Mother Church treasury
- Dear List,
Since the participation of Synod treasurer Father Peter Kholodny in
the first talks between the ROCOR and the MP was mentioned, I thought
it would be interesting to consider the sources of income of a church
(the MP, for instance). From what I found out, they consist of the
items summarised below.
Father John Shaw just wrote: "Just to show what nonsense such claims
are, the Church Abroad has been very hard-pressed for funds now for a
long time. The main reason for this is that people donate so little
to the Church".
Apparently, other sources of income than those traditionally used in
the ROCOR can be contemplated to fund a Church. No doubt that the
ongoing union process, with the sharing of experiences that it will
stimulate, will foster the advent of innovative ideas in the ROCOR,
who has been considered as relatively conservative so far.
FRANKLY SPEAKING. The Income of the Russian Orthodox (Mother)Church
1. The Cup. This is direct donation from parishioners and all who
pray in a particular church.
2. Candles and Zapiski (prayer lists [invoked] during Divine Liturgy
and molebens [public prayers]) are the most commercial and almost the
most significant part of income. In many parishes and dioceses it
gives up to 50 percent of income.
3. Treby (services performed by request).
4. Rental Properties. This source of income plays an important role
in big cities, most of all in Moscow, where a series of buildings in
the centre of town have been given to the Moscow Patriarchate.
5. Russian Sponsors. We can divide this group into three subgroups:
political, economic, and "spiritual children." The first subgroup
donates because of political considerations (Moscow Mayor Yuri
Luzhkov); the second subgroup donates out of gratitude for discounts
or profitable contracts through the church; and the third subgroup
gives sincerely in accordance with the blessing of its spiritual
fathers. Overall, today this group is the Moscow Patriachate's main
source of income.
The case of LUKoil promotion (second type).
2001-342-3 Friday, November 30, 2001 In a move that raised some
eyebrows in Moscow, Patriarch Alexy II of the Russian Orthodox Church
appeared in a television commercial promoting Russia's number one oil
company, LUKoil. But officials at both the church and the oil company
told ENI it was a 'natural' way to thank the company for its
contribution to the rebuilding of churches [church buildings].
A 25-second advertisement run after RTR television's morning news
showed the patriarch outside a church surrounded by LUKoil officials,
including company president Vagit Alekperov. The camera then zoomed
in for a close-up of the patriarch standing alone at a glittering
iconostasis, or screen of icons.
Speaking in his trademark singsong voice, the patriarch said: 'We are
grateful to LUKoil for its support of many Russian Orthodox Church
projects aimed at restoring and reviving what was destroyed in the
past--in the years of theomachy (struggle against God), the years
when our historical memory was being destroyed.' Large letters popped
up on the screen: 'Ten years of LUKoil. For the good of Russia.'
The TV commercial comes at a time when the Russian Orthodox Church is
hard pressed to pay its expenses. Offerings from the faithful are too
sparse to cover the cost of reconstructing the churches destroyed
during Soviet rule. Russia's constitutional separation of church and
state prohibits direct government subsidies for the church. And,
unlike some established churches in the West, the Orthodox church has
no historic properties from which it can generate income.
As a result, the Moscow Patriarchate has had to lean on big
businesses like LUKoil for donations. In return, the companies get
tax write-offs and the kind of publicity that money alone can't buy.
The Moscow Patriarchate's spokesman, Viktor Malukhin, said the
patriarch's appearance in the commercial was an expression
of 'natural gratitude' for LUKoil's support.
Malukhin said that LUKoil, gas monopoly Gazprom and the Railways
Ministry are the biggest Russian corporate sponsors of the church.
The rewards for big business are not just spiritual. The patriarch
regularly visits building projects to acknowledge the support of the
companies, and those visits--often sponsored by the companies
themselves--make for good public relations.
6. Economic Grants from [Ecclesiastical] Organisations. The problem
of relations with non-Orthodox churches only in part belongs to
theological dialogue. Grants from various charitable organizations
and funds (mostly Roman Catholic and Lutheran) were significant
factors in Church economics in the first half of the 1990s. The
Episcopal Church of America supported thousands of Orthodox
initiatives. These sums for the most part were given in cash and were
not subject to any formal accounting procedures.2 In the second half
of the 1990s this "source of income" yielded its leading role
to "donations from business and private individuals."
7. Commercial Projects of Priests and Bishops (church-related and
private). Here the largest undertakings are the art and production
enterprise of Sofrino, the Danilovsky Hotel, and the Sretensky
Monastery Publishing House with its many related firms.
8. Traveling Expositions of Relics and Other Sacred Items. During the
visit of the miraculous Chimeev Icon of the Mother of God to
Ekaterinburg, over the course of a month $100,000 dollars was
9. The National Government. In addition to the above, there remain
unknown direct and indirect contributions from the federal budget,
which finance programs of the Moscow Patriarchate. The president and
heads of state were led by simple logic: the Church is a large
structure and the state should help her leadership to politically and
economically protect her status. Based on such reasoning, the
Patriarchate was offered a huge quota from oil exports in 1994.
(Editor's Note: See "Orthodoxy, Oil, Tobacco, and Wine: Do They Mix?"
in the East-West Church & Ministry Report 5 [Winter 1997], 7.) It is
possible that it was these free funds that allowed the Patriarch to
cover the budget deficit for five to six years.
Edited excerpt reprinted with permission from "The Money of the
Church," a paper presented in "The Christian Basis for Economic
Ethics, International Scientific-Theological Conference by E-mail," 2-
8 October 2000, Omsk State University Theological Faculty. For a
conference program and texts of some papers, consult
- Vladimir Kozyreff wrote:
> Apparently, other sources of income than those traditionally used inJRS: The situation of the Church in Russia, financially, is very
> the ROCOR can be contemplated to fund a Church. No doubt that the
> ongoing union process, with the sharing of experiences that it will
> stimulate, will foster the advent of innovative ideas in the ROCOR,
> who has been considered as relatively conservative so far.
different from that of the Church Abroad.
For one thing, remember that the Church in Russia was literally a
Church that was raped.
Take the picture of a typical parish church before the revolution in a
Russian country town.
The priest did not usually receive a salary, unless he had one as a
teacher [of "Zakon Bozhiy] in the local school. He did have an income
for "occasional services", including the blessing of homes. But in
place of a salary, he was usually given a plot of land which he could
either farm himself, or else rent out to others and thus get a certain
income from it.
At the time of the revolution, the Soviets of course took these plots
of land away, and depicted the priests as "bloodsuckers" who grasped at
money and were a burden to the people.
In a similar way, monasteries were also deprived of their lands.
If individuals and families feel they have a claim to what was taken
away from their forebears by the Soviets, then it seems to me all the
more that the Church is entitled to some return of what
was "nationalized" by the revolution.
Fr. John R. Shaw