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MOSCOW: April 11, 2006

Protopriest Victor Potapov Participates in the Tenth Annual World Russian People's Council

The 10 th Annual World Russian People's Council was held in Moscow from April 4-6, devoted to the topic "Faith. Mankind. Land . Russia 's Mission in the 21 st Century." As noted earlier, in July 2005, the World Russian People's Council was granted special consultative status by the United Nations.

His Holiness Patriarch of All Russia, Alexy II, participated in the opening ceremonies, held at the Hall of Church Cathedrals at Christ the Savior Cathedral.

The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia was represented by Protopriest Victor Potapov, Rector of St John the Baptist Cathedral in Washington , DC . During the afternoon plenary session of the Council, Fr Victor addressed the forum:

"Your Eminence, Esteemed Council Participants!

"I greet you on behalf of Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, Metropolitan Laurus of Eastern America and New York , and the members of the Synod of Bishops. His Eminence wishes you spiritual and physical health and clarity of mind, so that the Council would bring clear benefit to our much-suffering people.

"It is providential that this Council will discuss such important matters as human rights and the unity of the Russian people during Great Lent. Great Lent is intended for full repentance in our sins, and repentance, as we know, is a spiritual process of changing one's mind, of renewing one's heart, of making sense of our place in the world.

"In one month, the IV All-Diaspora Council will commence in San Francisco . The main topic on the agenda will be the question of reconciliation of the two parts of the divided branches of the Russian Orthodox Church. One can say that it is miraculous that after so many years of existence on opposite sides of a barricade, the Lord has now allowed us to directly approach the resolution of the question of church unity. If the Lord permits ecclesiastical reunion to occur, this will serve as a stunning example and stimulus for the entire Russian people.

"We, the children of the Russian Church Abroad, ask your holy prayers that the King of Heaven inspire the delegates of the IV All-Diaspora Council to fulfill God's will, and that in the near future the day comes when the archpastors and pastors of one Russian Church would stand before the altar table and say to each other 'Christ is in our midst, He is and shall be.'"

Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad responded warmly to the words of Fr Victor, stressing the importance of the forthcoming All-Diaspora Council, and on his part called upon the participants of the World Russian People's Council to pray for the desired reconciliation of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

The main summary document of the Anniversary Council was the Declaration of the Rights and Value of Humanity, which contains the basic principles developed by the Russian Orthodox Church.

The first part of the document expresses notions of the values and worth of the individual: "Value is that which is granted (the image of God), worth is that which is acquired." Man, through his sinful fall, is unable to adequately distinguish between good and evil; "religious tradition, having God as its Wellspring," is needed to aid in making this distinction. "Human rights have the value of the individual as its foundation, and must be aimed towards realizing his worth"; "worth arises in the individual when he chooses good. That is why human rights absolutely must be bound to morality; otherwise, the result is profanation, 'for there is no such thing as immoral worth."

"We are for the right to life, and against the 'right' to death, we are for the right to create and against the 'right' to destroy," states the Declaration, "we respect not only civil and political rights and freedoms, but social, economic and cultural rights."

The document further declares that the individual, realizing his interests, is called upon to align them with the interests of his neighbor, family, local society, his people and all mankind. If such values as faith, morality, holy sites, the Fatherland become opposed to the realization of human rights, then society, the state and the law must intervene—they must "bring each into harmony with the other." The final document explains that situations in which "the manifestation of human rights suppresses faith and moral tradition, leads to offending religious and national feelings or the sacred, or threatens the existence of the Fatherland" are unacceptable. Viewed as dangerous are the "invention" of "rights" which legitimize behavior condemned by traditional morality and all the historical religions.

During his visit to Moscow , Fr Victor met with representatives of the ecclesiastical and social organizations, scientific and artistic figures, and spoke to journalists.