ENGLISH VERSION: Appeal regarding the persecution of orthodox christians in Russia, by President of the Holy Synod of the Holy Orthodox Church in North America
August 24/September 6, 2016
Saint Cosmas of Aetolia
Beloved Clergy and Faithful of the Holy Orthodox Church in North America,
I would like to share with you some alarming news that I received from Russia concerning the continued persecution of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church (ROAC), a True Orthodox Church in Russia that is on very friendly terms with our Synod.
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Suzdal: ROAC First Hierarch and Bishop Irinarkh Taken for Questioning by FSB
The search that began in the afternoon of September 6 in the Synodal building of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church (ROAC) in Suzdal is still ongoing, reports a correspondent for “Portal.Credo.Ru.” During the search, computer equipment was seized from the Synodal building, a protocol was drawn up, and the ROAC First Hierarch, Metropolitan Theodore, and Bishop Irinarkh (Nonchin) of Tula and Bryansk were detained and taken, according to preliminary reports, to the regional department of the FSB [Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation].
The “Monavista” news agency, citing “reliable sources,” has disseminated the version of the “security forces” with some explanation for what is taking place in Suzdal. According to the agency, the law enforcement officers suspect ROAC of the “involvement of its adherents in committing acts of an extremist nature.”
“The objects of interest by the security forces,” the news agency reports, “were previously-committed facts of extremist statements by individual representatives of ROAC with regard to hate speech, rancor, and humiliation on grounds relating to a social group. These actions were committed publically during religious gatherings on the premises of churches… The followers of ROAC have been repeatedly spotted conducting extremist activities.”
The news agency’s publication names two “adepts” of ROAC: Olexander Soldatov, editor-in-chief of “Portal-Credo.Ru,” whom the agency accuses of creating and distributing the film “Pristavnoe blagochestie” [“Piety with Ushers”], which was “aimed at inciting hatred and hostility towards the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate and state structures”; and Archbishop Andrei (Maklakov) of Pavlovskoe and Rockland, a “US citizen,” who has been “convicted of extremism.”
Located within ROAC’s Synodal building are the Synod of Bishops of this Church, the Suzdal Diocesan Administration, a men’s monastery, and the Iveron Synodal Church, which effectively became ROAC’s main church after it was expelled from eleven Suzdal churches in 2009. In the spring of last year it was in this church that dramatic events unfolded relating to the forced seizure of the relics of Sts. Euphemia and Euphrosyne of Suzdal.
(Original report in Russian: http://www.portal-credo.ru/site/?act=news&id=121984)
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I would like to make a statement concerning this report.
The Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church has suffered many outages from the authorities over the years. Sixteen of their church buildings in the city of Suzdal have been confiscated by the government and handed over to the Moscow Patriarchate. As if this were not enough, the authorities have even confiscated holy relics that were in the possession of ROAC! And when their hierarch in Unites States, Archbishop Andrei of Pavlovskoe and Rockland (who is resident in New Jersey), publicly raised his voice against such injustices, he was permanently banned from entering Russia.
In today's incident, the ROAC Synodal house was raided by the security services, their computers, books and documents confiscated, and two bishops forcibly taken for interrogation.
Astonishingly, this latest wave of persecution seems to have been triggered, at least in part, by Metropolitan Theodore’s friendship with our Synod. I personally know Metropolitan Theodore. In fact, this past July, I had the honor of hosting him in Georgia, along with two other bishops of his Synod, in order to become better acquainted with each other and slowly to advance the friendship between our Churches. During the interrogation by the authorities, Metropolitan Theodore was even asked about our meeting in Georgia and about "his friendship with that church in America" – i.e., HOCNA – thus outrageously suggesting that his friendship with us somehow made him an "American spy"!
This injustice cannot pass unnoticed. That is why I intend to contact the State Department, as well as various human rights organizations, to bring to their attention this unacceptable violation of a basic right of every man, the right to freedom of conscience, and to ask them to use pressure on the Russian authorities to stop this persecution.
I appeal to you to do the same, by contacting your Senators and Representatives to urge them to raise their voices and do whatever is in their power to help end this injustice.
Above all, let us all pray for our persecuted brethren in Russia.
May our Saviour, the Theotokos, and all the Saints of Russia cover and protect them. Amen.
Your fervent supplicant unto Christ,
+ Gregory, Metropolitan of Boston
President of the Holy Synod
Holy Orthodox Church in North America