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The Spirit of Christian Freedom: Remembering Archbishop Artemy

31. Mai 2023

Georgy Roy
A Blog of the Orthodox Christian Studies Center of Fordham University

The spirit of Christian freedom is a gift that in post-Soviet Orthodoxy has not, alas, been embraced or appreciated by many. Soviet-educated people, deprived of their experience of inner freedom, mostly failed to discover Orthodoxy as a liberating experience. Rather the opposite, immersion in church life became a convenient substitute for Soviet ideology. The path to post-Soviet civil religion, which has now taken such shocking forms, has been gradual and, for many, far from obvious. For many, but not for all…

One of those who constantly and unambiguously spoke about the danger of this kind of substitution was the Archbishop of Grodno and Volkovyssk, Artemy (Kishchenko). The anxiety associated with the substitution of Christian evangelism for a new form of ideology has been one of the leitmotifs of his preaching for many years. At a time when the crisis in the life of Russian Orthodoxy was not yet so evident, the frequent reference to the topic of substitutionism seemed to many to be an obsessive theme, a broken gramophone, not the most relevant topic. Nevertheless, after the events of 2020 in Belarus, after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, and after the active support of aggression by the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church, it turned out that such warnings were not in vain at all.  

Archbishop Artemy, who passed away on April 22, 2023, was a man of remarkable Christian freedom and courage. His rule for life was the words of the Gospel: “Do not be afraid, only believe!” (Luke 8:50). Looking at him, I often wondered: why was he so different from the other hierarchs of the Church in his freedom? How did this gift originate and develop in him? It would have been impossible to get a direct answer from him to these questions. So I asked Vladyka Artemy a great deal about his life, relationships, impressions, quests, books, and people in our communion. In this way I sought to understand the path of his formation.

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