09/11/2020, 11.03
RUSSIA
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Aleksandr Men 30 years after his death, memory and future

by Stefano Caprio

The Orthodox priest, "spiritual father of dissent" in the Soviet years, was murdered on 9 September 1990. The capital hosts events and conferences on Men who knew how to communicate the faith to atheists, scientists, artists and ordinary people. Today many cultural and religious institutions are animated by disciples of Father Men and their descendants. Fr. Men, a model during unrest in Russia and Belarus.

Rome (AsiaNews) - Several demonstrations in memory of protoierej Aleksandr Men, the "spiritual father of dissent" in the Soviet years, are taking place in Moscow this week. Thirty years ago, at dawn on 9 September 1990, 55-year-old Fr. Men was killed by unknown assailants on his way to his parish near Moscow. In particular, the disciples of Father Men are taking part in a great international conference on 10 and 11 September on the legacy of the charismatic priest and the prospects that derive from it.

Held in person and online (https://www.culture.ru/live/10622 ), the conference is hosted by the Rudomino Foreign Literature Library in the center of Moscow, where the works of and on Father Men are collected and published in Russia and beyond.

The conference is moderated by the Catholic historian Aleksej Judin and attended by many personalities linked in various ways to the multifaceted activity of Father Men, of whom some videos of the homilies and conferences are shown.

These include the son of the protoierej, Mikhail Men, a well-known politician in Russia, former deputy and governor in various regions, and currently a member of the Court of Auditors of the Russian Federation and the brother of the priest, Pavel Men, who chairs the humanitarian fund in the name of Father Aleksandr, and is one of the points of reference of the communities he founded in the 1960s and 1970s.

There was also a presentation by one of the "historical" elderly metropolitans of those difficult times, Juvenalij (Pojarkov), for decades at the head of the pastoral care for the province of Moscow, who knew how to accompany and also protect his friend Father Men in times of Brezhnevian persecution.

Father Men also had many followers outside Russia, above all the political science professor in Paris Yves Hamant, who spread the works of the great Russian preacher all over the world. He was able to find new ways of proclaiming the faith without being conditioned by the atheist regime, and he indicated effective ways of renewing the Christian experience in the world that was heading for the great changes of recent decades. Men was often referred to as the "missionary to intelligentsia", due to his ability to speak also to scientists and artists, but his ability to communicate knew how to enhance and the open minds and hearts of people from across the social spectrum.

The communities of Father Men were known for their great diversity of composition and origin, and openness to various religious confessions, proposing a true "practical and basic ecumenism" without pretending to force the institutional conditions of the various Churches.

Author of many texts distributed clandestinely by samizdat, his 1968 book The Son of Man on the life of Jesus was published by the Belgian publisher La vie avec Dieu under the pseudonym of Andrei Bogolyubov ("the lover of God") and proposed a personal encounter with Christ in Soviet Russia, arousing an enormous movement of conversion to the Christian faith.

The memory of Father Men is still today an inspiration for many people and communities in Russia and in many countries. His assassination prevented the formation of a unitary movement of renewal in the life of the Russian Church, connecting the many groups that in the underground of the times of persecution were necessarily very closed and prudent. Today many cultural and religious institutions, and also many Orthodox parishes, are animated by disciples of Father Men and their descendants, even if the Russian Church often continues to isolate them, rejecting their ecumenical spirit, which is rather unpopular in the current pastoral and ecclesiastical politics in Russia.

In times of great protests and a desire for change, two months after the start of the Khabarovsk demonstrations and one month after the disputed elections in Belarus, the people of the ex-Soviet world need to rediscover the spiritual energies that a figure like Father Men has represented and still represents, to imagine a society more open to both the vertical and the horizontal dimension, to the presence of God and to fraternity among mankind.

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