Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Priestmartyr John Kochurov

Commemorated on October 31

The Life of St John Kochurov, Hieromartyr Missionary in America First Clergy Martyr of the Russian Revolution

On October 31, 1917, in Tsarskoye Selo, a bright new chapter, full of earthly grief and heavenly joy, was opened in the history of sanctity in the Russian Church: the holiness of the New Martyrs of the twentieth century. The opening of this chapter is linked to the name of the Russian Orthodox pastor who became one of the first to give his soul for his flock during this twentieth century of fighters against God: Archpriest John Kochurov.

Father John Kochurov was born on July 13, 1871, in the village of Bigildino-Surka of the district of Danky in the Ryazan region, into a pious family with many children. His parents were the priest Alexander Kochurov and his wife Anna (Perehvalskaya). Father Alexander Kochurov served almost all his life in the Church of Theophany in Bigildino-Surka village in the Diocese of Ryazan from the time of his ordination on March 2, 1857, combining his years of service in the parish with the fulfillment of his obligations as a teacher of God's Law in the Bigildino public school. His example was imprinted in the conscience of his sons, and particularly John, the most spiritually sensitive of them. They regarded their father as a radiant image of the parish priest, full of deep humility and high inspiration.[1]

Fr John's upbringing, based on the remarkable traditions of many generations of the clergy and bound with the people's natural following after Orthodox piety, foretold that he would set out on the path of preparation for pastoral service. Father John's study (initially at Danky Theological School and afterward at Ryazan Theological Seminary) was marked not only with outstanding success in the mastery of theological and secular disciplines, but with remarkable examples of churchly piety which he demonstrated at a time when the everyday life of a provincial theological school was not always spotless in the moral sense.

The future Father John successfully graduated from the Theological Seminary in Ryazan in 1891. Having passed the entrance exams for the St Petersburg Theological Academy, he became a student at one of the best theological schools in Russia.[2]

During the time that Fr John studied at the St Petersburg Theological Academy, his inclination to regard theological education as a preparation primarily for future service as a parish priest became clearly defined. Already during his student days Fr John combined the possibility of his service as a parish priest with that of missionary activity, which he saw as the embodiment of the ideal of an Orthodox pastor. After his graduation from St Petersburg Theological Academy (1895) with the distinction of a true student, Fr John was sent to the Diocese of the Aleutians and Alaska[3] in accordance with his long-standing desire for missionary service.

Soon after his marriage to Alexandra Chernisheva, Fr John's arrival in Protestant America put him in touch with a life dissimilar in many respects to his accustomed life in Orthodox Russia. For his first sojourn in the U.S.A. Fr John arrived in New York, which with its mundane ways, was so different from the spiritual life of the Russian cities. Though he had not yet learned the English language, Fr John, thanks to the brotherly support of the New York Orthodox community (of modest size at that time) did manage to adjust himself to the life of the country, till then unknown to him, without any particular psychological or other complications. It must be noted that Church life in the Diocese of Alaska and the Aleuts was very different in character from that in other parts of the country, which was vast in its territory but rather small in the number of clergy. Specifically, the Russian Orthodox missions in Northern California, on the Aleutian Islands, and in Alaska had at that time already existed for about a hundred years, and Church life was conducted on a foundation of rather numerous parish communities which possessed significant financial resources. After several generations in America, the parishes had become accustomed to life in their new home. Orthodox life in the rest of the country, however, was only in its initial stages. It required a great deal of evangelical activity by the clergy to create normal Orthodox parishes within the multinational and multi-confessional local population. It was precisely to that part of the diocese that Fr John was destined to be sent when he was ordained to the holy priesthood on August 27, 1895, by the Most Reverend Nicholas, Bishop of Alaska and the Aleuts.[4]

The beginning of Fr John's parish service was associated with the opening of an Orthodox parish in Chicago in 1892 by Bishop Nicholas. Assigned in 1895 by order of the Holy Synod to be a parish priest at St Vladimir's Cathedral in Chicago,[5] Fr John was put in touch with a parish life that was strikingly different from the Orthodox parishes in Russia, which were organized and rooted in a living tradition many centuries old.

Being a remote island of Orthodox Christian life, many hundreds of miles from the other scattered Orthodox parishes in North America, St Vladimir's Church in Chicago, and the Church of the Three Hierarchs in the town of Streator with which it was affiliated, required heroic labors from the young Fr John to be established in a proper way. Almost three years after its founding, the parish still had not managed to achieve full parish status.

Beginning his work at the parish of Chicago and Streator, which was rather small and multinational in its constituency, Fr John nourished these people, who represented a rather poor class of immigrants, in the Orthodox faith. He was never able to be supported in his work by a sound parish community with sufficient material resources at its disposal.

In an article written in December 1898, Fr John gave the following vivid description of the Chicago-Streator parish community: The Orthodox parish of St Vladimir's Church in Chicago consists of a small number of the original Russians, Galician and Hungarian Slavs, Arabs, Bulgarians, and Aravians. The majority of the parishioners are working people who earn their bread by toiling not far from where they live, on the outskirts of the city. Affiliated with this parish in Chicago is the Church of the Three Hierarchs in the city of Streator. This place, together with the town called Kengley, are situated ninety-four miles from Chicago, and they are famous for their coal mines. The Orthodox parish there consists of the Slovaks who work there who have been converted from the Unia.[6]

The unique characteristics of the Chicago-Streator parish community demanded of Fr John a deft combination of pastoral-liturgical skills, as well as missionary ones. These abilities would permit him not only to stabilize the membership of his parish community spiritually and administratively, but to enlarge his flock continually by means of conversions, or by the return to Orthodoxy of the ethnically diverse Christians living in Illinois. Already during the first three years of Fr John's parish service 86 Uniates and five Catholics were added to the Orthodox Church,[7] bringing the number of permanent parishioners up to 215 men in Chicago, and 88 in Streator. There were two functioning church schools affiliated with the parishes, with more than twenty pupils enrolled in them. The course consisted of Saturday classes during the school year, and daily classes during the school vacations.[8]

In his work, Fr John continued the best traditions of the Russian Orthodox Diocese in North America. He organized, in Chicago and Streator, the St Nicholas and Three Hierarchs Brotherhoods, which established a goal of setting up a program of social and material mutual aid among the parishioners of the Chicago-Streator parish, as members of the Orthodox Mutual Aid Society.[9]

Father John's abundant labors for the building of a healthy, flourishing parish life in the communities entrusted to him did not hinder him from fulfilling other important diocesan responsibilities that were laid upon him. So it was that on April 1, 1897, Fr John was appointed to be one of the members of the newly-created Censorship Committee of the Diocese of Alaska and the Aleutians to review texts in the Russian, Ukrainian, and English languages.[10] On May 22, 1899, Fr John was appointed Chairman of the Board of the Mutual Aid Society[11] by a decree of Bishop Tikhon of Alaska and the Aleutians, who had recently arrived in the diocese.

The varied labors of Fr John were soon rewarded; after just the first years of his pastoral service, he received awards of priestly distinction[12] from the Most Reverend Bishop Nicholas.

A significant obstacle to the normal functioning of the Church liturgical cycle at the Chicago-Streator parish was the condition of the buildings, which were unfit for the purpose. St Vladimir's Church in Chicago occupied a small part of a rented edifice located in the southwestern part of the city. On the ground floor of the house a wall separated the church from the kitchen and a room where an attendant lived. On the first floor there were several small rooms which were occupied by Fr John together with his family, and by the church Reader. The church of the Three Hierarchs in Streator employed the lobby of the Russian section of the Chicago World Exhibition[13] [the Columbian Exposition of 1892-Ed.].

The assignment of Bishop Tikhon, the future Patriarch of Moscow, to the Diocese of Alaska and the Aleutians on November 30, 1898, was especially significant for the resolution of problems of church life in the parish entrusted to Fr John.

Zealously fulfilling his hierarchal obligations, Bishop Tikhon in his first months as diocesan bishop had already managed to visit almost all the Orthodox parishes scattered throughout the vast territory of the Diocese of Alaska and the Aleutians, in an effort to discern the most fundamental needs of the diocesan clergy.

blessing to Fr John and to his flock. By the next day he had already inspected a plot of land proposed as the site where the new church, so necessary for the parish in Chicago, would be constructed. On April 30, Bishop Tikhon visited the Three Hierarchs Church in Streator and presided at the Vigil service at St Vladimir's Church in Chicago. On the following day, after serving the Divine Liturgy, he approved the minutes of the meeting of the committee for the construction of the new church in Chicago, which was chaired by Fr John.[14]

The limited financial resources of the Chicago-Streator parish, where the people being ministered to were primarily poor, did not permit Fr John to begin construction immediately. And since more than five years had passed from the time of Fr John's arrival in North America, his great desire to visit his beloved Orthodox Russia, at least for a brief time, prompted him to submit an application to Bishop Tikhon requesting leave for the journey to his motherland.

Mindful of the needs of the parish entrusted to him, Fr John decided to use the vacation granted to him from January 15 to May 15, 1900, to collect money in Russia which would allow the Chicago parish to begin construction of the new church building, and of the first Orthodox cemetery in the city.[15] Successfully combining his journey to his motherland with raising significant funds for the parish, Fr John began the construction of the church soon after his return from leave. Bishop Tikhon arrived on March 31, 1902, for the ceremony of the laying of its foundation.[16]

With true pastoral inspiration, combined together with sober, practical record-keeping, Fr John managed to build the new church, which was completed in 1903. The church cost fifty thousand dollars, a very significant sum of money for that time.[17]

The consecration of the new temple, which was named in honor of the Holy Trinity, was performed by Bishop Tikhon, and it became a real festival for the whole Russian Orthodox diocese in North America. Two years later, in greeting Fr John on the occasion of his first ten years of service as a priest in the Church, the highest praise went to his careful pastoral labors in the construction of the Holy Trinity Church, which had become one of the most remarkable Orthodox churches in America. "The year has been filled with the most vivid of impressions, sometimes agonizing, sometimes good. A year of endlessly trying fund-raising in Russia, a year of sleepless nights, worn-out nerves, and countless woes; and here is the testimonial of your care: a temple made with hands, in the image of a magnificent Russian Orthodox temple, shining with its crosses in Chicago, and the peace and love not made with hands that are springing up in the hearts of your flock!" [18]

For his inspiring labors, Fr John was awarded the Order of St Anna (Third Class) on May 6, 1903 at Bishop Tikhon's recommendation.[19]

Zealously fulfilling his numerous obligations as a parish priest, he was the only priest there during the first nine years of his service in the parishes of Chicago and Streator. At the same time, Fr John continued to participate actively in resolving various issues in the life of the North American diocese. In February 1904, Fr John was assigned as a chairman of the Censor Committee of the Diocese of Alaska and the Aleutians, where he had already participated as a member of the council for seven years. [20] In June 1905, he was an active participant in the preparatory meetings of diocesan clergy, held in Old Forge [PA.] under the guidance of Bishop Tikhon, where issues were discussed in connection with preparation for the first Council in the history of the Diocese of North America and the Aleutians. It was in the solemn atmosphere of the sessions of this Council, on July 20, 1905, that Fr John celebrated his first decade of priestly service The actual date of the anniversary was August 27.

In St Michael's Church in Old Forge, before a large group of diocesan clergy with the Most Reverend (now St) Raphael, Bishop of Brooklyn presiding, Fr John was awarded a gold pectoral cross, and the speeches offered a perceptive and thoroughly objective description of the whole period of Fr John's pastoral service in North America. "Directly after your study at seminary, having left the motherland, you came to this strange land to expend all your youthful energy, to devote all your strength and inspiration to that holy concern to which you were attracted in your vocation. A hard legacy was left for you: the church in Chicago was then located in an untidy church setting, in a wet, half-ruined building. The parish, with its loosely defined parish membership, was scattered over the huge city with a heterodox population torn asunder by the wild beasts. All that might fill the soul of a young laborer with great confusion, but you bravely accepted the task of selecting a precious spark from the pile of rubbish, to fan the sacred fire into a small group of faithful! You were forgetful of yourself: calamities, illnesses, the poor location of your house, with its ramshackle walls, floors, and cracks that gave open access to the outer elements, with destructive effects on your health, and the health of your family members.... Your babies were sick, your wife was not quite healthy, and bitter bouts of rheumatism seemed to wish to destroy your confidence, to exhaust your energy.... We greet you, remembering another of your good deeds, the performance of which is plaited as an unfading laurel in the crown of honor of your decade of sacred service: we have in mind here your sacrificial service in the office of Chairman of our beloved Mutual Aid Society, in the office of Censor to our enlightening missionary publishing house, and in extending our evangelical efforts, organizing the parishes in Madison [IL] and Hartshorne [OK]. To complete your tribute, let us mention another circumstance, which magnifies the valor of your labor and the grandeur of its results. The remoteness of your parish in Chicago has torn you from your bonds with your colleagues in America, depriving you during these years of the chance to see your brother-pastors.... You were bereft of that which, for the majority of us, adorns the missionary service through which we pass. How touching, and how great a degree of isolation was yours, is witnessed by the fact that you had to baptize your children yourself, because of the absence of the other priests around you.... Let this Holy Cross we present serve you as a sign of our brotherly love, and the image of our Lord's Crucifixion on it permit you to accept the hardships, misfortunes, and sufferings that are so often met with in the life of a missionary priest, and let it encourage you to more and more labors for the glory of the Giver of Exploits and the Chief Shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ."[21]

Less than a year after the celebration of the tenth anniversary of Fr John's priestly service, the highest Church authority granted him one of the most honorable priestly orders, which deservedly crowned his genuine exploits in the Diocese of North America and the Aleutians. By order of the Holy Synod, Fr John was elevated to the dignity of Archpriest on May 6, 1906.

Now a new period in Fr John's service began. As one of the most respected archpriests of the Diocese, thanks to his outstanding pastoral work in his parish and in diocesan administrative activities, Fr John, at the initiative of Bishop Tikhon, who valued him highly, became more and more deeply involved in resolving the most pressing issues of diocesan administration. In May 1906, Fr John was appointed Dean of the New York area of the Eastern States,[23] and in February 1907, he was destined to be one of the most energetic participants of the first North American Orthodox Council in Mayfield, which dealt with the rapidly increasing conversions within the Diocese of North America and the Aleutians in the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in America, which was the basis on which the Orthodox Church in America was later founded.

During the period 1903-1907, the Chicago-Streator parish, built by his labors, was transformed into one of the most self-sufficient and flourishing diocesan parishes. But however successful the external circumstances of Fr John's service in North America may have seemed, his deep, fervent homesickness for his beloved Russia, which he had only seen once for a few months' leave since he came to America, and the necessity of providing his three elder children with an undergraduate education in Russia, compelled Fr John to think about the possibility of continuing his priestly ministry in his native Russian land. A rather significant circumstance furthering Fr John's submission of an application for transfer back to Russia was the insistent request of his elderly and seriously ailing father-in-law, who was a clergyman of the Diocese of St Petersburg, and who dreamed of handing over his parish to the guidance of such a deserving priest as Fr John had shown himself to be. In accordance with his application, Fr John received a release from his service in the Diocese of North America and the Aleutians on May 20, 1907, whereupon he began preparing himself for his move back to Russia. The week before their departure, however, Fr John and his family had to bear some sudden startling news from Russia: Alexandra's beloved parent had succumbed before they could return.

In July 1907, leaving the Chicago-Streator parish which was so dear to his heart, and where he had given twelve years of missionary service, Fr John set out for the unknown future that awaited him in his motherland, where he would spend the rest of his priestly service.[24]

Fr John's return to Russia in the summer of 1907 signified for him not only the beginning of his service in the Diocese of St Petersburg, familiar to him from his student years, but it challenged him with the need to apply the pastoral skills he had earlier acquired in America in the field of theological education. By order of the St Petersburg Church Consistory, in August 1907 Fr John was assigned to the clergy of Holy Transfiguration Cathedral in Neva, and beginning August 15, 1907, he began to perform his duties as a teacher of Law in the male and the female gymnasia in Narva.[25] By order of the chief of the St Petersburg Area Educational Department, effective October 20, 1907, Fr John was confirmed in his service in the male gymnasium as a teacher of God's Law [this Russian term refers to the totality of Orthodox teaching - Ed.] and was a hired teacher of the same subject in the female gymnasium of Narva, which became the main sphere of his Church service for the next nine years of his life.[26]

The common way of life in small, provincial Neva, where the Russian Orthodox inhabitants made up scarcely half the population, reminded Fr John, in some measure, of the atmosphere familiar to him in America, where he performed his pastoral service in a social environment permeated with heterodox influences. However, the circumstances of his work as a teacher of God's Law in two secondary schools where the Russian cultural element and Orthodox religious ethos indisputably dominated, permitted Fr John to feel that he was breathing an atmosphere of Russian Orthodox life reminiscent of his childhood.

In those years, Father John's teaching load usually consisted of sixteen hours a week in the male gymnasium and ten hours in the female gymnasium. This required of him a fairly significant effort, taking into account that to teach God's Law in the different classes, because of the breadth of the subject, a teacher had to be familiar with various matters of theological as well as of a mundane character.[27] However, inasmuch as the twelve years of his labors at the Chicago-Streator parish had transformed Fr John from an inexperienced beginner into one of the most authoritative pastors in the diocese, his nine years service of teaching God's Law (not marked by any spectacular events, but filled with concentrated work in imparting spiritual enlightenment) was one in which Fr John became a most conscientious practical Church teacher and learned Orthodox preacher. After just five years of teaching Divine Law in the Neva schools, Fr John was awarded the Order of St Anna (Second Class)[28] on May 6, 1912. Four years later, Fr John's achievements in the field of theological education were recognized by his award of the Order of St Vladimir (Fourth Class) which (added to his numerous Church and State awards) gave the deserving archpriest the right of receiving the title of nobility.[29]

The manifest successes of Fr John in his activity as a teacher during all these years were supplemented by his joy at the fact that all of his four elder sons, while studying in Neva gymnasium, had the opportunity to receive their spiritual upbringing under his immediate guidance.[30]

However, along with undeniable advantages of this new period of the pastoral service of Fr John, after his return to his fatherland following many years of absence, there still existed a circumstance which could not help but burden the heart of such a genuine parish pastor as Fr John was for the whole of his life. Being only attached to the Holy Transfiguration Cathedral in dreamed, and not being a member of its staff clergy, Fr John, because of the peculiarity of this situation, on account of his fulfilling his duties as a teacher of Gods Law at the gymnasium, was deprived not only of the chance to lead, but even to participate fully in the parish life of Holy Transfiguration Cathedral in Narva. Only in November of 1916, by order of the St Petersburg Church Consistory, was Fr John assigned as a parish priest to the vacant second position at St Catherine's Cathedral in Tsarskoye Selo,[31] whereby his dream of resuming service as a parish pastor in the motherland was fulfilled.

Tsarskoye Selo, which had become the remarkable incarnation of a whole epoch in the history of Russian culture, happily combined in itself the qualities of a quiet provincial town with those of the resplendent capital of St Petersburg. St Catherine's Cathedral occupied a special place in the town; of the parish churches there, which were predominantly parishes of the imperial court and of the military, it was the largest. In becoming a member of the clergy at St Catherine's Cathedral, and taking up residence there together with his matushka and five children (the oldest son, Vladimir, was at the time fulfilling his military service),[32] Fr John received, at last, his longed-for chance to be immersed fully in the life of a parish priest in one of the most notable churches of the St Petersburg diocese. Having been warmly and respectfully received by the flock of St Catherine's, Fr John, from the first months of his service there, showed himself to be zealous and inspiring not only as a celebrant of the divine service, but also as an eloquent and well-informed preacher, who gathered under the eaves of St Catherine's Cathedral Orthodox Christians from all around the town of Tsarskoye Selo.[33] It seemed that so successful a beginning of parish service at St Catherine's Cathedral would open for Fr John a new period in his priestly service. In this period, Fr John's pastoral inspiration and sacrificial demeanor, so characteristic of him in his former activity, might be combined with the daily routine of the outward conditions of his service and with the spiritual and harmonious personal relationships between a diligent pastor and his numerous pious flock. But the cataclysms of the February Revolution that burst out in Petrograd just three months after Fr John's assignment to St Catherine's began little by little to involve Tsarskoye Selo in the treacherous vortex of revolutionary events. br>The soldiers' riots that had taken place in the military headquarters at Tsarskoye Selo already during the first days of the Revolution, and the imprisonment of the royal family at Alexandrovsky palace over a period of many months, brought the town to the attention of representatives of the most extreme revolutionary elements. These circles had propelled the country toward the path of civil war, and eventually, complete internal political division, the beginnings of which lay in Russia's participation in the bloodshed of World War I. These developments gradually changed the quiet atmosphere of Tsarskoye Selo, diverting the inhabitants' attention, day by day, from the conscientious fulfillment of their Christian and civil responsibilities to Church and fatherland. And during all these troubled months the inspiring message of Fr John continued to sound forth from the ambo of St Catherine's Cathedral, as he strove to instill feelings of reconciliation into the souls of the Orthodox Christians of Tsarskoye Selo, calling them to the spiritual perception of their own inner life, so that they might understand the contradictory changes taking place in Russia.

For several days after the October 1917 seizure of power by the Bolsheviks in Petrograd, reverberations from the momentous events happening in the capital were felt in Tsarskoye Selo. Attempting to drive Gen. Paul Krasnov's Cossack troops, which were still loyal to the Provisional Government, out of Tsarskoye Selo, the armored groups of the Red Guard (the soldiers and sailors supporting the Bolshevik upheaval) were on their way from Petrograd.

On the morning of October 30, 1917, stopping at the outskirts of Tsarskoye Selo, the Bolshevik forces subjected the town to artillery fire. The inhabitants of Tsarskoye Selo, like those in all of Russia, still did not suspect that the country was involved in a civil war. A tumult erupted, with many people running to the Orthodox churches, including St Catherine's, in hopes of finding prayerful serenity at the services, and of hearing a pastoral exhortation from the ambo pertaining to the events taking place. All the clergy of St Catherine's Cathedral eagerly responded to their flock's spiritual entreaties. A special prayer service, seeking an end to the civil conflict, was offered beneath the arches of the church, which was jammed with worshipers Later, the dean of the Cathedral, Archpriest N. Smirnov, with two other priests, Fr John and Fr Steven Fokko, reached a decision to organize a sacred procession in the town, with the reading of fervent prayers for a cessation of the fratricidal civil strife.

For several days, the newspaper All-Russian Church Social Messenger presented the testimony of a certain Petrograd newspaper correspondent describing the events which had taken place, as follows: "The Sacred Procession had to be relocated under the conditions of an artillery bombardment, and notwithstanding any predictions it was rather crowded. The lamentations and cries of women and children drowned out the words of the prayer for peace. Two priests delivered sermons during the procession, calling the people to preserve tranquility in view of the impending trials. I was fortunate enough to understand clearly that the priests' sermons did not contain any political tinges."

"The Holy Procession lingered. Twilight changed into darkness. Candles were lit in the hands of the praying people. Everybody was singing."

"Precisely at that time the Cossacks were withdrawing from the town. The priests were warned about it. 'Isn't it time to stop the prayers?' 'We shall carry our duties to completion,' they declared. 'These have departed from us, and those who are coming are our brothers! What kind of harm will they do us?'"[34]

Wishing to prevent an outbreak of fighting in the streets of Tsarskoye Selo, the Cossack leadership began to withdraw troops from the town on the evening of October 30, and on the morning of the 31st the Bolshevik forces entered Tsarskoye Selo, encountering no opposition. One of the anonymous witnesses to the aftermath of these tragic events wrote a letter to the prominent St Petersburg Archpriest F. Ornatsky, who himself was destined to receive martyrdom at the hands of the godless authorities. The writer told in simple but profound words of the passion-bearing that became Fr John's destiny. "Yesterday (on October 31)," he wrote, "when the Bolsheviks entered Tsarskoye Selo with the Red Guard, they began to make the rounds of the apartments of the military officers, making arrests. Fr John (Alexandrovich Kochurov) was conveyed to the outskirts of the town, to St Theodore's Cathedral, and there they assassinated him because of the fact that those who organized the sacred procession had allegedly been praying for a victory by the Cossacks, which surely was not, and could not have been, what actually happened. The other clergymen were released yesterday evening. Thus, another Martyr for the Faith in Christ has appeared. The deceased, though he had not been in Tsarskoye Selo for long, had gained the utmost love of all, and many people used to gather to listen to his preaching."[35]

The Petrograd journalist mentioned earlier reconstructed a terrifying picture of Fr John's martyrdom and its aftermath, ascertaining these details: "The priests were captured and sent to the headquarters of the Council of the Workers and Soldier Deputies. A priest, Fr John Kochurov, was trying to protest and to clarify the situation. He was hit several times on his face. With cheers and yelling the enraged mob conveyed him to the Tsarskoye Selo aerodrome. Several rifles were raised against the defenseless pastor. A shot thundered out, then another, after which the priest fell down on the ground, and blood spilled upon his cassock. Death did not come to him immediately... He was pulled by his hair, and somebody suggested, Finish him off like a dog. The next morning the body was brought into the former palace hospital. According to the newspaper The Peoples' Affair, the head of the State Duma, and one of its members, saw the priest's body, but his pectoral cross was already gone...."[36]

This latter circumstance accompanying Fr John's martyrdom, as mentioned by the reporter, takes on a particular spiritual significance when viewed against the background of some words spoken by Fr John twelve years before his death, which proved to be prophetic. In faraway America, when he received his gold pectoral cross at the ceremony marking the tenth anniversary of his priestly service, he said with emphasis, "I kiss this Holy Cross, a gift of your brotherly love for me. Let it be my support in times of tribulation. I will utter no pathetic comments about my intention not to be separated from it even till my grave.That would have a grandiloquent sound, but would not be prudent. It does not have any place in a grave. Let it remain here on earth for my children and posterity as a holy family relic, and as a clear proof that brotherhood and friendship are the most sacred things on the earth...."[37]

In this manner did Fr. John express his gratitude towards his colleagues and his flock, not suspecting that this very prayer about that brotherhood and friendship would descend on the Russian Orthodox people at a time when love and clemency were scarce in long-suffering Russia, provoking a pitiless hatred toward him on the part of the apostates, who deprived him of his earthly life and snatched away the pectoral cross from his chest, but were not able to rob him of the imperishable glory of Orthodox martyrdom.

At the beginning of November 1917, the Bolshevik power could not yet secure unfettered control even over the suburbs of Petrograd, and terror on a state level had not yet become an unavoidable part of Russian life. So, with the populace of Tsarskoye Selo and Petrograd in a state of complete horror and exasperation, this first malicious execution of a Russian Orthodox priest inspired the former organs of power, who were not yet ousted by the Bolsheviks, to form an investigating commission which included the two representatives of the Petrograd city council. It was soon abolished by the Bolsheviks, without having managed to identify Fr. John's murderers.[38]

For Russian Church life, however, this first martyrdom of a Russian Orthodox pastor in the twentieth century was deeply significant.

It aroused a profound spiritual response within the hearts of many laity, clergy, and hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Church service for the departed, and his burial in the crypt of St Catherine's Cathedral in Tsarskoye Selo[39] were served by the shocked local clergy in an atmosphere of great dismay and anxiety. At the time, the Most Reverend Benjamin, Metropolitan of Petrograd, the future Holy Martyr, was attending the All-Russian Church Council being held in Moscow. Within a few days after the burial, the leadership of the Petrograd diocese, with Metropolitan Benjamin's blessing, published the following announcement in the newspaper All-Russian Church-Social Herald:

"On Wednesday, November 8, the ninth day after the death of Fr. John Kochurov who was murdered October 31 in Tsarskoye Selo, a hierarchal Memorial Service will be served in Our Lady of Kazan Cathedral at 3 p.m. for the eternal memory of Archpriest John and of all the Orthodox Christians who have perished in a time of civil conflict. Parish clergy free of serving obligations are invited for the Memorial Service. Vestments should be white."[40]

"Soon after this hierarchal Memorial Service served in Our Lady of Kazan Cathedral, the diocesan council of Petrograd published a proclamation "To the Clergy and the Parish Councils of the Diocese of Petrograd." This became the first official recognition of the martyric character of the Fr. John's death pronounced in the name of the Church, but also the first Church statement to specify concrete measures of assistance to the families of clergymen persecuted and assassinated by the theomachists in Russia. In this remarkable document of church history, eloquently expressed with deep humility in the face of the anticipated future persecution of the Church, and embodying genuine sympathy for Fr. John's bereaved family, the leadership of the Petrograd diocese reacted to the death of the first diocesan Holy Martyr.

"Dear brothers," the statement by the Petrograd diocesan council began. "On October 31 of this year the town of Tsarskoye Selo suffered the martyrdom of one of the good shepherds of the Petrograd diocese, the Archpriest of the local Cathedral, John Alexandrovich Kochurov. Without any blame or justification for this on his part, he was seized in his apartment, conveyed to the suburbs, and there, in an open field, was shot by the possessed mob...."

"It was with feelings of profound sorrow that the Petrograd diocesan council received this news; the grief has been considerably augmented by the realization that, with the Archpriest's demise, a large family is left behind, consisting of six members who now are without food, shelter, or any means of subsistence."

"God is the Judge of the cunning villains who violently ended the life that was still young. Even if they flee unpunished from trial at the hands of men, they can never elude the judgment of God. But our obligation now is not only to pray for the peace of this innocent sufferer's soul, but with all our sincere love, attempt to treat the deep and incurable wound that has been inflicted on the very hearts of the poor, bereaved family. The diocese and the diocesan clergy are directly obligated to provide for the martyred pastor's orphaned family, to give them the opportunity to live in material comfort, and to provide the children with a proper education."

"The diocesan Church Council, being moved by the loftiest of sentiments, now appeals to the clergy, parish councils, and all the Orthodox faithful of the diocese of Petrograd with an ardent entreaty, asking most earnestly, for the sake of Christ's love, that you stretch forth a brotherly helping hand, and by whatever amount you can offer, support a poor family left to be at the mercy of fate. Great is the need, and it should not be delayed!"

". . . His martyrdom is, for each of us, a dire reminder, an ominous warning. Therefore, we must be ready for anything. And to prevent such situations of destitution as we now have, we must prepare, between the times of trial, an assistance fund to be allotted for the defenseless, persecuted, and tormented clergy that those in such cases, and in similar ones, may have material aid from their kindred in spirit."

". . . Though the deans, special lists will be sent to each parish in the diocese for the collection of donations, those that are voluntary and from the Church funds, to help the family of the deceased Archpriest John Kochurov, and also for the establishment of the special fund for the assistance of clergy in all similar cases."

"...An immense task requires means commensurate with it. The Diocesan Church Council hopes that with God's help such means will be found. The modest offering of the diocese and clergy, made voluntarily and laid on the Christian conscience of each person, will provide an opportunity to dry the tears of unhappy orphans, and to make a beginning of that concern for good brotherly assistance, for which our clergy have a great need particularly now...." "It has thundered; now is the time to make the sign of the Cross!"[41]

On one of his regular visits to his diocese during the All-Russian Church Council in Moscow, Metropolitan Benjamin served the Divine Liturgy on November 26, for the patronal feast at St Catherine's Cathedral in Tsarskoye Selo. "The Liturgy ended with a fervent exhortation from the hierarch, during which he appealed to the people for unity, love, and brotherhood," wrote a correspondent for the All Russian Church-Social Herald. "The Metropolitan also mentioned the terrible event, the assassination of the beloved pastor of the local Church, Fr. John Kochurov. He noted that though it is a very sad occasion, it has been a cause of reconciliation as well, through the realization that the pastor had laid down his life for love of God and of neighbor, providing an example of martyrdom."

The archpastoral message had a strong effect on everyone, and tears were seen on many faces. Following the liturgy, the Litya for the departed took place at Fr. John's tomb in the burial vault of the cathedral. After the service the Metropolitan visited the rectory, where he met the family of the deceased.[42] Thus, for a second time, and now from the mouth of the diocesan hierarch who remembered the slain clergyman of his diocese, the Russian Orthodox Church characterized Fr. John's death as a martyrdom.

The All-Russian Church Council was just then taking place in Moscow, and this death had deeply touched the hearts of the delegates, arousing loud lamentation. Archpriest P. Mirtov was commissioned to compose a proclamation expressing the sense of the Council, giving information about the untimely death of the deceased Fr. John Kochurov, who fell victim (to violence) while zealously fulfilling the obligations of his rank.[43]

The Most Holy Patriarch Tikhon had become well acquainted with Fr. John during the many years they worked together in the diocese of North America and the Aleutians, and therefore felt a deep respect for him. Expressing a genuine conviction formed at the Council that the Russian Orthodox Church had gained a new martyr saint by Fr. John's death, the Patriarch sent a letter of sympathy to Alexandra Kochurova, the deceased pastor's widow: "With great sadness the Most Holy Council of the Russian Orthodox Church has received a report concerning the martyrdom of Father John Alexandrovich Kochurov, who has fallen victim (to violence) while zealously fulfilling the obligations of his rank," wrote the future Confessor, the Most Holy Patriarch Tikhon. "Joining our prayers with those of the Holy Council for the repose of the soul of the slain Archpriest John, we share your great grief, and we do so with a special love, because we knew the deceased Archpriest well, and have always held his inspiring and strong pastoral activity in high esteem."

"We bear in our hearts the sure hope that the deceased pastor, adorned with the wreath of martyrdom, now stands at the Throne of God among the elect of Christ's true flock. The holy Council, with earnest sympathy for your bereaved family, has decided to petition the Holy Synod to give you the proper assistance."

"May the Lord help you to endure the trial sent to you by God's Providence, and preserve you and your children unharmed amid the storms and calamities of our time."

"We invoke God's blessing on you and on your family." - Patriarch Tikhon[44]

Exactly five months after Fr. John's death, on March 31, 1918, by which time the number of murdered clergymen known to the Holy Synod had already reached fifteen, the first Memorial Liturgy for the New Hieromartyrs and Martyrs in the history of the Russian Orthodox Church in the twentieth century was served in the church of the Moscow Theological Seminary, by the Most Holy Patriarch Tikhon, four other hierarchs, and ten archimandrites and protopresbyters. At the Memorial Liturgy and Memorial Service, when the supplicatory prayer was pronounced "For the repose of the servants of God who have perished for the Faith and the Orthodox Church, after mentioning the first-slain hierarch, Metropolitan Vladimir, the first-slain Archpriest, Father John Kochurov was remembered, who by his passion-bearing death ushered in the service offered by the confessors, the assembly of the Russian New-Martyrs of the twentieth century.[45]

Translated from the Russian by Anatoly Antonov Sources and Literature

[1]The Central State Historical Archive of St. Petersburg (CSHA of S.-P.), F. 14 University of Petrograd, 3, f.31575, 1.8, 10. The personal folder of the student Dmitry Alexandrovich Kochurov. [2]CSHA of S.-P., F. 277, 1, f. 3220, par. 1,2,3,4,5,6,8. [3]CSHA of S.-P., F. 19, 113, f. 4167, par. 37. [4]American Orthodox Messenger (AOM), 1907, N14, p. 269. [5]CSHA of S.-P., F. 19, 113, f. 4167, par. 37. [6]AOM, 1898, N24, pp. 681-682. [7]AOM, 1896, N7, p. 117 [8]AOM, 1898, N24, p. 682. [9]Ibid. [10]AOM, 1897, N14, p. 290. [11]AOM, 1900, N10, p. 215. [12]AOM, 1896, N1, p. 14; CSHA of S.-P., F. 19, 113, f. 4167, par. 38-39. [13]AOM, 1898, N24, p. 682. [14]AOM, 1899, N11, pp. 305-306. [15]AOM, 1901, N1, pp. 26, 32. [16]AOM, 1902, N8, pp. 171-173. [17]A. Maltsev, The Russian Orthodox Churches and Institutions Abroad. St. Petersburg, 1906, p. 419 (in Russian) [18]AOM, 1905, N17, pp. 340-341. [19]CSHA of S.-P., F.19, 113, f.4167, par. 40. [20]AOM, 1904, N5, p. 81. [21]AOM, 1905, N17, pp. 340-342. [22]AOM, 1906, N10, p. 206. [23] AOM, 1906, N10, p.206. [24] AOM, 1907, N14, pp. 269-270. [25]CSHA of S.-P., F. 19, 113, f. 4167, par. 37. [26] Circular of the Department of Education of St. Petersburg, from 1907, p. 294. [27]CSHA of S.-P., F.139, 1, f. 11305, par. 28. [28]Tserkovniye Vedomosty, a newspaper, 1912, N18, p. 128. [29]Ibid, 1916, N18-19, p. 167. [30]CSHA of S.-P., F. 19, 113, f. 4333, par. 12. [31]Tsarskoselskoye Delo, 1916, 18 Nov. [32]CSHA of S.-P., F. 19, 113, f. 4366, 1.20. [33]Vserosiysky Tserkovno-Obschestvenniy Vestnik (VTOV), 1917, 5 Nov. [34]Ibid. [35]Ibid. [36]Ibid. [37] AOM, 1905, N17, pp. 340-342. [38]VTOV, 1917, 5 Nov. [39] VTOV, 1917, 1 Dec. [40] VTOV, 1917, 7 Nov. [41] Tserkovniye Vedomosty, 1917, N48-50, pp. 2-3. [42] VTOV, 1917, 1 Dec. [43] VTOV, 1917, 2 Nov. [44] VTOV, 1917, 15 Dec. [45] Pribavleniye k Tserkovnym Vedomostyam, 1918, N15-16, p. 519.


The Clown at Midnight

This post is from: Rigorous Intuition (v. 2.0)
What You Don't Know Can't Hurt Them.

The original post can be found here.

"Nobody laughs at a clown at midnight." - Lon Chaney

More people than ever are ready to believe it's midnight in America, and not many of them think there's anything funny about it. But when was the last time you noticed the hands on the clock move? How long has it been midnight?

In The Secret Doctrine, Helena Blavatsky writes that "occult philosophy teaches that even now, under our very eyes, the new Race and Races are preparing to be formed, and that it is in America that the transformation will take place, and has already commenced." In 1888 America still seemed like a vigorous novelty that might give something new and good to the world, rather than one of its weirder places of ancient dark that could pull it down to hell. Blavatsky was optimistic about the New Race that America was begetting. She presumed that the transformation involved the elevation of consciousness, which would lift all life with it. Generations later, I think we can say it hasn't quite worked out that way.

"Fascism is the supreme expression of religious mysticism," states Wilhelm Reich in The Mass Psychology of Fascism. "It transposes religion from the 'otherworldliness' of the philosophy of suffering to the 'this worldliness' of sadistic murder." Pasolini knew that, too, and showed us that he did with Salo. ("Our guide restored the divine character of monstrosity thanks to reiterated actions. That is to say: rites.")

Fascist mysticism is at the same time relentlessly materialistic, and its "New Race" attained by dominating matter which includes the masses, which are just meat to enact the will of the leadership. The Nazi New Man owed so much to American eugenics, the shadow it casts in 21st century America is more of a homecoming. (Anti-fascism may be back in style in Washington, though just the style, as Bush's handlers shift again the terms of conflict to now suggest America is at war with "Islamofascists." Or, I know you, are but what am I?)

Animals are turning up mutilated in Louisana's Tangipahoa Parish, home of the Hosanna Church Satanic sex cult, whose black-robed elders drew pentagrams on the floor of the "youth hall," raped children and forced them into bestiality. Yesterday, Baton Rouge television reported that Tangipahoa Sheriff's detectives were investigating the "killing of three cats, a dog and a horse; and the mutilation of another dog and two horses." All had their throats slashed by a sharp blade, and there are no suspects or leads. The Sheriff's office notes, with supposed reassurance, that the mutilations and slayings "do not appear to be ritualistic." (The Hosanna Church also practiced the mutilation and sacrifice of cats, though since prosecutors are determined to whitewash occult intent right out of their case, some may contend there was no ritualistic intent there either.)

No one told these people to do this. I don't believe Pastor Louis Lamonica and the rest of his suburban congregation-cult were programmed to ritually assault children, or even that they are necessarily connected to a wider, and deeper, network of devil-worshipping paedophiles. It seems to be inchoate knowlege among those who seek power in dark places that the defilement of the innocent, particularly children, makes for strong magick. Just as disbelief seems the natural defense posture of those who are preyed-upon.

Maybe it's always been midnight in America. It's simply taken a clown in the White House to alert Americans to their missing time. If so, what should we expect a minute past?

In July 2005, Colin Campbell's newsletter of the Assocation for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas published an argument for Social Darwinism by William Stanton entitled "Oil and People." Stanton called those who couldn't grok the necessity of extreme population reduction "sentimentalists," and argued that human rights needed to be replaced by "cold logic." They have had their day, wrote Stanton:

Individual citizens, and aliens, must expect to be seriously inconvenienced by the single-minded drive to reduce population ahead of resource shortage. The consolation is that the alternative, letting Nature take its course, would be so much worse.... When, through old age, accident or disease, an individual becomes more of a burden than a benefit to society, his or her life is humanely ended. Voluntary euthanasia is legal and made easy. Imprisonment is rare, replaced by corporal punishment for lesser offences and painless capital punishment for greater.

Cold logic and mystical, sadistic murder.In a good and necessary cause, we'll be told. And not a word about the magick.

Balkans: 'Serbian Orthodox Church to split' paramilitary group chief claims

Belgrade, 30 Oct. (AKI) - The commander of the paramilitary Tsar Lazar Guard organization, Hadzi Andrej Milic, on Tuesday predicted a split in the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC). His warning came ahead of the organisation's gathering on Wednesday in St Lucas Monastery in Bosnjani near Varvarin.

The meeting had been banned by police, because five bishops intended to set up a new Synod with a seat in Krusevac in central Serbia. The Tsar Lazar Guard will not respect the ban, Milic said.

Speaking at a news conference, Milic declined to name all five bishops, whom he claimed support the Tsar Lazar Guard.

He mentioned Banja Luka Bishop Jefrem, Vrsac Bishop Nikanor and Raska-Prizren Bishop Artemije.

Milic accused Sumadija Bishop Jovan of being "in alliance with Vatican", adding that he had asked the police to ban the gathering in Varvarin during which the Tsar Lazar Guard would call for a "new battle of Kosovo-Metohija [the Serbian name for Kosovo].

According to Milic, Bishop Jovan's requested ban of the gathering, which has been unofficially conveyed to him by the Varvarin police, is a sign of a "shameful compromise" between the Serbian government and the SPC.

However, Milic said that the support by five bishops was sufficient for the Tsar Lazar Guard, although they are aware of the fact that the [SPC] Synod would call them schematics.

Milic said that the Guard would on Wednesday not only declare "a state of emergency" but rather "an uprising against the authorities in Belgrade and against everyone in the Patriarchy" who stand in their way, with a warning that something "which the Serbian people does not want" could also start.

According to Milic, the Guard does not mean to wage a war against NATO. But if NATO sides with the Albanians "then, for us, this is a sort of a human shield, a Berlin Wall made up of humans."

"In case they stand against us, this means that it [NATO] will have declared a war against the Serbian people and we will wage a war against it," Milic said.

The self-styled Tsar Lazar Guard earlier this month threatened to go to breakaway Kosovo province to fight majority ethnic-Albanians if their leaders declare independence from Serbia


Tiraspol Bishop warns of Romanian "church war"

Bishop Justinian warns of "church war" if Romanian pushes its juridisction onto Transdniestria against the will of its believers
Bishop Justinian of Tiraspol and Dubossary warns of an impending "church war" if Romania goes forward with plans to create a new Diocese for Transdniestria. Romania made its decision unilaterally and without consulting anyone in Transdniestria first. In June, a Romanian Bishop recognized that Transdniestria had never been part of Moldova.
By Karen Ryan, 30/Oct/2007
TIRASPOL (Tiraspol Times) - A unilateral decision by the Romanian Patriarchy to create three new dioceses in Moldova and in Transdniestria is seen by a top Church official here as a crusade against the Russian Orthodox Church. Bishop Justinian of the Tiraspol and Dubossary Diocese says that this move would destabilize the foreign context in Western Europe.

The statement was made by Bishop Justinian - Transdniestria's highest ranking church official - after the Romanian Orthodox Church Synod announced plans to establish dioceses in Balti and Cantemir in Moldova, as well as a new one for Dubossary and the entire region of Transdniestria. All three territories are outside the jurisdiction of the Romanian church. The first two are currently dominated by the Metropolitan Church of Bassarabia (the Republic of Moldova), while the third is under Russian Orthodox Church jurisdiction.
Romania's move was done with no prior consultation with the areas in question. No consultation were made with Justinian or other church officials, who subsequently said that the decision was illegal and stated that it would not be implemented.

The decision is seen as the first step in a "church war" or a creeping putsch of Romanian-speakers in a territory which is traditionally not Romanian land, and where the majority of the believers are Russian Orthodox Christians.
Romanian Bishop: "Transnistria was never part of Moldova"

Transdniestria - which is also known as Transnistria - is traditionally Slav land: It was part of Kievan Rus more than a thousand years ago, and is majority Slavic. Most of the citizens speak Russian and the area has never formally been part of Romania or Moldova at any time in history. Its official name, according to its constitution, is Pridnestrovie which means "by the Dniester [river]".

In June, Romanian patriarchal bishop Vincenţiu Ploieşteanu publicly stated that "Transnistria was never part of Moldova". He told Romania's Gardianul newspaper that territorial conflict resolution had to be grounded in historical reality.
" - Transnistria is not Moldovan and it never belonged to Stefan cel Mare," he says. It was also never part of Romania at any time in history.

Paolo Pezzi: We continue our friendly and substantial dialogue with the Moscow Patriarchate

Right before his elevation to the rank of Bishop and assuming duties of the head of the Catholic Archdiocese in Moscow, Monsignor Paolo Pezzi gave an interview to Interfax-Religion editor-in-chief Valentina Dudkina.

How do you feel about your appointment as the head of the Catholic Archdiocese in Moscow?

- I am called by the Holy Father to take part in the Apostolic Succession, which is the sacramental dialogue of Jesus with “his people”. I took this appointment with awe. St. Augustine said that a bishop is the one who looks closely at Jesus. Therefore, I believe that the message of bishop’s service is to give a proper response to Christ’s call “Follow Me”. The oath taken by the doctors “First, do no harm” also comes to mind. A bishop should remember this advice in his service. I am comforted by the fact that the God Who called me to this uneasy service will never leave me without His support and help. Embarking on this new task, I feel a strong desire that everything I do in word or deed be in the Name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him (Ref.: Col 3:17); and my whole life be the evidence of passion for the sake of the Glory of Christ in history.

I hope that I will not lack prayers and active support from those faithful to the Archdiocese – priests, monastic clergy, and laity. With the Help of God, together we will be able to overcome any difficulties.
What changes do you plan to make as the head of the Archdiocese of the Holy Virgin?

- First, I should say that I view my new service in Russia as a continuation and improvement of the work started before me. It should be the continuation, not the beginning. Life itself implies a sustained development and renewal. All the more so, if we remember the most difficult situation when Russia began to revive its church life almost two decades ago.
In simple words, we focus on nurturing faith, a mature faith, which turns into a living testimony in all spheres of every-day life (family, work, science, politics and other). It is notable, that the Catholic and Orthodox Churches have cooperated in their efforts to address the issues of nurturing and Christian values both on European and even global levels.

I could briefly name some of our basic objectives: taking most care of priests and monks who wok in the archdiocese along with further improvement of existing pastoral care; and further improvement of the process of ordination – both in preparing to ordination to the priesthood and during the first years of service of young priests. I am happy to evidence a substantial progress in improving inter-confessional relations, but this joint work needs to be continued in every possible way. Moreover, this work is in full keeping with the will and intentions expressed by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. First of all, I mean a friendly, valid, and substantial dialogue with the Orthodox tradition, which is represented in Russia mainly by the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate and is deeply rooted in the Russian society. We also need to give a close attention to the pressing problems of the modern Russian society. We should work to further improve and update the media from conception standpoint.
What do you think of the widely discussed initiatives of the Russian Orthodox Church to teach the Basics of the Orthodox Culture at schools and restore military priesthood?

- I strongly believe in the fundamental importance of the Christian education for the benefit of the whole society. Faith in God Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life is the critical principle of the recovery of society not only for every individual Christian, but also for each country and humankind as a whole (whether or not it is admitted); so it is very important that young people at school age and in a difficult period of their military service learn about their Christian heritage which in Russia took shape of the Orthodoxy.
Therefore, I cannot but favour teaching of this subject in schools or reinstitution of military clergy, although I can see the challenges related to the issues so widely discussed in this country, as you correctly put it in asking me your question. To my mind, the main thing here is to speak “in favour” and not “against”, and most favourably present the Christian religion and the Orthodoxy itself in its beauty and riches to reach hearts and minds of young people. We also need to promote the freedom of our young counterparts to accept our proposal. My teacher Luigi Giussani, an Italian Catholic priest, wrote a book with a seemingly funny but very meaningful name “The Risk of Education”. We will never live in a free and responsible society, unless we bring up free and responsible people.

How far do you think Catholics may expand their missionary practice in the countries which belong to the canonical territory in the Russian Orthodox tradition?

I personally got interested in Russia because of my love of the Russian culture in its full variety (music, icon painting, and religion philosophy) following the steps of Father Giussani. I remember, for example, that when I was at the very start of my religious way my friends gave me a replica of Andrey Rublyov's icon The Savior of Zvenigorod which I have always had with me. The word “mission” – in its evangelical interpretation – means a grateful acceptance of the God’s Love and an attempt to pass this personal experience, as in the historic life of Christ who was sent (in Latin missum) – this is the etymology of the word! – by his Father by virtue of their mutual love.

The Priestly Fraternity of the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo to which I belong was founded in 1985 in response to the appeal of Pope John Paul II who said “Go round the whole world, bring everywhere truth, beauty, and peace which we meet in Jesus the Savior.” Seeking to answer this appeal, members of our fraternity live in small communities as the twelve disciples lived together with Christ. They see the Christian message (that is, again, “mission” in the evangelic sense of the word) as enthusiasm in the Glory of Christ. Indeed, mission is a testimony of evangelical values. And proselytism starts at the point where the real mission ends. Therefore, if all of us - both Catholics and Orthodox - practice “mission”, we can develop good understanding and pursue unity, as there will be no place left for conflicts!
It cannot be denied that regardless of overall cultural differences between the Catholic and the Orthodox worlds, the Catholic Church and Local Orthodox Churches make joint efforts to address the basic challenges of modern life. Appeals for joint Catholic-Orthodox efforts to protect Christian values sound increasingly often and urgent.

You were born in Russi, Italy. Isn’t it providential that you are now appointed the bishop of the largest Catholic diocese in Russia?

- Of cause, this may seem accidental, but I take it as an omen that my native small town located not far away from ancient Ravenna is named Russi which may be translated as Russians.

Ceremony at Butovo a First for Putin

Putin hugging Alexy II while visiting the site at Butovo where tens of thousands of people were shot in the 1930s.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007. Issue 3776. Page 1.
By Anna Smolchenko
Staff Writer
President Vladimir Putin paid a rare tribute to victims of Soviet-era repression Tuesday, using the opportunity to call for political pluralism and say that differing opinions should be able to coexist peacefully.

Putin's visit to a firing range in Butovo, in the south of Moscow, where more than 20,000 people were killed during the peak years of Stalin's terror in 1937 and 1938, was the first time he has attended ceremonies on the official day of remembrance for the victims of political repression.
It was also a rare attempt by the Kremlin to address Stalin-era crimes.

"Political disputes, battles and a struggle between opinions are necessary, but this process should be creative rather than destructive," Putin said, adding that such conflicts "should not leave the cultural and educational context."
Putin's address came minutes after he and Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Alexy II had laid flowers at the foot of a small wooden cross at the site of mass graves.

The field containing the graves was the property of the FSB -- the successor agency to the feared NKVD and KGB -- before being handed over to the Orthodox Church in the mid-1990s.
Putin, himself a former FSB head, has in the past acknowledged the repressions as one of the worst episodes of the Soviet era, while apparently trying to cushion the blow by saying worse incidents have occurred in other countries.

On Tuesday, however, he skipped mention of other countries, focusing instead on the "colossal scale" of Russia's tragedy.
In a brief address to reporters, Putin said such tragedies "occur when ostensibly attractive but empty ideas are placed above the fundamental human values of rights and freedom."

He eulogized the victims as "people with their own opinions" and "the cream of the nation."
While an accurate number of those killed or sent to the camps by Stalin's regime remains a subject for argument, the Memorial human rights group puts the figure at 12.5 million.

Putin, who famously described the collapse of the Soviet Union as a "catastrophe," chose not to dwell too long on history Tuesday.
"While remembering this tragedy, we should focus on what is best in the country and unite our efforts for the country's development," he said.

Earlier, Putin attended a ceremony conducted by Alexy and lit a candle at the nearby Church of Christ's Resurrection and New Martyrs and Confessors.
"Mindboggling, this is incredible" he said, surveying a collection of photos of victims, Interfax reported. "Why?"

The resting place of more than 20,760 people, the Butovo firing range is the second-largest Soviet-era execution ground in Russia, according to Memorial. The largest is near St. Petersburg. Local priests say people from all walks of life were shot and buried at the site in the 1930s.
"There was a whole theatrical troupe from the Baltics executed here," said Deacon Dmitry, a priest at the church. He said people of 60 nationalities, including Japanese, Greeks and an Ethiopian, were buried there. The bodies were packed so tightly in 6-meter-deep trenches that as many as 60,000 might be buried there, he said.

Memorial services were held Tuesday across Russia, including outside the former KGB -- and now FSB -- headquarters on Lubyanskaya Ploshchad, where human rights organizations and others have traditionally gathered to mark the event.
Memorial's Yan Rachinsky said that even if Putin's motives were political and calculated for effect ahead of parliamentary elections in December, it was still positive that he had for the first time "not only celebrated the day of the Chekist, but also paid tribute to the victims of the Chekists." The term "Chekist" comes from the name of the first Soviet secret police.

Rachinsky, whose grandfather is buried at the site, said that although the state had acknowledged past atrocities, it has still shied away from responsibility and that many of the estimated 70,000 survivors of the camps struggle today to eke out a ragged existence.
Rostislav Kandaurov, the son of a priest buried at the site, said his family had not known what happened to his father for decades, and only learned of his fate in the early 1990s. His father, who stubbornly restored churches after the Soviets shut them down, was arrested in January 1937 and executed along with 500 other people on a day in February.

Kandaurov said FSB officials had helped him get lists identifying the victims.
He welcomed Putin's visit, saying that he wanted "as many people as possible to know about Butovo."

"The memory should be kept alive and people should know what happened," he said.

New Russian Orthodox Church - One Of A Kind

By Staff Reporter ( 29/10/2007 Edition No.: 184)

When driving along the N-332 just north of Altea, you may have noticed a beautiful unique building being built, we certainly have and decided to find out more about its origins and aspirations.

The building is called the Temple of the Archangel San Miguel; a Russian Orthodox Church, the only one of its kind in the whole of Spain and an exact reproduction of a 17th Century Church. It is being built with material brought from Urales, near Alcoy, on a plot of land given to the project by Altea Town Hall.
Many of the construction workers are from Siberia, where the temperature can drop to 50 degrees below zero, so when in Altea it drops to 5 degrees centigrade, these workers are warm and in T-shirts! These specialist carpenters have been contracted by a Russian building company in the Costa Blanca. The altar is being made in Valencia, with Russian carvings, while the interior of the church will be decorated with paintings on the walls. To one side there will be a baptism temple with a pool, for the adults who wish to convert to the orthodox faith, and on the other side, a house for the priest, with a room for meetings and a social dining room.

The Orthodox Russian Church is more conservative than the Greek Orthodox Church, and gained huge popularity after the fall of communism. In Spain it is one of the religions with the fewest followers; believed to be just in Marbella, Torrevieja and Altea.
Many of the worshippers would not get on at all in Russia, but have been able to overcome their differences here. Ukrainians, Georgians, Lithuanians and Byelorussians have become one big happy family, with a language and beliefs in common.

The Ukrainian dancer Inna Gurishkina, who has been a huge success for years at the Benidorm Palace, now also volunteers to cook Russian dishes for the Siberian workers at the Church. She describes the church as a sanctuary. “For years I saw with my own eyes how it was forbidden to practice my Christian faith. Now I can even do it in Spain, where the climate is a blessing from God,” she adds.
Those involved in the project are happy with all the interest it has been causing. The project is being financed in its entirety by a Russian businessman, who wanted a place to worship for himself and his mother.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Martyr Zenobia of Aegae in Cilicia

Commemorated on October 30

The Hieromartyr Zenobius, Bishop of Aegea, and his sister Zenobia suffered a martyr's death in the year 285 in Cilicia. From childhood they were raised in the holy Christian Faith by their parents, and they led pious and chaste lives. In their mature years, shunning the love of money, they distributed away their inherited wealth giving it to the poor. For his beneficence and holy life the Lord rewarded Zenobius with the gift of healing various maladies. He was also chosen bishop of a Christian community in Cilicia.

As bishop, St Zenobius zealously spread the Christian Faith among the pagans. When the emperor Diocletian (284-305) began a persecution against Christians, Bishop Zenobius was the first one arrested and brought to trial to the governor Licius. "I shall only speak briefly with you," said Licius to the saint, "for I propose to grant you life if you worship our gods, or death, if you do not." The saint answered, "This present life without Christ is death. It is better that I prepare to endure the present torment for my Creator, and then with Him live eternally, than to renounce Him for the sake of the present life, and then be tormented eternally in Hades."

By order of Licius, they nailed him to a cross and began the torture. The bishop's sister, seeing him suffering, wanted to stop it. She bravely confessed her own faith in Christ before the governor, therefore, she also was tortured.

By the power of the Lord they remained alive after being placed on a red-hot iron bed, and then in a boiling kettle. The saints were then beheaded. The priest Hermogenes secretly buried the bodies of the martyrs in a single grave.

St Zenobius is invoked by those suffering from breast cancer.

Troparion - Tone 4

As brother and sister united in godliness together you struggled in contest, Zenóbius and Zenobía.You received incorruptible crownsand unending gloryand shine forth with the grace of healing upon those in the world.

Kontakion - Tone 8

Let us honor with inspired hymns the two martyrs for truth:the preachers of true devotion, Zenóbius and Zenobía; as brother and sister they lived and sufferedtogether and through martyrdom received their incorruptible crowns.


From Ravenna “a solid base” for dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox

Father Dimitri Salachas, professor of Canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University and Catholic member of the Commission explains to AsiaNews the points of agreement and those of disaccord. The question of the Patriarchate of Moscow’s absence.

Rome (AsiaNews) – The final document from Ravenna session of the mixed commission for dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox represents a “solid base for future dialogue”, a working session which followed its regular course despite the withdrawal of the delegation from the Moscow Patriarchate due to the presence of the Estonian Church which they do not recognise. This however did not impede “significant progress” according to Fr. Dimitri Salachas, professor of Canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University and Catholic member of the Commission.

“Among other things – Fr. Salachas tells AsiaNews – the final document refers to the fact that the bishop of Rome, having the primacy of love, as defined by Ignatius of Antioch, was first in the order of the 5 patriarchates (Roma, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, was the pentarchia). There remains however disaccord among Catholics and Orthodox regarding the interpretation to be given to the competences of the bishop of Rome, as first in the hierarchy, during the first millennium of the united universal Church. Collegiality, as it was exercised during the first millennium, comprises an active role for Rome, which however presupposes the condescendence of the other patriarchs, so that a decision may take on an ecumenical nature. From a historical point of view, the tow Churches opinion converges on the position that the bishop of Rome had within the Pentarchia during the first millennium, but the historical evolution and the dogmatic formation of the pope in the west during the second millennium are unknown in the Eastern Church and as a result they are not accepted, in so far as they are considered outside the traditions of the universal Church”.

They seem to be very distant positions.

I believe that these issues are not irresolvable, if both are considered in the prismatic light of collegiality. A synod of bishops has no sense without a primus, just as a primus has no sense without a synod. On the other hand the Church of Rome is seeking other means of exercising the authority of the bishop of Rome, accepted by all those both within and outside the Catholic Church. Perhaps this may help contribute to the dialogue. It also needs to be made clear that for the Catholic Church, papal primacy is also a theological question, in other words based on the New Testament. But I believe that this too can be overcome if it is read in the light of apostolic collegiality.

The Moscow Patriarchate maintains that its absence from the working session detracts all validity from decisions made by the Commission.

The absence of the Russians, I believe, will probably create some complications, but on the other hand it was accepted by all that the non participation of an Orthodox Church, does not constitute an obstacle for the progress of dialogue. Historically it must be underlined that the Church in Estonia was made autonomous by Constantinople in 1923 and was annexed to the Moscow Patriarchate in 1945, following the Soviet occupation of Estonia, and without Constantinople’s agreeing to it.

Moscow also has issues with Constantinople, maintaining that the Ecumenical Patriarchate aims to take on a “papal” role within the Orthodox Church.

In the canonical tradition of synods and in the eastern cultural mentality there has never been a centralised model of ecclesiastical authority. The prerogatives attributed to the Patriarchal See of Constantinople, both in order and in honour, have always been recognised by all of the Orthodox Churches of the Byzantine traditions, right from the very first ecumenical synods. In fact even in the liturgical dictates, all of the patriarchs and the leaders of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches are recalled with at the very head the “Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch”. Obviously there have been both in the Ecumenical Patriarchate and as well as in the other Orthodox Churches, personalities of great prestige who have served unity and the pan-Orthodox witness above all in particular moments of Orthodox history. (NT)



Panel: Recognize Theofilis as rightful Greek patriarch

By Meron Rapoport and Barak Ravid

A ministerial committee on Greek Patriarchate affairs is recommending that the government recognize Theofilos as head of the Greek Orthodox Church.

The decision, spurred by American pressure and the personal involvement of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, is supposed to put an end to a convoluted affair in the course of which various parties in Israel tried to condition the patriarch's appointment on his selling real estate properties to Jews.

The case began in March, 2005 after it emerged that the Ateret Cohanim organization had acquired four hotels from the Greek Patriarchate in a strategic area in Jerusalem's Old City, near Jaffa Gate. The sale aroused widespread anger among the Palestinian public, and several months later the church's governing Synod decided to remove the ruling patriarch, Irenios, from office, although he claimed the sale had taken place without his knowledge.

By law, a patriarch elected by the Synod still requires recognition by the Israeli government, which during Ariel Sharon's premiership appointed a ministerial committee to handle the matter. Today the committee is chaired by Minister Rafi Eitan of the Pensioners Party.

Besides the political sensitivity surrounding the identity of the head of the Greek Orthodox Church, the largest Christian sect in Israel and the Palestinians territories, the Israeli government's interest has been directed primarily at the assets in the church's possession. The Greek Church is one of the biggest private landowners in the country, with extensive property in the Jerusalem region, including the land on which the Knesset stands. An estimated one-fifth of the Old City belongs to the church.

Records of conversations and documents obtained by Haaretz clearly show that cabinet ministers had made recognition of Theofilos conditional upon his selling properties to Jews. Former minister Tzahi Hanegbi, who headed the committee when it was established, admitted that he asked Theofilos to promise not to disrupt the sale of the hotels to Jews as one of the conditions for Israel's recognition of him.

There were also reports in Israel, denied by Theofilos, that he undertook to cede control of these sensitive properties to Jordan and the Palestinians.



Vatican Appointed a Kinder Pastor to Russia

(left)The ceremony of laying hands on Rev Paolo Pezzi, rector of St. Petersburg Mary – The Queen of Apostles Seminary. A new chief of Russia’s Catholics, Paolo Pezzi, took office after the ceremony in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Moscow Saturday.
(above left)Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewics, left, attends the ceremony of laying hands on Rev Paolo Pezzi, right, in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Moscow Saturday.
(above right)Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewics, left, lays hands on Rev Paolo Pezzi, center, in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Moscow Saturday.

A new chief of Russia’s Catholics, Paolo Pezzi, took office after the Saturday ceremony in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The analysts say the Moscow Patriarchy lobbied him to replace Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz and the change of the head of the Catholic Church in European Russia will warm Russia’s-Vatican relations to such extent, that the first ever meeting of All-Russia’s Patriarch and the Pope could be witnessed in the near future.

It was Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewics that conducted the service at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, as a result of which he was succeeded by Paolo Pezzi. Pope Benedict XVI transferred Kondrusiewics to Belarus in September, appointing Rev Paolo Pezzi, 47, rector of St. Petersburg Mary – The Queen of Apostles Seminary, instead of him. As Kondrusiewics was thought at odds with the Orthodox Church in Russia, the general hope is that his replacement will bring momentum to relations of Vatican and Russia’s Orthodox Church.
“By this transfer, Vatican actually makes Russian Orthodox Church understand that it is high time to improve the relations,” said Alexander Dugin, who is the church analyst. “In substance, the Pope made concession, as Russian Orthodox Church had been long seeking Kondrusiewics’ replacement from Vatican.”

According to Dugin, the Moscow Patriarchy associated Kondrusiewics with the time of Joan Paul II, when the relations of two churches had been particularly tense. The target that was set to Pezzi is rather complicated, the analyst went on, he is expected to prove “that the Catholic Church can be a friend.” “I think the historical meeting of Patriarch and Pope will eventually take place,” Dugin forecasted.

The Assyrian Community of Verin Dvin

Hasmik Hovhannisyan October 29, 2007
Yerevan resident Susanna Kalashyan had just been promoted to the 8th grade when she was “stolen away” on the way to the school. Her “abductor” was an Assyrian from the village of Verin Dvin. More than forty years have since passed. Susanna has four children and eleven grandchildren. Her husband has long since passed away.
While Susanna understands Assyrian quite well she doesn’t speak the language. “I really wanted to learn my husband’s native tongue but whenever I tried to speak it I’d get tongue-tied, she recounts. My speaking Assyrian just wasn’t in the cards.” Susanna’s husband never forced her or the children to communicate in Assyrian. The three eldest children identify with their Assyrian roots just as matter-of-factly as they relate to their Armenian ones. As for the youngest son, Susanna says he’s Assyrian to the very core. The boy devotes all his free time to the study of Assyrian culture and history.
The largest Assyrian community in Armenia lives in the village of Verin Dvin, located in the marze (province) of Ararat. 2,000 of the village’s total population of 2,700 are Assyrian. Marriages such as Susanna’s aren’t rare in the village. Mixed Armenian-Assyrian marriages are fairly widespread. While strolling the streets of Verin Dvin you get the feeling that you’re not in Armenia. That’s because everyone speaks Assyrian. Both Assyrian and Armenian students are required to take a class that integrates the Assyrian language, literature and history up till the 11th grade. In all else, Assyrians differ little from Armenians. Both peoples share similar customs, family values and lifestyles. Assyrians are quite at ease when it comes to integrating into the Armenian mainstream.
In the view of Meline Tamarazova, the Mayor’s Secretary, “This is quite natural. When is it that a nation strives to preserve its identity? When it’s being persecuted in the diaspora. When relations are amicable, the assimilative process takes place quite on its own.
”Relations between Armenians and Assyrians, at times friendly, at times hostile, date back thousands of years. However Assyrians first appeared on the territory now comprising present-day Armenia essentially in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The first large wave came in 1828, with the signing of the Treaty of Turkmenchai that declared an end to the war between Russia and Persia. Large numbers of Assyrians relocated from Persia to Russia and some of them eventually to Armenia. The second large wave came from the Ottoman Empire during the period of the Armenian Genocide. Large numbers of Assyrians, estimates range from 275,000 to 700,000, also perished during these years. Assyrians fled to this side of the border along with Armenian refugees with the assistance of General Andranik.
Some 7,000 Assyrians lived in Armenia, mostly in the villages of Verin Dvin, Dimitrov and Arzni, up until independence was declared in 1991. Many have now left to work mostly in Russia and Ukraine where, “everything is much less expensive and the exchange rate of the U.S. dollar is higher.” A large segment of the residents of Verin Dvin are now to be found in the Ukranian village of Kakhovka where they’ve established the settlement of “Little Verin Dvin”.
If you visit Verin Dvin during the daytime you’d think only children live in the village. The adults go to the fields to work in the morning and only return after dark. Once school is over for the day the children also go to the fields to lend a hand. The “fields” are basically kitchen-garden plots where the villagers grow the essential household table-fare, rarely selling the produce.
Susanna complains that classes at the village Russian school, named after the writer Pushkin, have been cut from 45 to 40 minutes so that the children can get to the fields in time to assist their parents with the crop harvest. Almost all of the 28 children in her 16 year-old granddaughter Susanna’s classroom go to the garden plots to work, some missing school for days on end. Susanna never allows her grandchildren to miss a day of class.
There are two dance ensembles in Verin Dvin; the ‘Niniveh’ group for adults and ‘Arbela’ for the school pupils. If there’s no upcoming performance to prepare for there is almost no dance practice during the autumn months due to the demands of the crop harvest. Sixteen year-old Sona Petrova, a dancer in ‘Arbela’, says that her group mostly performs at festivals devoted to Armenia’s resident national minorities. Sona adds that if the dance ensembles didn’t exist young people would have little to do apart from working in the gardens or in construction; that is if something was being built. This is why most young people seek to leave for the city.
There are 37 residents of Verin Dvin now studying in Yerevan. Most return to the village every day after school lets out. Only those with relatives in the city remain.
Village Mayor Lyudmila Petrova assures us that while Verin Dvin faces the same host of problems as any other village, the government, especially the Regional Governor’s Office of the Ararat Marze, pays particular attention to the village. In the last two years Assyrian language primers have been printed in Armenia. Prior to this these texts were imported from Russia. Promises to pave the roads by next spring have also been made. The building of the village Cultural House, where the Mayor’s Office, the Post Office, the first-aid station and the library are located, is currently being repaired. Preparations are underway to construct a separate building for the Post Office. Lyudmila Petrova hopes that one day the clinic will also be housed in separate premises. This is one of the major issues confronting the village. While the clinic is outfitted with good technical equipment and has one doctor and three nurses on staff, its present three- room space just isn’t large enough. For example, due to a lack of space, the gynecological chair remains packed-up and unused.
There are two working Assyrian churches in Verin Dvin. Shara, the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East of Armenia is based on the Nestorian Church, while the Church of Marez follows the Orthodox faith. If Armenia was the first nation to adopt Christianity as the state religion, the Assyrians were the first people to accept the Christian faith as early as the 1st Century A.D. From the beginning, Assyrians professed the Nestorian doctrine that declares that Jesus exists as two separate persons; Jesus, the human being and Jesus, the Divine Son of God. Those Assyrians who migrated to Russia from Persia adopted the Orthodox faith. Those who fled to Armenia during the 1915 Genocide retained their traditional Nestorian religion for a time. Today, Assyrians living in Armenia are either followers of the Orthodox Church or profess Roman Catholicism. In accordance with Nestorian Church tradition only a cross is placed in the Church of Shara, while icons adorn the Church of Marez.
There is no Armenian church in Verin Dvin as there is no need of one. Armenians attend services at the Assyrian churches. Residents of the nearby Armenian village of Nerkin Dvin also participate in church services celebrating the Feast Days of the Assyrian churches (June 14th and July 3rd). Prelate Isahak Tamraz, a young clergyman who came from Iraq several years ago now conducts worship services. The religious holidays of both Armenians and Assyrians are almost the same, the only difference being the days on which certain ones are celebrated.
If you were to ask each and every Assyrian whether they dream of eventually having their own homeland, the response across the board would be positive. As to the question would they move to a newly created “Assyria”, residents of Verin Dvin unconfidently answer, “ That’s really a tough question...after all Armenia is our homeland.”
Translated by Hrant Gadarigian