Τρίτη, 12 Φεβρουαρίου 2013

MORE AND MORE PEOPLE IN CZECHIA AND SLOVAKIA ARE GIVING PREFERENCE TO THE ORTHODOX CHURCH



Metropolitan Christopher of the Czech lands and Slovakia
Metropolitan Christopher of the Czech lands and Slovakia
Christopher, Archbishop of Prague and Metropolitan of the Czech and Slovakian lands.
Blessed Archbishop Christopher of Prague, Metropolitan of the Czech and Slovakian lands talks about the history and modern condition of the Orthodox Church in Czechia and Slovakia. The talk was recorded in June of 2011.
—Your Beatitude, you chose the path of a clergyman of the Orthodox Church during the time in Czechoslovakia after the famous events of 1968 (“Prague Spring”), and for a number of reasons thousands of parishioners were leaving the Orthodox Church. To be Orthodox at that time was at the least, not considered prestigious. What moved you to go against the current?
—Yes, that was when my fate was decided: I chose the Orthodox theological seminary. I have to admit that it was not my cherished dream to become a priest. I wanted to become a forest ranger, and I also wanted very much to paint icons. I studied iconography with Fr. Andrei (Kolomatsky), a very gifted Russian priest, architect, artist, and tireless man of prayer. At times I would try to paint, wanting my icons to be like his—alive. But it didn’t come out like that. I would complain to Fr. Andrei, and he would answer, “Are you praying?” He himself prayed without ceasing, and that was the most important thing I learned from him. I began my spiritual path with him, and I came to know the mighty power of prayer, the strength of Orthodoxy, which enables a man, hoping in God’s help, to overcome what would seem to be insurmountable. I came to know God’s mercy, how the Lord works miracles. Perhaps it was then that I first had the desire to become a priest, albeit not fully consciously.
I went to the seminary only because no other school of higher education would have accepted me. At the time, in order to be accepted at an institute, one had to fill in an application line about one’s agreement to enter the armed forces of the Warsaw convention on my country’s territory. I was not in agreement with violence. Never. When I heard that in the application for admission to the seminary at the Orthodox theological department of Charles University had no such requirement (but there is, as they told me, a more complicated question—on Holy Scripture), I applied there. This is how, by God’s will, I began my path as a clergyman.
—The Church of Czechoslovakia is currently preparing for the sixty-year anniversary of its autocephaly. Why did the Church of Czechoslovakia receive its autocephaly from the Russian Orthodox Church?
—The first contacts, which became the basis of the friendship between our Churches, go back to antiquity, in the tenth–eleventh centuries, when the recluse Procopius, like St. Sergius of Radonezh, founded a monastery in the forest wilderness not far from the Sázava river, which later became a large, famous monastery. During the time that the Sázava Monastery was active, the monks would go to Kiev, and the monks from Kievan Russia would visit the Sázava Monastery. Each time they would bring gifts of icons and manuscripts to each other… These gifts from the Sázava Monastery are still treasured in Kiev. The Kiev monks in their turn brought a piece of the relics of Sts. Boris and Gleb to the Sázava Monastery, where they were honored with great reverence. One of the monastery’s side altars was dedicated to these saints.
In the eighteenth century, the Russian Orthodox Church also aided our country’s renewal of our Church. For nearly three centuries, Czechia did not have its own government, and was subject to the Austrian Hapsburg Empire. The people were Germanized, and had no rights. No one in the West wanted or was able to help us. Russia was a light, hope, and refuge for the Czechs at that time. Russian Slavophiles supported the Czech and Slovak patriot-renewers both ideologically and materially. With their help, in 1848 the first Slavic conference was conducted in Prague, which placed a beginning of the renewal in Czechia of Slavic culture and language. In 1867, the Slavic conference took place in Moscow, and on the streets of Prague people were singing, “God save the Tsar!”
Russians helped the Czechs afterward, also. They sent money for the construction of Orthodox Churches, and Orthodox priests. One of these was, for example, the martyr for Orthodoxy and faithfulness to Slavicism Archpriest Nicholai Ryzhkov. The people of Czechia honor that man’s memory. The Czechs also received Russian refugees (during the years of the civil war in Russia and subsequent persecutions) as their own brothers. They helped them to establish themselves, to receive education… The young Czech government spent billions on that.
The first head of the Czechoslovakian government formed in 1918, Karel Kramář, was Orthodox. Together with his wife, Nadezhda Kramář Khludova (a Russian aristocrat), he organized the construction of a remarkable church dedicated to the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos in the Olšany Cemetery, which became a haven for Orthodox Russians, and then during the war years, for Orthodox Czechs, who were earlier under the omophorion of the Holy Hieromartyr Gorazd, the Primate of the Orthodox Church of Czechoslovakia who was executed by the Nazis. The Russian priests, primarily Fr. Andrei (Kolomatsky) and Bishop Sergius of Prague, helped their Czech brothers and sisters in Christ, spiritually cared for them, risking their own lives…
The Russian Orthodox Church did much for the Orthodox in Czechia also after the war. During those years, on the territory of the Czech and Slovak lands their existed four jurisdictions. It was necessary to do away with this atomism of the Orthodox Church and place our reliance in the largest Orthodox Church, the Russian Church. In 1946, the Czech Orthodox Church was accepted into the Moscow Patriarchate. The Russian Orthodox Church sent a talented organizer and missionary to Prague, a most honorable man who suffered much, Bishop Eleutherius. He had a gift of preaching from God, and drew to Orthodox tens, later hundreds of thousands of parishioners.
In 1950 the Church of Czechoslovakia already had a sufficient number of the faithful and bishops to receive independence. It even had a theology school. The Church could support and maintain itself, and needed no support from other sources. On November 23, 1951, a statement was signed in the Moscow Patriarchate granting autocephaly to the Czechoslovakian Orthodox Church. From December 18, 1951, after the notification of the heads of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches of Czechoslovakia, the Orthodox Church exists as an autocephaly.
—During the 1950′s, the Russian Orthodox Church endured a new round of persecutions (the Kruschev era). In Czechoslovakia, upper echelons of the Communist Party aided the Orthodox Church in a victory over the Uniates. Is it true that this act of the Communists aided Orthodoxy in Czechia and Slovakia?
—The Communists, both yours (Russian) and ours were always enemies of the Church. That the Czechoslovakian party members supposedly helped the Orthodox Church in Czechoslovakia was only their cunning maneuver: to get rid of the Uniates as quickly as possible with the help of the Orthodox. In fact, the Communist only injured the work of Orthodoxy. They shouted about the victory over the Uniates. In fact, there was no victory, only liquidation. You see, the Unia was introduced into the Slavic lands during the seventeenth century, also by force. Therefore, a large part of the faithful in the Uniate churches, under the influence of Bishop Eleutherius’ sermons, joyfully returned to the bosom of the Church of their ancestors, to Orthodoxy. Undoubtedly, all the rest would have followed their example, with perhaps rare exceptions. But during the process of voluntary departure of parishioners from the Unia—it could be said, at its final stage—the Communist bosses inserted themselves, demanded speedy and total liquidation of the Unia. Their methods are well known: prison, exile…
Then, to the Northern Czech border were sent hundreds of Uniate families. Scores of Uniate priests who did not accept Orthodoxy were defrocked. The Uniate leaders, for example, Bishop Goidich, were held in prison cells, and then sent to a concentration camp designated for particularly dangerous criminals. There Goidich died. Of course, all of this had a negative effect on Orthodoxy. We Orthodox know that no such force is a victory. Goidich became a holy martyr for the Uniates, their standard. Unfortunately, we still have not been victorious over the Unia. They call people to their churches through deception. Those who come to them see Orthodox icons, and thinking that they are being baptized into Orthodoxy, they end up in the Unia…
—What was the real reason for the mass exit of parishioners from the Orthodox Church after the events of 1968?
—The aforementioned was the reason, in any case, the main reason, for the mass exit of parishioners from the Orthodox Church. The arrival of Soviet tanks on our streets completed this process. Orthodoxy was always associated with Russia. And those who invaded our country in tanks spoke Russian. As a sign of protest, our people “forgot” the Russian language. It cost the Primate of the Orthodox Church of Czechoslovakia, Vladyka Doretheus, an enormous effort to save the Church from total disintegration…
—Is it true that at the present time, only the Orthodox Church of the Czech lands and Slovakia is increasing in the number of parishioners, while all other confessions are decreasing? What is the reason for this, in your opinion?
—Yes, this is true. The number of Orthodox in Czechia is growing. Many people have come to us from the former Soviet Union. They want to live here. And they bring their homeland with them—the Orthodox Church. But Czechs are also coming to be baptized into Orthodoxy. Our Church attracts people by the absence of negative phenomena in its history—that is, the inquisition and persecution of those of different convictions. To the contrary, the Orthodox Church is a refuge for all the persecuted. That there are many more Orthodox can be seen: all the Orthodox churches are full. On feast days we even have to serve outdoors, next to the church. Meanwhile, the many Catholic churches are empty; at best, concerts are given in them. The Uniate churches are also not at all full. Less than a tenth of the original number of parishioners (in the 1920′s there were 900,000!) are left in the Hussite Church. Around three million parishioners have left the Catholic Church.
—Why is this happening? Why is Czechia the most atheistic country in Europe?
—People ask me about this often. I then answer by telling the history of my much-suffering country, which joyfully received Baptism from the saintly brothers Cyril and Methodius, but later, after many centuries, suffered persecution from the aggressive (at that time) Roman popes and cardinals… Catholicism was instituted by force, by almost the same methods as fascists or communists used. For disobedience—requisition of property and land, exile from the country, and even execution… “Let every father, mother, and child who does not receive Catholicism in fourteen years be exiled from the country!” Such were the orders from the Pope of Rome after the Catholic League’s victory over the Czechs.
At that time, nearly half of the population of Czechia was exiled. Out of 150,000 families, there remained only 30,000. It is apparently understandable, why Czechs did not like Catholicism. Therefore, as soon as Czechoslovakia became an independent country, nearly a million people left the Catholic Church and created the Czechoslovakian Orthodox Church. And our country would have been Orthodox then, had not, as the Russians say, a mess occurred. Essentially, a tragedy: When the Primate of the newly created Orthodox Church, Holy Hieromartry Gorazd, went to America in order to obtain some needed financial means with the help of wealthy Czechs, another pretender to the bishopric, the talented orator Karel Farsky led nearly all the parishioners into his modernist Church, where Jesus Christ was honored not as the Son of God, but as the First Saint, born of marital union. And people believed him… I think that the name of this modernist Church, called Hussite, worked on people’s psychology. Although, Jan Hus himself was not a modernist, but rather went to be burned at the stake for the sake of Original Church of Christ. As years passed, people have figured everything out. That is the answer to why people leave not only the Catholic Church, but also the Hussite Church.
—Czechia is considered to be the most atheist country. It would seem that without faith, all the vices of society should appear. But in fact Czechia is a peaceful country, people are well-wishing, without aggression. One can be out on the streets without fear at any time of the day or night. Everything in Czechia—the construction of houses, the public transportation, the stores, and other places—is designed to be of maximum convenience for people. I remember how amazed I was at the transfer system of the trains… Everywhere, you feel that in everything having to do with relationships to people there is cordiality, warmth, and kind wisdom… Does this mean that it is possible to do without religion, without faith? What is your opinion on this?
—Yes, our citizens’ peace-loving nature and absence, or more precisely, near absence of aggression, you have correctly noticed. That the majority of the population does not number itself amongst any one of the religious confessions is also true. However, the main mass of our people, the Czechs, cannot be called godless. Take, for example, the Church holidays: Christmas, Christ’s Resurrection, and other great feasts. People try to observe the traditions that have taken root in Czechia since long ago, and which were passed down from generation to generation…
Yes, it is very unfortunate that the majority of our citizens do not attend Church services. But does that mean that we can do without the Church entirely? No, of course not. It is precisely thanks to the Church that our people had the happiness of receiving Christianity originally from the very Equal-to-the-Apostles Cyril and Methodius; in place of barbaric cruelty, they began to cultivate such qualities as love of neighbor, gentleness, and readiness to forgive offenses; loyalty and dedication to family and Fatherland, honor of parents, and all the other virtues. It is precisely thanks to the Church, to our great patriots, such as the first president of Czechoslovakia Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, such as the historian and Russophile František Palacký, who were deeply religious men, that our people acquired Christian morals, a Christian view of life. One could say that this very culture instilled by the Church became the Czechs’ second nature. This can also be seen in the mass pilgrimages to holy places and in part through the reverence for Orthodox saints—Martyr Liudmila, Princess of Czechia, and the Holy Passion-Bearer Prince Václav (Wenceslaus).
Thus, in answer to your question, I would again like to repeat that it is precisely due to the Christian religion, the Church, which was Orthodox in our country from the beginning, our people have the traditions of their fathers, and became the people you know, and the whole world knows—hard working and peace-loving, with God in their hearts. And, of course, the Czechs need the Church.
More and more people in Czechia and Slovakia are giving preference to the Orthodox Church. Nevertheless, it is not our task to increase the number of parishioners from for example, former Catholics. Right now it is necessary to unite our efforts to morally strengthen the people, first of all the young people, in order to teach them how to oppose evil, so that, as they say, the sheep would not become goats.
—Will Czechia and Slovakia return to the faith of their fathers, that is, to Orthodoxy? How do you see the future of your Church in the country?
—Return to the original Church of St. Methodius? It is possible. Theoretically. But I don’t normally talk aloud about it. Although I dream of it and pray. I also believe that I am not alone. With the Lord all is possible, and we need to work. After all, the majority of the population is not in the Church. We need to work with them in particular. Our efforts need to be directed against abortions, same sex marriages (although we are against any persecution of such people). We need to explain what the Lord said to us in His commandments: about life, love, friendship, help of neighbor, and about everything good. We need to struggle against evil and violence, against the deception of people… I am for the one Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius. Then it will be possible to restore moral values, and raise the peoples’ spirituality. And in this was, is, and always will be the strength of the people and the nation.
—Jan Hus and Jerome of Prague died a martyr’s death for Christ’s truth. Their memory lives on not only in Czechia. Your Beatitude, why have they not been canonized as saints?
—Czechs began to venerate Jan Hus and Jerome of Prague as saints immediately after they were burned at the stake. Jerome of Prague was the first to call Jan Hus a saint—at the very Council of Constance, which condemned Jan Hus and which awaited a “statement of repentance” and condemnation from Jerome of Jan Hus. They were venerated for two hundred years. However, after the defeat by the Catholic Leagues at the fatal battle on White Hill in 1620 and the forced Catholicization of the Czech people, the names of Jan Hus and Jerome of Prague were basically outlawed. In 1918, when Czechoslovakia became an independent state, the modernist Church took the name of Jan Hus. The communists called him something of a revolutionary. In fact, he never called for modernism in his sermons, but spoke only about the undistorted, original teaching of Jesus Christ, which was in fact Orthodoxy.
—Does that mean that Jan Hus’s and Jerome’s martyric deaths could be considered martyrdom for Orthodoxy?
—It was precisely of Orthodoxy that they were accused. This was one of the points of accusation of their heresy. However, they considered themselves Catholics and officially were so. Only at the end of the twentieth century did the Primate of the Roman Catholic Church, John Paul II, express his deep regret over their burning at the stake. But he did not go beyond regret. And they both, Jan Hus and Jerome of Prague, died for the undistorted faith, for the pure faith of Christ—that is, for Orthodoxy. Therefore we are completely justified in canonizing them as saints. This has already been confirmed by the Church of Cyprus and the Greek Church. Other Orthodox Churches also support us.
—Your Beatitude, what are the greatest problems facing your Church right now?
—The greatest problem is the lack of space. Did you see what is going on in the Churches? People can barely squeeze in. Many stand outside. We have nowhere to gather, nowhere to receive pilgrims—and they would come to us. Many people would come from Russia, to the relics of St. Liudmila and St. Wenceslaus; they would come to the place where the first Slavic desert dweller, St. John of Czechia, lived.
—It seems you also had a problem with the Sunday school, and with your office? Were you able to resolve them?
—Yes, there were problems. Big ones. We have a very good Sunday school for children. It is attended by several tens of students. But do you know what the children, parents, and we experienced? The owners of the building (the Czech military offices) refused to extend the lease of the building the school occupied. This is after we, the clergy, and the children’s parents had spent so much time and energy fixing up a building that was given to us in a far from optimal condition. We had even set up a house church for the children, which was beautiful, and the children loved it. They didn’t even let us finish the school year…
We had to finish the Sunday school sessions in the Metropolitan’s office. And it is not so easy to get there…
—Is that your office, Vladyka?
—Yes, it was once, and not only mine. Since 1950 this building served as the Metropolitan’s office of all of my predecessors, the Primates of the our Orthodox Church. However, soon after the refusal to extend the lease of the Sunday school, the owner of the building where the Metropolitan’s office is located also refused to extend the lease. The two refusals coincided like that… So during the new school year, the children had to go from place to place. In part, they used the building of a pre-school.
—And you yourself remained, as they say, without a roof?
—Yes. It was a difficult situation. I am grateful to the Russian Orthodox Church, and in part to His Holiness, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, and also to Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Department of External Church Relations, and the representative of the Russian Orthodox Church here, Archpriest Nicholai Lischeniuk—they helped us very much. Our Sunday school received a non-terminating lease of the building that housed an exhibition complex. True, only part of it; the rest will come in two years. But the Sunday school is already active there. And do you know what is remarkable? The Sunday school is, by God’s will, very near the new Metropolitan’s office.
—So, that means that the problem with your office was also resolved? Are you also renting?
—We received it as our own property. We purchased it. Again I thank the Russian Orthodox Church, and Patriarch Kirill for his material assistance and support.
—Your Beatitude, how is it going with the parcel of land that the government of Prague promised to give you for the construction of such a needed Orthodox Church of the Czech lands and Slovakia, and a Cathedral church?
—They have been promising for a long time now, ten years. They are always on the verge of placing the last dot. We have already prepared the blueprints for the building. The last time, they asked us to wait for the elections. The mayor’s election has passed… But nothing went forward. They are completely silent. They don’t even promise, but they don’t refuse. We will make it happen. It is a pity—because of insufficient space we are losing potential parishioners. Especially young people, who often out of their ignorance end up in sects. Our space is overfilled, while they (the sectarians) have all they need. So the young, inexperienced people think that God is there, in the sect. But have only an appearance, only talk. Sects in Czechia are strong right now. They have money, buildings…
—Tell us, please, about your prospects for the future. About the most important thing.
—Our prospects are the young people—they are what is most important. Look at the children in the Sunday school, what bright faces they have. What will they become? Engineers, doctors, teachers, and perhaps priests? We do not know. But undoubtedly they will be people who are able to tell right from wrong, to become citizens who live according to the laws of God. And that is the most important thing.
—Finally, one last question concerning the interdependence of Czechs and Russians. You, Your Beatitude, well know what true friendship there was between our peoples. Czechs and Russians have considered each other brothers for many centuries. We loved each other. You also know the reasons for the abrupt cooling, even phobia of the Czechs toward Russians, which, alas, still go on. I know that you for your part try very hard to renew the former friendship. Tell us, please, what specifically do you do in this regard, and what, in your opinion, do Russians need to do in order to make this renewal happen?
—Yes, truly, the friendship between Czechs and Russians continued many centuries. [One testimony of this are the huge number of Liudmilas and Viacheslavs (Wenceslaus) found in Russia. —OC.] The events of August 1968 were especially a blow—the Russian invasion in tanks was taken as a crude disregard for our country’s independence. Czechs are particularly sensitive to that.
A friends’ betrayal is the bitterest betrayal there can be. Czechs were dumfounded, and “forgot” the Russian language. I remember myself at that time, and I was only fifteen. It was very bitter to recognize that our very best friends, the Russians, had betrayed us.
In August, 1968, on vacation in Hungary, I was arrested for the first time: I had written in Hungarian, “Long live Dubček”. The young Hungarians who told me how to write it in Hungarian gave me away. They were strict about that. They held me and then released me, saying that had I been an adult and Hungarian, I would be sitting in prison for twenty-five years.
—Your Beatitude, you said, “the first time.” Was there a second?
—There was a second time, and a third… The second time was in 1969, after a hockey match between Czechs and Russians, that is the Czechoslovakian team and the Soviet Union’s team. We won, and our boyish heads were spinning. I don’t remember what we did, but we found ourselves in a prison cell. We were again released because we were underage. The third time was when I was twenty-seven. I was getting ready to go to Greece for study. They arrested me due to slander that I wanted to flee the country! In those days, they gave five years for that. Vladyka Dorotheus saved me from prison; he quickly collected the documents and sent me to a monastery in Greece… There I learned Greek and graduated from the university. The slander, of course, was unfair—I never wanted to leave, for I love my country very much…
Well, and as for the “Russian occupation”, I quickly understood that the Russians had nothing to do with it. They did not send Russians to us in tanks, but Soviet Kazakhs, Ukrainians, Uzbeks… And there were also Germans, Hungarians, Poles… Some Russians, too. But I saw the faces of those Russian boys, “invaders”, and they looked the most miserable. From that time on I always said, and still say that the Russians are just like us—sufferers, and Russia, like Czechia, was under oppression, enslaved…
Now many understand this and relations with Russians have changed for the better. I and the Orthodox priests never tire of repeating that the Russians were and are our brothers. I have been consecrating more and more Russian (Ukrainian)-Czech marriages and baptizing the offspring of these unions—infants born from these bonds of love, and bearing within themselves love for both of our peoples and nations.
The All-World Russian Council
E. G. Philipovich talked with Metropolitan Christopher
Translation by OrthoChristian.com

Δευτέρα, 11 Φεβρουαρίου 2013

The Orthodox Church in Czech and Slovak Republics

At the time of its independence in 1918, Czechoslovakia was a preponderantly Catholic nation. In 1920, a group of progressive Catholic priests and faithful broke away and formed a National Czechoslovak Church. Some of these were sympathetic to Orthodoxy, and when the church held a congress in 1921 it heard an appeal from a Serbian bishop to unite with the Orthodox Church. In September of that year, the Serbian Patriarch ordained Fr. Matej Pavlik, the administrator of one of the National Catholic dioceses, as an Orthodox bishop and leader of the emerging community. He took the name Gorazd. Only a minority of the National Catholics became Orthodox; the larger group eventually formed a Protestant church. At this point there were about 40,000 Orthodox in the country, but the numbers soon increased when a group of Greek Catholics in Transcarpathia became Orthodox. Subsequent developments led to divisions within the Orthodox community. On March 3, 1923, the Patriarchate of Constantinople issued a Tomos granting autonomy to the Czechoslovak church, and sent Metropolitan Sabbazd to look after the Orthodox faithful there. And in 1930 the Serbian Patriarchate sent a bishop of its own to Transcarpathia. Most Orthodox Czechoslovaks, however, remained within Bishop Gorazd’s jurisdiction. In the 1931 census, there were 145,583 Orthodox in Czechoslovakia, with 117,897 of them in Transcarpathia. During the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, the church was annihilated; Bishop Gorazd and his close associates were executed in 1942. (Bishop Goradz would be canonized by the Czechoslovak Orthodox Church as a martyr in 1987.) All the Orthodox priests were sent to German labor camps, and all Orthodox churches were closed. The liberation of the country by Soviet armies meant that the Orthodox could begin to reestablish themselves. But the annexation of Transcarpathia by the Soviet Union in 1945 reduced the number of Orthodox in the country again to about 40,000. In 1946 the Czechoslovak Orthodox petitioned Russian Patriarch Aleksy I for protection. He sent a bishop and created an exarchate of the Moscow Patriarchate that now included all the Orthodox in the country. In 1950 the Greek Catholics in Slovakia were forcefully absorbed into the Czechoslovak Orthodox Church [see Slovak Catholic Church]. This vastly increased the total number of Orthodox to about 400,000, and in the same year the church was reorganized into four dioceses. Most of these new members were lost again when the Greek Catholic Church in Slovakia was allowed to resume functioning during the brief “Prague Spring” of 1968. Church buildings, however, were left in the hands of the Orthodox. In December 1951, in view of the church’s increased size at that time, the Moscow Patriarchate decided to grant autocephalous status to the Orthodox Church of Czechoslovakia. But this act was not recognized by the Patriarchate of Constantinople or the other Greek-speaking churches. In order to regularize the situation, and to remove a controversial issue that complicated plans for a Pan-Orthodox Council, the Ecumenical Patriarchate issued its own Tomos granting autocephaly to the church in the Czech and Slovak Republics on September 8, 1998.

Ss. Cyril and Methodius Cathedral (Prague, Czech Republic)

Ss. Cyril and Methodius Cathedral in Prague, Czech Republic The Ss. Cyril and Methodius Cathedral in Prague, Czech Republic, is the principal church in the Metropolitan Council of the Czech Republic. The existing structure had its origins as a Roman Catholic church built in the eighteenth century. During World War II, the cathedral was the scene of the last stand of a number of Czech patriots who had assassinated Reinhard Heydrich, the Nazi SS Obergruppenfuhrer and General of Police. According to oral tradition, the site where Ss. Cyril and Methodius Cathedral stands was the site of a small church built by Duke Borivoj I and dedicated by St. Methodius himself. This link is based historically upon early and continuing reference to the name "Na Zderaze" for the existing church building. In 1091, the Czech lord Zderad was killed during the siege of Brno and was buried in the earlier church which was near Prague. Zderad's name was then immortalized in the name of the street "Na Zderaze" which is adjacent to the cathedral, thus establishing a connection to this site that was hallowed by St. Methodius. From 1115, the church of Ss. Peter and Paul stood on the site of the present church, around which the Knights of the Cross built the Zderazsky monastery. During the Hussite wars the church was largely destroyed, leaving only a part of the choir standing. In 1705, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Prague, Brener, established a retirement home for priests on the site of the monastery next to which a church was later built. Modern history Ss. Cyril and Methodius Cathedral was originally built as the St. Charles Borromeo Roman Catholic Church during the years of 1730 to 1740. Construction was started under the direction of Pavel Ignac Bayer, but in 1733 Kristian Spannbruker and Kilian Ignac Dienzenhofer assumed direction of the construction and completed the project in 1740. The dedication was of St. Charles Borromoro, who had been archbishop of Milan (1538-1584). The church was part of a home for retired Roman Catholic priests and contained a crypt with alcoves for the priests' tombs. The church and home were closed on January 12, 1783, by the Austrian Emperor Josef II and transformed, in 1785, into a army storehouse and barracks respectively. From 1869, the complex was used as a Czech technology center. In 1885, the level of Resslova Street was lowered giving the church an appearance of greater height. When Bp. Gorazd revived the Czech Orthodox Church in 1921 he and the church officials began looking for an existing, unused church building for their cathedral. On July 29, 1933, the council of ministers, in response to a request by the Czech Orthodox Eparchy (diocese) granted use of the former St. Charles Borromeo Roman Catholic Church on the corner of Resslova and Na Zderaze streets to the Czech church under a long term lease. The lease stipulated a number of improvements that the Czech Eparchy would have to make to the church, including a new entrance and renovations of the interior. Consecration of the first Orthodox Church in Prague was held on September 28, 1935, on the feast of St. Wenceslas. The original date of October 14, 1934 was postponed due to the death of King Alexander I of Yugoslavia. The consecration service was led by Bp. Gorazd, assisted by the Serbian Metropolitan Dositej, Sub-Carpathian Bp. Damaskin, and the Russian Bp. Sergiy. The cathedral was dedicated to Ss. Cyril and Methodius, who had originally brought Orthodox Christianity to Moravia and from whom the church in the Czech Lands is descended. Relics of two saints, the martyred St. Averky and the Serbian archbishop, St. Arseny were interred beneath the altar. From its consecration, the cathedral of Ss. Cyril and Methodius has been linked by the Prague press to its Byzantine missionary past and to Ss. Cyril and Methodius, noting that Methodius had been there, presiding over worship, and had baptized the first Czech Duke Borivoj and his wife, Ludmila, according to the Eastern Church rite. The press further noted that the Czech Orthodox Church considered the Duke and his wife to be members of their church just as the church does with Ss. Cyril and Methodius. The first priest assigned to the parish was Fr. Petr Kauer, with Fr. Vladimir Petrek as his assistant. On August 11, 1937, Fr. Petr died and was succeeded by Fr. Vaclav Cikl on January 31, 1938. The cathedral was the scene during World War II of the last stand of a number of Czech patriots who had assassinated Reinhard Heydrich, the Nazi SS Obergruppenfuhrer and General of Police and the newly appointed Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia. After completion of the military operation by the Czech parachutists on May 27, 1942, seven members of the group took refuge in the crypt of the cathedral with the assistance of Fr. Vladimir Petrek, layman Jan Sonnevend, Bp. Gorazd, and others. They had planned to stay a short time, but one of the parachutists betrayed them before they could make their escape. On June 18, the cathedral was surrounded by 800 Gestapo soldiers, whose orders were to capture the group alive. Three of the Czech patriots died defending the nave of the cathedral, followed by the storming of the crypt by the Gestapo after it was discovered. There, the remaining four Czechs fought until their last four bullets that they used on themselves. Bp. Gorazd took the path of self-sacrifice, with which we are familiar from biographies of the holy martyrs, in an attempt to end the Nazi terror that had begun. He wrote letters to the Prime Minister, the Minister of Education, and the office of the Reichsprotektor taking full responsibility and was ready to undergo any punishment, even death. The only reply he received was his arrest on June 25. The reprisals continued as the population of the village of Lidice was decimated. The men were shot, the women sent to concentration camps, and children deported to Germany for adoption. After which the village was razed to the ground. The trial of the members of the Czech Orthodox Church was held on September 3, 1942, after which Bp. Gorazd, Fr. Cikl, and council chairman Sonnevend were executed by a firing squad on the next day. Fr. Petrek was executed on September 5. For aiding the parachutists, 263 Czechs were arrested, transported to the Mauthausen concentration camp, and shot to death on October 24, including nine members of the cathedral’s congregation: Marie Ciklova, wife of the dean; Marie Gruzinnova, Bp. Gorazd’s secretary; Marie Sonnevendova, wife of the council chairman; Ludmila Rysova, choir member; Vaclav Ornest, the sacristan, his wife Frantiska Ornestova, and daughter, Miluse Ornestova, a choir and youth group member; Karel Louda, choir member; and Marie Loudova, also a choir and youth group member. In all, the Orthodox Church lost 13 sons and daughters. The Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia issued an edict on September 27, 1942, closing all Czech Orthodox Churches and confiscating their property. The Orthodox priests were taken away to forced labor in Germany, thus effectively destroying the Czech Orthodox Church. With the end of the war in 1945 the devastated cathedral was returned to the revived Orthodox Church. The first liturgy was held in the courtyard in front of the church building on May 13, 1945. On third anniversary of the "Heydrich Terror," June 17, the first memorial service for the victims of the terror was held in the overflowing cathedral. The cathedral was re-consecrated on July 5, 1947 as it had been desecrated in the Gestapo attack of 1942. In 1946, the apartment of the martyred sacristan, Vaclav Ornest, was converted into a chapel as a memorial to Bp. Gorazd and was consecrated on November 12, 1947. A bronze memorial plaque, unveiled on October 28, 1947, was placed on the exterior of the cathedral emblazoned with relief portraits of the parachutists who died in the cathedral as well as Bp. Gorazd, who was glorified on September 4, 1987. Since then, the cathedral has been restored further, including new iconography and painting. Through the years since World War II, memorial services have been held annually on June 18 in remembrance of the victims of "Heydrich’s Terror". The annual remembrance has culminated in the establishment of the Orthodox Cathedral of Ss. Cyril and Methodius as A National Memorial to the Heroes of the Heydrich Terror - A Place of Reconciliation. This took place on the 60th anniversary, September 28, 1995, of its original consecration as the first Czech Orthodox cathedral.

Ss. Cyril and Methodius Cathedral



Saints Cyril and Methodius Cathedral

Orthodox Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius
General information
Town or cityNové Město, Prague
CountryCzech Republic
The Ss. Cyril and Methodius Cathedral in  Nové Město, Prague, Czech Republic, is the principal church in the Metropolitan Council Czech Republic . The existing structure had its origins as a Roman Catholic church built between 1730 and 1736 by Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer, dedicated to Saint Charles Borromeo, archbishop and cardinal of Milan in the 17th century.
In 1942, during Word War II, the cathedral was the scene of the last stand of a number of Czech and Slovak patriots who had assassinated by Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, the Nazi SS and General of Police. Karl Fischer von Treuenfeld was in command of the troops that stormed the church on 18 June 1942. After a fierce gun battle, they committed suicide to avoid capture.[1]Presently there is a museum in the church dedicated to them as national heroes.

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Σάββατο, 9 Φεβρουαρίου 2013

PRIMATE OF CZECH-SLOVAK ORTHODOX CHURCH TO VISIT DIOCESE OF ALASKA



His Beatitude, Metropolitan Christopher, Archbishop of Prague and Primate of the autocephalous Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, will begin a two week visit to the Diocese of Alaska on July 28, 2012.
The visit will mark the second time a Primate of one of the world’s autocephalous Orthodox Churches has visited the Diocese. In 1993, His Holiness, Patriarch Aleksy II of Moscow visited the Diocese and participated in celebrations marking the opening of the Bicentennial of Orthodox Christianity in North America.
In a recent press release issued by the Diocese of Alaska, it was announced that Metropolitan Christopher and his delegation will visit the Alaska Native villages of Nondalton, Napaskiak, Tuluksak, Kwethluk, Eek, and Quinhagak, as well as the cities of Anchorage, Bethel and Kodiak. They also will participate in the annual Saint Herman Pilgrimage to Spruce Island August 7-9.
Traveling with Metropolitan Christopher will be Archpriest Josef Hauzar, Chancellor of the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia; Archpriest Milan Gerka, Secretary of the Holy Synod; Tatiana and Alexandra Strelcova, chairs of the Department of Religious Education; and Andrew Chrast, interpreter.
The invitation to visit Alaska had been extended by His Eminence, Archbishop Benjamin, Administrator of the Diocese, during his visit to the Czech Republic in 2011.
On Sunday, July 29, Metropolitan Christopher and the delegation will visit Anchorage’s Saint Innocent Cathedral, the Alaska Native Heritage Center, and the chapels at Eklutna village. Later, they will participate in groundbreaking ceremonies at Saint Juvenaly Mission, Wasilla; spend two days on the shores of Lake Clark as guests of Mr. Robert Gillam; and visit Nondalton for the blessing of the newly renovated church. Mr. Gillam is generously providing air transport to the delegation during their entire visit to Alaska. They also will bless ground for a new church in Tuluksak, which will be named in honor of Saint Prince Rastislav of Moravia; visit the grave of Matushka Olga Michael in Kwethluk; bless the newly constructed church in the village of Eek; and visit Quinhagak, site of the martyrdom of Saint Juvenaly and his Athabaskan Indian companian in 1798. After attending the annual Church conference in Napaskiak and blessing ground for a new church at Oscarville, they will fly to Kodiak for the annual Saint Herman Day celebrations and pilgrimage.
Metropolitan Christopher heads a Church with over 1,200 years of Orthodox history, tracing its roots to 865 AD, when an invitation by Saint Prince Rastislav, Moravia’s second known ruler, resulted in the arrival of the Byzantine missionaries, Saints Cyril and Methodius. After the fall of communism, the breakup of the former Czechoslovakia, and the massive demographic shifts sweeping Europe during the 1990s and 2000s, the Czech and Slovak Church witnessed an influx of immigrants from other historically Orthodox countries—Ukraine, Russia, Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia. The Church has built many new churches and ordained clergy to meet the needs of its increasingly diverse membership.
In related news, a comprehensive schedule of services and events for the annual Saint Herman Pilgrimage August 7-9 appears on the web site of the Diocese of Alaska.

The Czech and Slovak Orthodox Church-A Long and Rich History



Although the Orthodox Church has a relatively small congregation in this country, it has a long and colourful history in the Czech lands. It was the Orthodox Saints Cyril and Methodius who first brought Christianity to this part of the world when they converted Great Moravia in the ninth century, and Moravia was actually the place from where Orthodox Christianity later spread eastwards to Ukraine and Russia.
Although the Czech Lands subsequently aligned themselves with Rome, their links with the Eastern Church were revived in the fifteenth century, when the reformist Hussite movement initially sought to join the Greek Orthodox Church before this plan was eventually thwarted when Constantinople was conquered by the Turks in 1453.
Centuries later, when democratic Czechoslovakia was founded after the First World War, many Czechs were attracted by the pan-Slavic nature of the Eastern Church and took advantage of new religious freedoms to convert to Orthodox Christianity. Lots of churches were built and the congregation swelled to around 145,000 people before the outbreak of World War II.
The Church suffered greatly during the Nazi occupation, primarily because Bishop Gorazd, the head of the Orthodox Church in Czechoslovakia, allowed those who assassinated Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich to shelter in the Orthodox chapel on Resslova Street in Prague. When these resistance fighters died after being discovered by the Nazis, the occupants quickly set about taking reprisals against the Orthodox Church. Altogether, 256 priests and laymen were rounded up and executed, including Bishop Gorazd, who has since been declared a saint.
Church life did not recover from this crippling blow until after the war, when it began to revive slowly. Moscow made the Czech Lands and Slovakia an autonomous patriarchate in 1951 and this was formally recognised by Constantinople in 1998.
Today, the Orthodox congregations in the Czech Republic and Slovakia still remain canonically unified even though the countries have gone their separate ways politically. Although today’s congregation in the Czech Republic is relatively small and only numbers around 30,000 to 50,000 people, masses are well attended and the church is attracting a lot of new members.
The Czech and Slovak branch of the Orthodox Church is currently headed by the Czech-born Archbishop Krystof. He says that many people have become interested in religion here since the fall of communism and that quite a few have been attracted by the very traditional nature of the Orthodox liturgy: “A lot of new people are looking for a new connection with Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Orthodox way is mystical and traditional. For this reason a lot of people are coming to the Orthodox Churches to pray and to seek the ‘old Christianity’ in our country. They are looking for a church with the old traditions and with some mystery.”
Igor Strelec is one Czech who has converted to Orthodox Christianity. He says that the church’s historical links to this country – stretching back to the time of the Great Moravian Archibishop Methodius in the ninth century – was one of the things that appealed to him.
“I feel like I’m continuing the tradition of Methodius and of our Hussite movement and Bishop Gorazd. I am proud that I come from the Czech Republic, where the Orthodox Church began in Great Moravia and then spread eastwards to Ukraine, Russia and other countries. It’s a proud part of our history.”
Archbishop Krystof says that the church has also been making inroads in the Czech Roma community: “We have a lot of projects with gypsies in the Czech Republic. We have built a Roma community with a Roma priest. It is the first time a member of the Roma community became a priest in the whole Czech Republic. For this reason it is very auspicious for us. The Roma priest is very active and the Roma [Orthodox] community has a future here.”
Besides new Czech converts, the Czech Orthodox Church’s congregation has been boosted by new arrivals from other countries. These include a number of Greeks who have moved here to conduct business since the Czech Republic joined the EU, but they mostly comprise guest workers from the states of the former Soviet Union.
Archbishop Krystof says that although this increase in numbers is welcome, the fact that new arrivals come from different traditions also poses a challenge in terms of maintaining unity in the Czech and Slovak Orthodox church: “There are more new Orthodox believers coming from the former Soviet Union – from Russia and Ukraine. For this reason we have more and more members. This is very nice for us but we have to create some sort of solidarity between them, not just for the original Czech believers but to try and ensure spiritual care for all our believers.”
Another challenge for members of the Orthodox Church is that its calendar is out of synch with the Catholic Christian calendar that prevails here. As a result Orthodox churchgoers have to adapt to public Christian-based holidays like Christmas and Easter being celebrated here on different days to those of their own church. Igor Strelec, however, says that instead of this being a problem, he and his fellow Czech co-religionists can enjoy the best of both worlds: “For me and my family – and I think for most Orthodox families in the Czech Republic – this is not a problem because we have twice as many celebrations. We celebrate both Christmases. I must say that we celebrate Christmas according to the Czech calendar like every family here because we love this celebration. And then we celebrate according to our Orthodox calendar in a more religious manner.”
Any religion in this country also has to face up to the highly secular nature of Czech society, which means that most faiths have to contend with a lot of indifference in this country or even suspicion. Archbishop Krystof, however, says that this issue has been overstated. He maintains that many Czechs are in fact open to the idea of religion and that the Orthodox Church has an opportunity to prosper in their midst: “I have to say that Czechs are a people without a church but they are not without faith. Everybody from the Czech population has some faith, but it is not connected with any church, regardless of whether it is Western, Eastern or Protestant. We have our own kind of faith but we are not people without faith. The Czechs are a people without a church. We just have to find the right church. That’s the main issue.”
Source: Radio Czech (where you can also listen to this as a podcast in English)
Hat Tip: OBL Orthodox News
Icon is of New Martyr Bishop Gorazd, by Jana Baudišová.

Sedmé výročí zesnutí metropolity Nikolaje



Pravoslavná církev
Sedmé výročí zesnutí Jeho Blaženosti Nikolaje, arcibiskupa prešovského, metropolity českých zemí a Slovenska, si připomenuli duchovní a věřící ve středu 30. ledna 2013 v katedrálním chrámu svatého Alexandra Něvského v Prešově. Archijerejskou sv. liturgii se zaupokojnou ektenií za zesnulého sloužil metropolita Kryštof spolu s rektorem kněžského semináře a tajemníkem Posvátného synodu o. prof. prot. ThDr. Milanem Gerkou, CSc. a duchovními prof. prot. ThDr. Peterem Kormaníkem, PhD., prot. Mgr. Rastislavem Gerkou, spirituálem semináře prot. Mgr. Dimitrijem Pastierem, protodiákonem o. ThDr. Jánem Husárem, PhD., proděkanem PBF PU v Prešově, a místním diákonem o. Peterem.Polakovičem. Vladyka arcibiskup Rastislav se modlil ten den ve své rezidenci z důvodu náhlého vážného onemocnění.
Vladyka metropolita ve své promluvě vyzdvihl význam duchovního dědictví metropolity Nikolaje, které spočívalo v neochvějné pravoslavné víře a v lásce ke své rodné pravoslavné církvi.
Po bohoslužbách šli duchovní a věřící v průvodu z chrámu do krypty, ve které byl vladyka Nikolaj před sedmi lety pohřben. Po položení věnců se za zesnulého metropolitu Nikolaje pomodlili parastas. Věčná paměť vladykovi Nikolaji!!
metropolita Kryštof