They have been living on the second floor of the convent for over a decade, where the ROCOR-MP has been trying to physically remove them the premises, largely without success. Of late there have been calls to the public to support their physical removal from the property.
Mothers Pelagia and Maria came from a monastery in Kyiv where they had a level of understanding about the Catacomb Church and decided to leave the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate. Appealing to Metropolitan Vitaly, then first-hierarch of ROCOR, they arrived at Novo-Diveyevo in 1999, where they lived peacefully until discussions of union began with the Moscow Patriarchate. As the nuns realized what was possibly occurring over the coming years, they visited with Metropolitan Valentine of Suzdal to understand the situation more carefully, and were assigned protection from the ROAC. They continued to live in peace until the administration (which was headed not primarily by the Abbess, but a married priest who serves liturgy there), attempted to force them to join the Patriarchate.
The nuns, living in the old convent there, refused, citing the fact that they moved to the convent to leave the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate to begin with. When the ROCOR offered to move them to someplace they’d be happier, like the Holy Land, the nuns still refused.
So the first thing to go was the food. Almost immediately the nuns were cut off from the regular kitchen facilities. Using the kitchen in the old convent, however, the nuns were still able to cook– and they received donations for food from the Salvation Army and People to People, a local charitable organization.
So the priest changed the locks to the kitchen.
When the nuns resorted to cooking their own food in their rooms, the refrigerator on the second floor where the nuns lived was removed.
When this failed to encourage the nuns to leave, the bathroom was dismantled. When that didn’t work, after a year, it was repaired.
The “new ROCOR”, anxious to please the Patriarchate, then resorted to the civil courts to evict the nuns from the premises. Two lawyers have been helping the nuns pro bono throughout this process. Initial attempts included referring to the nuns as “employees” at court, which the court determined was not the case. The cases continue on appeals, and the ROCOR-MP is trying different tacks to remove the nuns.
In late 2003, one of the nuns went to a confession with the serving priest at the convent, Fr Alexander Fedorowski, at which points events were further complicated by a complaint that the nun had been told “inappropriate” things. At this point the nuns requested a spiritual court for a trial concerning the priest. One of their lawyers had requested time to study the canonical procedure to adequately speak on her behalf.
Instead, the nuns got a backdated notice of “defrockment” from the administration of what is now the ROCOR-MP. The nuns have since been given spiritual protection from Bishop Andrei (Maklakov) of Pavlovskoe in ROAC.
Lacking other options ecclesiastically to solve the problem of what the nuns claim was perverse behavior by the priest towards the younger nun, a harassment charge was filed. Both the attempts at eviction and the harassment charges have gone through a series of court challenges. Insofar as the ROCOR-MP has not been able to substantially defend its position in the face of facts– that the very purpose of the nuns being there to begin with had changed after their move– they have resorted to calls to the public to “defend the Church” against these two “crazy women”, sending out misleading letters to parishes and referring to the nuns by their secular names. Even the Remnant ROCOR blog has resorted to referring to them as “troublesome”, apologetically retracting referring to them, oddly, as “KGB agents”.
Bishop Andrei explained to us by telephone that ultimately, this sort of “eviction process” was also attempted on ROCOR nuns in California who refused to maintain communion with the MP– and the nuns were ultimately successful in protecting themselves from having any communion with the Patriarchate for so long as they are living, and are free to remain at the monasteries where they have pledged to remain.
Unfortunately, the conflict over the past few weeks has become more violent: a restraining order was filed by one of the younger nuns against the priest, whose confrontations alongside his wife have become increasingly physical in nature. Fr Alexander Fedorowski has so far refused to sign the order, and in fact has become even more bellicose and vulgar, in flagrant disregard of the rule of law, in his treatment of these two nuns– whose only crime was once one of the very reasons the ROCOR existed: to protect Christians outside Russia from the grip of the Soviet Moscow Patriarchate.
NFTU has been given access to video of recent confrontations with Fr Alexander Fedorowski and his wife, in which one case he knocks the camera out of the hands of one of the nuns.