PSKOV ARCHBISHOP ACCUSED OF OPPOSING CHARITABLE PROGRAMMES

By Xenia Dennen, Roman Lunkin and Aleksandr Shchipkov, Keston News Service

The Orthodox Archbishop of Pskov has not only failed to help educational
and other charitable programmes launched by one of his parish priests but
has actively interfered with them, the priest told Keston News Service. FR
PAVEL ADELHEIM, a former prisoner of conscience, said that his ARCHBISHOP
YEVSEVI went out of his way to persuade the Pskov oblast administration not
to transfer a building which was to house an Orthodox school.

According to Fr Pavel, he had succeeded in persuading the secular
authorities to make the building available for a school for Orthodox choir
directors; the school also provides a general curriculum. But the
archbishop, he said, then intervened and persuaded the oblast governor to
transfer the building to the diocese instead. As a result, according to Fr
Pavel, the school is now housed in several small extensions of the Church
of the Myrrh-Bearing Women in Pskov city, one of the two parishes which Fr
Pavel serves. He told Keston that the archbishop does not even recognise
that the school exists, even though it has been registered by the Moscow
Patriarchate.

Keston sought to interview Archbishop Yevsevi on this and other subjects,
but he refused.

In addition to the school, Fr Pavel runs a shelter for mentally handicapped
children at his other parish, St Matthew's in the village of Piskovichi.
He also conducts regular visits to a local prison. He told Keston that the
archbishop declines to support these programmes as well.

Fr Pavel built a new Orthodox church in Bukhara three decades ago, in
effect defying the anti-religious policies of the Soviet regime. He was
arrested in 1969 and imprisoned until 1973. While he was in labour camp
the authorities tried to kill him because he had witnessed crimes committed
against other prisoners, he told Keston: an accident was staged during
which he lost a leg. After his release he served for a number of years in
Latvia.

In 1988, after the dramatic change in official policy towards the churches,
Fr Pavel decided to devote his life to serving the deprived and outcasts of
society. He worked with the patients of the Pskov oblast's psychiatric
hospital, helped build a church on the site, while also setting up the home
for mentally retarded children. Rather than supporting these charitable
programmes Archbishop Yevsevi tried to remove Fr Pavel from the diocese in
1993, the priest said, but failed thanks only to the intervention of
PATRIARCH ALEKSI.

Sharply disagreeing with Fr Pavel's views was FR VLADIMIR POPOV, another
well-known priest of the Pskov diocese. Fr Vladimir told Keston that the
Russian Orthodox Church does not have and should not have extensive social
programmes. Such programmes create expectations of dependency and
discourage people from relying on their own efforts, he said: 'The Soviet
state corrupted everyone, so that many now think that everyone ought to
help them. The church cannot take the place of the state and bear this
load'.

Fr Pavel, on the other hand, pointed out to Keston that before 1917 the
Orthodox Church had many social programmes in Russia, such as widespread
parochial schools. In his opinion, one reason why the Church today has not
truly come to grips with such questions is that its bishops are not elected
and are able to exercise sweeping powers over their priests. With
executive, legislative and judicial powers all in the bishop's hands, he
said, 'a priest has no rights, he is not protected by canon law'.

Fr GEORGI BYKOV, dean of Pskov district, denied to Keston that the diocese
discriminates among its parishes; he insisted that it has no 'prestigious'
parishes with large incomes. (END)