As has been reported in recent news stories, the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church is being sued for possession of 13 churches that it received from local authorities over the past 15-20 years, which were received by us in utterly ruined conditions and carefully renovated and returned to use as churches at our expense. The cases were heard at trial on February 5th by the Vladimir Regional Court of Arbitration. This court ruled against the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church and ordered the local authorities to confiscate the churches. We were given 30 days to vacate the buildings. Appeals were begun, and recently the Court of Appeals postponed the hearing of these cases until the 24th of April. Believing that the Court of Appeals is prejudiced against us, and in compliance with the court order, our people have been trying to gradually remove our belongings from these churches - vestments, icons, church vessels, books, etc. Two of our deacons were recently detained by the local police, who explained that they had received a request from the Moscow Patriarchate not to allow us to remove our own belongings from these churches. Apparently, they think that they have a right even to those furnishings that we have placed in these churches.
Today, on Orthodox Good Friday, Metropolitan Valentine made a frantic telephone call to Bishop Andrew of Pavlovskoye, who resides in the US, and had time enough to say only that he and those with him have been arrested for entering the church to serve Holy Week services, before his telephone call was cut off.
We ask all of our people to pray for the deliverance of our FIRST HIERARCH from police custody, and we ask all men of good will, who value the rights of people everywhere to pray in peace and freedom of conscience, as supposedly guaranteed by the Constitution of the new Russian Federation, to make their concerns known to the authorities both in Russia and in their respective countries.
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