Russia lists 'fifth column' bishops
By Desmond O'Grady FOR THE first time, a report of the Soviet body which controls the Russian Orthodox Church's activities has been published. It classifies the Orthodox bishops in three groups according to their loyalty to the state.
The 70-page report, which is dated 1975, was prepared by the Soviet Council of Religious Affairs for the Soviet communist party central committee. It appears in the current issue of the Russian-language magazine "Vestnik" (The Messenger), which is published in Paris.
The first group consists of totally loyal bishops 'who, recognising that the State dues not want religion to develop, "do not develop their activities among the people . Among those listed in this category are the head f the Orthodox church Pime the Metropolitans Juvenal): (responsible for ecumenical relations) and Serge of Odessa and Archbishop Nicodem of Kharkov.
The larger second group consists of loyal bishops who "observe the rules" but because of "activism" occasionally go too far, particularly in bringing religion to young people.
Among those mentioned are the late Metropolitan of Leningrad Nicodern, Metropolitan Filaret of Kiev and numerous bishops such as those of Riga, Minsk, Smolensk and Kalinen.
The third group are those who "find their way around the laws, who are capable of falsifying the situation and, making the work of the government difficult, have already tried to bribe the members of the council."
These include Metropolitan Nicholas of Lvov, Archbishops Vladimir of Archangel and Donut of Kalouga and Bishops Nikon of Astrakhan, Damaskin of Volvograd and Joseph of Rostov.
The report describes priests as "loyal to the regime" but as "a corporation whose ideology is incompatible with our conception of life".
For the first time in many years, figures are given on the number of priests: 5,994 in 1974 compared to 8,252 in 1961. There were between 20,000 to 30,000 before Kruschev's purge.
It condemns Dimitri Dudko, the priest who was imprisoned last January. Despite the ten years he spent in prison from 1948, the report notes, he continues "his calumnies, his distribution of clandestine publications (Samizdat) and exercises his nefarious influence on youth".
A Vatican source says that at a first reading the document seems authentic. ( Vestnik is a quarterly published by the emigre Russian Christian Students' Association).
The Vatican source pointed out that the report was written by a bureaucracy which has to justify its existence. "For anyone with a pallid idea of the situation," he added, "it is proof of the heroic faith, the courage and vitality of the Russian Orthodox Church".