Stavropol, Russia; Zmeu, Romania, August 27, 2019
The Russian and Romanian Churches are actively engaging the Roma (Gypsy) populations of their flocks in an effort to increase the level of their involvement in Church life.
The Stavropol and Nevinnomyssk Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Stavropol regional “Roma Cultural Center” have been working for several months on a project to educate the Roma in the region and to involve them more actively in the life of the Orthodox Church, reports the Stavropol Krai Committee for Nationalities and Cossacks.
As much as 15% of the entire Roma population of Russia lives in the Stavropol Krai, making it the largest Roma community in Russia since Soviet times. The Roma Cultural Center was officially registered in 2017.
Fr. Anthony Skrinnikov, rector of the Church of St. Dmitry Donskoy and seminary professor, conducts public lectures for the Roma of several local settlements on various topics of the faith, including the life of an Orthodox Christian in the 21st century. There is also time for the participants to ask questions.
More than 50 Roma gathered at the latest meeting in the Church of St. Alexander Nevsky in the town of Blagodarny, which was very successful, with lots of meaningful communication, Fr. Anthony commented.
Fr. Nikolai Kuzmenko, a Roma priest, is also actively involved in missionary work, recording videos of short sermons in the Roma language explaining Orthodox prayers. The videos sometimes receive as many as 1,500 hits. He would also like to publish a brochure about Orthodoxy in the Roma language and he dreams of a TV show or film about the Roma people and their traditions and customs.
Roma children in Romania also recently had an opportunity to more fully engage in the life of the Church. 100 children and young people participated in the Camp of Joy, organized by the Department for Minorities of the Orthodox Archdiocese of Iași on August 21-22 in Zmeu, reports the Basilica News Agency.
The camp was opened with a blessing and continued with several workshops of financial education, creativity, and relational communication. The camp is part of a missionary program intended to be implemented in all parishes of the diocese, Fr. Alexandru Baciu from the Department for Minorities explained. The program aims to identify the level of Roma children’s involvement in their local parishes, to identify pastoral problems, and to implement specific solutions.
The camp included a workshop on the importance of teamwork and other themes, a Q and A session with clergy, and sports. The second day began with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy.
“I believe that certain barriers and preconceptions have been broken down, leaving room for building new relationships that are much more transparent,” said Fr. Sergiu Constantin Tudose, parish priest in Zmeu.
“In this camp we rediscovered inner drivers through which we managed to experience the joy of communion, just as the Christians of the first centuries carried on their entire existence,” he added.
The participating clergy were excited to have brought some joy to the children and resolved to hold the camp again.
The camp was organized by the Department for Minorities within the Mission Sector of the Archdiocese of Iasi in partnership with the Pascani Romanian Orthodox Youth Association.