The owner and chief editor of Rus Pravoslavnaya, Konstantin Dushenov, is currently serving a three–year prison term after a federal court found him guilty of extremist activity. The controversial court decision prompted outcry from right–wing extremists. To the dismay of many, the case did little to diminish the newspapers credibility; the web site receives more hits now than ever before.
Though a flagrant example of right–wing extremism, Rus Pravoslavnaya and the ideas behind it have more than enough sympathizers.
All groups that use Orthodoxy as their political platform can be classified as nationalist, says sociologist Alexander Verkhovsky. Some of them directly support ethnic xenophobia and discrimination, others are less aggressive, but there is a strong trend to equal religious identity with national identity.
Though some prominent members of the Orthodox community view ecumenism with suspicion, an influential contingent has long advocated for greater involvement in international ecumenical efforts.
Renowned Orthodox biblical scholar Father Alexander Men is generally credited as the founder of the modern–day ecumenical movement within the Orthodox Church. During the waning years of the Soviet era, the priest placed ecumenism at the center of his ministry and lifes work. Until his assassination in 1990, he wrote prolifically and gave impassioned sermons on the subject, earning him legions of loyal followers who today carry on his ecumenical message. Among other activities, the group publishes the magazine Pravoslavnaya Obschina (or, Orthodox Community), which features scholarly articles on ecumenism and the Soviet persecution of Orthodox believers — a topic studiously avoided by most Orthodox media.
Another outlet committed to ecumenism is Blagovest Media. Based in St. Petersburg, Blagovest Media produces and syndicates to Russian television networks documentaries about Christianity and the shared traditions of Russias churches.
Several of its documentaries have received critical acclaim, winning awards at international film festivals. The late Patriarch Alexei II of Moscow and All Russia publicly commended many of Blagovest Medias programs.
Blagovest Media also runs Blagovest Info, an online news agency reporting on issues of concern to Russias Christian community.
Blagovest Media collaborates with the Catholic pastoral aid agency Aid to the Church in Need and its outreach programs.
In a country where Catholics were traditionally viewed with suspicion, our work predictably runs into certain difficulties, explains Yelena Ignatyeva, senior manager of Blagovest Media. But we find ways to
overcome obstacles and establish a viable dialogue. We try to enlighten rather than proselytize and to foster mutual trust on both sides of the Christian conversation. As both Patriarch Kirill and Benedict XVI support our efforts, we are confident about our success.
When traditional ethical norms and moral principles are under constant pressure or assault, adds Ms. Ignatyeva, we find the increasing presence of church in the media a very good thing.
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Contributor Julia Vishnevets live and work in Moscow.
Tags: Ecumenism Russian Orthodox Church Soviet Union Media