KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 20.00, 12 April 2001

I. RUSSIA: MOSCOW PENTECOSTALS EVICTED FROM
THEATRE. The �Tsaritsyno� Moscow Regional Children�s Theatre has
been forbidden to lease its auditorium to the Moscow Church of God of
Christians of Evangelical Faith, Keston News Service has learned. This
follows a television broadcast in which the church � which has official
registration and is one of the largest Pentecostal denominations in Russia
- was described as �a sect bringing an alien culture�. There are fears that
the eviction signals a change in state policy on religious organisations.

II. CRIMEA: CATHOLICS DENIED EASTER CELEBRATION IN
OWN CHURCH. The authorities in the Crimean city of Sevastopol have
denied a Roman Catholic community permission to conduct Easter
services in the Catholic church, which is used as a cinema, Fr Leonid
Tkachuk, the community�s priest, told Keston News Service on 10 April.
The community has been battling for the last five years for the building�s
return. (See KNS 29 January 2001) Sevastopol�s Orthodox clergy are
divided over the return of the church.

I. RUSSIA: MOSCOW PENTECOSTALS EVICTED FROM
THEATRE

by Aleksandr Shchipkov, Keston News Service

The �Tsaritsyno� Moscow Regional Children�s Theatre has been
forbidden to lease its auditorium to the Moscow Church of God of
Christians of Evangelical Faith, Keston News Service has learned. The
cancellation of the lease follows a television broadcast in which the
church � which has official registration - was described as �a sect
bringing an alien culture�. The Moscow Church of God, established by
Sergei Ryakhovsky, a former underground pastor, is one of the largest
Pentecostal denominations in Russia.

The small building which houses the church and its office in Tsaritsyno,
one of Moscow�s new suburbs, cannot accommodate the more than 600
members of the congregation and since 1999 the church has leased the
auditorium of the �Tsaritsyno� children�s theatre which is only 200
metres away. Next to it military tents have been erected for use in work
with drug addicts. The Moscow Church of God rehabilitation centre is
well known in the city and in Moscow region, often receiving invitations
from institutions which work with young people. At the end of March a
rehabilitation group was working with drug addicts in the town of
Serpukhov in Moscow region, and after the team had left, the local
television programme �Reflection� broadcast an item describing the
church as �a sect bringing an alien culture�. On 28 March the theatre
director Vladimir Maksimovich was summoned to the Culture
Committee of Moscow Regional Administration, where he was given a
letter signed by committee chairman Sergei Guzhayev telling him to
cancel the lease. Maksimovich reported this verbally to Sergei
Ryakhovsky.

On 1 April the Moscow Church of God held its service outdoors. Pastor
Sergei Ryakhovsky told Keston: �Our congregations are experiencing
oppression not only in Moscow but also in Perm, Nizhni Tagil and
Lipetsk. We have altogether 1200 parishes in Russia.�

Ryakhovsky said that the theatre director told him a strange thing: �A
report from the FSB [Federal Security Service, the ex-KGB] is on the
governor�s desk.� Ryakhovsky could not say what kind of a report, or
what influence it might have had on the decision of the committee of
culture to evict the Christians from the theatre. He said that he had
already made an appointment at the regional administration of the FSB to
seek clarification.

On 4 April Aleksandr Pogonchenkov, the deputy chairman of the
committee on culture, told Keston that the FSB had nothing to do with
the cancellation of the lease. He said that the lease had been concluded in
violation of the established purposes of the theatre, which could in such
cases act only with the permission of the committee on culture.

Theatre director Vladimir Maksimovich met a Keston correspondent on 4
April, but declined to answers most of the questions he was asked. He
said only that he thought the conflict was taking on a political character
which might well lead to the loss of his job.

Sergei Ryakhovsky fears that these are the first signs of a change in state
policy: �We want to know when Putin is going to make a policy
statement on religious organisations. We simply don�t understand what is
going on: on the one hand we receive state awards while on the other we
are under attack.� In January 2001 Sergei Ryakhovsky was awarded a
medal by the President �for services to the Fatherland�.(END)

II. CRIMEA: CATHOLICS DENIED EASTER CELEBRATION IN
OWN CHURCH

by Anna Vassilyeva, Keston News Service

The city authorities in the southern Crimean city of Sevastopol have
denied the Roman Catholic community of St Clement permission to
conduct Easter services in the Catholic church, which is still being used
as a cinema, Fr Leonid Tkachuk, the community�s priest, told Keston
News Service by telephone from Sevastopol on 10 April. The community
has been battling for the last five years for the return of the church (see
KNS 29 January 2001) and this refusal comes in spite of promises to
reconsider the question. Sevastopol�s Orthodox clergy are divided over
the return of the church.

Fr Leonid, who is also the bishop�s representative in Crimea, told Keston
that the community would have to conduct services on the street in front
of the church building. �We have appealed in writing to the head of the
Sevastopol city administration Leonid Zhunko for permission for a �one-
off� service to mark the day of Christ�s Resurrection,� he said. But the 5
March letter (of which Keston has a copy) was forwarded to the city�s
department of culture, which is responsible for the building. Fr Leonid
showed Keston a copy of the 22 March reply from department head
Aleksandr Rudometov, which states: �because of the fact that the
Druzhba cinema functions as a cultural resource, according to a decision
of the seventh session of the city council (24.12.98) it may only be used
for its primary purpose, and it is not possible to offer it for the holding of
services on 15 April�. Rudometov also stresses that �the community�s
request was denied in 1999 and 2000 for this same reason.�

Keston tried to telephone Rudometov on 11 April, but was told at the
culture department that he would not be there �until May�. His deputy
Lyudmila Bogatyreva also proved to be unavailable.

On 28 March the community of St Clement wrote to the chairman of the
Lenin district state administration of Sevastopol Mr Shilovtsev to inform
him of their intention to hold �a solemn Easter Liturgy� on 15 April 2001,
from 8.30-11am, outside the Catholic church, with around 500 people
taking part.

The issue of the return of the church building to the community was at
the centre of discussions during a meeting on 8 February between the
Papal Nuncio in Ukraine, Archbishop Mikola Esterovich, and the
Sevastopol city authorities. Fr Leonid, who was present at the meeting,
said that the authorities promised to �reconsider the issue�.
Keston tried to telephone the head of Sevastopol city�s state
administration Leonid Zhunko on 11 April to find out what progress
there had been since the meeting in Sevastopol, but was told that he was
again on leave.

Head of the religious department of the Sevastopol administration Oleg
Kotlyarov told Keston on 11 April that the cinema management was
worried that the believers would not leave the building again if they were
allowed in to hold a service: �They are afraid of a confrontational
situation�.

The Inter-Confessional Council of Crimea sent a written appeal on 29
March to Sevastopol city administration and Sevastopol city council for
�a positive resolution� to the question of returning �the Catholic church at
number 1, Schmidt street, to the Catholic religious community of
Sevastopol�. According to this document (of which Keston has a copy)
its signatories, one of whom is Fr Leonid, suggest that �to adopt such a
resolution would help to create interconfessional harmony, unity and
historical justice�. The appeal was also signed by Metropolitan Lazar and
Adventist pastor V. Petryuk. Fr Leonid told Keston that there had been
no reaction so far.

It appears that the Orthodox are not unanimous in feeling that the church
building should be returned to the Catholics. Fr Leonid told Keston that
recently a programme had been broadcast on the local television channel
in which some members of Sevastopol�s Orthodox community stated
their opposition to the return of the building.

An Orthodox source told Keston that when the Papal Nuncio Archbishop
Mikola visited Crimea on 8-9 February, pickets would not allow him, his
escort hieromonk Paisi Dmokhovsky, the representative of the
metropolitanate in Sevastopol, or Fr Leonid, on to the territory of the
Inkerman monastery of St Clement, which forms part of the Crimean
diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.
The pickets were manned by lay-people at the monastery gates. The
source said that the incident had led to the dismissal of the superior at the
monastery, Fr Ilian.

Kotlyarov confirmed that the protest at the monastery had been organised
by the Sevastopol centre of Orthodox enlightenment and was �directly
linked to the proposed visit by Pope John Paul II to Ukraine�. In his
opinion, Fr Ilian �had failed to obey an instruction from the ruling
bishop�, and had been punished for it. Commenting on the issue of
opposition from the Orthodox to the return of the church, he noted that he
�wouldn�t want to draw conclusions about the attitude of the Orthodox
clergy on the basis of isolated incidents�. (END)

Copyright (c) 2001 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.