100 years after Russian revolution, Christianity faces new challenges

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill. CNS photoAlejandro Ernesto, EPA

A few blocks from Moscow’s Lubyanka Building, which for decades served as the headquarters of the Soviet Union’s KGB security agency, the Russian Orthodox patriarch recently consecrated a church memorializing those martyred during communism’s reign.

“While we were in procession around the church, people were standing with portraits of those martyred and those condemned to death” by the communist regime, said Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, who heads the church’s department for external affairs.

President Putin, who was a former KGB agent, as well as government officials and church leaders, were in attendance for the ceremony May 25.

Patriarch Kirill’s consecration of the Church of the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Orthodox Church was one of the ways his church is commemorating the centenary of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, which ushered in the communist era and led to the persecution of Christians.

The 100th anniversary of the communist takeover of Russia coincides with the 100th anniversary of the final apparition of Our Lady of Fatima to three shepherd children in Portugal. The children said the lady “dressed in white” asked them for prayers and penance, otherwise Russia “will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the church.”

The Russian Orthodox Church formally has recognized or “glorified” more than 1,500 bishops, priests, monks, nuns and deacons who died for their faith under communist rule, which lasted from 1917 until 1991. While the Orthodox Church was never legally suppressed like most Protestant churches were, communist authorities worked vigorously to encourage atheism, closing thousands of Orthodox monasteries and churches, sending clergy and religious to the gulags or to psychiatric hospitals, and making it extremely difficult for any regular churchgoer to…

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