Tuesday, April 21, 2009
According to reports of the news media, on 23-25 August a council of the clergy of the Russian Catholic church of the Byzantine rite was held in the settlement of Sargatskoe, outside Omsk. Soon there began to appear excited commentaries on the part of official representatives of the Moscow patriarchate. Even believing Catholic tried to figure out what happened. In order to resolve questions that have arisen for readers, we decided to turn to Pavel Parfentiev, a prominent representative of the Russian Greek Catholic church, who has devoted himself for several years to a study of its history and canonical status, who kindly agreed to share his thoughts with us.
Pavel Alexandrovich, what actually happened?
Events occurred that we, Russian Orthodox believers in fellowship with Rome (which is how we prefer to identify ourselves who are Russian Catholics of the Byzantine rite), have been awaiting for a long time and for which we have long been praying. The inevitable rebirth of our church occurred. It was inevitable because in the years of persecution by bolsheviks against the faith of its children, believers and priests, Russian Greek Catholics bore abundant martyr's testimony. Christians have known for a long time, since antiquity, that "the blood of the martyrs is the seen of new Christians" (Tertullian). And so today this seed has borne its fruit.
--Does that mean that the Russian Greek Catholic church is not something new for Russia?
--Precisely so. Properly speaking, much depends on one's point of view. We trace our tradition to the time of the baptism of Rus, which happened before the tragic Great Schism that separated the majority of eastern Christians from their western fellow believers. Serious investigators know that there never was a final rupture of fellowship of Russian Christians from the western traditions. Among historians it has rather long been known that the veneration of, for example, Saint Nicholas came to Rus from the West. Recent studies give every reason to affirm that the popularity in Rus of St. Panteleimon has western roots. In essence, the tragic rupture of fellowship with the Catholic, that is, the Universal church never reached its limit. There is much historical confirmation for this.
Properly speaking, the history of the Russian Greek Catholic church and its currently existing exarchate began at the end of the nineteenth century, when a number of priests and laity began realizing that true Orthodox is possible only in communion with Rome. At a council in 1917, the exarchate was created, uniting these believers, Russian Orthodox believers in communion with the Roman See. Unfortunately, a wave of brutal church persecution began afterward. All of our priests and active believers were suppressed. Today our believers are people who walk in the footsteps of these martyrs for church unity who were their spiritual predecessors. The last legal exarch, Bishop Andrei Katkov, died in 1995 without have the possibility of normal communion with the Russian flock. Since then, and until recently, that is, until the council in Sargatskoe, the Russian Greek Catholic church has not had normal church administration and its faithful have been, with rare exceptions, deprived of pastors.
--You said that Russian Greek Catholics recognized that "true Orthodoxy is possible only in communion with Rome." But many suggest that Uniates have converted from Orthodoxy to Catholicism.
--No, that is not so. If in Orthodoxy we have in mind the faith of the holy fathers and the ecumenical council, the it is impossible to maintain that fiath in its integrity without recognizing the primacy of the Roman bishop. This primacy was confirmed and confessed by such ancient saints who have supreme authority in Orthodoxy as St. Theodore the Studite, St. Maxim the Confessor, and many others.
Here, for example, is what St. Maxim the Confessor wrote: "All the ends of the earth and each of its parts, whoever purely and faithfully confesses the Lord, looks directly to the Holy Roman church and to its confession and faith as upon the sun with undimmed light, awaiting from it the rays of sacred dogmas of our fathers, in accordance with this, as the inspired and holy councils infallibly and piously determined. For, from the time of the advent of the Incarnate Word, all churches in every part of the world have maintained only one great church as their support and basis, seeing that, in accordance with the promise of Christ, our Savior, the gates of hell will never overcome it, and that it holds the keys of true confession and true faith in him, and that it reveals the tru and only religion to such people as come to it with piety, and it closes and forbids any heretical lips which speak against the Almighty." This extremely great father says that Rome was given by the Incarnate Word of God himself, that is, Christ, the right to bind and loose all churches throughout the world.
Unfortunately, such views of the fathers (incidentally, they are reflected even in contemporary Orthodox services) are hushed up today in the Russian Orthodox church. This is a sad tradition that is being continued from the prerevolutionary synodal period of its history. At that time a whole series of texts of the words of the fathers and the acts of the ecumenical councils were simply intentionally distorted by comparison with the Greek originals. There is a multitude of conclusive examples of this.
Also, this is continuing even now. Here, for example, I have in my hands a book, "Our Faith: Orthodoxy and world religions," published in Moscow with the blessing of Bishop of Tulchinsk and Bratslava Ippolit. In its attacks upon Catholicism it goes so far as to affirm that "not a single one of the holy fathers and teachers of the church ever recognized Peter as the chief of apostles and vicar of Christ." It is not clear what this is--blatant ignorance or intentional lying. If it is the former, then why should we listen to the ignorant one? If it is the second, then we, as Christians, should recall that the father of lies is the devil. You cannot affirm a good matter with a lie. . . .
--What happened in Sargatskoe?
--Priests of our church met together in order to ascertain how, in accordance with the canons of the church, they should operate in the current situation and which authority to submit to. Participants in the council reviewed all the rules and which law is established for the church for our current situation. It turned out that the functions of acting administrator of the exarchate are supposed to be fulfilled by the parish priest who has seniority. This turned out to be Fr Sergii Golovanov. All priests who were present, on the basis of the canons, decided to submit to him. Since in this case the canons of the church require that the acting administrator report his assumption of office and the development of the situation to the supreme church authority, this was done. Such authority of the exarchate is the bishop of Rome, that is, the pope. A letter was sent to him from the Uniate council.
That is, from a normal church point of view, nothing especially sensational happened. Everything happened in accordance with prescribed canonical procedure. This could more likely be a sensation for conscience-less church politicians. How many times have they tried to suffocate these "inconvenient" Russian Greek Catholics, but they still life and even dare to declare themselves, regardless of the unpropitious conditions. Well, what does one do; this is how the history of the church has always been. Even the apostle Paul said: "We are considered dead, but lo, we are alive."
--But at the time of his visit in March, Cardinal Walter Kasper said that Russian Greek Catholics should subordinate themselves to the local Latin bishops.
--That was a mistake. Evidently Cardinal Kasper did not fully grasp the situation, or he did not have enough time to think about his response. Perhaps there were some other reasons. But from the point of view of the canons of the church, this was a mistaken opinion, at least for the time. . . .
The Servant of God
Bishop Nicholas Charnetsky, C.SS.R.
Bishop Charnetsky was appointed by the Pope for the areas outside of Galicia, where the Ruthenian rite of his childhood was observed. As a result he was a missionary bishop of the Russian rite. His driving inspiration was the message of Our Lady of Fatima and Her promise of the Conversion of Russia. On 10th October 1939, Metropolitan Sheptytsky made him Exarch of Volyn, Pidlassia, Kholm and Polessia.
The Servant of God, Kyr Nicholas Charnetsky, C.SS.R.
Apostolic Visitator beyond Halychyna
Confessor of the Catholic Faith, 11 years imprisoned, released 3 years before he died, his tomb is a source of miracles.
Ours are the Catholic spirit and convictions of Kyr Nicholas Charnetsky the Redemptorist missionary bishop-monk for the territories beyond Halychyna, a tireless apostle among the Orthodox for Holy Re-Union; in 1933 alone he united 56 villages with the Catholic Church.
We are convinced that Kyr Nicholas Charnetsky's apostolic zeal for the conversion of the territories beyond Halychyna and of Ukraine, Belarus' and Russia is an example of authentic missionary charity that must be applied today. The salvation of souls is the supreme law of the Church; no human law or ecumenical agreement can be permitted to restrict missionaries and separate souls from the Catholic Church.
This is the death-sentence for the true 'Sister-Churches' of the Latin Catholic Church, the CATHOLICS OF THE ORIENTAL CHURCHES. In June 1993 a 'Joint International Commission' of high-ranking Latins and schismatics met in Balamand, Lebanon, and declared that the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches are now considered as 'Sister-Churches': "the form of 'missionary apostolate' which has been called 'uniatism' can no longer be accepted." They are "responsible together for maintaining the Church of God... There is no question of conversion of people from one Church to the other in order to ensure their salvation." Catholics may no longer work in areas of Orthodox jurisdiction, and Catholic charity organisations are to fund Orthodox projects. This is ecumenism's response to Moscow's demands that "Uniatism" and the "Uniates" be finally crushed, especially in Western Ukraine, Romania and Armenia.
Monday, April 20, 2009
By Feodor Petrov email@example.com
This Community is the only known Greek-Catholic Community in North-Western Russia (regarded in Latin Curia not as a parish, but as a pastoral point), at least the only one that has its own Greek-Catholic pastor, who is Fr. Andrey. Although it is located in Moskow, the capital of Russia, only a few people know about it.
Fr. Andrey Udovenko was born in 1961 and lived in Mordovia (one of the regions of Russia). He was a member of the Russian Orthodox Church and an Orthodox priest from 1987. He received his priestly formation during the period when the ecumenical activity of the Orthodox Church in Russia was high and the ecumenical relationships with the Catholic Church were good. As many other priests formed in that time, he was inclined to Catholicity. (The situation in today's Russian Orthodox Church is quite different. It's usual now that Orthodox clergy in Russia regard the Catholic Church as spoilt and even heretical, though official statements are much softer.)
During the time of his service as an Orthodox priest, the KGB tried to force Fr. Andrey to work for them. It wasn't unusual during those times for many Orthodox priests and bishops to work for this frightening organisation. The local government official, called the Representative in the Religious Affairs, demanded that he work for the KGB, but he refused and his own bishop made his life conditions impossible, especially financially. He was also threatened by his bishop that he would be forbidden from performing his priestly duties.
While many Orthodox priests of that time desired to be in union with Rome, they were awaiting the final reunification, being faithful to their Russian Orthodox people. But under these circumstances it was impossible for Fr. Andrey to wait any longer. That's why he asked to be received into the Catholic Church as an Eastern Catholic priest. As the Catholic Church regards Orthodox sacraments as completely valid, he was received as an already ordained priest in 1991. Since March, 1992, he was taken under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan of Lviv, head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, and as a priest of the Eparchy of Lviv.
During the difficult period before he became Catholic de jure, he called his Orthodox bishop's office often to ask if he was forbidden to serve or not. The bishop's response always confirmed that he could continue to perform his priestly duties. But when he became Catholic in March, 1991, he learned to his astonishment, that he was forbidden to serve since August, 1990. The only explanation he could find is that his bishop back-dated the decree about it. That was the last step of the Fr. Andrey's official relationships with his former bishop.
Fr. Andrey insists that he didn't change his faith, nor give up his orthodoxy. In this he follows the thoughts of Vladimir Soloviev, as well as of his predecessors, Russian Eastern Catholics at the beginning of the 20th century. They preferred to call themselves "Orthodox in communion with Rome" rather than "eastern Catholics", It means they are completely Orthodox (in their liturgical heritage, way of thinking, spirituality etc.) and at the same time completely Catholic (recognizing the primacy of the Pope of Rome and all the Catholic faith, infallibly taught by the Catholic Church, — though in the Catholic East they can be sometimes expressed in the terms a little bit different from those of the Catholic West).
As a Greek-Catholic priest he started to serve in Moskow and formed his new community. Now he lives in Moskow with his wife Helena. They haven't children. He serves his community as its pastor. He said, that it is the only community he works for at the moment. He's temporarily incardinated as a priest into the Latin Apostolic Administration of the North of Russia, under the jurisdiction of its Latin Ordinary. All the Greek-Catholics of Moskow are formally placed under his pastoral care, though only a few know about it. He lives with his wife in a one-room apartment in Moskow and has a comparatively small income. It's interesting that he has formed friendly bonds with some priests of the Russian Orthodox Church. This indicates that not all of them feel hostility towards the Russian Eastern Catholics.
Fr. Andrey has written several books, including an unofficial Greek-Catholic catechism, a very interesting book on worship in the Byzantine Catholic tradition called Mystagoggia (Greek "Explanation of the Sacraments"), a book about Christian Egypt and a Dictionary of Christianity. All these books, except the dictionary, are as yet unpublished and Fr. Andrey hopes he will some day be able to raise the money to have them printed. Taking into consideration that there are very few serious Greek-Catholic books in Russian available, we can sincerely share his hope.
The roots of the community are completely "Russian". It was not started by foreign missionaries — it appeared and grew on the Russian ground. Fr. Andrey and his flock consider themselves a Russian Orthodox Community in communion with Rome. They prefer the name Orthodox-Catholic community of the Holy Apostles Peter and Andrew, although they refer to themselves as a Greek-Catholic community in their official papers. The name Orthodox-Catholic has deep historical roots in Russia. When in the beginning of the 20th century the first Eastern Catholic groups started in Russia, under the recently beatified Fr. Leonid Feodorov, their exarch, St. Petersburg Greek-Catholics used the name Orthodox-Catholic for their first house-churches as well as for their magazine — an Orthodox-Catholic magazine, "Word of Truth". Fr. Andrey and his wife are fond of the Russian people to whom they belong, and of Russian history, culture and Church heritage. Orthodox-Catholics are the same as Eastern Catholics (Orthodox Christians with the fidelity to Rome), but the last term was not used historically and is a little bit artificial for the Russian language.
The name of the community is very symbolic, since the Apostle Peter is a source of church unity and represents the See of Rome, and the Apostle Andrew (after whom Fr. Andrey was named,) traditionally represents the See of Constantinople and the Byzantine Tradition. He was also, according to legend, the Apostle who preached the Gospel in the lands that would one day become the Ukraine and Russia.
The community itself is not big. There are about 15-20 people at the usual Sunday Vespers (on Saturday evenings as the liturgical day starts after sunset on the preceding day), about 30-40 people at the usual Sunday Liturgy, and about 25-30 participants at their weekly meeting outside the Liturgy, which will be explained later. During Easter, which is the most important feast of Christian tradition, there were about 80 attendants this year. Since there are not so many members, the life of the community is very family-like.
All the members of the community came during Fr. Andrey's work as Greek-Catholic priest. Most of them were not believers before they came to the community, only a few of them are former members of the Russian Orthodox Church. Some of the members are very active in the life of the Community and help Fr. Andrey a great deal in his work.
History of the Parish
The Community was formed in 1991. Since March 1992 the Community has been under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan of Lviv (Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church). The history of the community started with simple prayer meetings. The Liturgical Services began much later. During the first period of Community history, its Liturgy and meetings took place in the state school. But this later became impossible. From 1999, the community was transferred to the jurisdiction of the local Latin Ordinary. About this time the Sisters, Missionaries of Charity, who have a hospital for mentally handicapped children in Moskow, let Fr. Andrey and his community hold their Liturgical service (Vespers and Sunday Liturgy) in their Latin Chapel there. At the moment the community continues to gather there for the Liturgy. It exists as a "pastoral point" for the Greek-Catholics of Moskow under the jurisdiction of the local Latin Ordinary. Under the civil law it's an unregistered religious group. This means they can't have any buildings or other property as a community. The only rights such a group has is to worship and to give religious education to its members.
The Community gathers for worship in the Chapel of the Sisters, Missionaires of Charity (MC) at ul. Chechulina 13b, Moskow. Each Saturday the Vespers takes place at 6 p.m. and each Sunday the Liturgy is held at 9 a.m. The community is Russian Orthodox liturgically, that means it uses the same Liturgy (including the old liturgical calendar, fasts according to the Russian Orthodox traditions, and Church-Slavonic as the liturgical language), which is used by the Russian Orthodox Church. Of course the Pope and its Latin Ordinary are mentioned during the liturgical prayers, not the Moskow Patriarch. No latinisation is admitted in the Liturgy, which is very important for Fr. Andrey as well as for any Eastern Christian, especially orthodox, attending the Liturgy. There are some small changes in the Rite — the Gospel is read in Russian, not in Church Slavonic, and the congregation can sit during the sermon. But it was made in accordance with old and respectable eastern traditions, that are simply not in use now in the Russian Orthodox Church.
Attending the Sunday Liturgy in this parish is a very moving experience. You can feel a very strong unity between the participants, their deep faith and profound devotion, that are quite typical of the Eastern Christians. At the same time, the feeling is much more personal than during the usual Russian Orthodox Church Liturgy — maybe because the community is rather small. The liturgical chants used during the Liturgy are very traditional. They are simple enough but sung by the whole congregation — this isn't as common in most of the usual Orthodox parishes. Of course the Communion is received under both species, as practically all the Christian East (including Orthodox Christians) does.
Beyond the Sacraments
The prayer meetings that started the community's history, are still held. At the moment they take place on Sunday evenings. They start with guitar songs, sung by the members of the community and guests. After that, four members of the community offer their thoughts in turn, in the form of sermons. Fr. Andrey said that, according to the Slavonic church traditions, only men having a good reputation (not in manifest sin, taking part in community life, not smoking etc.) are given the right to make such sermons publicly during these meetings. Then the New Testament is read aloud. Each meeting, one chapter from the New Testament is read and discussed, so the whole New Testament should be read during seven years. After the reading each person present at the meeting can share his thoughts and feelings about the chapter read. Then the participants pray in their own words. After a small meal, the more traditional prayers take place.
Besides these meetings, there are other activities in the community. They prepared some audio tapes and CDs with the music performed by the community members (including guitar songs, psalms etc.). Also the community makes a retreat each year under Fr. Andrey's guidance. It's usually a five day retreat or, in other words, spiritual exercises. Of course it's done completely in the Eastern tradition.
There's no organised charity work or social service in the community (that's traditional for the Orthodox mentality too). But some members are helping other people in their need as best they can. For example some of the women wash the children's laundry for the MC Sisters regularly.
Fr. Andrey himself has a comparatively small income, the main part of which is the financial support from the German Foundation called Kirche in Not. He said that he and his community don't get any other support from the church officials. "Some families of the Community have many children and a small income, but our Administration Caritas doesn't want to help them", said Fr. Andrey. He doesn't receive any financial or moral support from the local Latin clergy. He's sure that they're simply not interested in the existence of his community.
The home for the Missionaries of Charity
The community doesn't have any church building or chapel, so their only means of gathering for Liturgy depends on the Sisters, Missionaries of Charity, who let them use their Chapel. "If we could have our own church building" - says Fr. Andrey - "there would be many more people than now". At the same time, according to Fr. Andrey, the local Church Authorities to whom the community is subject, look on the Greek-Catholics as the barrier and problem in their ecumenical relationships with the Orthodox Church. Fr. Andrey doesn't agree with this point of view. He believes that if orthodox priests and laity would see attention, love and respect given to the Eastern Catholics from the local Latin Church authorities, it would lead to the reunification much faster, but it's clear that the local Church authorities pay respect to the eastern heritage in word only, with their deeds quite opposite to their words.
The Greek-Catholic Community of the Holy Apostles Peter and Andrew urgently needs your prayer support in its needs. It's a necessity for all the Greek-Catholics in Western Russia. Most of them don't even exist officially, and have no priests who can provide them with the proper pastoral care according to their respectable Rite. Your love and prayers are very important in this crucial situation.
Russian-style icon near Missionaries of Charity Chapel
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Friday, April 17, 2009
From Solovetski to Rome, the story of a Russian Pilgrim
Born on 15 November, 1880 in Archangelsk in northern Russia, Pavlos Meletiev entered the famous Russian Orthodox monastery of Solovetski, situated on islands in the White Sea, at a very early age. In 1908 he was ordained a priest, and was designated by his superiors to the active ministry at the request of the Bishop of Archangelsk. Known for his missionary zeal and devotion, the young monk was arrested by the Bolsheviks shortly after the revolution in 1917 and condemned to death. Divine Providence preserved him from the fate reserved for the 121 Russian Orthodox bishops and some 11,000 of their priests 'liquidated' over the next few years of Lenin's Reign of Terror, and the sentence of Fr Pavlos was commuted to five years of hard labour. Having survived this ordeal, Fr Pavlos emerged from the horrors of the Soviet prison system only to find his church in ruins, both physically and morally. Many of the bishops and clergy who had survived Lenin's war against religion had done so only at the price of the most degrading subservience to, and compromise with, the atheistic tyrants. His own monastery had been closed down and the Solovetski islands complex turned into a maximum security prison. For him there was only one option, the life of an underground priest. Soon he was re-arrested, and sent back to the GULAG, this time for seven years in the notorious Siberian camp of Karaganda. God's grace, however, was with him, and Fr Pavlos persevered through this living hell, and returned to his catacomb ministry on his liberation.
The German occupation of Western Russia in 1940 was the occasion of a the breathing-space allowed to the underground church at the expense of the official one, and the consequent attempt at spiritual reorganisation saw Fr Pavlos consecrated as Bishop of Briansk in 1942. When the Germans began to retreat soon after, Bishop Pavlos and his sister, a nun, Mother Igumena Serafima, saw that exile was their only choice. Many adventures were in store for the two refugees, but God's Providence accompanied them safely all the way to the end point of their journey - Rome. For some years, this sincere bishop had been led through prayer to believe in the necessity of being united with the Catholic Church under the Roman Pontiff. Indeed, the fulfilment of this desire had been the most serious reason prompting him to leave his beloved Russia. He had reached, independently, the same conclusion as had the Martyr-Bishop Varfolomey Remov, the former representative to Metropolitan Peter, the locum tenens of the late Patriarch Tikhon, who had endured eighteen months of futile torture aimed at making him renounce his conversion to the Catholic Church before being shot at Moscow's infamous Butyrky prison on 1 August, 1935. And so it came to pass on 21 September 1946 that the aged prelate humbly made his profession of the Catholic Faith into the hands of the Pope's representative Cardinal Tisserant, receiving from Pope Pius XII the titular see of Heracleopolis.
His remaining days were passed between his beloved Rome and the visitation of various centres of Russian Catholics, particularly in Germany and Belgium. His, however, was rather a hidden and humble interior life. The dominating intention of all his prayer and penance in these last years was the conversion of his people to the Catholic Church. Perhaps the highlight of his life was the leading of a pilgrimage of some 500 Russian Catholics to Rome and Fatima for the Holy Year of 1950-1951, which terminated with his singing a Pontifical High Mass in his Russian Byzantine rite before the assembled crowds at Fatima.
In Rome, where the Russian pilgrims had assisted at the joyous celebrations marking the proclamation of the dogma of the Assumption of Our Lady, Bishop Meletiev had handed a petition to the Sovereign Pontiff on their behalf in which he, Bishop Evreinov (another convert from Russian Orthodoxy) and the Russian Catholics asked, on behalf of their beloved homeland, for the
"special consecration of our country, Russia, which has suffered so much, to Our Lady the Queen of the World, that is, to Her Motherly and Immaculate Heart pierced by the sword...the deliverance of our country, followed by that of the whole world from the terrible slavery of Bolshevism, cannot be obtained by material forces of arms and money...the struggle taken against God and Holy Church by the Bolsheviks is not led by mere human powers. These forces have at their source Satan himself and the spirits of darkness. The evil is Satan, who has assumed the appearance of Marxist-Bolshevik atheism, and the force capable of overcoming it is our Holy Queen and protectress, the Mother of our God...But who can make this consecration in the name of Russia, which has been profaned and enslaved? We see only one solution, and we express it by our humble request. We ask that this consecration be done by the Vicar of Christ on earth, successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Peter, Sovereign Pontiff of the Universal Church, the Pope of Rome..."
Tragically, to this very day this request has not been fulfilled. This man of prayer was knocked over by a car in Brussels, where he died soon after on 19 May 1962. God in His mercy did not let him see the opening of the Second Vatican Council some four months later at which the appeasement of the Moscow régime and its puppet church was to set the keynote from the very opening speech, to which the Ukrainian bishops protested publicly.
The two Apostles of the Slavs, Saints Cyril (869 AD) and Methodius (885 AD), of Greek origin, being brothers, were both born in Macedonia. Their missionary work among the Slavs brought the Russian peoples to Christ. The Russian Rite developed its characteristics after the Baptism of Saint Vladimir and the people of Kiev-Rus' in 988 AD. The Divine Liturgy is celebrated in Old Church Slavonic.
After the Consecration and Our Father the priest blesses the warm water and pours a few drops into the chalice to signify the union, in faith and charity, of our humanity with Christ. He says: "The fervour of the Faith, the fullness of the Holy Ghost." The Russian rite uses leavened bread. The particles are placed on the pattern in special positions to represent Our Lord, Our Lady, the angels, prophets, martyrs and saints, the living and the dead.
Leonid Ivanovich Feodorov was born at Saint Petersburg on 4 November 1879, in an Orthodox family. He lost his father when he was very young, after a serious reverse of fortune. He was brought up by his mother, Liubova Dimitrievna,who spared nothing to give Leonid a good education.
In the autumn of 1890 Leonid entered the second imperial gymna-sium at Saint Petersburg, and when he finished his classical studies he enrolled in the Orthodox Ecclesiastical Academy in 1901. He only stayed two years at the Academy; his lively intelligence led him to sift every question to the roots. The study of church history and of certain writings of the Fathers inclined him more and more toward monasticism, towards the priesthood, and also towards Catholicism.
His professors and his colleagues were perfectly well aware of his Catholic leanings. From time to time they saw him attending the sermons given at the Roman Catholic Church of Saint Catherine, which was an international parish. The parish priest at the time (1901-1905) Father Jan Szyslawski, was very friendly and had a good library that he gladly opened to everyone interested. Leonid had chosen a question involving Catholic dogma for his thesis; he went to Szyslawski and became one of Szyslawski's devoted disciples.
These contacts gave Leonid the desire to go abroad to finish his education, and at the same time his doubts about Orthodoxy were growing stronger. When he asked the permission of the Rector of the Academy, Archimandrite Theophan, the venerable old man answered: "I know where you wish to go, and why. Go, and may God go with you!" Theophan was quite convinced of the truth of Catholicism, but like a number of others he could not bring himself to take the definite step.
At the beginning of the summer of 1902, Leonid left for Rome. He stayed eight days in L'viv, as the guest of the Servant of God, Metropolitan Andrew Sheptytsky (1865 - 1944), and opened his heart to him. The Metropolitan could appreciate the elevated sentiments of this youth and the rectitude of his intentions; he arranged to meet him in Rome and gave him letters of recommendation. Leonid was already more than half Catholic; his conversations with the Metropolitan convinced him.
A Russian rite Catholic priest, monk and Confessor.
On 31 July, 1902, the feast of Saint Ignatius Loyola, he was united to the Catholic Church at the Gesu in Rome. Metropolitan Sheptytsky presented him to Pope Leo XIII and he was admitted to the Pontifical College at Anagni. Leo XIII had the free disposition of several scholarships; he gave Leonid one and he was registered under the name of Leonid Pierre, so as not to arouse too much suspicion.
He did not know a word of Italian and was not accustomed to express himself in Latin, but after four years he had so mastered the language that he could write it with the greatest facility and even elegance. On 9 August 1903 he assisted at the coronation of Saint Pius X in Saint Peter's. In 1905 he became Doctor of Philosophy and in 1907 Bachelor of Theology.
On 12 February 1908 he was one of the acolytes at the solemn Pontifical Divine Liturgy concelebrated in the presence and with the participation of Pope Saint Pius X: the chief celebrants were the Melkite Patriarch Cyril VIII of Antioch and the Servant of God, Metropolitan Andrew Sheptytsky; the ceremony marked the fifteenth centenary of the death of Saint John Chrysostom.
In view of Leonid's future apostolate, Kyr Andrew thought it better that he should not be ordained by any Ukrainian bishop, and so he was ordained by Bishop Michael Mirov, the Bulgarian Greek-Catholic Bishop at Constantinople who also represented Bulgaria at the Ottoman court. Kyr Michael ordained Leonid deacon on 22 March 1911 and priest on 25 March of the same year.
Since Leonid was fourteen he had felt called to the monastic life. Metroplitan Sheptytsky sent him to Bosnia to begin his novitiate on 20 May 1912 under the direction of the starets or Elder Josaphat. On 12 February 1913 Father Josaphat gave Leonid the monastic tonsure and admitted him to the first degree of Eastern monasticism, the degree of archairos rassophor, which is a preparatory state for the "Little Habit" or lesser schema. Leonid took the monastic name of Father Leontios.
The Serbs disliked the presence of a Catholic monastery, even as humble as this one, and in December 1913 they caused so much trouble that it had to be given up. Leonid went back to the Studion in L'viv. The assassination at Sarajevo happened on 28 June 1914. In July peace was so fragile that he thought it best to go back to Russia, both for his own security and in view of his future apostolate. To avoid arousing suspicions, he went by way of Constantinople. He had no sooner arrived in Saint Petersburg than he was arrested as the "secretary of Metropolitan Sheptytsky" and sent into exile in Tobolsk, beyond the Ural Mountains. He remained there for three years, until March 1917.
The first Russian Catholic Exarch.
The Russian Revolution happened on 12 March 1917. On 29 March, the Provisional Government of Prince George Evgenievich Lvov proclaimed a total amnesty for all those imprisoned on political or religious charges. Without losing a moment, the six priests in Petrograd who constituted all the Russian Greek-Catholic clergy reopened their little church on Barmaleieva Street. A few days later Metropolitan Andrew arrived from Yaroslavl. The Metropolitan had already told his priests that Father Leonid would be named Exarch.
The three-day Russian rite Greek-Catholic Synod presided over by the Met-ropolitan opened on Monday, 29 May. Besides the Russian clergy, the principal Roman Catholic dignitaries of the capital were there. The Metropolitan showed everyone the authenticated copy of the pontifical document written by Pope Saint Pius X which authorised him to exercise his jurisdiction in Russia. He announced the nomination of the Exarch with episcopal jurisdiction. The nomination was at once recognized by the Provisional Government. Presumably the episcopal consecration of the Exarch was done in private for reasons which can easily be guessed and a public announcement that Exarch Leonid was a bishop could easily have condemned him to death.
Up until then the existence of the Russian rite Catholic Church was strictly prohib-ited by the Tsarist government. It seemed that a new religious era was beginning for Russia. But they were to see the truth of the words that Exarch Leonid had said one day to one day to a companion at Anagni: "Russia will not repent without travelling the Red Sea of the blood of her martyrs and numerous sufferings of her apostles." The coup d'etat of 25 October 1917 was the prelude.
Duly confirmed, the Exarch was only able to exercise his apostolate for five years, with difficulties. The Bolsheviks had seized exclusive power in October 1917; the decree of separation of church and state was proclaimed on 23 January 1918, and Lenin's first Soviet constitution was proclaimed on 5 February 1918. Violent persecution began in 1922.
The Bolsheviks had scarcely taken power when they began their measures against religion. The two Russian Greek-Catholic communities at Petrograd and Moscow could not escape from all these measures. The Bolsheviks understood very well that the strongest force of resistance was in the Catholic Church. The Catholic priests remained united in their opposition to the maxims of Bolshevism and continued to teach Christian doctrine, even though it was forbidden to do so to anyone under eighteen years of age. On 5 December 1922 all the Catholic churches in Petrograd were closed down and in January 1923 Msgr. Jan Cieplak, the Auxiliary Bishop of Mohiliov, was arrested along with fourteen priests including the Exarch Leonid. In the night of 2-3 March, they were told that they were being transferred to Moscow for trial.
The public sessions went from 21 to 25 March in the grand hall of what had been the club for the nobility. It was filled to the rafters because of the quality of the accused. To the great surprise of the spectators, amongst the Roman cassocks and the characteristic appearance of the Polish bishops and priests they saw the Exarch Leonid, wearing his Russian riasa. This was itself a statement: many people asked why this bearded priest, evidently a Catholic, was not dressed like the others; thus they learned of the existence of Russian rite Catholicism. The indict-ment was very long. They were all accused of opposing the Revolution and resisting Soviet laws. In his address to the court the public prosecutor, Nicholas Vasilievich Krylenko, depicted the Exarch as a fanatic organizer of a common front against Communism. The verdict was death for Bishop Jan Cieplak and Msgr Constantine Budkiewicz, parish priest of Saint Catherine's in Petrograd. The Exarch was sentenced to ten years in prison; the other priests were each sentenced to ten years or three years.
No sooner was the sentence given than the diplomats tried to obtain a commutation for those sentenced to death, because the execution was set for 29 March. The interventions succeeded only for Bishop Cieplak; a year later he was exchanged for three noted Bolsheviks and expelled from Russia. Afraid that these interventions would also succeed in favour of Msgr Budkiewicz, who had already obtained a stay of execution, the most bloodthirsty Bolsheviks took him to the sub-basement of the prison during the night of 31 March and shot him dead with their revolvers as he blessed his assassins- it was the night of Easter.
In 1926 the Polish priests were exchanged for an equal number of Communists detained in Poland and elsewhere. The occasion was taken to ask that the Exarch also be released. After two months the response was that instead of complete liberty he was given the category of "minus six," which meant that he might not reside in the six principal cities: Petrograd, Moscow, Kiev, Kazan, Nizhni-Novgorod, (also Warsaw before the Revolution), or any maritime town. The Exarch decided to live in Kaluga, where the Roman rite parish priest, Father Jan Pawlowicz, welcomed him like a brother. Here the Exarch could offer the Russian rite Mass without persecutions.
A return to Mohiliov was closest to the Exarch's heart. He had been very well received there in 1922; the Russian-Catholic population there had no priest and they appealed to him insistently. These good people of Belarus had originally been Greek-Catholic. The Semashko apostasy of 1839 had forced them into schism, but they would easily return to their old faith. Finally, Exarch Leonid made up his mind, but he committed the same crime for which he had been sentenced: spreading the idea of church union among the Orthodox. The Exarch was arrested and deported to the central prison at Solovetsky to finish his ten-year sentence.
Solovki's Prisoners for the Love of Christ and the Conversion of Russia.
Solovetsky was a great monastery, very famous in Russian history, where there were still a certain number of monks. The buildings are noteworthy. It had become a huge penitentiary, but the Bolsheviks had not occupied the whole complex. Near the Kremlin or citadel, in the cemetery, there was a church where the monks could hold their services; about a hundred detained Orthodox ecclesiastics attended this church. The Catholics used a small chapel three kilometres from the monastery Kremlin.
Wine was scarce, even though the relatives of the prisoners who were themselves still at liberty took care to send wine from time to time; the guards often drank it. Then the Catholics remembered that altar wine can be made from dry raisins, so they had raisins sent. Mass was celebrated almost every day at a very early hour of the morning because of the forced labour from which no one was exempt. Exarch Leonid strongly supported this early morning Mass, saying that this could be the only sacrifice offered that day in Russia for Russia.
Little by little, with the poor resources they had, they repaired the chapel and adorned it as best they could. Eventually, they had four complete sets of vestments. They obtained permission to have the Vigil (Vespers, Matins, Lauds, and Prime) on Saturday evenings. They preached, of course, and the former directress of a women's institution who had been deported because of her religious fervour became a zealous Catholic. They went to confession on the road, or elsewhere, appearing just to hold a private conversation without giving any exterior sign of a religious ritual.
During the summer of 1926 the first Roman rite priest arrived, Father Leon Baranowski, the dean of Vitebsk, who eventually died in exile at Narym in Siberia. After much hesitation he agreed to say Mass, and in a short time they were able to concoct everything necessary for the Roman rite, even to make proper hosts. After that there was also a Roman rite Mass, and even several when the number of deported priests grew. Little by little twenty Roman rite priests came; they began to say Mass secretly in their rooms, at a very early hour. On alternate Sundays they sang either the Russian rite or the Roman rite Mass, and there was a sermon either in Russian or in Polish.
In July 1928 Bishop Boleslas Sloskans arrived at Solovetsky. Since he was a bishop, he ordained a Russian seminarian to the diaconate and the priesthood in September. So there was one more Russian Greek-Catholic priest.
Eventually all this reached the ears of the GPU of Solovetsky. They were angry that the Catholics remained dignified, calm, and in full possession of their intellectual faculties instead of letting themselves be broken and brutalized like so many other detainees. The September ordination served as a pretext; in November 1928 the use of the chapel was stopped. Now there were only secret services in various rooms, and to bring Holy Communion to the women, kept in separate quarters, they resorted to stratagems used in the primitive Church during violent persecution. The evening of 19 January 1929 (the Feast of the Epiphany) there was a general search: many utensils for worship were confiscated by the prison authorities, but they were able to save the most necessary vessels. The Catholics were then scattered amongst different rooms, mingled with other political detainees and even with common criminals. Nevertheless the priests continued to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice as best they could: one in the museum where he was the watchman, after obtaining the night duty; another in the work-shops where he could go at night since he was an electrician; another in the carpentry shop, or in the disinfection room, in a mill, in a cave, in the forest using a flat stone for an altar. The Exarch continued to say that they had to do even the impossible so that there would be at least one Holy Mass each day.
On the Russian rite Easter Sunday of 1929, since the GPU allowed the Orthodox and the Jews to celebrate their feast days, they did not dare refuse the Russian Catholics, although they did forbid the Roman Catholics since their Easter was already passed. It was the last time that they were able to have a public Divine Liturgy.
One after the other the priests who had been held in the central penitentiary were sent to the island of Anzer. Yet, for two more years they were not deprived of their secret Holy Masses. They used only seven or eight drops of wine and a drop of water for the Holy Sacrifice. They were permitted to celebrate without vestments. The detainees had become very clever at hiding everything from the Soviet commissars, who never completely succeeded in the one supreme aim of stopping the Mass.
This long detention of Russian and Roman rite Catholic priests, and the mutual help which they gave each other had the result that in the Catholic community of Solovetsky, every-thing was held in common. The other detainees looked to the Catholics as a model of organization, which greatly irritated the Soviet authorities who could not overcome it; they were all united in the same bond of love.
Here we quote some reflections of the Polish priest Father Donat Novitski, which was written in 1934 after he was freed:
"Here is how one could consider the mentality of the Russian rite Catholics before their incarceration in 1923 and during the nine years of suffering that followed, from 1923 to 1932. They accepted the perse-cution of their missionary work as well as their personal sufferings in a strictly objective way and in the purest spirit of faith. It is evident, they say, that the Soviet power is striving to prevent any direct influence of the Catholic Church on the Russian people, but God, on the contrary, is making it no less clear that He desires the repentance of Russia. So it follows, despite the enslavement of Russia by the enemies of the Church, that it is our duty to work for her spiritual rebirth. The means of working for God in Russia are very reduced; for the moment it is impossible to think of a direct work of propaganda and still less of struggle, and it is difficult to foresee when the moment will come that this direct propaganda can be-gin. However the Russian rite Catholics are per-suaded that even in the present circumstances it is their duty to remain firmly at their post, to suffer and pray, even, say some, if God wishes to make use of all this suffering and all these sacrifices for other peoples of the world in-stead of for the Russians... The Roman rite priests who have had occasion to come in touch with those of the Russian rite during these years of suffering are unanimous in recognizing their profound Christian con-victions, their courage, their inexhaustible energy and their readiness to suffer in the spirit of sacrifice to the very last extremity. ..."
The Exarch had no possibility of going very far from the Solovetsky islands, under the arctic circle. At the penitentiary, the mortality rate at one time reached 60% of the detainees. To escape required a special endurance and an experience of evasion. Although he was still young, the Exarch could not have succeeded; he had no intention of trying.
Brutally despoiled of his clerical garb, clothed in rags, with coarse, insufficient food, locked at night in a barracks which could normally have held 400 or 500 men but which sometimes held 2,000, in continual contact with people from every class, including the lowest and most vulgar, he had to spend his days working at very tiring forced labour: chopping down and carrying big trees, sawing them into pieces, pushing them to the shore and making them into rafts so they could be sent by water; or working with heavy beams, even in snow and intense cold. All the great accomplishments which the well-named agents of Intourist invited naive people who came on tours to the USSR to admire were done thanks to the unpaid hand labour of mostly political and innocent prisoners. When they celebrated Holy Mass during the night in the attic everyone had to kneel throughout, even the priest.
Last Exile and Death for the Love of Christ and the Conversion of Russia.
On 6 August 1929, Exarch Leonid was transferred from the central penitentiary of Solovetsky to a small village near the market-town of Pinega, in the same province of Arkhangelsk. He was lodged in an izba, a log hut where there was already a detained Orthodox priest, Father Parthenios Kiuglikov. He was not completely exempt from labour; he had to work making charcoal from wood, but he had a little more freedom to write letters. After contacting the Orthodox priest of Pinega, he was able to use that priest's small library, to have a little class for young boys and catechism for the older ones. All this zeal did not please Father Parthenios; he said that such occupations were dangerous not only for the Bolsheviks but also for the Church. He added that the Exarch himself had shaken his convictions - but still he admired the Exarch. When the Bolsheviks noticed this activity they transferred the Exarch, first to Arkhangelsk, then to Kotlas (a small town in the province of Vologda), and finally to a village called Poltava, fifteen kilometres from Kotlas.
Fedorov's death in Viatka.
The last hour was drawing near. Worn out from so much suffering, the Exarch's robust health was ruined. He already felt sick at Pinega; he had cardiac asthma, gastritis, a cough, and difficulty in speaking. The GPU declared him an invalid and exempted him from forced labour not long before his sentence ended in August 1932. He asked for a GPU certificate that he had served his sentence, and received it in November 1933, but his exile was prolonged for three years in the form of "minus twelve," the prohibition of residing in the twelve principal cities of the USSR. He chose to live in Viatka where exiles often went to live in Tsarist times. He hoped to find help and to meet some released companions there. He felt so feeble that he was unable to do anything. He died on 7 March 1935, in utter destitution, alone, without even a priest to assist him in his last moments. He was only fifty-five years old! Some good peasants buried him. Sophia Likilariova, his biographer to whom we owe many of the details given above, says that the location of his grave is known.
Such was the "falling-asleep" of the first Russian rite Greek-Catholic Exarch. He has certainly earned a place among the ispoviedniki or "confessors" of the Catholic Church. He was declared a Servant of God in November 1997 and his cause for Beatification is opended, with Bishop Charnetsky, as one of the "Companions" of Metropolitan Andrew Sheptytski.