Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fr. Daniil murder a warning to +Kyrill?

Sunday November 29, 2009

From CrunchyCon

an American Orthodox priest reader living temporarily in Russia writes:

"I wanted to thank you for reporting about the martyred priest Fr. Daniil. I thought you might also be interested to know that there is some thought in the Church here that Fr. Daniil was murdered as a warning to Patriarch Kyrill. The patriarch has been very outspoken about missionary work. He believes that the years since the fall of communism have seen the "restructuring" of the Church here, but now is the time for real mission work, not only making the new Orthodox truly Orthodox (or "churching the people" as he often puts it), but reaching outside the Church to those who are non-Orthodox. He was very supportive of Fr. Daniil and all missionary priests here; openly so and very vocal about it.

So, Fr. Daniil was murdered on the evening of the Patriarch's birthday as a perverted "gift" to him. By killing one of the most visible and well-known of his missionary priests, they were warning him what the cost would be to him and the Church if missionary work continues.

This is still very much a place where one's faith has a high cost. A number of friends (and family) have warned me about always wearing my cassock and cross in public, on the subway, on the streets, at the university. But I find that so many people are attracted to a priest and are very sincerely interested in the faith, and have so many questions to ask, that just wearing the cassock in public is 'missionary.'"


background story:

Today, the parishioners of St Thomas church are praying for the repose of the soul of Fr Daniil Sysoev, who died last night after an unknown assailant shot him. “This morning, we celebrated three Pannikhidas for Fr Daniil. In spite of it being a working day, people continue to come forward”, a spokesman for the parish told our Interfax-Religion correspondent. They told us that Fr Daniel had many friends in the clergy, and, probably, they will continuously perform Pannikhidas for him until the day of his funeral. “Anyone can come to our church and pray, however, we don’t allow reporters to use photo and video equipment here”, the sexton on duty said.

On early Friday morning, at St Thomas church in the Kantemirov district of Moscow, there was continuous reading from the Psalter in honour of Fr Daniil Sysoev, killed the night before. Parishioners and spiritual children of Fr Daniil read from the Psalms and offered prayers for the repose of his soul at an analogion set up for the purpose in the centre of the church, according to our Interfax-Religion correspondent. Mourners lit dozens of candles.

One constantly sees all sorts of people bringing flowers to the church, including priests, members of the parish community and missionary clubs that Fr Daniil sponsored, and friends and relatives of the deceased priest. Most of them are weeping disconsolately. People light candles and quietly discuss the tragedy amongst themselves, as they recall their personal contact with Fr Daniil; they remember his care and assistance for his parishioners in their specific needs.

In the small wooden church, a memorial to the right of the altar marks where an unknown assassin murdered Fr Daniil the night before. Two white and two red roses lie crosswise around bouquets of flowers on the rug where he fell. Meanwhile, on the street outside, believers have laid more bouquets of flowers at the entrance to the church. Announcements of parish events signed by Fr Daniil still hang on the door of the church. Near the church fence, a few cops are on duty to keep order, but, the church is open to anyone who wants to come and pray. Several Russian television crews are on the scene, as well.

Hundreds of Russian-speaking users of the internet service Live Journal passed on a message urging everybody to participate in a procession on the day of the funeral of Fr Daniil Sysoev, who died early Friday morning after being shot in the head on Thursday evening. “We would like 400,000 to show up for a procession to remember the murder of a priest in Moscow. It would stretch from Tver to the Kremlin,” political scientist Aleksandr Morozov wrote on his blog. According to most Orthodox bloggers who expressed a desire to come to any such procession, it should be a prayerful religious event blessed by the Archpastors of the Church without any political dimension.

Boris Yakemenko, the head of the Orthodox section of the youth movement Nashi, a member of the Public Chamber of Russia, sees the murder of Fr Daniel Sysoev as evidence of our country’s moral crisis. “This heinous crime shows just how far society has gone in its spiritual degeneration. If the walls of a church, or an ordained priest, or even the cross itself didn’t stop such wicked men, it means that we see the onset of a crisis that is much worse than any global economic crisis… a crisis of consciousness, a crisis of the heart and soul”, Boris Yakemenko told Interfax-Religion on Friday. In his opinion, “Everyone with a heart and a conscience, not only Orthodox, but, anyone with an open soul, must oppose this spiritual decay now, or, we shall pay once again for our indifference with the best things in our lives, leaving our house in ruins. Fr Daniil was a bright, talented, and very active missionary; he was a very significant figure. He preached, spoke, wrote books, and dashed off anywhere at a moment’s notice to where anyone needed his help, pastoral support, or word of comfort”.

Mr Yakemenko noted that Fr Daniil worked with Muslims, with migrant workers, with counterculture types, “with very different sorts of people. Like any other exceptional or gifted man, not everyone cared for his ways, but, no one could say that he wasn’t the kind of missionary that people really need today”. He told us that Fr Daniil spent the entire term of the Orthodox youth camp this summer at Lake Seliger “because there were thousands of people there, and he just couldn’t stay away. He baptised, preached, and talked to the kids… It seemed that he was everywhere doing everything. We collected petitions in support of his church (when some wanted to tear it down), and he and I met on several occasions, and we discussed our plans for next summer”.

According to tentative plans, the funeral service of Fr Daniil Sysoev shall be on Monday at Ss Peter and Paul church in the Yasenevo district in Moscow. “In addition, people may pay their respects to Fr Daniil on Saturday and Sunday at St Thomas church in the Kantemirov district of Moscow, where he was the rector and where he was shot”, a source in the MP told Interfax-Religion on Friday. According to our source, on one of those days, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all the Russias shall come and pay his respects to the late Fr Daniil. At one time, Fr Daniil was a cleric at Ss Peter and Paul church in Yasenevo, which is a podvorie of the Optina Pustyn Monastery. His father, Fr Aleksei Sysoev (also a priest), is rector of St John the Evangelist church in the Yasenevo Orthodox classical gymnasium, also served in this podvorie as well.

Fr Aleksei Sysoev


In his own words, he is “half Russian, half Tatar”. His father is a priest, Fr Aleksei Sysoev. Fr Aleksei is rector of the church of St John the Divine at the Yasenevo Orthodox classical gymnasium and a clergyman of the Ss Peter and Paul church in Yasenevo. His mother, Anna Midhatovna Amirov, teaches Orthodox catechism at the same school.

He graduated from the Moscow Theological Academy in 2000 with a Kandidatura in Theology. {Editor’s note: Literally, a kandidat is a “candidate member of the Russian Academy of Sciences”, equivalent to a Western PhD, but, perhaps, a bit more stringent in requirements and more rigorous.} His thesis was entitled, The Anthropology of the Seventh Day Adventists and the Watchtower Society and its Analysis.

His career as a cleric began in 1994, when he became a reader. In 1995, he received ordination as a deacon, and in 2001, as a priest. He is married and has three daughters. Fr Daniil Sysoev actively engaged in missionary work among Muslims, and converted many to the Orthodox faith. He held a conservative stance towards yoga exercises, karate, Latin American dance, and belly dancing, urging Christians not to attend these classes. Rev Sysoev was critical of the Darwinian theory of evolution

Fr Daniil was the rector of St Thomas parish; he developed an active missionary movement, which included training Orthodox “street missionaries”, whose task was to attract people to Orthodoxy by appealing to passers-by on the street.

On 19 November 2009, D. A. Sysoev was mortally wounded in St Thomas church by two shots from a pistol (other sources say that four shots were fired). The masked assailant managed to escape. At 00.20 Moscow Standard Time on 20 November 2009 (21.20 UTC 16.20 EST 13.20 PST, all of these 19 November), Fr Daniil died on the operating table.

At present, detectives believe that the most plausible explanation for the crime is that the murderer had a religious motivation for the killing. Earlier, members of various extremist groups repeatedly threatened Rev Sysoev. “Fr Daniil was a prominent figure amongst the Moscow clergy, creative and vigorous, and a true preacher and missionary. I think that he was murdered because of his strong views”, said Fr Vladimir Vigilyansky, a spokesman for the MP. Indeed, Rev Sysoev himself stated that he had received death threats on 14 separate occasions.

Church of the Apostle Thomas

In 2005, the Moscow city government allocated the community led by Fr Daniil Sysoev 0.5 hectares (a little under 1.25 acres) of land near the Kantemirovskaya metro stop on the Zamoskvoretskaya Line for the construction of a stone church dedicated to the prophet Daniel. By November 2006, the parishioners had cleared all of the undergrowth and debris on the site and erected a temporary wooden church dedicated to the Apostle Thomas. The parish runs missionary courses, singing lessons, iconography classes, and a scout group. In 2009, four years after the allocation of land, the Moscow City Department of Environmental Management believed that the community was in violation of environmental legislation, although many use the floodplain of the Chertanovka River as a dump for construction debris. The Department stated that the land at this location should be a park and nature reserve, and the construction of a church would result in irreparable harm to the unique natural habitat. In August 2009, deputy prefect of YuVAO stated he approved in principle for the construction of a church in Kantemirov district, and, during public hearings on the new Master Plan of Moscow, residents demanded that a church be part of the draft General Plan.


In 2007, Mufti Nafigulla Ashirov, Co-chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia, sued in court [against Fr Daniil] for his book Marriage to a Muslim, which, he said, contained expressions offensive to Muslims. Journalist Khalida Khamidulina accused Fr Daniil of inciting hatred of Islam in his publications and filed a suit in court against him. At the same time, Neo-Nazi groups expressed their displeasure with the Fr Daniil’s views and ultra-rightwing Orthodox publications criticised him for his anti-monarchist position. In addition, some spokesmen for Old Ritualists {Editor’s note: These are mistakenly called “Old Believers” in Western circles… all too many of them are nothing but Protestants in Orthodox drag.} expressed a negative assessment of D. A. Sysoev. They believed that he attacked their faith, considering his publications on Old Ritualists as “slander against the Old Orthodox Church”. {Editor’s note: The so-called Old Orthodox Church is not in communion with any of the recognised Orthodox Local Churches. It is a sect of popovtsy (“priested”) Old Ritualists, in opposition to the sort known as bezpopovtsy (“unpriested”). The latter are literally what their Russian name indicates… they are priestless. The former have a hierarchy ordained by a renegade Orthodox bishop in the old Hapsburg Empire. Neither group is in the Church, as I said above, no Local Church considers them Orthodox. Neophytes should best avoid both sorts. Don’t be fooled by their icons and chanting… they are nothing but Protestants who reject the Church.} They accused him of poor reasoning, faulty judgement, and distortion of historical facts.