All Keston News Service material is protected by copyright:
(c) Keston Institute 1999

Tuesday 20 July

by Tatyana Titova, Keston News Service

The Latvian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) has officially
requested that the Latvian chief public prosecutor place a ban on the
activities of the Latvian Free Orthodox Church (LFOC) as a cause of
religious discord, LFOC Bishop VIKTOR (KONTUZOROV) of Daugavpils and
Latvia told Keston on 1 June: 'Our church is in a very grave
situation. We now have no other choice but to go into the catacombs.'

For five years the ten Free Orthodox parishes in Latvia have been
denied registration under the republic's 'Law on Religious
Organisations', Article 7 Point 3 of which states that 'communities
of one confession (doctrine) have the right to found only one
religious union (Church) in the [Latvian] state.' On 8 October 1998
the Latvian Ministry of Justice explained its refusal to register the
LFOC thus: 'Documents submitted for the registration of the Latvian
Free Orthodox Church state that the head of this organisation is Mr
V. Kontuzorov. According to the minutes of a synodal meeting on 10
November 1997 of the Latvian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate),
which was registered on 30 December 1992, V. Kontuzorov was dismissed
from the Universal [Vselenskaya] Orthodox Church. On 1 October 1998
ALEKSANDRS CERNEJS, administrator of the Latvian Orthodox Church
Abroad [which is under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch
in Istanbul (Constantinople) - ed.], confirmed the legality and
canonical validity of the dismissal.'

Cernejs' statement occurs in a written response to a query from
RINGOLDS BALODIS, director of the Department for Social and Religious
Affairs at the Latvian Ministry of Justice, where he also comments:
'"Latvian Orthodox [Pravoslavnaya] Church", "Latvian Orthodox
Apostolic Church" and "Latvian Apostolic Church" [alternative titles
for the LFOC used in its application for registration] do not exist
in the records of the Universal (Ecumenical) Orthodox Church. I think
that this could be a self-styled organisation, that is, one without
confessional adherence. At best, some kind of sect.'

Balodis' explanation of the legal situation given in the 8-14 January
edition of 'The Baltic Times' newspaper confirms that the Latvian
state is closely following its law on religion: 'The law says clearly
that in one religion, we can only register one Church. In the case of
the Orthodox Church, the whole of Latvia comes under the territory
of the Moscow Church, so only one Church that is directly affiliated
with Moscow can be registered here. ...If he [Kontuzorov] wants to
come back here and ask to be registered as another religion with
another name, fine. ... If he wants to come here and open a different
Orthodox Church with his own temple, he must ask permission of the
Latvian Orthodox bishop.'

Although the Ministry of Justice gives the assurance that 'the
decision to refuse registration does not affect the rights of persons
or their organisation to adhere to the religion of the cult, to carry
out religious or ritual ceremonies or to preach doctrine' in its
official refusal to register the LFOC, lack of registration seems
already to have taken its toll on the Church. The local newspaper
'Dinaburg' reported that on 21 January 1997 a financial inspection
was conducted at the building used as a church by the Free Orthodox
parish of St Prince Vladimir Equal to the Apostles in Daugavpils.
Parishioners were reportedly asked to explain why they were members
of the church and what they were doing there, and bookkeeper's
accounts and icons with candles were removed from the premises.
Daugavpils City Court ruled that the unregistered community be fined
200 lats and that the aforementioned icons with candles should be
confiscated. The Latvian National Human Rights Office explained: 'A
religious organisation can set up a location and conditions for
services - a church or prayer house - only once it has received the
status of a legal personality; likewise, it cannot support priests,
organise a monastic community, train clergy or teach, conduct
ceremonies and rites in hospitals or prisons, or possess church
buildings, libraries, canteens or be in charge of such property.'

In an amendment to the Constitutional Law 'Rights and
Responsibilities of the Person and the Citizen' passed by the Latvian
parliament (Saeim) on 2 October and signed by President GUNTIS
ULMANIS on 14 October 1997, the principle of separation of church and
state is proclaimed in Article 35, which also states that in Latvia
freedom of religion and worship is guaranteed and that 'no one is
allowed to force others to follow a cult'. The public prosecutor
general of the Latvian Republic, who oversees the law, has stated
that there is no violation of the principle of separation of church
and state in the 'Law on Religious Organisations' and believes that
'the definition of state policy regarding questions of religion so
that it corresponds with the interests of the state, society and each
individual is the prerogative of the legislator - the Saeim.'

In a letter to INGRID LABUCKA at the Ministry of Justice dated 8
February 1999, Saeim deputy JURIS DOBELIS, to whom the LFOC had
turned for support, complained: 'According to such a position all
Orthodox in Latvia, against their convictions and conscience,
violating the thirtieth and fifteenth canonical Apostolic Rules, are
obliged to enter the structure of the Moscow Patriarchate, which has
preserved its privileged position in the post-occupation period. As
the Orthodox Church in Latvia was independent from the canonical
powers of the Moscow Patriarchate until 1940, I request that you
resolve the issue of registration for these communities positively,
if necessary having addressed the Saeim with iniatives for new

VALDIS TERAULDKALNS, a specialist in the religious situation in
Latvia and former Keston Scholar in Oxford, gave the following
commentary on the situation to Keston: 'According to the law on
religious organisations (Article 10 Part 3), if a Church does not
want to be part of an already existing religious association (Church)
it must be written in the by-laws of that Church that it works on an
autonomous basis. But this does not apply to denominations whose
canonical laws do not allow the existence of autonomous churches.
Because of this paragraph the Free Orthodox Church cannot be
registered. There are two aspects which unfortunately got mixed
together in the process of preparing the law. One is the desire of
each denomination to avoid schisms and to preserve its identity in
ways which are in line with a particular tradition. Canonical laws
are part of that tradition but the state has no obligation and has no
right to be the guardian of canonical law. In fact, it would be
impossible anyway because new groups and movements will not disappear
and no one can force them to do so as in the medieval period. This
brings us to the second aspect:: in open and democratic society the
legislator should not assume responsibility for resolution of such a
conflict even in cases when it seems that the reason for the schism
is not rational or when people involved on one side are perceived as
undesirable. This would give way to subjectivity and manipulation of
power. Every group ready to work in accordance with the law should
have the right to be registered, and conflict-solving is a matter for
mutual dialogue. This is a democratic, and, I do not hesitate to say,
Christian, way of dealing with problems.'

On 21 October 1996 the local newspaper 'Rigas Balss' described how
Bishop Viktor was the third or fourth most important person in the
Latvian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) after the archbishop
until 1994. From 1990 he served in Daugavpils as 'director' of
churches in Latgale. He was responsible for 27 churches as well as
being priest-in-charge of the main Cathedral of Boris and Gleb in
Daugavpils; he was also editor of the newspaper 'Orthodox Life'
(Pravoslavnaya Zhizn). He was active in educational work, first
founding a parish school for children and then one for adults which
had links with professors of local higher educational establishments.
He also founded the Latgale Orthodox Spiritual Centre, to which these
schools were moved; it also housed a library, a free pharmacy for the
poor and a shelter for the elderly and needy. The newspaper states
that Bishop Viktor became very popular among his parishioners, which
may not have been to everyone's liking. On 27 July 1994 he received
an official church decree relieving him of his duties as priest-in-
charge of Boris and Gleb Cathedral and was transferred to Tukums (a
small town in a different part of Latvia) for his purported arrogance
and inability to run a large church. Pickets by parishioners and
their appeal to PATRIARCH ALEKSI II were to no avail. On 19 August
Bishop Viktor and his supporters turned to the Russian Free Orthodox
Church with a request to take them under their wing. On 2 September
the Synod of the Latvian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate)
dismissed him from all his posts in Daugavpils, removed him from
their staff and prohibited him to celebrate the liturgy. On 15
October he was accepted into the LFOC and made a bishop.

In accordance with PATRIARCH TIKHON's Canonical Decree 362, which
stated that Churches in separate countries could exist outside the
Russian Orthodox Church, the Orthodox Church in Latvia was
canonically independent from the Moscow Patriarchate between 1921 and
1940. In 1927, following the death of Archbishop IOANN (POMMER), the
Orthodox in Latvia did not wish to deal with the Moscow Patriarchate
and on 29 March 1936 chose their own metropolitan with the assistance
of the bishops of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople. On 5
June 1936 the Moscow Patriarchate dismissed the Latvian church
hierarchy from Orthodoxy for insubordination, but the latter did not
acknowledge this.

The Orthodox Church in Latvia lost its canonical independence with
the 1940 Soviet occupation and was transformed into the Riga diocese
of the Moscow Patriarchate. With the return of sovereignty to the
Latvian state in 1992 the diocese became known as the Latvian
Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate). (END)

Tuesday 20 July

by Aleksandr Shchipkov, Keston News Service

Three years ago, in November 1996, Archbishop YEVSEVI (SAVIN) of
Pskov and Velikiye Luki banned Archimandrite ZINON (TEODOR) from
serving the liturgy. Archimandrite Zinon, a famous icon-painter and
1995 laureate of the Russian State Prize, was punished for having
taken communion with Catholics at a Mass celebrated in the Mirozh
monastery in Pskov by the Italian Catholic priest Father ROMANO
SCALFI, the director of the Milan-based centre Russia Cristiana. The
punishment imposed on Archimandrite Zinon evoked a stormy reaction in
the Catholic and Orthodox press. Archpriest VALENTIN ASMUS, an
Orthodox writer popular in church circles, supported Archbishop
Yevsevi's move in the pages of the Moscow paper �Radonezh�. But the
French Orthodox theologian OLIVIER CLEMENT spoke up in Archimandrite
Zinon's defence in the Paris paper �Le Monde�.

Father Scalfi wrote to Russian Orthodox Patriarch ALEKSI to stress
that in conducting a Mass in an Orthodox monastery he had not
intended to `violate canonical rules', but rather he wished to
`overcome the painful divisions which still exist between our two
Churches'. Archimandrite Zinon for his part pointed to the precedents
of ecumenical eucharists which had taken place with the blessing of
the Moscow Patriarchate. In particular, in an interview with IGOR
VINOGRADOV, the editor of the journal `Kontinent' (published in
`Kontinent' No. 97), Archimandrite Zinon declared: `In the Trinity-St
Sergius Monastery [in Zagorsk/Sergiyev Posad], back in the days of
Patriarch PIMEN when I was living there, the Smolensk church was
specially assigned for Catholic services ... A Benedictine monk in
the Pskov Monastery of the Caves took communion before my very eyes
in Lent 1979 from the same chalice as Father IOANN KRESTYANKIN, his
deputy and all the venerable elders, and there was never any scandal
about that.'

Archimandrite Zinon remains, as before, banned from carrying out his
priestly functions. He lives in the village of Gverston fifty
kilometres from Pskov right by the Russian-Estonian border. He has
refused contact with the outside world and does not travel anywhere
(rumours that he spends a lot of time abroad have not been
confirmed), nor does he receive visitors. Archimandrite Zinon refuses
contact with the press and over a long period has not given a media
interview. He made an exception for Keston News Service in this
interview, recorded in July 1999.

(For further recent information about the Pskov Diocese, see the
article on Fr Pavel Adelheim in Keston Institute's magazine Frontier,
issue 4/99.)

ALEKSANDR SHCHIPKOV: Father Zinon, it is three years since on the
order of your ruling hierarch Archbishop Yevsevi you have been banned
and do not have the right to conduct the liturgy. The reason for the
ban was your joint communion with Catholics.

ARCHIMANDRITE ZINON: I did indeed take communion at a Catholic Mass
which was celebrated by the Catholic priest Father Romano Scalfi in
the church of the Mirozh monastery which had not yet been
consecrated. This was not a public service, but it became known to
Archbishop Yevsevi through a denunciation written by a certain emigre
tourist who is a parishioner of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.
He witnessed this service solely by chance. I do not intend to
descend into canonical arguments over the fact that a ban was imposed
on me through the testimony of a member of another Church. Likewise I
do not intend to conceal the fact that I did take part in a joint
eucharist with Catholics. It is possible that formally the bishop
treated me correctly, though in the spirit of the Gospel incorrectly.

AS: The prohibition may be lifted only if you recant?

AZ: Our church recognises Catholic sacraments, so this means that it
recognises also the Catholic Church itself, as sacraments are not
conducted outside the church. You cannot approach church sacraments
without faith. I am being pressured to recant, but recant for what?
That I took the Body and Blood of Christ? I cannot repent of that, as
that would constitute direct blasphemy and mockery of Christ.

AS: You are accused of absence of humility and excessive pride, the
source of which is your realisation of your own talent as an icon

AZ: An icon painter is not an artist in the worldly sense of the
word. He must not express himself in the icon. He must paint the icon
in a way so that it will be an aid to prayer. Icon painting is an
integral part of divine service. A badly-painted icon grates in the
same way as bad church singing or poor, illiterate reading of the
texts of the liturgy. The Lord gave me the ability to paint icons. My
talents belong to Him and I have nothing to be proud of about this. I
am not the only icon painter in the Church and I am prepared to
submit if I am condemned as a sinner or as a bad icon painter. But I
cannot submit when I am being forced to insult church sacraments.

AS: The Pskov clergy told me that Archbishop Yevsevi said of the
sacraments of the Catholic Church that if an Orthodox Christian -
physically unable to take communion at an Orthodox liturgy - takes
the Holy Gifts from the hands of a Catholic priest he is indeed
partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ. But if he goes to
communion at a Catholic Mass without being compelled by necessity (
for example here in Russia, where there are many Orthodox churches)
he does not receive grace as in that case the Holy Gifts do not
constitute the Body and Blood of Christ.

AZ: Grace does not depend on geography or on political borders. Grace
bears an ecumenical, that is a universal character. The Jews did not
maintain relations with the Samaritans, and the Samaritan woman whom
Jesus asked for something to drink was surprised by His request. Do
you remember how Jesus replied? `If you only knew what God is
offering and who it is that is saying to you: Give me a drink, you
would have been the one to ask, and he would have given you living
water.' [John 4: 13-14]. This is the example of ecumenism from the
Gospel and it was Christ Himself who gave it. The essence of deep
ecumenism lies not in overcoming jurisdictional arguments, but in
seeing in the other your brother. It is impossible to view everyone
around you as enemies. Latins have always been different from
Byzantines, even before the schism [of 1054 AD]. Forms and traditions
have differed. The Gospel truth has been absorbed into national
cultures in their own way. The schism exists, I agree, but heresy
does not! The holy Filaret Drozdov did not even consider Lutherans as
heretics. As for myself, I personally do not want to live any more
with enmity.

AS: Are you pessimistic about the future of our Church?

AZ: I take a sober view. If the existing conditions continue, then we
can expect nothing good ahead of us. One needs to be honest with
oneself and with the members of the Church. The church authorities
are trying to please everyone: both the right and the left, the
secular world and the world of the Church. But it is impossible to
please everyone. Christ was without sin, yet even He did not please
everyone. A sectarian spirit has enveloped our Church and there is a
danger it could remain in the same isolation as the Orthodox Church
Abroad. Self-isolation is death.

AS: Have you thought of going over to Catholicism?

AZ: I am a monk of the Russian Orthodox Church. I am not going to
transfer either to the Catholic Church or even to another Orthodox
jurisdiction. I know that the Moscow Patriarchate never forgives
anyone anything, but I know how to wait. I will sit and wait.


Keston has learnt from a source close to the Pskov diocesan
administration who wishes to remain anonymous that Archbishop Yevsevi
is looking for `diplomatic ways' of resolving the long drawn-out
conflict and plans to send to Gverston for talks with Archimandrite
Zinon the abbess of the Snetogorsk convent of the Nativity of the
Mother of God, Mother LYUDMILA (VANINA). The source claims that the
senior church leadership is putting pressure on Archbishop Yevsevi to
take these steps. (END)