Special attention was drawn by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia at the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church of 2013 to “one of the most important topics of the Council of Bishops of 2011,” the preservation of the memory of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia.
“A document issued by that Council included a series of concrete instructions to Synodal institutions and dioceses that the names of the Holy New Martyrs and their podvigi be disseminated among the people of the Church as well as society at large. Most of these directives have been followed, though it is too early to say that the directives of the Holy Council have been fully realized,” noted His Holiness.
“The Supreme Ecclesiastical Council, in October of last year, ascertained that the unsatisfactory results of this effort are due to the absence of a single coordinating center,” said His Holiness. “Each Synodal department acts independently and sometimes as an afterthought, and dioceses have no one to turn to with questions.” The Holy Synod therefore, during its session of December 25-26, 2012, formed a Church-Social Council chaired by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill on memorializing the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, which will be responsible for developing and executing measures to properly preserve the memory of those who suffered during the period of persecutions.
“We thank the Lord, Who revealed to us many names of New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia. Over recent years, legislation on access to archival materials has changed in Russia. These decisions without a doubt had a rational basis. Still, the actual enactment of such laws has severely hindered such research, which is necessary to make decisions on introducing new names into the Host of New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia,” continued His Holiness.
His Holiness also recalled the method of introducing new names into the list of already canonized Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia established by the Act of Canonization of the Jubilee Council of Bishops of 2000: “In the post-Council period, the naming of individual New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia into the list already glorified by the Council is to be conducted only with the blessing of His Holiness the Patriarch and the Holy Synod, on the basis of preliminary research conducted by the Synodal Commission on the Canonization of Saints.”
“I would like to point out that according to this decision, it is impossible to canonize New Martyrs merely as local saints,” stressed the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The Holy Council of the Russian Orthodox Church of April 5 (18), 1918, decreed: “To establish throughout Russia the annual commemoration on January 25 or the immediate Sunday following of all those reposed in this terrible year of persecutions of confessors and martyrs.”
More recently, the Council of Bishops in 1992 determined: “To establish the celebration of the Host of New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia on January 25 (old style, should it fall on a Sunday), or on the nearest following Sunday.”
Also, the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia of 1981 decreed: “The general feast day of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia is established on the Sunday between January 22 and 28 according to the Orthodox calendar.”
“As a result, the celebration of the Host of New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia has been designated differently from year to year in the calendars of the Russian Church Abroad and the Church in the Fatherland. The Synodal Liturgical Commission, having studied this matter, has supported the practice established by the Council of 1981. Accordingly, if January 25 falls on a Monday through Wednesday, the celebration of the Host of New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia is celebrated on the previous Sunday, and if January 25 falls on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday, it is celebrated on the following Sunday. This system, which has precedence in the Church Ustav, specifically allows us to avoid the celebration of the Host of New Martyrs falling on the feast day of St Basil the Great, St Gregory the Theologian and St John Chrysostom (January 30),” concluded His Holiness, submitting the matter to the Holy Council for deliberation.
Press Service of the Council of Bishops