Moscow (AsiaNews) – As the revolutionary events of 1917 are commemorated, a fundamental aspect of remembrance not only concerns the events and structures of power, but also people, those who caused and experienced the great transformations of society and relations, especially those who bore witness to the strength of faith with their own sacrifice. They are the new martyrs: some are venerated, many are unknown, but today they light the present of the Church and the Russian people.
Speaking recently on Rossiya-4’s ‘The Church and the World’ programme, Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) said that the Russian Orthodox Church has canonised more than 2,000 people who gave their life for their faith after the revolution of 1917.
"The Church has passed judgment on the Revolution by canonising the martyrs and confessors in the synod of 2000. At that time, about a thousand saints were proclaimed, and now they are more than two thousand. They were ordinary believers, monks and nuns, priests and bishops, almost all shot by Soviet police," the Metropolitan said.
The Catholic Church has also recognised her own martyrs of Soviet communism, and a commission is actively involved in their cause of beatification. Despite the difficulty of collecting and publishing the necessary documentation, due to the closure of archives in recent years, a lot of material offers bright examples of loyalty and abnegation of priests, bishops, and lay people, beginning with the prelate Konstanty Budkiewicz, the first Catholic martyr of the revolution, shot on the Easter night in 1923 in the cellars of the Lubyanka Building, headquarters of the Cheka secret police, to assert the victory of man over God. Along with a group of 15 other Servants of God martyrs of Russia, he is waiting for the official proclamation of his martyrdom.
According to Hilarion, Russians should not forget the victims of those years and the lessons they have for subsequent generations. "Those were the most tragic events of our history, which are now being evaluated according to different perspectives, for the revolutionary events themselves, and for successive events. The Church has clearly indicated who were the victims, and who were the offenders. If the power of men is consciously and demonstratively directed against God, it means that this power is not from God, and the men who serve it are not fulfilling God’s will but that of someone else,” noted the head of the Department for the External Relations of the Patriarchate.
The problems of economic and social development must be resolved through progressive changes, not revolutions. "I think all problems can be dealt through evolutionary steps. Today, many are discussing the advantages and disadvantages of the revolution, but let us also try to think about our present. If we start to undermine the authorities, letting people with the money from abroad come in, they will make them collapse, they will try to seize power by promising to make everyone happy and then repress everyone as the Bolsheviks did. Is that what we need?"
The prelate noted that before the revolution, Russia had already begun on the path of reform and had great potential for development, so much so much that many of the celebrated measures taken by Lenin's government, such as electrification of the country, had been planned before the changes. "Reforms are accomplished according to the right speed, even overcoming the diversity of views and opposing sides," Hilarion said.
In addition to the Orthodox martyrs and the many persecuted for their faith, justice and freedom of expression, there is one dead man whose memory continues to weigh on the minds of Russians, namely the leader and prophet of the revolution, Vladimir Lenin.
The present commemorations have once again raised the issue of whether to keep the Lenin mausoleum in Red Square or give him a final burial. Every time this has divided public opinion and politicians.
The Russian Church has repeatedly expressed her view on the need to bury Lenin in a Christian manner rather than keeping him exposed in a pagan form. However, she has recently proposed a five-ten-year moratorium to avoid diverting people's attention and causing new divisions.
Alexander Shipkov, a spokesman for Patriarchate and adviser to the Duma speaker, expressed his support for this view when he spoke at the Library of Foreign Literature in Moscow. In his view, "the fact that the unburied body lies in the very centre of the Russian state is an unacceptable situation from any point of view, be it human, Christian, or political. . . . Whoever will eventually get to bury Lenin will enter history."
However, at a time when opposing factions are destroying monuments, in Russia and Ukraine, to express their feelings about the Soviet period, it is better to stop until everyone has calmed down. "What is most important to us?" wondered the Patriarchate official. "Is it the quest for consensus among peoples and nations, saving us and our children from further bloodshed, or setting the date for Lenin's burial?"