Andrei Lemeshonok and Alexander Lukashenko at St. Elisabeth Convent
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BY 2022.06.13 Putin-friendly monastery on Norwegian tour – VG

Сестра Ксения (34 года) – монахиня Свято-Елисаветинского монастыря в Минске, в эти выходные продавала иконы в общине Святой Ольги в Осло.

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IN OSLO: Sister Ksenia (34) is a nun at St. Elisabeth’s Monastery in Minsk and this weekend sold icons at Holy Olga’s congregation in Oslo. Photo: Hallgeir Vågenes / VG

The priest at the St. Elisabeth Monastery in Minsk calls for prayer for Putin and the Russian victory in Ukraine. Now the nuns of the monastery are in Norway to raise money.

This weekend, nuns from the Belarusian monastery of St. Elisabeth in Minsk visited two churches in Oslo to sell homemade wooden crosses and icons of the Virgin Mary to churchgoers in Norway.

Two weeks ago, the nuns were in Bergen. Several Norwegian small towns have received the sisters.

The nuns represent a monastery where a priest, in his sermons, asks for victory for the Russians in the war in Ukraine and calls for prayer for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his accomplices.

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OLGA: Saint Olga’s congregation in central Oslo is one of the places the nuns from Minsk visit. 
Photo: Hallgeir Vågenes / VG

Prayer for Putin and Lavrov

Sermons St. Elisabeth’s pastor Andrej Lemeshonok is holding on YouTube.

There he says, among other things, that the whole world is against Russia and Russian Orthodox believers.

The priest swears allegiance to Russia, describes life in the West as sinful and godless, and says Russian Orthodox do not need this “free world where everything is turned upside down.”

The priest says he hopes for victory in the Donbas and urges everyone to pray for Vladimir Putin, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

– I always remember them in the liturgy, says the priest in the recording, and smiles broadly.

The priest says he prays that the enemy does not take over.

– We are all soldiers who are with you, only in a different type of army, Lemeshonok states.

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SISTER: Sister Ksenia has dedicated her life to the Minsk Monastery.
Now she is on a sales trip in Norway. Photo: Hallgeir Vågenes / VG

Likes in Norway

For several years, nuns from the Belarusian monastery of St. Elisabeth in Minsk have visited Norwegian churches.

Now it has been a couple of years since COVID has put sticks in the wheels for the journey. Therefore, they are happy to be able to come here again, says Sister Ksenia when VG meets her outside Holy Olga’s congregation in Oslo.

– We like ourselves well here in Norway. People receive us warmly, and Norwegians often buy a lot of what we sell, sister Ksenia (34) tells VG.

She is one of five sisters from the famous St. Elisabeth Church, which is currently in Norway.

Sister Ksenia is silent for a moment when VG asks if she can understand that someone is upset about the sermons from her monastery that support Putin and his war in Ukraine. Then she answers sparingly.

– I know what you’re talking about. You know … it’s not nice when someone gets angry. Because we travel here as ordinary, friendly people to spread peace and the word of God. We are not political representatives. We do not hurt anyone, says the nun.

– The recording shows that your priests support Putin, who is waging a war where cities are destroyed, and thousands of people have been killed? asks VG.

– I can not say more than that I have not heard anything like that myself. I do not know what context it was said in, Sister Ksenia answers.

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Photo: Hallgeir Vågenes / VG

“Putin’s mouthpiece”

The nuns’ visit to Norway has received harsh criticism from the Belarusian Association in Norway (RAZAM), including an article in Our country.

To VG, board chair Darya Shut says that St. Elisabeth Monastery is governed from Moscow and conveys attitudes that are contrary to the Christian and humane.

The war in Ukraine is presented as the war against the Russian Orthodox, against the truth, as the Western ideological war against the “right believers”, Shut believes.

– It is undisguised propaganda used by the Russian state. If you support this monastery with money, you should be aware that you support Putin’s mouthpiece, Shut says to VG.

Shut also responds that the Belarusian priest Lemeshonak condemns gay freedoms.

Several other Belarusians VG speaks to are upset and feel hurt over the sermon. They experience that the Minsk monastery exploits people as recipients of propaganda when they are at their most vulnerable: In search of answers from God.

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RESPONDS: Chairman of the Board of the Belarusian Association in Norway, Darya Shut,
describes the Minsk monastery as “Putin’s mouthpiece”. Photo: Private

“Nothing, a priest should say”

At Holy Olga’s congregation in Oslo, the head of the monastery, Father Kliment, says that his church stays out of politics.

– Since the nuns from Minsk do not preach, I think it was good that they came to visit. They have emphasized that it is out of mercy that they raise money. I think that is room rent, says the orthodox priest-monk to VG.

– What do you signal by facilitating to make money for the monastery?

– Mercy’s work goes to support the weakest in Belarusian society. It would have been a shame if you did not give anything to us who enjoy abundance in Norway. Incorporating politics into charity work, on the other hand, I do not think is very tasteful.

VG reads out to Father Kliment what the priest in Minsk has said about Putin and the war.

– I do not think this is something a priest should say. I think the church room is a place where the pastor should preach the message of love and the content of the gospel, so this does not sound good, the pastor tells VG.

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ACROSS COUNTRY BORDERS: Oslo Church, The congregation of St. Olga, has for many years collaborated with the famous St. Elisabeth Monastery in Minsk. Photo: Hallgeir Vågenes / VG

Disassociates

Father Kliment denies that all leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church support Putin’s war.

– Not here in Norway, at least. I’m been pretty clear that war is sin and misery no matter what the cause. I see no opportunity to justify war, not in Ukraine, not elsewhere, either.

On a sunny Sunday in Oslo, Sister Ksenia sums up that she is very satisfied with the weeks in Norway. Sales have been good. She tells VG. The nuns plan trips to Sweden and Finland.

Sister Ksenia says the money goes, among other things, to a boarding school run by the monastery and to give patients at a psychiatric hospital the opportunity to work with them. That is their main motivation for the work. She says: To help people who are struggling.

– We are simple people, not political actors. I want people to live in peace, and for God to be in people’s hearts. And that it should not be war (!?).

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OSLO: St. Olga’s congregation in Oslo is Russian Orthodox. Photo:

Source:
World-Today
2022.06.13 # Putin-friendly monastery on Norwegian tour – VG

Reviewed Oct. 2023
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