ORENBURG, RUSSIA: October 1, 2007
Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany Visits the Homeland of a Beloved Local Saint, Alexander Schmorell
On September 13, 2007, His Eminence Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany headed to Orenburg via Moscow to participate in events sponsored by the philanthropic foundation “Eurasia” marking the 90 th anniversary of the birth of a native of Orenburg, Alexander Schmorell. Schmorell, executed by the fascist authorities for participating in the anti-Nazi group “White Rose,” was a parishioner of the Munich church of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. He is buried in the cemetery next to the present Munich Cathedral. The Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia gave its blessing a few years ago to perform an ecclesiastical glorification of Alexander as a local saint of the Diocese of Berlin and Germany. His Eminence arrived in Orenburg at about 2 am on the night of September 14. There, he was welcomed by the local authorities and representatives of “Eurasia,” as well as the Secretary of the Diocese of Orenburg and Buzuluksk.
The following day, Archbishop Mark participated in celebrations dedicated to the memory of Alexander Schmorell held in Orenburg's Higher Management School. Accompanying Vladyka Mark were a representative of “White Rose,” the Director of the group “MIR,” Tatiana Lukina of Munich, and Novice Konstantin of St Job of Pochaev Monastery in the same city. The visitors spoke of Alexander Schmorell and his resistance to the Nazi regime, which should serve as an example for today's students. A discussion with the students and teachers then followed.
In the afternoon, Archbishop Mark gave a half-hour interview at the local television station, in which he discussed life in his German diocese and the reestablishment of unity within the Russian Orthodox Church. A portion of this interview was also broadcast on central Russian television.
That evening, the visitors from Munich attended a concert devoted to Alexander Schmorell, after which His Eminence delivered a sermon on the meaning of the podvig of this man, born ninety years ago to a German father and Russian mother. Vladyka Mark pointed out that such a podvig is required of each Christian under any form of dictatorship, “red” or “brown.” On Saturday morning, the visitors held a long meeting with the students of Orenburg Pedagogic University. After opening remarks, a lively debate ensued with the students and teachers. Special interest was paid by students of the German language.
On Saturday evening, Vladyka Mark and Novice Konstantin attended all-night vigil at St Nicholas Cathedral. Vladyka Mark emerged from the altar for the polyeleos and Gospel reading along with six priests and two deacons. On Sunday morning, Archbishop Mark, at the request of the absent Metropolitan Valentin of Orenburg and Buzuluksk, celebrated Divine Liturgy along with the local priests and deacons of the Cathedral. After delivering his sermon, Vladyka Mark said a few words about Alexander Schmorell and the meaning of his podvig for the Church. He then served a moleben together with the local clergymen for Alexander. After the service, which was attended also by the members of the Munich delegation, Vladyka Mark recounted the martyric end of the man.
Afterwards, Archbishop Mark and the delegation were received by the Governor of Orenburg oblast.
In the afternoon, Vladyka Mark and the local diocesan secretary, Protopriest Evgeny, and Novice Konstantin traveled to the town of Saraktash, some 60 kilometers from Orenburg, where a Protopriest by the name of Fr Nikolai Stremsky founded a home for the aged and orphanage. Many elderly people are brought here by their families who don't wish to care for them any longer, and sometimes they are simply left at the gate, so that they sometimes don't have their passports or identification papers. The same applies to the roughly 60 children whom Fr Nikolai and his matushka adopted and began rearing. Some of them already have new families, and some of the older children help take care of the younger ones.
The Munich delegation soon joined Vladyka and Novice Konstantin. Fr Nikolai showed them the churches of his town, and the children performed for their guests.
On Monday, September 17, Archbishop Mark and the visitors participated in a ceremony at which the best students of Orenburg were awarded the Order of Alexander Schmorell. The medals were bestowed by the representative of the Munich foundation. Vladyka Mark again spoke about the locally-venerated saint of the Diocese of Berlin and Germany. The President of “Eurasia,” Igor Khramov, who had just defended a dissertation entitled “Alexander Schmorell—the Russian Soul of White Rose,” gave diplomas from the German Embassy in Moscow to several students who excelled in their efforts to improve German-Russian relations.
In the afternoon, Archbishop Mark and his consorts bid their farewells with the head of “Eurasia” and former Mayor of Orenburg, GP Donkovtsev, and Father Evgeny, who had accompanied Vladyka Mark during his visit to Orenburg. The Orenburgians warmly invited Vladyka to visit them again. In between official events, Vladyka Mark managed to visit a series of churches and historic sites of the city and met with members of the municipal and oblast government. The question arose time and again of the glorification of Alexander Schmorell by the Church in general, to which Vladyka Mark responded that he first needs to find time to compose a service to the martyr. During this trip, Vladyka met 87-year-old Nikolai Daniilovich Khamazasmian, who lived in Munich and was a friend of Schmorell. He had given him his Bulgarian passport for possible flight from the country. From his conversations with Khamazasmian, Vladyka learned that he spoke with Alexander mainly about spiritual matters, since they were both Orthodox Christians, while Alexander could not speak to the other members of “White Rose” on such matters. During the trip, it became clear that Vladyka Mark must continue to talk to this old friend of the beloved Alexander to obtain details of their conversations, which might assist in the composition of liturgical texts.
Late that night, after a layover in Moscow, Vladyka Mark returned to Munich.