Staunton, July 21 – Russia’s procurator general has dispatched a special commission to Vladimir oblast in order to consider “all possible variants of the final liquidation of the Russian Orthodox Apostolic Church,” an indirect confirmation of the failure of both the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian powers that be to close that church down up to now.
In a commentary on Portal-credo.ru, Viktor Kroshechkin says that he has heard about this latest Moscow plan “from unofficial sources” but is certain that it is true and that it reflects both the failure of the Moscow Patriarch’s effort to close down independent Orthodox groups and the increasing support the Russian regime is prepared to provide in support of that effort.
While the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian powers that be have already confiscated a significant portion of the churches of the Apostolic Church, the religious affairs analyst says, this latest effort is “an indirect confirmation” that all these efforts have “not brought any particular results” (www.portal-credo.ru/site/?act=news&id=78904).
Despite all the ideological campaigns against the Apostolic Church and moves by Russian courts to seize property belonging to it, Kroshechkin says, “not a single priest or a single community has left the [Apostolic] Church during this period or transferred its allegiance to the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.”
It is clear, he continues, that “such is the nature of the Orthodox faith that repression only strengthens it and unifies the believers.” And consequently, despite the ability of the Patriarchate and the Russian powers that be, the Apostolic Church continues to function even though it has fewer and fewer physical locations it can call its own.
“The authority of the Russian Orthodox Apostolic church among simple people in those regions where its parishes operate has been maintained, and Metropolitan Valentin does not want to enter into negotiations with the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate,” despite the efforts of the latter to start such talks.
Instead, Kroshechkin says, the metropolitan has been “brave enough to complain about the Russian ‘sovereign democratic’ powers that be to the Congress and Administration of the President of the United States.” That has prompted the Russian powers that be to launch “an analysis of the situation” and to ask about the health of Metropolitan Valentin.
The Russian “organs” have frequently told priests of the Apostolic Church that “they must ‘change the leadership’” of their church and either “joint the Moscow Patriarchate or for a start ‘remove Valentin’ from the post of head of the Church.” In some cases, they have been told that the only way to keep their parishes is to do one or the other.
But now, in support of the Moscow Patriarchate, the Russian powers that be have increased the threat: they have told Apostolic Church priests that they must choose to leave the ranks of the independent Orthodox church or “’receive a sentence’ for extremism or for ‘something worse.’”
At the very least, the Apostolic Church clergy have been told by Russian officials, they must enter into talks with the Moscow Patriarchate or “lose their state registration,” a step that would mean that any meeting of independent Orthodox believers would be “prohibited” not just by the Patriarchate but by the Russian authorities.
The Apostolic Orthodox leadership has no interest in talking to the Moscow Patriarchate and had concluded that the powers that be have decided to pursue “the complete liquidation of the Russian Orthodox Apostolic church by the methods of the Bolsheviks, not sparing anyone or anything.”
And those methods, Kroshechkin says, are “well known: to destroy or compromise the hierarchy, to seize churches, to drive believers into the catacombs, to declare them ‘sectarians’ and ‘enemies of Russia’ or to force priests to purchase their freedom by paying the price of cooperation in order to destroy the Church from the inside.”
The Suzdal bishopric of the Russian Orthodox Apostolic Church is now prepared to “the most unhappy scenarios,” all the more so because the Moscow Patriarchate has succeeded in enlisting the power of the civil powers that be, thereby sorrowing confusion among those who are concerned about the freedom of religion that the Russian Constitution promises.