet which they created. Later they modified Glagolitic into the Cyrillic alphabet, based mainly on Greek but with a few Hebrew characters, that is used in most of the Slavic countries today. At first cooperating with the Roman Pope, they later experienced conflict with Roman Catholic bishops, and their missionary successors were driven out of Pannonia and Moravia into Bulgaria.

The story of Saints Cyril and Methodius, and the meeting of Pope Francis with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew this week, tell us much about the struggle, even before the Great Schism of A.D. 1054, between eastern and western Christianity and the empires supporting these two wings of Christianity that has taken place for over 1,000 years in Central and Eastern Europe. The elections in Ukraine that we are witnessing this weekend are clearly a continuation of this tug-of-war between East and West. May the Lord bring about a just and peaceful resolution to this struggle!

Some missionaries to Ukraine recently sent out the following call to prayer: "This Sunday are the presidential elections in Ukraine. Carrying out these elections freely and transparently will give legitimacy to the government and allow the country to begin to move forward on its path of reform. Unfortunately our large neighbor to the northeast has decided to do whatever it can to disrupt the elections. Yesterday the fighting escalated in eastern Ukraine and 16 Ukrainian troops at one checkpoint were ambushed and killed. Border posts were also attacked.

Terrorist cells were uncovered even in Kyiv with large caches of arms ready to create mayhem on election day. A computer virus was discovered on the central election commission's computers designed to destroy the election results. Who knows what else might be planned. Pray that the elections would be peaceful and that the results of the election would allow the nation to move beyond the criminal regimes of the past and to establish a legitimate, transparent, law-abiding government that would provide peace, security, rule of law and opportunity for the people of this great nation."


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Let's keep the comments coming! When you've finished reading, leave your COMMENTS in our Hosken-News Blog below. Thanks!


Prayer and Praise:

Sun. - Pray that the
meeting of Pope Francis with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will help bring about unity.
Mon. - Ask the Lord that restitution of church properties confiscated under communism will be carried out fairly.
Tue. - Pray for UOC-MP priest Vladimir Ocheretyanin who was abducted by unknown individuals and is still missing.
Wed. - Intercede for Grigory Kasparov and his wife Yelena in Uzbekistan who were fined and whose books were siezed.
Thu. - Ask God that Patriarch Bartholomew's role in meeting with Pope Francis is clearly understood by the world.
Fri. - Pray that the crisis of Ukraine's denial of entry to Metropolitan Hilarion will be fairly resolved soon.
Sat. - Thank the Lord for Saints Cyril and Methodius, the two great missionaries to the Slavs in the ninth century.

Select to see full-size!   Please remember to pray for Christians in the former Soviet bloc countries, and for...

  Your fellow-servants,

  Bob & Cheryl

p.s. Family values: "He who does not engage in propagation of the race is as though he had shed blood." - the Talmud


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