[The ultimate solution in Russia, and in the west itself, is for the Orthodox Church to get out of it's "ghetto" and actively missionize those in Her midst. This is certainly the mind of Christ, but does not seem to be a very high priority for many Orthodox Christians (and more lamentably, heirarchs.)]
[Amen, Augustine! ]
You know I'm always amazed when I hear comments like the above made by christians here in the west. Many of hem even Orthodox.
After 70+ years of some of the most severe persecution ever suffered by a religious group the Russian Orthodox Church suddenly found itself free again. During that time of persecution thousands of churches were demolished, thousands more converted into secular buildings, and thousands more abandoned and in deplorable states. This is what the the church was left to build from.
This article was released by the Religious News Service on
November 27,1995. These statistics are taken right from the KGB files -
MOSCOW [RNS} - Some 200,000 clergy, many crucified, scalped, and otherwise
tortured, were killed during the communist era in the former Soviet Union, a
Russian commission reported here on November 27, 1995. Millions were martyred, jailed, exiled, or put in mental institutions for their faith. Over 40,000 churches were destroyed between 1922 and1980, others were either abandoned or turned into secular buildings the report said.
"Clergymen were crucified on churches' Holy Gates, shot scalped, and
strangled.," said Alexander Yakovlev, head of the Commission for the
Rehabilitation of the Victims of Political Repression which prepared the
report for Russian president Boris Yeltsin. "I was especially shocked by
accounts of priests turned into columns of ice in winter, "Yakovlev
continued, adding that the commission unearthed documets showing that as
early as 1918, Vladimr Lenin had odered a campagn of "merciless terror
Once the Orthodox Church was free it found itself with the task of trying to rebuild from the ashes faced with a lack of finances, without easy access to material like paper, ink, printing press, book binding, etc. and many of the basic utilities needed to teach that we in the west take for granted.
It also found itself without the help and support it expected from its christian brothers and sisters from the west who came in droves to undermine and compete against it. Considering the tools available to both sides at the time, it was like Home Depot coming in and building a huge store to compete with the mom & pop hardware store that was on the block forever. But, in spite of all those odds it has accomplished the following since the fall of communism -
Taken from the Moscow Patriarchate Website -http://www.russian-orthodox-church.org.ru/today_en.htm
Since 1990 the Russian Church has been led by His holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia,. the 15th patriarch in its history, who governs together with the Holy Synod.
In the Russian Orthodox Church today there are 128 dioceses (for comparison, there were 67 diocese in 1989), 19000 parishes (6893 in 1988), and nearly 480 monasteries (18 in 1980). These figures point vividly to an all-round revival of church life taking place under the primatial leadership of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia.
The pastoral service is carried out by 150 bishops, 17500 priests and 2300 deacons.
The network of educational Orthodox institutions is directed by the Education Committee. At present there are 5 theological academies (there were 2 in 1991), 26 seminaries (there were 3 in 1988), and 29 pre-seminaries, which did not exist at all till the 90s. There are two Orthodox universities, a Theological Institute, a women's pre-seminary, and 28 icon-painting schools. The total number of theological students including those of the correspondence departments is about 6000 people. Educational institutions have been established to develop religious education among the laity. This important work is coordinated by the Department for Religious Education and Catechism.
There is a variety of forms in which religious education and catechization of lay people are carried out, including Sunday schools at churches, circles for adults, groups for preparing adults for baptism, Orthodox kindergartens, Orthodox groups in state-run kindergartens, Orthodox gymnasia, schools, lyceums, and Orthodox courses for teachers of catechism. Sunday school has been the most popular form of catechism.
In the field of charity the work is carried out on all-church level through the Department for Church Charity and Social Service.
It is necessary to mention in the first place a number of successfully functioning medical programs. A special mention should be made of the Moscow Patriarchate's Central Hospital of St. Alexis the Metropolitan of Moscow. In the situation where healthcare is becoming commercial, this medical institution is one of the few clinics in Moscow which provide free medical check-up and treatment.
A psychiatric service has been set up at the Mental Health Center of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences. It gives free help to persons sent by parishes in the Moscow diocese.
These are only a few examples of concrete work carried out by the above-mentioned Department.
In December 1990 the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church decided to establish a church youth organization. This decision led to the First Congress of Orthodox Youth which set up an All-Church Orthodox Youth Movement as an official youth organization established by the Russian Orthodox Church. The tasks which the Movement set itself at that time were to attract children, adolescents and young people who sought their way to church in the fold of the Russian Orthodox Church and to unite groups of young Orthodox Christians under programs of social service, restoration of monasteries and churches, pilgrimages and contacts with young Christians in other countries.
The external contacts of the Russian Orthodox Church are supervised by the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate. It tasks include the following:
- to provide hierarchical and financial administration over dioceses, monasteries, parishes and other institutions of our Church in far abroad;
- to prepare decisions for the church authorities concerning church-state and church-society relations;
- to maintain relations of the Russian Orthodox Church with Local Orthodox Churches, non-Orthodox Churches and religious associations, non-Christian religions, religious and secular international organizations, public, political, social, cultural, academic, economic, financial and other institutions, as well as mass media.
Since 1989 the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate has been chaired by Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad Kirill.
After gaining true freedom the Russian Orthodox Church has set itself the task to revive its mission. Faithful to the commandments of the Early Church and continuing the apostolic cause, the Russian Church used to bear witness to Christ "even to the end of the earth" (Acts 18), spreading the Good News of the Word of Life. The missionary achievements of our Church and the very scale of its educational work - from Poland and the Baltic in the west to Alaska and California in the east, from Murmansk and Kamchatka in the north and the Black Sea, the Caucasus, the Middle East and China in the south - demanded all its spiritual, material and human resources. The names of Russian missionaries are ranked by right among the greatest missionaries of Christendom. Suffice it to mention St. Stephen of Perm, St. Triphon of Pechenga and monks of what is known as the Russian Thebaid - the Valamo and Solovki Monasteries, as well as St. Nikolay Equal to the Apostles, the Archbishop of Japan, St. Innocent, the Apostle of America, Archimandrite Makary Glukharev the Apostle of the Altai.
In the later 19th century, an Orthodox Missionary Society was established to help the Russian Church in its missionary work. The missionary and educational work of the Russian Church was interrupted by the 1917 Revolution, when we, according to the Prophet, "received of the Lord's hand double for our sins" (Is. 40:2).
Now when the time of repression and restrictions is past and the Church can again freely bear witness to Christ, the need to revive mission has become the most urgent task for us as the Church and an acute need for society.
In recent years the Russian Orthodox Church has developed close contacts with the Russian Armed Forces. To maintain these contacts the Patriarch and the Holy Synod have established a Synodal Department for Cooperation with the Armed Forces and Law-enforcement Agencies.
Quite an accomplishment considering the odds. Especially when you compare it with the statistics coming from the west in countries that were never under communism and operated in complete freedom where seminaries are being closed for lack of students, and churches are being closed for lack of parishioners!