Skip to comments.Sochi games gives chance to 'witness to Christ'
Posted on 02/22/2014 4:02:09 PM PST by NYer
When the 22nd Winter Olympic Games opened at Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi with a spectacular Feb. 6 ceremony, it might have been assumed little would be heard over the following fortnight about Christian churches. As the games neared their end on Feb. 23, however, the churches’ presence had been well established — led by Russia’s predominant Orthodox church, but with clergy from Russia’s million-strong minority Catholic Church playing a role, too.
“These Olympics have been hugely important here,” Msgr. Igor Kovalevsky, secretary-general of Russia’s Catholic bishops’ conference, told Our Sunday Visitor. “Of course, the games are a secular event, and everyone, whatever their faith, has their own likes and dislikes on the sporting panorama. But our Church has also been active, offering religious facilities to competitors and fans alike.”
Concerns over Russia’s security and human rights record under President Vladimir Putin led most Western leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, to stay away from the games.
But Moscow Archbishop Msgr. Paolo Pezzi attended the opening ceremony, and Pope Francis praised the Olympics in an Angelus message Feb. 9 as a “true celebration of sport and friendship.”
A new Russian Orthodox “Olympic Basilica,” rising to 120 feet, was dedicated at the edge of the Olympic Village just before the start, while the church’s patriarch, Kirill I of Moscow, held a service for Russian-speaking athletes during a three-day visit to Sochi, when he inspected the ski-jump slopes and other venues.
“Concentrate and gain inner spiritual strength — this will be the formula for your success,” the patriarch said. “Athletes are well aware, when aspiring to win their competitions, that it isn’t just a question of technical training and necessary equipment, but also of the inner spirit, which largely determines a person’s ability.”
With 343,000 residents, Sochi has some 30 other Orthodox churches, including a late 19th century cathedral, which was restored in the 1990s after being turned into a warehouse under Soviet rule. But Christianity first reached the city via the Byzantine Empire in the Middle Ages and survived several centuries of Muslim rule, which only ended when the region was conquered by Russia in the 1860s Caucasian War.
Besides the Orthodox majority, it is also home to 10 Armenian Christian churches and has its own Catholic church of Sts. Simon and Jude, which was dedicated in 1997 to replace a small Communist-era chapel in the city’s Polish culture center. The new Jesuit-run parish belongs to the church’s Saratov-based San Clemente apostolic administration and has provided a base for visiting Olympic pastors from Germany, Italy, Korea, Poland and other countries.
The Czech Republic’s Catholic primate, Cardinal Dominik Duka, celebrated a Mass for athletes here before attending the opening ceremony and speed skating championships.
Meanwhile, the chaplain for Austria’s 130-strong team, 30-year-old Father Johannes Paul Chavanne, a Cistercian from Heiligenkreuz Abbey near Vienna, described the atmosphere as “colorful and happy,” and related on his blog how athletes had “gladly accepted” a gift of crosses.
When Moscow hosted the summer Olympics in 1980, the event was boycotted by Western governments because of the previous year’s Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. This time too, Russia’s first major international championship since the Soviet Union’s 1991 break-up has attracted controversy.
There were complaints of corruption in the awarding of Olympic contracts, while from an initial budget of $12 billion, the costs spiralled to $51 billion, more than half drawn from public funds. This dwarfed the $8 billion spent for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and made the Sochi Games the most expensive in history.
Preparations were also marred by the crisis in neighboring Ukraine and by the killing of 26 people in Islamist bomb attacks at Volgograd in late December. Although Putin’s government responded with a security “ring of steel,” deploying 40,000 police and troops with air and sea patrols, it also imposed travel restrictions and banned unauthorized protests and demonstrations.
This in turn exacerbated human rights concerns, which have recently focused on hardships facing Russia’s gays and lesbians.
Homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia in 1993, two years after the collapse of Communist rule, and removed from the list of mental illnesses in 1999.
But human rights groups say pressure against gays and lesbians has been growing, while violent assaults — often documented and filmed — are routinely ignored by police.
They say vaguely worded, restrictive June 2013 amendments to Russia’s child protection law, banning the “propagation of non-traditional sexual relations among minors,” offered a tool for populist politicians by effectively criminalizing any attempt to defend gay rights.
Since the amendments allow the arrest of foreign nationals suspected of being gay or even “pro-gay,” fears were raised about the fate of athletes and spectators at Sochi, and there were calls for another Western boycott.
Happily for the organizers, such issues appear to have barely surfaced during the Olympics.
Russia’s deputy premier, Dimtri Kozak, said officials had received no applications for demonstrations; and during his Sochi tour, Patriarch Kirill heaped praise on the organizers.
“For many, this will be their first acquaintance with Russia,” the Orthodox leader said at his service for athletes. “It’s important people not only see the wonderful buildings constructed and the great roads, but also feel the soul of our people, our hospitality and readiness to help and be united with others.”
For some Christians, at least, the Olympics may have produced tangible benefits.
On Feb. 10, Putin held talks in Sochi with Lebanon’s prime minister, Najib Mikati, who promised to help secure the release of a dozen Christian nuns abducted by Islamists in Syria, as well as of two Orthodox archbishops kidnapped there last April.
While that may reflect the capacity of the Olympics to bring a respite from tension and conflict, others remain wary. But Father Chavanne, the Austrian chaplain, is optimistic. He thinks the Olympics aren’t just about “pushing the limits” and “thrilling with speed,” but also about “finding an inner balance and calm” and ensuring “people aren’t there for sport, but sport for the people.”
That’s an area where the Catholic Church has been able to make a modest but useful contribution.
Msgr. Kovalevsky, Russia’s bishops’ conference secretary-general, agreed. Although the Olympics won’t solve any problems, they may at least create a better atmosphere for tackling them in future.
“Every major event is a call to evangelize for Christians, and the Olympics are no exception,” the Russian priest told OSV.
“Although we may not have Catholics among our own country’s competitors, society and government are intensely interested, and this poses a challenge to us all as witnesses to Christ in our daily lives.”
Promises, promises ... this has come to naught.
If the games had been held in the USA under the same circumstances, the ACLU would have had a cow.
- http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2014/february/sign-of-ice-dancing-cross-missionaries-sochi-olympics-pew.html: Russian adults identifying as Orthodox Christians shot up from 31 percent to 72 percent since the collapse of Communism in 1991, according to a new Pew Research Center study. What's more, the number of adults claiming a belief in God rose from 38 percent to 56 percent during the same time period.
The growing Russian openness to religion is good news for Russian evangelicals, who are active in Sochi, but also for Americans evangelizing during the Olympics, Baptist Press reports.
"Sochi today, since the Olympics started, is 180 degrees different than Sochi in January 2010," Marc Hooks, co-director of Engage Sochi, told Baptist Press. "Never have I seen Russians so open."
And American evangelicals are taking advantage of it. Engage Sochi, an International Mission Board church planting and mass evangelism effort, aims to spread the gospel during and after the games. About 20 International Sports Chaplains are walking through the crowds, sharing pins that represent the story of Jesus (and drawing NPR's attention). And the Singing Men of Oklahoma are gathering crowds with gospel tunes and then mingling with them to share that gospel.
Russian Ministries president Sergey Rakhuba told CT that the Pew report was "fascinating" but missing some important trends, including the increasing political influence of the Russian Orthodox Church, which is contributing to religious oppression.
And the NPR story is amazingly neutral, if not the comments.
SOAR has been invited by the local evangelical churches in Sochi, Russia to assist them in a major outreach and evangelism effort primarily targeting the local Russian community during the 2014 Winter Olympics! We need up to 90 people who want to serve the local Russian church as they seek to reach out to their city during the Olympic games.
McCarthy Baptist Church"Where the Sea Meets the Snow"
February 4-14, 2014
I think that there is still SOMEONE who has NOT changed HIS views on the matter...
The Health Risks of gay sex.
20. Then the LORD said, "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous
21. that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know."
4. Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom--both young and old--surrounded the house.
5. They called to Lot, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them."
6. Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him
7. and said, "No, my friends. Don't do this wicked thing.
Isaiah 3:9 The look on their faces testifies against them; they parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! They have brought disaster upon themselves.
2 Peter 2:13b Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you.
49. "`Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.
50. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.
1. But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them--bringing swift destruction on themselves.
2. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.
3. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.
4. For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment;
5. if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others;
6. if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;
7. and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men
8. (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)--
9. if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.
10. This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority. Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings;
11. yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not bring slanderous accusations against such beings in the presence of the Lord.
12. But these men blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish.
13. They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you.
But there IS hope!!!
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
9. Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived:
Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders
10. nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
11. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
If you could NOT change, you would be in most pitiful shape...