The light shines in the darkness

Press Meeting

The witness of the Russian Orthodox Church during the years of the Soviet persecution

“This meeting with Father Vladimir Vorobev, rector of the Orthodox St. Tikhon is a great event for all of us”, this is how Emilia Guarnieri, President of the Meeting Foundation, opens the meeting. The presence in Rimini of Father Vladimir Vorobev is rooted in the history of the Fifties and Sixties, when Father Giussani spoke to young people commenting on the Russian choirs “and – Guarnieri says – echoes of the preaching of Father Vsevolod Spiller, in a full Soviet regime which renewed the persecution against the Christians, began to reach us; Father Spiller preached conversion to Christ: ‘we are of Christ, while the world is not of Christ. We believe in the Word which has been made flesh”.
Emilia Guarnieri remembers the time when Giussani, taught the communion between Christians before the icon of the Holy Trinity and how he supported Father Romano Scalfi in his work with Christian Russia: ” We share the essential, which is Christ, the Risen Christ, with his father Vladimir Vorobev, and it’s for this reason that we listen to his story which tells us how light continued to shine even in the seventy years of Soviet persecution.” The exhortation of a dissident: “Have no fear of Solovki Isles; there, Christ is near”. President Guarnieri reminds us of it and invites you to visit the exhibition “The light shines in the darkness. The testimony of the Russian Orthodox Church during the years of Soviet persecution ” which is the result of the collaboration of several universities.
Father Vladimir Vorobev, impressive with his flowing white hair and beard, speaks in Russian the audience Auditorium B5 but Giovanna Parravicini from Christian Russia association translates carefully. At the time of the election of St Tikhon as Patriarch of Moscow, Russian Church was preparing for the persecution and already in 1917 arrests and executions of priests, bishops and ordinary Christians began to spread: Father Vorobev gives a detailed and documented account. In 1990 a 1917 letter from Lenin was published: the Communist leader writes that the best thing to do is to kill as many as possible among religious people and bourgeois. Requisitions, destruction and lootings of churches and monasteries began. On April 7, 1925 St. Tikhon died, probably poisoned, and his successors all end up in prison camps in Siberia. The persecution has a peak, with millions of deaths (“Nobody knows how many people died because there was no record”), in the years 1937/38. Father Vladimir Vorobev presents a series of portraits of monks and archimandrites (sometimes using mugshots) winded up in concentration camps and died as martyrs. Meanwhile, the Soviet schools taught that life was good without priests and monks and that they lived well, thanks to science.
But how was it possible to keep the faith alive? “There was a small and holy remnant that has survived. True saints who have passed on the faith to young people. I had the good fortune to know these people”. Father Vladimir Vorobev continues its report accounting for his encounters with numerous “Starec,” which were men full of grace who helped to live as a Christian in spite of the persecutions which they were subjected. He remembers the figure of Father Pavel who had the gift of clairvoyance (answering questions not asked); monk Tavknov which also received six hundred people a day (each of them found the solution to their problem from the words he spoke in his homilies) from the hermitage of Riga, Father Tikhon Pelich who confessed people incessantly.
These “Starec” were people with an unshakable faith, lovers of Christ, who devoted much time to prayer: Father Seraphim began the Liturgy at six in the morning and ended at three in the afternoon. Continuing the list, Father Ioann Krestjankim, who was interned a long time with common criminals, among which he carried out his mission of conversion and, despite the most atrocious hardships (he almost died of hunger), he used to say that he was alright and in his will he wrote that everything is God’s mercy.
The meeting concludes with the presentation of an “Icon of the martyrs and confessors of the Russian Church of the twentieth century”, upon which the Church of today is grounded. The audience expresses its gratitude for this testimony with a long, interminable applause. Emilia Guarnieri thanks Father Vladimir Vorobev for sharing with us his faith which is an experience of communion. She calls then upon the signing of the appeal against the persecution of Christians.

The conclusion is still by Father Vladimir: “I am delighted that you have kept my word about the martyrs. The world can live off of this faith only, although there are always the persecutions that Christ has prophesied. ”