Archbishop Peter in Saint Catherine Cathedral in Tsarskoe Selo, Saint Petersburg, Russia
"The glory of the Church is its martyrs, for the martyrs of faith are people who were so rooted in their love of God that they were ready to be a witness to the world about God's love. Not only did they show their love of God, as that was their personal love, but the love of the world too, because they gave their lives in order to enable all people -- all who could hear their voice, all who would hear about their exploits -- to witness that God is Love, and that He has witnesess on earth that are so convinced of His truth and His love, for they are ready to give their whole life in a testimony to this fact." (Metropolitan Anthony of Surozh)
The week of the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee starts a new cycle of church services. From this moment, we begin a preparatory period of the Great Lent -- a time when every Christian is called to a feasible feat of faith and abstinence. This year the rememberance of the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church coincides with the start of the preparatory Lenten period. Their memory is an example of the life of clergy and laity, whom God has bestowed with the highest award - the crown of martyrdom. Their example feat for the faith of Christ inspires man with a greater determination moving forward at the beginning of Lent.
On Sunday February 5, 2017, His Eminence, Archbishop Peter of Chicago and Mid-America celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the Cathedral St. Catherine, in Tsarkoe Selo, a quiet provincial town of St. Petersburg, Russia. It was indeed a celebration as this day also marks Archbishop Peter's nameday. St Catherine's Cathedral houses the relics of St. John Kochurov, who was a priest assigned to this Cathedral in 1916. At the time, St. Catherine’s Cathedral occupied a special place in the town; of the parish churches there, which were predominantly parishes of the imperial court and of the military, it was the largest.
On October 30, 1917, as the town was under attack by the Bolshevik forces during the turmoil of the Russian Revolution, people thronged to the churches seeking consolation. The clergy conducted a prayer service and procession throughout the town to pray for peace. The following day, the town was seized by the Bolsheviks and St. John Kochurov was arrested, taken to the outskirts of town and shot to death. He thus became the first clergy martyr of the Russian Revolution in 1917. Several days following his death, St. John was buried in the crypt of St. Catherine’s Cathedral. (Read more about St. John Kochurov's life here.)
“. . . His martyrdom is, for each of us, a dire reminder, an ominous warning. We therefore must be ready for anything. And to prevent such situations of destitution as we now have, we must prepare, between the times of trial, an assistance fund to be allotted for the defenseless, persecuted, and tormented clergy that in such cases and in similar ones they may have material aid from their kindred in spirit."
On December 1994, St. John was glorified by the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church, in session at St. Daniel's Monastery, Moscow, Russia, as the first of the new martyrs of the 20th century. In the United States he is also honored as a missionary and inspired preacher. Starting in 1892 St. John Kochurov was a missionary priest in the American Mid-West and served the Russian Church in Chicago for several years before returning to his homeland and becoming the first priest-martyr under the Bolsheviks.
At the 2009 Assembly of the Diocese of Chicago and Mid-America of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, delegates proposed the founding of a fellowship of stewards in order to strengthen our common life and ministry as a diocese. The initiative was blessed by Archbishop Peter and given the heavenly patronage of St. John Kochurov. (more on St. John Kochurov Society)
"The New Martyrs of the Russian Church, whose memory we remembered today, have joined the two branches of the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia and abroad,"noted the residing Archbishop Ambrosia of Petergorf. He concluded with a statement of hope that, after witnessing the celebration in honor of New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church, the Archbishop Peter will share his experiences with the American flock.