Thursday, October 25, 2007

Russia: Russian Orthodox Abbot Clement of Penza visits ACN

Russia: Orthodox Abbot of Penza visits ACN[With photos of Abbot Clement with ACN staff at the HQ's in Germany(left) and at Fr Werenfried's gravesite(above)]
Posted by ACN News on 24/10/2007, 9:04 am
Board Administrator

ACN Newsflash 23.10.2007
Russian Orthodox Abbot Clement of Penza visited the headquarters of the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) last week. Aged 36, the abbot is also rector of the Spiritual School in the town of Penza, some 440 miles (700 km) southeast of Moscow. He expressed the view that the bridges between Catholics and Orthodox are being "steadily built up“, and observed that a particular contribution was being made to this by the Catholic charity ACN which, since the early 1990s and at the express wish of Pope John Paul II, has also been helping the Russian Orthodox Church. The founder of ACN, Father Werenfried van Straaten, who died in 2003, is well known in Russia and still much talked about, he added.

Together with the international president of ACN, Mr Hans-Peter Röthlin, Abbott Clement visited the grave of Father Werenfried in Königstein, where he was evidently deeply moved. It had been, he said, "a great honour" to him and he thanked "this great man" with all his heart, adding, "With God there are no dead men. I am certain that Father Werenfried is still praying for ACN." The bishop of his eparchy (diocese), Archbishop Filaret, had also welcomed his visit to the HQ's of ACN and given it his blessing, he added, and had asked him to express his "warmest thanks" to this Catholic charity, which is directly answerable to the Vatican.
The wounds of communism are still inescapable, even in Penza, Abbott Clement explained. The two buildings of the former seminary had fortunately remained standing, but nonetheless 50 churches had been destroyed, many of whom could not be rebuilt, since they are too badly damaged, he told ACN. One could hardly picture it unless one had seen it – it was " a nightmare“. As a result, he said, many of the ruins are to be left as a grim reminder. The consequences of this "godless ideology" were still to be seen in the souls of the people too, he added.

But despite all the problems and challenges that were still to be overcome, "the Russian people are returning to God", the abbot reported. Young people above all were a source of hope, he said, for a generation was now growing up that was developing "an understanding of God". The Spiritual School in Penza, which ACN supports, currently has 63 students, he announced. Particularly encouraging was the fact that 10 of these students are already working on their doctoral theses. As rector of this school, he expressed his joy that young people were at last once again being trained in the spiritual life.
The institution which, prior to the October Revolution of 1917, had the status of a seminary, had once had 1500 students, prior to Soviet rule. It had produced numerous renowned personalities, such as composers and scientists, he explained, adding that his dream was to see the school once more attain the status of a seminary. This for him would constitute an act of “historical justice”, he said, though he was of course aware that Russia still needed time. However, the new generation was “morally and psychologically ready to renew the Church”, he told ACN, adding that for the moment the theological formation was being revised and standardised in Russia. The Church was “ready to give the people spiritual nourishment”, he said.

Abbott Clement expressed the view that Catholics and Orthodox can learn a great deal from each other and must jointly “tackle the challenges of the present time”. What was above all important was to convey to people an awareness of their dignity as individuals, he added. He himself had studied at the Academy in Saint Petersburg and had there come to know the writings of Joseph Ratzinger, the present Pope, who was extremely highly esteemed by many Orthodox as an “excellent theologian”, he explained. Speaking of collaboration between the Christian denominations, he expressed the conviction that there were “many problems that we must tackle together”, pointing to such issues as globalisation, the advance of secularism and a range of ethical and moral problems. Speaking of such collaboration, he expressed the wish that, “God grant that we may build up and unite, instead of destroying, for division and destruction are the work of the devil”.
ACN supports not only the Spiritual School in Penza but also a bakery run by the monastery, which helps to provide for the support of the monks and also provides bread to the borders at the Spiritual School. It is also used to feed the homeless.

To help this cause please contact the Australian office of ACN on (02) 9679-1929. e-mail: or write to Aid to the Church in Need PO Box 6245 Blacktown DC NSW 2148. Web:

Donate On-Line at www.aidtochurch,org

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