Saturday, April 8, 2017

Moscow Patriarchate Quietly Stripping New Martyrs of Sainthood to Please the FSB, Kurayev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 8 – The reason the Moscow Patriarchate is quietly stripping the new martyrs of Soviet times of their sainthood is not to correct errors, independent Deacon Andrey Kurayev says, but rather to curry favor with the FSB and other security organs and to show the church’s willingness to serve their interests rather than those of God.

            Almost five years ago, Kurayev argued that the on again-off-again process of stripping of sainthood many of those who had died for their faith was entirely natural given the problems of gathering evidence of their fate and the almost inevitable fact that some declared saints really did not deserve that status (

            But now, he says, he has reached a different conclusion, one that casts the church leadership in the worst possible light. Instead of breaking with its subordination to the organs of the Soviet past, it is doing everything it can not to offend their successors. Doing away with many of the new martyrs is a step in that direction (

                Kurayev says he was driven to change his own views by an article last week written by Archpriest Dmitry Sazonov on the authoritative Patriarchate portal, Bogoslav ( Sazonov’s words show that more is behind the stripping of sainthood from the new martyrs than just concerns about evidence.

He makes clear, Kurayev says, that for the church today, there is a new “principle” at work. Instead of accepting the archival testimony of someone that shows he suffered and even died for the faith, now, “it is impermissible to consider a saint anyone whom the (Soviet) powers identified as its enemies.” 

And so, regardless of what a priest or believer may have suffered because of his beliefs, if there is any evidence that he confessed to being against a state policy like collectivization, that means he was an enemy of the state and does not deserve canonization.  Eliminating from the ranks of saints many of the new martyrs thus become easy and justified as a defense of the state.

More than most other branches of Christianity, Russian Orthodoxy has a long history of canonizing those who died for their faith even for political reasons. And it was not surprising but very welcome in the 1990s when the Orthodox Church canonized many who had suffered under Soviet atheism. Indeed, many viewed that as part of a necessary healing process.

But now the corporate self-regard of the KGB’s successors is such that this healing process apparently is to be stopped cold and even reversed, and the Moscow Patriarch under Kirill is going along in order to demonstrate its loyalty to the state and the institutions that not long along worked so hard to destroy religion as such.

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