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Newsletter, November-December 2016

Seminar on palliative care

A seminar on palliative aid to terminal patients was held from November 21 to 25, 2016, at the St. Dimitry Nursing School in Moscow. It was organized with the blessing of Bishop Panteleimon of Orekhovo-Zuevo and support from the Danish charity 'Human Care Russia' and the Russian Round Table under the Moscow Patriarchate department for external church relations (DECR). For five days the participants discussed problems of how to improve the quality of life of the dying, to prepare them for meeting death and to give psychological help to patients and their families.

The intensive five-day work concluded with holding a round table, which took place on the last day of the seminar at the School's Golitsyn Hall. Participants shared the experience they had gained and outlined ways for further work. The Danish Ambassador to Russia Thomas Winkler addressed the gathering speaking about the over 500 year old diplomatic relations between the two countries. He reminded the audience in particular of the fate of the last Empress Dowager Maria Feodorovna, the wife of Alexander III and mother of Nicholas II, who was a Danish princess.

The round table moderator Archpriest Michael Potokin, chairman of the Moscow diocesan department for the Church's social service, thanked the Danish side for its support in organizing the seminar and shared his thoughts about help to the dying. He believes that the modern-day society seeks to get rid of suffering by all means, thus making such a patient a burden for doctors despite the fact that he or she does not cease to remain a personality endowed with a soul. To support his thought he cited the words of Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh that medicine should be based on mercy rather than effectiveness.

The chair of the seminar, Grete Schaerfe, a certified medical nurse and the president of the Danish Christian Medial Nurses Association, thanked the participants for a warm welcome and an experience of humanity. Without it, she said, it is impossible to establish not only understanding with a patient but also to enter into dialogue with a person of a different culture. 'The experience of humanity' was also referred to by Ms. Connie Meyer, a coordinator of Human Care Russia, who has lived in Moscow for 25 years.

Dr. Alexey Zarov, chief physician of the St. Alexis Hospital, spoke about Moscow traditions of mercy. His hospital was opened in 1903 in the presence of Moscow Governor General Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich Romanov and his wife Elizabeth Feodorovna, later the founder of the Marth and Mary Convent, who was executed by the Bolsheviks in 1918. There was a 45-bed hospice in the hospital, which can be regarded as the precursor of today's ward for palliative care.

Margarita Nelyubova, representative of the Russia Round Table (DECR), spoke from her own experience about how sincere love and care shown by medical staff can transform a patient.

Based on V. Stepanov's material on blagovest-info.ru

Conference on Unexpected Gift of Mercy. Migration Processes: Risk of Fundamentalism or Indifference?

An international conference on 'Unexpected Gift of Mercy. Migration Processes: Risk of Fundamentalism or Indifference?' took place from November 21 to 23, 2016, in Moscow. It was organized by the Italian foundation 'Christian Russia'. The first part of the conference was held from October 7 to 9, 2016, in Italy. On its first day, the 'Moscow' conference was held at the Pokrovskie Vorota cultural center and the last two days at the Russian Orthodox University (ROU) with the participation of the ROC synodal department for church charity and social service.

The participants were greeted by the Apostolic Nuncio in Russia Archbishop Celestino Migliore. He cited the following figures: in today's world there are 244 million migrants and 65 displaced people or refugees - 40% more than in 2000.

Deacon Roberto Pagani, Roman Catholic diocese of Milan's department for ecumenism and interreligious dialogue, in his report on Migrants and the New Face of the Church. Italian Experience, presented statistical data on the migrant communities in Milan and explained how Catholic churches are transferred to non-Catholic communities. In Milan, 14% out of its three million population are foreigners; most of the newcomers are people of Christian tradition. Present in it are communities of the Armenian Apostolic, Coptic, Eritrean and Ethiopian Churches. There are also communities of Bulgarian, Georgian, Greek, Romanian, Russian and Serbian Orthodox Churches and the Church of Constantinople. The largest number of migrants comes from Romania, followed by Albanians, Moroccans, Ukrainians and Moldavians. Coptic Christians amount to a third of all the Egyptians in Italy, with over 5 thousand of them living in Milan.

In the diocese of Milan today there are 34 Orthodox churches, with 21 of them have been given to the Orthodox Christians by Catholic communities. The transfer process begins with a request from an Orthodox bishop to a Catholic one to permit to use its church building. 'Normally, in response to such a request some non-parish church little used or not used at all is looked for', he explained, 'After an approval of the rector and the whole community is obtained and all the bureaucratic formalities are completed a decree is drawn up to be signed by the cardinal-metropolitan'. Speaking about 'the new face of the diocese of Milan', he noted 'the family nature of the migration' of Romanians and Copts and the 'temporary nature' of Ukrainians, who are mostly women coming in search for a job. The number of marriages between Catholics and Orthodox Christians has increased in the diocese to reach from 150 to 200 a year.

On November 22, the Pokrovsky Readings continued in the ROU. The theme of the second day was 'The Common Task of Mercy and Faith'. Among the speakers were Archpriest Michael Potokin, who spoke on today's tasks of the Church in the service of mercy; Carla Sommacal from Milano, whose theme was 'To Clothe the Naked - Dergano (Milan), One Parish for All Religions'; and Tatiana Krasnova, who spoke on the readiness to accept 'the other'.

The last day of the forum was devoted to two outstanding personalities who made a great contribution to the task of charity and social service - Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna and the Dutch priest Werenfried van Straaten, the founder of the Kirche in Not foundation. The director of the Pokrovskie Vorota cultural center, Jean Francois Thiery, called to consider the personalities of these people 'not only in the historical perspective' but to understand what these people speak to us today.

Anna Gromova, chair of the supervisory board of the Ss Elizabeth and Sergius Educational Society, a foundation promoting the revival of the traditions of charity and mercy, presented a paper on Russian and European Traditions in the Work of Elizabeth Feodorovna, which was read out by Lyudmila Shumskaya. The author focused on the work in which Elizabeth Feodorovna had been engaged before the Ss Martha and Mary Convent was established and considered her experience of life in Germany. In 1884, after she married the Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, she came to Russia, which had its own traditions of charity coming in particular from St Ephrosinia of Suzdal and St Ephrosinia of Polotsk. There were charities established by Empress Maria Feodorovna, societies of the care for wounded and sick soldiers. 'Elizabeth Feodorovna assumed the guidance of charitable work, leading the Committee to Aid to the Hungry and established Elizabethian charities'. In her charitable work, she made a wide use of European principles. Funds were raised from lotteries, concerts, capital profits and she repeatedly made her own contributions. She patronized the establishment of an Elizabethan Grammar School and a House of Children's Work Cooperatives. In 1895, she established a new community of the Red Cross sisters of mercy. She was also engaged in aid to homeless fire victims in Moscow Province and aid to flood victims in Moscow in 1908. She also set up prison charity committees, founded orphanages for the children of convicts. Elizabeth Feodorovna also founded the Community of Mercy of Our Lady of Iveron, which helped over 40 thousand sick people for over 6 years. During World War I she dared to establish a hospital for German prisoners of war. In her paper, Anna Gromova made a special mention of the fact that the grand duchess embarked on the path of service together with her husband, Grand Duke Sergey Alexandrovich. After his death, she could not get rid of the feeling that 'she hadn't yet done much together with him' and 'did her best to repair the omission'.

In her presentation on 'The Experience of Charity and Diakonia in the Personality of Elizabeth Feodorovna', Margarita Nelyubova, staff member of the Moscow Patriarchate department for external church relations, spoke in detail about the period when the Ss Martha and Mary Convent was established. It was founded in 1909; the first sisters took the vows of obedience and non-possession without taking monastic vows. In 1913 there were 97 sisters. The Ss Martha and Mary Convent was special in that it gave a considerable attention to the medical and religious education of sisters. Importance was also given to the religious education work. Each worker, even when she left the convent, maintained relations with the community. Elizabeth Feodorovna built 'a broader model' of the charity community by incorporating educational and medical work with individual aid. As the duchess herself said, all the forms of aid emerged of itself in response to the needs of those who came for help. She dreamt of turning the community into a convent of deaconesses. She believed it important to restore the rank of robed deaconesses in particular service but without laying-on of hands. Consequently, she was rebuked of 'attempts to restore the rank of deaconesses' on the basis of German Lutheran communities of deaconesses. 'Nevertheless, her idea of a new type of communities of mercy took root in our country, as in the matter of two years such convents emerged in most major cities', the speaker stressed.

'The grand duchess herself lived the life of an ascetic', Ms. Nelyubova noted, 'She had little sleep and observed fasting. She personally nursed the sick given up by doctors'.

Speaking in general about the personality of Elizabeth Feodorovna, Ms. Nelyubova pointed to her involvement in charitable activities, her 'advance actions', her organizational skills, thoroughness and feeling of justice. 'She created a vital model for women who are not ready to take vows but wish to take part in charitable work', the speaker summed up. At the same time, Ms. Nelyubova warned against any 'idealization of her as an ideal personality' since Elizabeth Feodorovna appears to be little studied as a personality.

Petr Gumenyuk, head of the Kirche in Not Russian section, spoke about its founder, Father Werenfried van Straaten, with whom he was personally acquainted and who always sought 'to build bridges and seek reconciliation' and whose favourite saying was 'people are better than we think'.

Father Werenfried was born in 1913 in the Netherlands and died on January 31, 2003, two weeks after he turned 90. He began his work at a time when Europe was lying in ruins after World War II. In 1947 he called the people of Flanders and Holland to help Germans in need, first of all the 14 million driven away from Eastern Europe. Earlier, already in 1944, he founded a League Against Hatred, whose members were to read once a day a prayer for their enemies. At first Werenfried's appeal provoked a protest, 'as war wounds did not have enough time to heal', the speaker noted. However, the appeal was soon followed by actions of charity.

Petr Gumenyuk told a story that took place in the Belgian village of Vinkt, where in 1940 the Nazi executed all the men by shooting. 'When 10 years after this terrible massacre Father Werenfried asked these people to help Germans, they were revolted. However, he did not give up his preaching… After a mass a woman came up to him and offered 1000 francs. She left immediately but a local priest related that her husband, son and brother were executed by shooting… Consequently, people came to bring money, foodstuffs and clothes', Mr. Gumenyuk related.

At first the priority in the work was given to caritative aid but later on the priest realized that it was necessary to give spiritual support as well. Since many displaced persons found themselves in a territory where there were no Catholic churches, Father Werenfried initiated 'churches on wheels'.

In 1952, when Germans' problems were resolved on the whole, the priest decided to focus on giving support to the Church 'behind the Iron Curtain'. 'He was one of few people in the West who were not silent about the fate of persecuted Christians. He kept preaching about those who suffered in GULAG and prisons, who were persecuted for their faith', Petr Gumenyuk said.

It was Father Werenfried, he stated, who 'revealed' Mother Therese of Calcutta to the world when in the early 1960s little was known about her. He visited her hospice and sought to make her known throughout the world.

The speaker gave special attention to the cooperation that Father Werenfried maintained with Popes who set him ever-new tasks. Thus, Pope Pius XII entrusted him with care for war-devastated Europe, while John XXIII charged him with "care for 'the Catholic continent' of Latin America. Father van Straaten was tied by special friendship with John Paul II. 'It was the profound conviction of the both that one day the Iron Curtain would collapse. Both criticized both communism in the East and 'the culture of death' in the West', Petr Gumenyuk said.

'John Paul II and Father Werenfriedshared the hope to prepare a meeting between the Pope of Rome and the Patriarch of Moscow. Unfortunately, they did not live to see the meeting that took place in February between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill', the speaker noted.

Over the course of his life Father Werenfried raised three billion dollars. Today Kirche in Not supports over 6000 projects in over 140 countries and has representations in 23 countries.

The success of Father Werenfried's work, the speaker stressed, was based on the trust in God: 'He promised financial support not yet having the necessary funds at his disposal and God helped him'.

Exhibitions devoted to Father Werenfried van Straaten and Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna were opened at the ROU lobby as part of the conference.

From Ye. Bazhina on blagovest-info.ru and cathmos.ru

Exhibition of drawings by patients with HIV

On December 3, patients with HIV at the Second Clinic for Infectious Diseases as well and medical staff members and sisters of mercy took part in the prayer service for the health of all the HIV patients at the clinic's chapel and opened an exhibition of drawings timed to the World AIDS Day.

Sisters of mercy and volunteers of the Miloserdie (Mercy) Orthodox service, supported by the clinic administration, helped HIV-positive patients to come to the service at the clinic's Chapel of the Holy Healer Panteleimon. After the service, artist Anastasia Talanova, a patient of the clinic, presented her own works and those of other authors undergoing treatment in the clinic.

The Second Clinic for Infectious Diseases is the only hospital in Moscow to set the final diagnosis 'HIV-infection'. The first sisters of mercy came to work at the clinic six years ago. Three years later a cooperation agreement was concluded between the clinic and the St. Dimitry Sisterhood. Today the Second Clinic runs a full-fledged service of palliative aid to HIV-infected patients. They are led by Sister O. Yegorova. The Miloserdie sisters and volunteers take care of serious patients in four wards in which most of the patients are young people at the average age of 30.

From the materials on vostokvk.ru

Educational program for nurses

The first conference of nurses of the clinical educational complex KOKS "STROKE", an education program for nurses of the regional vascular center, was held from December 5 to 7 at the Ye. Volosevich First City Hospital in the city of Arkhangelsk. It was organized by the Russian Union of Rehabilitologists, the Arkhangelsk regional healthcare ministry, the Ye. Volosevich First City Clinic, the St. Dimitry Sisterhood (Moscow), and the St. Alexandra Feodorovna Sisterhood (Arkhangelsk). It was attended by over 200 staff nurses from hospitals in Arkhangelsk, Novodvinsk, Severodvinsk and other cities in the Arkhangelsk region.

The conference was opened by Metropolitan Daniel of Arkhangelsk and Kholmogory. He reminded the participants of the virtue of mercy: 'God is very much pleased by these people's quality, and we love the Lord first of all for His love of man and the gift of light, warmth and healthy body. St. John Chrysostom said that if there is no mercy in a person there is nothing good in him. It was for good reason that the Lord, in edifying His disciples, enjoined them to be 'merciful as your Father is merciful'. The metropolitan said that people should take care especially of those who expect help, and this help, it its turn, should be manifold and include medical treatment, warmhearted attitude and prayer. 'St. Luka (Voino-Yasenetsky) was a skilled doctor who could perform complex operations. Why did he manage to do it? When operating on people, he was not alone. As some patients testified, standing next to him was somebody radiant, who helped him. St. Luka ardently prayed before his operations. And you, too, ask the Lord from your hearts and He will help you'.

The First City Hospital chief physician Sergey Krasilnikov, in his address, noted that medics do many things with the help of God, 'Mercy and the desire to help the neighbour is directly linked with the medical profession - the people who have devoted themselves to the service of those who suffer. And when we are together - the doctor's smock and the robe - we will achieve twice as much'.

Ms. Oksana Shurundina, chief specialist of the healthcare ministry department for medical aidto adults, drew the participants' attention to the fact that executive bodies have now begun to give considerable attention of rehabilitation and palliative aid. 'The healthcare ministry has held conferences and seminars on rehabilitation problems on a regular basis. Today the primary aim is to change society's attitude to patients who need additional nursing after they received specialized medical aid. Nursing and attention are required not only by patients but also their relatives', she said.

Archpriest Alexey Denisov, rector of the Holy Trinity church and head of the Arkhangelsk diocesan department for medical-social service and charity, thanked the hospital personnel, doctors and staff nurses, saying, 'You are the most important servants here and you give us an opportunity for learning love, fortitude and mercy from you. At your action station you give help without fail to those who suffer. And we are grateful to you for what you do for both patients and us'.

The educational seminar was opened by Andrey Suvorov, associate professor at the chair of rehabilitation and sports medicine and a medical and social rehabilitation researcher at the Russian healthcare ministry's Pirogov Research Institute, who spoke on 'The Modern-day Vision of Medical Rehabilitation'.

Medical nurses of the First City Clinic, in their remarks, spoke of the long-standing and positive experience of introducing elements of the nursing process at the neurological ward of the Regional Vascular Center (RVC). Father Roman Batsman, rector of the church of the Life-giving Trinity at the Sklifosovsky Medical Research Institute, dealt with the themes 'Spiritual aspects of giving support to patients in need of palliative aid' and 'The Church's aid to the sick. Spiritual and moral support. Bringing diagnosis message. Types of psychological conditions. Stages in adopting the diagnosis'.

Anastasia Golubeva, a psychologist at the RVC neurological ward, made a report on the researches into the problem of the professional burnout of medical workers.

Master classes were conducted as part of the conference to show the participants the techniques of safe shifting and positioning sedentary patients, feeding and giving hygienic care for them. The specialists explained the needs of patients, problems caused by immobility, such as bedsores, the role of a medical nurse in after-stroke rehabilitation, peculiarities of nursing patients with painful swallowing and spiritual and moral support.

In 2017, the St. Dimitry Sisterhood plans to resume trainings for medical sisters in Arkhangelsk and other cities in the region.

From rehabrus.ru, www.miloserdie.ru

Meeting of the East foundation board

The board of the East foundation took place from December 6 to 7, 2016, at Etchmiadzin, Armenia. Its members are church-public organizations in the CIS and Eastern European countries. The meeting was organized the Armenia Inter-Church Round Table. It was attended by representatives of Russia Round Table under DECR MP, the Union of Orthodox Sisterhoods of Mercy, the World Council of Churches and the Polish Orthodox Church. The meeting heard reports on the work carried out by the foundation in 2015 and 2016. The participants exchanged information about the work of their organizations, discussed plans for joints work to be carried out next your and the question concerning the participation of the foundation in the work of the international Christian organization 'Action by Churches Together'.

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