John Allen writes here ( on the first week of the Synod of Bishops - among other things, the following:

Bishops from the nations of the former Soviet sphere, on the other hand, have so far focused mainly on two key ideas:
1) keeping alive the memory of the sacrifices made by believers in those regions to remain true to the faith;
2) the need for careful, reverent adherence to liturgical norms.
The latter point has been so consistent that one synod father referred to an "Eastern front" on the issue. In part, this may reflect the cultural reality that Orthodoxy puts a high premium on precise celebration of liturgical rites, and Catholics in majority Orthodox nations are no doubt influenced by that expectation.

To understand this dynamic, I sat down Thursday afternoon with Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of the Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow. The following are excerpts from our interview.

For Russian Catholics, what are the most important issues in this synod?
Kondrusiewicz: "For me personally, I would say accuracy in celebrating the Mass and the liturgy. I'm very sensitive to this expression of our faith. My seminarians know this about me very well; I believe very much in lex orandi, lex credendi, 'the law of worship is the law of faith.' The Mass is not the property of the priest. It was established by Christ, and its essentials come from above. The church can change some things, as it did after the Second Vatican Council, but it does so in the form of norms, and we have to preserve them. It's not some kind of show for the priest to arrange according to his own whims.

"In Russia, for 70 years we had very few opportunities to celebrate the Eucharist. Officially there were only two churches open, in Moscow and Leningrad. There was little understanding of the Mass and of the Eucharist. Step by step, this has changed, and has changed a lot. We started adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in Moscow seven years ago, and at the time many people wondered, 'What is this?' Now they ask for it. In every parish in my archdiocese, there is adoration at least once a week. This gives the people an understanding of what the Eucharist means. Now we are also restoring the practice of Eucharistic processions, something else we didn't have for 70 years. Since about 1998 or 1999, we have had an annual Corpus Domini procession. Children carry flowers and so on. Russian journalists call me in the spring and ask when it's going to take place, since there is nothing comparable in the Orthodox church."

Why is the theme of adherence to liturgical norms so prominent in the interventions from Eastern European bishops?
"Maybe we're just more traditional, I don't know. Generally, we feel that failure to preserve the norms and to be accurate in the liturgical rites is one of many reasons that causes the faith of the people to decline. If there is no piety, if there is no accuracy, if the priest is doing I don't know what .... if the priest doesn't seem to take the Mass seriously, why should the people? I recall a story about a stranger who went to Mass in Lithuania, a secular person, who came away saying, 'The choir was very good, the congregation was polite, but that actor in front I didn't like." The point is, even this secular person could see that the priest was not serious. I'm afraid of a decline in the sense of the sacred. You know, in Russian each priest is called 'holy father,' because his hands touch the sacred elements. The Orthodox have a very strong sense of this too. If the priest is not pious, not accurate, if he doesn't perform each part of the Mass with care, people notice."

"This point also concerns the physical design of our churches. When I enter a church, I want to know immediately where the Holy Sacrament is located, the tabernacle. It's not always easy to find in modern churches. It's the same with confession .... the confessionals should be prominent in churches, and we must make use of them. I go into some churches [in the West], and I find that the hours of confession are from 4 to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. This isn't serious. I grew up in the Soviet Union, and our pastors confessed for hours and hours, even when it was difficult to do so. I recall one story from Byelorussia, abut a parish where the people had lined up for more than an hour for confession when they realized the priest was not coming. One lady in the congregation said, 'When we confess, the priest is acting as Christ. There's Christ on that crucifix, behind the altar. Let's put him in the confessional and confess to him." They took down the crucifix, put it inside the confessional, and went to confession. It's a moving story, and it shows how hungry people are. People need this."