Orthodox America

  The Cry of the New Martyrs -  "All Church Buildings For the Church!"

      Keston reports that Orthodox church activists are circulating an appeal to the Congress of Peoples Deputies asking that the State hand back all church buildings to the Russian Orthodox Church. The text of the appeal notes that while the times of mass repression of believers and closure of churches has passed, "its traces remain". It points out that "local authorities are not hurrying to return churches to believers, despite their many requests..." (KNS 8/24/89/ For example:  In Pskov the church of the Holy Myrrh-bearing Women has been returned. However, it is virtually in ruins, and the local diocese is not contributing any money to the restoration work. 

We'll sell all our belongings if we can only have a church to worship in," --a believer in Leningrad 

 In Leningrad, believers are trying to secure the return of the Church of St. Andrew, which is currently being used by the Institute of Ethnography and Anthropology. Keston reports that "cupboards in the church are filled with human skulls and bones.'

      On June 21, workmen with crowbars, shovels and scaffolding arrived at St. Nicholas Church in Privolzhsk, north-east of Moscow, to remove the 18th century iconostasis. They were driven out by believers who then held a prayer service and padlocked the building. For nearly two weeks they stood guard round the clock to prevent the church from being demolished, rather than returned to them as they had petitioned.

      Not far away, in Ivanovo, where believers attracted world-wide attention this summer by mounting a hunger strike in response to local authorities refusal to return the Church of the Presentation, it was announced that the church had been returned In fact, only a small chapel on the church grounds has been returned, with a "promise" that in two years' time the archives now occupying the church will be moved. But even then, the State plans to keep one of the buildings on the church grounds as a museum of church treasures---stolen in the '20's and '30's. Furthermore, no funerals are to be allowed..