"There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church, which is, of course, quite a different thing." -Bishop Fulton J. Sheen
Placating terrorists, meeting with dictators, compassion for murderers... but no humanity for the unborn... incredible.
The Russian Orthodox Patriarch died this morning. He was 79. There is not much news yet about his death, but the Holy Father has sent a telegram:
"I was profoundly saddened to receive news of the death of His Holiness Alexis II, Patriarch of Moscow and of All the Russias , and with fraternal affection I wish to convey to the Holy Synod and to all the members of the Russian Orthodox Church my most sincere condolences, assuring you of my spiritual closeness at this very sad time. In my prayer I beseech the Lord to welcome into His Kingdom of eternal peace and joy this tireless servant, and to grant consolation and comfort to all those who mourn his passing, Mindful of the common commitment to the path of mutual understanding and co-operation between Orthodox and Catholics, I am pleased to recall the efforts of the late Patriarch for the rebirth of the Church, after the severe ideological oppression which led to the martyrdom of so many witnesses to the Christian faith. I also recall his courageous battle for the defence of human and gospel values, especially in the European continent, and I trust his commitment will bear fruit in peace and genuine progress, human, social and spiritual. At this sad time of loss, as his mortal remains are consigned to the earth in the sure hope of the resurrection, may the memory of this servant of Gospel of Christ be a support for those who are now in sorrow and an encouragement for those who will benefit from his spiritual legacy as leader of the venerable Russian Orthodox Church".
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Alexy II, died at 79 on December 5, 2008 at his residence at the fashionable Moscow suburb of Peredelkino from heart failure.
During his 18-year patriarchy, which coincided with the collapse of the USSR and difficulties of the post-communist transition, the Russian Orthodox church was transformed from the persecuted and tightly controlled "legal counterrevolutionary force," as defined by Soviet authorities, to a symbol of Russia and an integral and important part of its ruling elite.
His controversial legacy reflects the tragic history of Russian people and their church, and his official image as defender of faith and savior of the Russian soul is tarnished by allegations of his being a KGB agent and the Soviet government's assistant in the destruction of the church.
Alexy was born Alexei Ridiger February 23, 1929, in then-independent Estonia, where his religious parents took refuge from the murderous Bolshevik regime established in neighboring Petrograd in 1917. His grandfather, a colonel of the Tsar's army, was shot by Bolsheviks in 1918.
To be religious in Soviet Russia often meant a death sentence. Missionaries of the Marxist utopia, Bolsheviks could not tolerate any competition for the minds of their captives. Their goal was to establish the absolute monopoly of the State over the thought process by their secular religion of communism.
The Soviet Union was the first state to have as an ideological and practical objective the elimination of religion or, in other words, physical extermination of religious people.
Not for a single year would Soviet authorities give them a break from repressions:
With Lenin's decree of the separation of church and State on January 20, 1918, nationalization (i.e. daylight robbery) of the church's property began: cathedrals and churches, church grounds, all buildings owned by churches were looted and valuables (gold, silver, platinum, paintings, icons, historical artifacts) were either stolen by Communist atheists or sold to the West via their Western sympathizers, agents, or fellow travelers like Armand Hammer, who first visited the Soviet Union and met Lenin in 1921. Hammer claimed that he went to Russia to collect some $150,000 in debts for drugs his company shipped there, but ended bartering wheat to Bolsheviks in exchange of gold and other valuables.
The time of his visit coincided with the first wave of church persecutions: 11,000 priests, monks, and nuns were arrested, and 9,000 executed. Almost all arrests on religious grounds would end with executions.
In the beginning of 1922, Lenin sent confidential instructions to Trotsky, ordering him to exterminate religion (i.e., clerics and other religious people). In the same year, the Bolsheviks organized show trials of the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Tikhon and Metropolitan Benjamin; 2,000 church hierarchs including Benjamin were shot as a result. Tikhon's life was officially spared, but he died shortly of "natural causes."
During 1922–25 strange bedfellows – leading Bolsheviks and church leaders – formed an alliance with the goal of the former's aspiration to break the Church from within and the latter's hope to save what could be saved. They established the Renovated Church presenting Jesus as a militant proletarian resentful of capitalist exploitation.
There is no consensus about the true scale of communist crimes against people of faith. According to some , the number of Orthodox Churches in Russia fell from 29,584 to less than 500 between 1927 and 1940. Between 1917 and 1935, 130,000 Orthodox priests were arrested. Of these, 95,000 were put to death.
According to Russian sources  the number of victims of communist atheism is close to one million.
By the beginning of the Second World War almost all clergy, and millions of believers of all religions and denominations, were shot or sent to labor camps. Theological schools were closed, and religious publications prohibited.
In this "cultural" environment Alexy, ordained as a priest in 1950, rose in the Orthodox hierarchy, becoming Bishop of his native Tallinn in 1961 and Metropolitan of Novgorod and Leningrad in 1986. The sad truth is that in 1957 Alexy was recruited by the KGB. The church itself became a department of the Soviet secret police and could not choose anyone for any leadership position without KGB approval. It is a paradox that many faithful men and women were serving the Devil to see their church preserved. Felix Corley, a British scholar on eastern European religious affairs, insists that there is evidence that Alexy saved some churches during the Khrushchev's onslaught on religious buildings in the early 1960s, including Tallinn's Alexander Nevsky Cathedral . Mr. Corley's opinion is widely shared in the West.
God bless Alexy. I would not.
The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, the Right Honorable Alexy II, was KGB agent "Ouzel," who was a wholesale trader of his friends and associates to the godless communist devil.
Biographies of many church hierarchs in all socialist countries under communism are so freakish, that they dwarf the wildest Orwellian imagination.
Alexi's breath-taking career was engineered by the KGB. Just three years after his "conversion" to the devil as a village priest, he was made the Bishop of Tallinn (he was 32, and married – both very unusual for the Orthodox Church's hopefuls), in the next three years he was made an Archbishop, and then – Metropolitan. In seven years under the militantly atheistic Khrushchev regime, he became the de facto head of the whole church, with unlimited foreign travel privileges. For an ordinary priest, westbound travel was much less likely than space odysseys.
Sure enough "Ouzel" was praised by another KGB operative, Vladimir Putin, who called Alexy's death a great tragedy: "He was a luminous man. His death is a great loss." Russia's chief rabbi, Berel Lazar, said that Alexy was "a man of moral principles who never made compromises on key issues of faith." Mr. Putin's spokesman, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, who was on an official visit to India when the news broke, called Alexy a "great citizen" who "suffered all the critical tests the country experienced during the 20th century."  He definitely did and failed all of them.
Alexy was a vocal supporter of Chechen wars and Russian state television showed priests blessing tanks and other heavy weaponry of mass murder almost every day.
In an outrageous act of blasphemy, Alexy opened and blessed Moscow's Church of God's Wisdom, as the official church of the KGB a.k.a. as the Federal Security Service.
Re: Continuing to offer different views until someone either reads this... ...or tells me to stop. Sigh.
Moscow, Dec. 5, 2008 (CWNews.com) - The death of Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexei II (see today's CWN "News Brief" coverage) brings an end to a tumultuous era in the history of the Moscow patriarchate, and raises crucial questions about the future of Christian ecumenism.
The Russian prelate who died on December 5 had risen through the ranks of the Orthodox hierarchy in the 1960s and 1970s, at a time when the leadership of the Russian Church was closely watched by the Soviet KGB. Although Alexei denied ever having acted as a KGB agent or informer, he was viewed with favor by the Soviet government leadership-- certainly not seen as a threat to the all-encompassing power of the Communist Party.
Nevertheless, when he was elected Patriarch in 1990, at a time when that Soviet power was crumbling, Alexei seized his opportunity and used his power skillfully to bring about a genuine revival in the life of the Orthodox Church in Russia. That revival continues to this day, and the Orthodox Church-- always intimately linked with Russian patriotism-- has forged strong bonds of partnership with the new leaders of the Kremlin.
Decades of subservience under an officially atheistic regime have taken their toll on the Orthodox faith in Russia, and the old days when the Tsar functioned as the protector of the faith are no more than a distant memory. But Patriarch Alexei recognized that Vladimir Putin needed the support of the Moscow patriarchate almost as much as the patriarchate needed the support of the Putin regime. The close partnership between the Orthodox Church and the Russian government continues today, albeit in a new form. Alexei's successor will no doubt seek to strengthen those bonds.
But if the next Russian Patriarch hopes to capitalize on the new stirrings of Russian nationalism, he must recognize the conflict that often arises between nationalist sentiment and ecumenical friendship. Patriarch Alexei adamantly insisted that Russia belongs to the Orthodox Church, even if the vast majority of the Russian people belong to no church at all. That insistence has been a major roadblock to ecumenical progress.
Russia, Patriarch Alexei argued time and again, is the "canonical territory" of the Moscow patriarchate. In Russia and its neighbors-- notably Ukraine-- Catholics should defer to the Orthodox leadership, the Russian prelate said, and the Roman Church should not attempt to set up her own hierarchical structures. During Alexei's reign the Moscow patriarchate issued frequent condemnations of what it saw as Catholic "proselytizing" inside Russia. The Vatican replied that Catholic evangelists were not seeking to steal the faithful away from Orthodox parishes, but to bring the Gospel to those Russians--the vast majority-- with no active religious affiliation. Such explanations fell on deaf ears in Moscow. Again, in the eyes of the Moscow patriarchate all Russians were presumptively Orthodox, and any missionary effort was intrusive.
Because of these complaints from the Moscow patriarchate, the late Pope John Paul II (bio - news) was thwarted in one of his most cherished ambitions: to make an apostolic visit to Russia. Twice the Vatican began planning a "summit meeting" between the Pontiff and the Russian Patriarch, to introduce the possibility of such a trip; each time the Patriarch upset the plans, announcing that he would not meet with the Pope until the Catholic Church renounced "proselytism" and accepted Moscow's claim to an exclusive "canonical territory"-- concessions that the Vatican would not make.
The Patriarch's rebuffs to Pope John Paul II may also have been influenced by his determination to uphold the cause of Russian nationalism. A visit by a Polish Pontiff would have raised special concerns in Russia, in light of the age-old tensions between those two countries. With the election of Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news), the Moscow patriarchate adopted a more conciliatory attitude toward the Vatican-- although the Russian prelate still insisted that he could not meet the Pope until his complaints against the Vatican were addressed.
While maintaining a cordial but distant attitude toward the Vatican, the Moscow patriarchate under Alexei II was at times openly hostile toward the acknowledged leader of the Orthodox world, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople. Yet again, Russian pride appeared to be a major factor. As the leader of what is by far the largest of the Orthodox churches, Patriarch Alexei seemed reluctant to defer to the shepherd of a bedraggled little Christian community in Turkey, regardless of Constantinople's historical claims.
During the past few years, Moscow and Constantinople have been fiercely at odds over the Ecumenical Patriarch's decision to recognize the autonomy of the Estonian Orthodox Church. In the past the Estonian Church was subject to Moscow. (Alexei himself was a native of Estonia, and once the Orthodox bishop there; if the Estonian Church was an independent Orthodox body, his status as head of the Russian Church might be considered anomalous.) In this case the Moscow patriarchate argued that historical precedent should trump current geopolitical realities.
The tensions between Moscow and Constantinople have inhibited ecumenical ties between the Holy See and the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Although Bartholomew I has been an enthusiastic supporter of the cause for Christian unity, he has been hesitant to make concessions to Rome that could aggravate his problems with Moscow.
If a new Russian Orthodox Patriarch adopted a friendlier attitude toward Rome-- or even toward Constantinople, for that matter-- his leadership could produce enormous strides toward the goal of Christian unity. But in order to take those strides, the Russian leader would need to question his Church's strong identification with the forces of Russian nationalism. And simply by raising such questions, he might endanger the current ties between the Moscow patriarchate and the Russian political leadership. The new Patriarch, whoever he may be, will face challenges every bit as difficult as the ones that faced the late Alexei II.
Re: Russian Patriarch Dies Michael , your input is highly appreciated - by me at least .
In this particular case the Russian Orthodox Church sees itself as something vastly different from any other christian church of today - something with an influence similar to the Holy Inquisition during the age of Torquemada . The russian state gives them monopoly in the matters of faith - for example the bishop of a certain region can request the help of the police in removing unwanted missionaries , it gives a lot of wealth in the form of land , buildings - it also pays the salaries of the priests and many more . In return , the church helps the state in many ways - from boosting the birthrate and the morale of the soldiers to branding the political opponents of Putin as heretics ( actually they are paid by a certain people anyway ) . In some cases you see hillarious displays as monks and police fight side by side in dispersing the pride parade attempts -.
Just one question - are they different from the RCC of the Middle Ages ?
Re: Russian Patriarch Dies It is a fascinating story, AD, and I wish I knew more about it. Alexy was a man who apparently was willing to make compromises and he placed his church at the service of the state. He may also have been a man of deep faith but I have no way of knowing. It is a paradox.
Regarding the medieval Church I tend to think it had to have been different. I believe that not because I am Roman Catholic but because at that time there was no such thing as nations as we know them today. People were ruled by nobles who were largely autonomous and nobody expected that government would play such a large role in the lives of people or would be so powerful. That is a modern idea, and in my opinion not a very good one. They dynamic of church/state relations as we experience them today could not have been the same eight hundred years ago.
Re: Russian Patriarch Dies Just a quick reply - I will continue later.
Modern government was almost as powerful as Ivan the Terrible ( who killed most of his nobles and plenty others btw ) , so a powerful state is not a modern idea . Peter the Great modernised Russia using force as well , and killed 140.000 just to build St Petersburg . There are plenty of even more radical examples - the Aztec Empire and their neverending human sacrifices comes to mind .
The church in this case is not at the service of the state per se , but sees itself a guardian of a certain state - one that does not question the authority of the church . The power is shared - like in the old quote regarding the Caesar .
Re: Russian Patriarch Dies AD,
I think you missed my point, probably because I did not make it well enough. The word for tyrant is very old and in most ancient societies a king had the power of life and death over his subjects. That is not what I am talking about. There is a modern expectation that government is to be involved in an individual's life from the moment of birth till the person dies. We are registered, classified, educated, provided for, taxed, and regulated by the state at almost every moment of our lives. That is a new thing. In previous ages, the family was the center of life and the Church was close behind. Now the government strives to replace both. This was Marxist dogma in old Russia and it is de facto belief in the West today. It is a different environment for a Church to try to thrive in than one like the Middle Ages.
Certain societies experimented with state control even in ancient times - see various greek city states for example - Sparta comes to mind . States rise and fall - and it will go that way until the end times .
Re: Russian Patriarch Dies AD,
Could you please be more specific. Sparta was a society dominated by a small militaristic slave-owning class. Probably the first 'modern' example of the type of society I am thinking of would be Prussia which may have had some similarities with Sparta but I still don't see the same thing. The other point is that in modern times secular governments struggle against God attempting to drive him from the public sphere (this is demonic btw) while in ancient times pagan societies were trying to find their way to a higher virtue even if they were not yet fully enlightened.
Re: Russian Patriarch Dies More specific , the agoge system was placing the state before the families - and the mix of pagan gods was carefullly designed for the needs of the state , just like the communist code of ethics - they also practiced eugenics . Their only higher virtue was brute force - nothing new here .