I. Correction to Jesuit article
II. CHERNYAKHOVSK AUTHORITIES BLOCK ADVENTIST FOOD DONATIONS
III. AUTONOMOUS ORTHODOX CHURCH BATTLES FOR ITS RIGHTS


CORRECTION to Press Release

An April press release from Keston Institute's Oxford office stated
that the Jesuits had been denied the right to function in Russia.
This was too broadly stated. In fact the denial of registration does
leave the Jesuits the right to exist - just barely. It will leave
them with no legal rights other than those of a so-called 'religious
group' - the least favoured category of religious body under the
highly discriminatory 1997 law on religion - once that law takes full
effect in January 2000. As a 'religious group' the Jesuits will have
no guaranteed right to engage in charitable activities; to receive,
possess, or disseminate printed, audio or visual materials; to found
newspapers, journals, radio stations or other mass-media organs; to
found schools, universities, seminaries or other educational
institutions; to own or rent buildings; to enjoy tax privileges; to
seek conscientious objection from military service for their younger
members; to invite foreign citizens as visiting preachers or
lecturers; to conduct religious activities in hospitals, orphanages,
or prisons; or even to have a bank account. If the 1997 law is
enforced as written, the denial of registration means that the
Jesuits will be reduced to a collection of private individuals who
can do little more than meet for prayer and conversation in each
other's private homes.

So far the 1997 law has usually been implemented in a manner
considerably more lenient than its extremely harsh written text; for
example, the unregistered 'initsiativniki' Baptists have usually been
able to circulate their publications without hindrance. But the
law's text still has full legal authority, leaving both local and
national officials with complete discretion to start enforcing it
strictly at any moment. (END)


Tuesday 8 June
CHERNYAKHOVSK AUTHORITIES BLOCK ADVENTIST FOOD DONATIONS

by Xenia Dennen, Keston News Service

Local authorities in Chernyakhovsk in the formerly German enclave of
Kaliningrad have refused to pursue a criminal complaint filed by the
family of an Adventist pastor harassed by the sons of Orthodox priest
FR IOSIF ILNITSKY. The pastor's wife, ANNA ILYASH, told Keston that
the priest's sons (aged 20 and 15) had hit her over the head and
ripped off some of her clothes while disrupting an Adventist meeting
(see Keston News Service, 31 March 1999).

Anna and her husband MIKHAIL ILYASH tried to start criminal
proceedings and lodged their case at the Procuracy in the regional
capital of Kaliningrad. In a 23 April conversation with Anna Ilyash,
Keston learned that her legal complaint had been referred back to
Chernyakhovsk, 45 miles from Kaliningrad city, where the local
procurator had passed the complaint to an even lower level. A letter
dated 1 April from O.V. PONOMARYOV finally reached Pastor Ilyash and
his wife in the middle of April. The letter stated that 'the lodging
of a criminal case had been turned down for lack of evidence'.

Under the influence of the same Fr Iosif, Chernyakhovsk officials
barred the Adventists from donating food to a local school. A
teacher at the school, who asked not to be named, told Keston that
the priest had visited her colleagues to warn them about the
'destructive influence of sects'. The teacher said that 'the local
town administration keeps in close touch with Fr Iosif'. Until the
priest's visit the Adventists had provided weekly food deliveries to
the school in which some children were suffering from malnutrition.
'One girl had eaten a bar of soap because she was so hungry,' said
Mrs Ilyash. (END)


Tuesday 8 June
AUTONOMOUS ORTHODOX CHURCH BATTLES FOR ITS RIGHTS

by Xenia Dennen, Keston News Service

If the morgue at Golovinsky cemetery in northern Moscow had been a
church building, the Autonomous Orthodox would have been 'thrown
out' of it by the Moscow Patriarchate, FR MIKHAIL ARDOV of the
Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church (formerly known as the Russian
Free Orthodox Church) told Keston on 24 April. The morgue has been
transformed with icons and church furntiure and is currently used for
regular worship services by a congregation of between two and three
hundred.

'The Moscow Patriarchate does not admit this, but all property still
legally belongs to the state,' explained Fr Mikhail. 'It is only
rented to the Church, just as in Soviet times.' The Moscow
Patriarchate claims to be the only legal heir to all prerevolutionary
Russian Orthodox church property, claimed Fr Mikhail, and because of
Moscow mayor YURI LUZHKOV's alliance with Patriarch Aleksi, all
property is handed over to the Moscow Patriarchate.

However, Fr Mikhail intends to buy the morgue, and to this end has
already become a member of the district council which covers the
Golovinsky Cemetery area; he has also begun to gather signatures for
an application to the Moscow City Property Committee. It had taken
him two years to get the bureaucrats to sign the document leasing the
morgue to his congregation, he told Keston, but this was finally
achieved in May 1997: 'The bureaucrats are frightened of going
against the wishes of the Moscow Patriarchate, as Luzhkov is their
friend.' However, despite such past difficulties, Fr Mikhail was more
confident that he would win his current battle: 'We have a chance.'
He already has a letter of support from the head of the district
council, and hopes to obtain many other letters of support for his
campaign.

According to Fr Mikhail, a further factor which could win the Russian
Orthodox Autonomous Church (ROAC) a more secure position in the
country is its formal reregistration as a centralised religious
organisation at the end of 1998: He believes that from now on ROAC
parishes should have no difficulty in obtaining registration. He
added that the ROAC, whose administrative centre is in Suzdal, 60
miles from Moscow, had opted for the word 'Rossiiskaya' and not
'Russkaya' in its new title (both are translated as 'Russian', but
the first denotes all nationalities living within the Russian
Federation, whereas 'Russkaya' denotes only ethnic Russians), as
'Russkaya' was first used only in 1943 when Stalin allowed the
Orthodox Church to come back into official existence. 'Rossiiskaya'
is more correct in Fr Mikhail's view.

The animosity of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church towards the
Moscow Patriarchate was clearly expressed on Moscow television in a
25 April NTV interview conducted by the well-known television
presenter of Itogi (a popular Sunday evening current affairs
programme), YEVGENI KISELYOV. Fr Mikhail Ardov stated that the
Russian Orthodox Church was 'in crisis', as although it claimed to
have 80 per cent of the Russian population as its adherents, only one
per cent of the population of Moscow went to church last Easter. He
believed that the church was irrelevant to most people and had 'no
real influence in the corridors of power', but still existed on the
basis of the 1927 concordat between the Moscow Patriarchate and the
communists. In his view the Russian Orthodox Church had to reject
this aspect of its past, cleanse itself of its links with the state
and publicly repent: 'The Moscow Patriarchate has not gone through a
period of perestroika' , he lamented. In some ways, he said, it is
similar to the Communist Party - with the same kind of structure and
its own saints and martyrs. He was horrified by Communist Party
leader GENNADI ZYUGANOV's friendly statements towards the Russian
Orthodox Church and its role today: 'It is dreadful: We live by
Lenin's law, the Bolsheviks have just moved into the shade.' (END)