A revival of spiritual and cultural traditions can be seen in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe as people return to the richness of their past, says the leader of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of America and Canada.
On a Salt Lake visit this weekend, Bishop Vsevolod, who uses only a first name, said the people of the Eastern bloc, like Westerners before them, are seeking their roots."It's shown in the museums, and the people go back to the traditions not only of the architecture, of the iconography, of the religious services but the ancient melodies - they are trying to reconstitute them and sing them in the church."
The bishop said the Soviet effort to wipe out the past and create a "new Soviet man" has been a fiasco. "People need roots."
Although a small minority in the Eastern bloc are militant atheists and a larger group is indifferent to religion, "there is also a large group of people who are believers but will not show it for obvious reasons," Bishop Vsevolod said.
When those people come to the West, as many are doing under the more relaxed emigration policies of late, they come to church.
Although they believe, many have not been baptized, the bishop said. He will baptize one newly arrived group of Russians this weekend.
The bishop is in Salt Lake City to tend to the spiritual needs of more than 30 recently arrived Slavic members of the Greek Orthodox Community of Salt Lake City. The church has no local priests who speak Russian or Old Slavonic - the religious language of Slavic Orthodoxy - so the bishop was invited to visit.
He conducted services at Prophet Elias Church Friday evening and will celebrate liturgy Saturday and Sunday morning at Holy Trinity Cathedral, 279 S. Third West. He will also take part in the annual Greek Independence Day celebration at the Hellenic Memorial Cultural Center Saturday.
The bishop said the Greeks and the Slavic peoples have close ties. The Slavic countries received the Cyrillic alphabet and the Orthodox faith from Constantinople, and their relations go back more than 1,000 years.
The bishop himself is a Ukrainian born in Poland. He studied to become a priest, but World War II interrupted that, and after the war he went to Australia and became a psychotherapist. He came to the United States in 1959 and taught for many years at the Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University in New York.
The son and grandson of priests, he assisted his father as a layman for many years "until he died, and I stepped into his shoes," becoming a priest about four years ago.
In 1987, he was elected bishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of America and Canada, which has about 35,000 members. He serves under the direction of Archbishop Iakovos, primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in the Americas.