Still waiting for the millennium

Broun, Janice

STILL WAITING FOR THE MILLENNIUM THE CHURCHES & SOVIET 'GLASNOST' JANICE BROUN Mr. Gorbachev's basic motivation for g las nost is to produce a new-look Soviet soci ety efficient enough to...

...Thousands of churches closed during Khruschev's antireligious campaign and remain unavailable...
...Others were released without signing anything...
...Gorbachev doesn't know exactly where he is going, or how far he can go, and inertia and bureaucratic 594 resistance will act as brakes on his reforms...
...nian Catholics (see box on page 594), the Baptists, and the Pentecostals...
...Some were able to reword documents so as to satisfy both local KGB officials and their own conscience...
...But as the August 29 Tablet of London reports, a sign thatglasnost may eventually reach the churches is that the Orthodox church has now been granted permission to print one-hundred-thousand Bibles...
...Even that is denied to millions today...
...Certain categories of prisoners are excluded, notably those with a previous conviction in "special regime" camps...
...Permission to repair or rebuild church premises is usually refused...
...Kostelnyuk was later assassinated by the KGB in order to remove an inconvenient witness to Soviet manipulation of the church...
...Ecclesiastical leaders (particularly those of the Orthodox church) have been forced to compromise in order to maintain even the most basic church life, and such central institutions as some churches do possess a clerical hierarchy, administrative offices, periodic synods and facilities (very limited) for training clergy and for publishing are concessions granted by the authorities for pragmatic reasons...
...The 1988 commemoration could be a suitable occasion for concessions - if the government is prepared to make them...
...The current canonization is a politically loaded act, intended to emphasize that the Ukraine is a part of Russia, not a separate nation...
...This is not to say that only those prepared to compromise were released...
...They range from evangelicals, who are 593 normally sentenced for specifically religious offenses, to dissidents motivated in some part by religion...
...Catholic religious orders are banned, while Orthodox communities are so restricted that there are only seven monasteries and ten convents...
...There have indeed been rumors of a revision of legislation regarding the Orthodox church, but clear information is lacking, since much of Soviet law has never been published...
...Probably even Mr...
...Gorbachev's basic motivation for g lasnost is to produce a new-look Soviet society efficient enough to challenge the West...
...Much of the resurgence of belief is linked with the reassertion of national identity, a fact which makes the government doubly suspect...
...Many had almost completed their sentences or been the victims of a recent law allowing prisoners to be resentenced in camp for allegedly breaking regulations...
...There are some important signs of a more favorable attitude to religion from a different quarter, the media...
...they are second-class citizens, usually excluded from higher education and responsible professional posts...
...This is particularly the case in the Baltic Republics, in the western Ukraine, in Georgia and Armenia, and in the Muslim republics...
...The latter are sentenced for "Anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda" (Article 70), or "slandering the state and social system" (Articles 190/1...
...Out of 100 known prisoners in psychiatric hospitals, only 4 (2 of them Christians) have been released...
...Proselytism, the organized teaching of children, and any activity outside the church building are forbidden...
...Also, revision must be extended to other churches...
...On the plus side however, the notorious Barashevo women's unit was closed after the release of Ratushinskaya, probably because the KGB realized its mistake in throwing the pick of women activists together...
...In Gorki, with its population of 2 million, there is only one small suburban Orthodox church...
...Gorbachev might be persuaded that the churches, granted toleration and more scope, could make a significant contribution to the nation's future...
...The release of some well-known prisoners in 1986, foremost among whom were Sharansky, Orthodox dissidents Vladimir Poresh and Yuri Orlov, and the brilliant young poetess Irina Ratushinskaya, was a preliminary for the unprecedented release of over 100 dissidents on February 2 this year, a quarter of them Christians...
...The government wished to play down the fact that Russian Christianity originated in the Ukraine, at Kiev, and not in Moscow, and that Catholicism has had a strong influence on it...
...The continued suppression of the large Ukrainian Catholic church is one of the most blatant examples of injustice in Soviet religious life today...
...Roughly 100 million, or one in three of the population, admit to some form of belief in God, while only 19 million Soviet citizens are Communist party members, and many of those belong more for advancement than out of conviction...
...The latest annoyance is that the church cannot even canonize saints without state permission...
...Such buildings belong to the state, not the congregations...
...Critics like Father Yakunin fear that these concessions are largely cosmetic, to impress visiting church delegations from abroad...
...According to 1929 legislation, only local religious associations are recognized by the state, and they must be registered...
...Psychiatrist Anatoli Koryagin, released this year after serving six years of a fourteen-year sentence for exposing the abuse of his profession, sought baptism as soon as he arrived in the West...
...Some individuals, like Father Gleb Yakunin, a leading dissident priest released after nine years imprisonment, are ready to take advantage of this unprecedented access to the media and the more sympathetic atmosphere created by some distinguished establishment writers, to ensure that Gorbachev does not lose sight of the believers' rights issue...
...In practice, the state keeps strict control and interferes at every level of religious activity...
...Most were Orthodox dissidents or Pentecostals active in their emigration movement...
...Priests are now merely employees of the parish councils, which are subject to infiltration, and no longer even members of them...
...They may even bring about his downfall...
...About four hundred are known by name to the West...
...There have been modest improvements in the number and training of ordination candidates...
...Father Yakunin's group reports that in Moscow internal passports no longer have to be produced in some churches before a baptism or a marriage can be performed...
...Likewise, members of the Helsinki Monitoring Groups and advocates of national minority rights have scarcely been affected...
...Over the last few years the Orthodox have gained other concessions...
...Furthermore, a considerable proportion of political dissidents have been motivated in part by their religious beliefs...
...these are the Muslims, the LithuaJ ANICE BROUN is a free-lance writer doing research on the religions of Eastern Europe...
...People are still being sentenced for religious offenses, though on a reduced scale...
...Religious belief has proved more resistant than the constant stream of atheist propaganda which employs hundreds of thousands of people and there are even signs of a widespread reawakening of religious interest...
...The recent reopening of the Danilov monastery in Moscow as a community and publications center, and the forthcoming new edition of one-hundred-thousand copies of the Bible are related to the millennium celebration in 1988...
...Those released reiterate categorically that they cannot regard Gorbachev's intentions as genuine until every political and religious prisoner has been freed...
...The only legal right they possess is to worship in a specified building...
...Constitutionally, the church and state are separate in the USSR...
...They demand more radical reform, particularly the repeal of the 1929 laws, as a prerequisite for any real improvement in the status of the churches...
...595...
...No one has been released from Perm, where a sixth of the inmates have died since 1980...
...Instead, the church is being forced to canonize the Ukrainian Catholic Havyril Kostelnyuk who, under duress, presided over the uncanonicalSofcor (church council) of Lvov in 1946, by which the Eastern Rite Catholic church was merged with the Russian Orthodox church...
...People have been imprisoned for organizing study groups, running Sunday schools, providing charitable help for those in prison, or producing and distributing religious literature (a field in which restrictions are particularly tough...
...In a state in which the only legally permitted institutions outside the party are religious ones, certain religious groups have put up an especially determined resistance to state control...
...Some reports now show a genuine concern for believers and even point out that believers have been treated unjustly in Soviet society...
...Believers not only experience restrictions in church, but face discrimination in every other sphere...
...Another 140 have been released since then, though at least 10 who refused to sign statements acceptable to the authorities were returned to camp...
...Many were so broken in health that the government was glad to be rid of them...
...While this is not a priority with Gorbachev, many of the intelligentsia he is trying to woo are now Christian...
...Many dissidents have come to faith during their incarceration in prison...
...The former are mostly sentenced for "violation of the laws of the separation of church and state" (Article 142 in the criminal code) or "infringement of the person and rights of citizens under the guise of performing religious rites" (Article 227...
...Refusal of registration has also been a key 592 element in the repression of groups whose teachings and activities demand too much personal commitment and arouse state disapproval...
...Hopes of a complete amnesty have been dashed...
...despite the most diverse religious and national backgrounds, moral solidarity and faith had drawn them together...
...On the religious scene, however, the government has shown little sign of modifying its traditional hostility...
...The ultimate success of the economic reforms he has initiated will depend upon the loyalty, incorruptibility, and enterprise of the work force, and on the stability of family life, qualities generally found among believers and notably absent elsewhere...
...She has published articles in Commonweal, America, Christian Century, and other journals...
...This is probably because startsy have continued to play a key role in preserving the faith under Communism...
...Still the state interferes in the selection, location, and promotion of church personnel...
...Any believer undertaking what we would consider here to be routine church activities risks penalties of varying severity...
...Meanwhile, Western protests and publicity campaigns are still valid and necessary...
...In addition, believers may suffer harassment during worship, whether routinely as do Ukrainian Catholics and unregistered Baptist congregations, or occasionally, as with Orthodox congregations at Easter...
...A church Sobor, only the fourth under Soviet rule, will be convened...
...Up until this year, the Orthodox church was allowed to print only five small editions of the Bible during the entire period of Soviet rule, and a black-market Bible could fetch over two hundred dollars...
...This year citizens' militia were present both outside and inside even popular Moscow churches, preventing worshippers from entering or trying to create a disturbance...
...No one knows for sure how many religious prisoners there are in the Soviet Union today, but Anatoli Sharansky believes there are five to six thousand...
...Thus it has been forbidden to canonize the nineteenth-century startsy (spiritual fathers) Macarius and Leonid of Optino monastery for the celebration of the millennium of Christianity in Russia in 1988...
...It appears that some local authorities are making concessions...

Vol. 114 • October 1987 • No. 18


 
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