Thursday, January 28, 2010

People of the Year - #3

From Inside the Vatican

Each year for the past 10 years, Inside the Vatican has chosen 10 "People of the Year" -- men and women of courage, vision, learning and faith.

I find myself unable to write currently, and so in my desire to bring Freedom Through Truth, will be bringing to you things that I have seen and admire for their veracity.

Here is the third member of that illustrious group.

3. Leonid Sevastianov
We have chosen as our #3 “Person of the Year” a remarkable young Russian whose father was a leader of the “Old Believer” community in Russia and who is close to the new Russian Orthodox Patriarch, Kirill, and to the new “Foreign Minister” of the Russian Orthodox Church, Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev.
Kirill and Alfeyev have asked this young layman, Leonid Sevastianov, 31, to promote traditional Christian values in Europe by means of a new foundation called The St. Gregory Nazianzus Foundation, set up in mid-2009.
We think Sevastianov’s appointment may signal the return of the Old Believer community to a more prominent position in the life of the Russian Orthodox Church, and that this is a development worth watching. Given Sevastianov’s friendships, his fast rise, and his young age, he could be in a very prominent place in Russia in the years ahead.
Sevastianov was born in 1978 in Rostov-on-Don, a Cossack region, into a family of Russian Old Believers. His grandfather was a Cossack who served as a bodyguard of the last Czar, Nicholas II, and after the 1917 revolution fought in the White Army during the civil war.

His father “never accepted the Bolshevik regime,” Sevastianov told me. “He never was a member of Communist Party. During his life, he combined his job of antique dealer with serving as a leader in Rostov’s Old Believer community. From the time I was a boy, I understood the truth from my father that a man can be a Christian, a free, moral person, no matter what political regime he lives under.  From my father I also understood that prosperity, freedom and final happiness come from traditional Christian values. The whole history of the Old Believers’ movement demonstrated this.”

After his graduation from high school at the age 17, Sevastianov entered  the Moscow seminary where he got to know then-Metropolitan Kirill and then-Father Hilarion Alfeyev. After graduating from the seminary, he was sent by Kirill and Hilarion to to the Gregorian University in Rome to study political philosophy from 1999 to 2002 (he speaks Italian fluently). He was then sent to Georgetown University in Washington DC from 2002 to 2004 to complete an MA in international relations (he also speaks English fluently).

When he returned to Russia, he decided not to become a priest because he wanted to strengthen the lay component in Russian Orthodoxy in order to have a greater impact on society.

What are his plans for the new Foundation? “We want to attract the attention of religious believers, in Russia and abroad, who believe in traditional Christian values,” Sevastianov told me. “We want to promote the idea of the unity between the West and Russia on the basis of common Christian roots. We believe in this alliance among traditional Christian countries, and we believe we need to talk with one voice in the face of secularism and a false ‘liberalism.’

“We believe traditional Christian values are the basis for a more just, prosperous, open and free society, and we can find an example of this at the beginning of the 20th century, when leading Russian Old Believers, the most traditional wing of Russian Orthodoxy, like Pavel Ryabushinsky and Savva Timofeyevich Morozov, attempted to reform Russian society.”

At the begining of 2009, Sevastianov introduced an initiative that was seen as revolutionary not only by Russians but also worldwide. After the death of Patriarch Alexi II and before the election of the new Church leader, he opened a website where all Russian Orthodox believers could express their opinion about who should be the next Patriarch. On that website, 702,000 voters expressed their preference, with 72% supporting Kirill. The site was so popular that the delegates of the Council could not help but take it into consideration when they voted, Sevastianov says.

Sevastianov is now working very closely with Archbishop Hilarion, 43, as his financial and economic advisor, after helping him to organize concerts in Rome and the US in 2007. They now plan to found a theological academy similar to the ?Vatican’s pontifical diplomatic academy.

“We were on Mt. Athos (in Greece) on the 11th of August this year, and we went to the monastery where are kept the holy remains of St. Gregory Naz­i­anzus the Theologian,” Sevastianov told me. “The archbishop called me to his side, and together we venerated the relics. Just at that precise moment, my cellphone rang. It was Moscow calling. A government official informed me that the St. Gregory Foundation had been registered that morning. Just at that moment! We took it as a sign.”

Sevastianov told me the Russian Orthodox have decided to engage with Catholics, and others, in a collaboration which can be compared to an actual alliance against the great social evils of our day, not only in Russia, but also throughout Europe and the world.

Therefore, with the spiritual blessing of Kirill, Archbishop Hilarion decided to set up the St. Gregory Nazianzus Foundation in order to work together with Catholics and others in the West, to support traditional spiritual values in Russia, but also throughout the world. (St. Gregory was a theologian in the 300s, well before the division of the Church into East and West, and so is venerated both by the Catholics and by the Orthodox. He is a Father of the Church for all Christians.)
Hilarion chose Sevastianov to head up the foundation and direct its activity. We will see what he does. —Robert Moynihan


Joshua said...

This is a marvelous initiative. Post-modernists just cannot wrap their heads around the facts. Christianity is the basis of our concepts of freedom and liberty, and much ekse which is "essential" to western civilization. This man and this initiative will be worthy of our sustained attention.

mbrandon8026 said...

And that's the truth.