NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO UNIFY
Dr. Eugene L. Magerovsky
"From the very earliest years the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia has had no communion at all with the Moscow Patriarchate for very good reasons. Let us recall how, in a document dated 25th December 1924, Patriarch Tikhon appointed one of three Metropolitans - whichever of Metropolitans Kyrill, Agathangel or Peter of Krutitsa could manage to be present in Moscow - to replace him after his death until such time as a new Patriarch could be elected. Metropolitans Kyrill and Agathangel were not allowed to travel to Moscow from their places of exile by the Soviet government. The 58 bishops who assembled in Moscow for the funeral of Patriarch Tikhon examined the document left by the late Patriarch, and then recognized Metropolitan Peter of Krutitsa as locum tenens of the Patriarchal throne until the lawful election of a new Patriarch. He was loyal to the Soviet government in the sense that he did not speak out against it publicly, but he completely refused to make any untrue statements in support of it or to meet any of its demands which were unacceptable to the Church. On 27th November / 10th December 1925 he was arrested. At first he was imprisoned in the Butyrka Prison, in a large cell together with common criminals, and then he was exiled to a remote part of Asia. A few days before his arrest Metropolitan Peter appointed Metropolitan Sergius, who was then in Moscow, as his deputy, and indicated two other possible deputies - Metropolitan Michael, the Exarch of the Ukraine, and Metropolitan Joseph of Petrograd, who was then still Archbishop of Rostov.
At first Metropolitan Sergius Stragorodsky did not sign the "Declaration" and was put in prison, but he was let out very soon after. This seemed highly suspicious to all the faithful. It turned out that now he had signed the Declaration. In other words, he had betrayed the Church to the Bolshevik government. He thereby deprived it of its own internal freedom in spiritual and administrative matters. When Metropolitan Peter learned that Metropolitan Sergius had signed this Declaration (‘The joys of the Soviets are our joys, and the sorrows of the Soviets are our sorrows’)- in other words, that he had changed the whole course of the life of the Church - he wrote him two letters from prison, copies of which have been preserved. In these letters he said, very politely, "You, your eminence, had no right to change the course of the Church" i.e. to betray it to the Bolsheviks. He received no answer to these letters. And he was the real authority over Metropolitan Sergius. Clearly Sergius had concluded that by being arrested Metropolitan Peter had also been deposed from his position of authority in the Church, which is completely contrary to the Orthodox canons. Then Metropolitan Peter sent a letter by hand, thinking that it was the postal service that was at fault, and even then Metropolitan Sergius made no reply to his ecclesiastical superior, who was still his superior, even though confined to prison! For no Bolshevik government authority can deprive a single bishop or a single priest of his spiritual authority.
This is something which you should know. Despite this, Sergius decided that he need no longer reckon with him as someone in a senior position. When Metropolitan Peter returned from his exile, the Bolsheviks realized that Metropolitan Peter was senior to Metropolitan Sergius in the Church, and then they immediately arrested him and shot him. None of the ruling bishops (and there were about ten of them) submitted to Metropolitan Sergius as the successor to the Patriarch. So they were all arrested, sent into exile, and ultimately killed. The Bolsheviks did everything possible to smooth the way for Metropolitan Sergius. Thus Metropolitan Sergius set out on a path drenched in the blood of the martyred bishops of Russia. On one occasion Lenin said, "If you need a Church, we will give you one, we will even give you a Patriarch, but it is WE who will give you your Patriarch. And it is WE who will give you your Church."...At the moment when Metropolitan Sergius ceased to recognize Metropolitan Peter of Krutitsa as his spiritual authority he deprived himself of the Apostolic Succession and became a usurper. Such was the path taken by Metropolitan Sergius, and after him by all the other patriarchs and metropolitans up to the present day, which is why we do not have any communion with the Moscow Patriarchate. It is a pseudo-patriarchate with a pseudo-patriarch at its head. This is the fundamental reason. So we do not point at it and say there, look what it's turned into, because the very heart of the matter is, that the Moscow Patriarchate has lost the Apostolic Succession, which is to say, that it has lost the Grace of Christ."
The Moscow Patriarchate with President Putin in the lead is presently conducting a vehement campaign whose purpose is the full unification of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad with the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. It would seem that, under normal conditions, the possibility of joining the Diaspora with the metropolis would be welcome. But unfortunately, it will soon be a hundred years that the conditions in Russia have not been normal. The golden crowned vaults of stone cupolas with Christian crosses have not always been an indication of inner piety. Quite the opposite at times.
Let us conduct a small history lesson. For two centuries our church was subordinated to the government in the form of the Holy Synod, under its secular Chief Procurator. When the Patriarchate was restored, St. Tikhon was elected Patriarch at the All-Russian Church Council of 1917-18. But the same year also saw the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks and the beginning of the systematic persecution of the church and the almost total extermination of the clergy, which led to its withdrawal underground. Then Patriarch Tikhon was obliged to issue his decree stating that when contact is lost between the center and outer legal church authorities, then the local church authorities can act independently until these contacts are restored.
Thus the Higher Ecclesiastical Authority was formed on territory occupied by the Whites in the Civil War and subsequently emigrated together with the Whites to establish itself in Sremske-Karlovice, Yugoslavia. When it became clear that the atheist Bolshevik regime had become firmly entrenched in Russia, the Ecclesiastical Authority became the Synod of Bishops Abroad. When the Communist Tito came to power in Yugoslavia, the Synod moved to West Germany, and from there to America, where it became to be known as the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.
After the death of Patriarch Tikhon at the very dawn of the Soviet regime, subsequent incumbents changed one after another as the Bolsheviks killed them or sent them to prison, until there remained only the Metropolitan Sergius Stragorodsky to assume the authority of the Patriarch. Strictly speaking there were others, but although he himself was in prison, he quasi-legally declared himself head of the church. Whether independently or whether following the instructions, it is said, of the Soviet bureaucrat Comrade Tuchkov, in 1927 he wrote a letter to the Soviet authorities – a sort of Declaration – which stated that “your pains and sadness are our pains and sadness, and your joys are our joys,” and gave himself and the church over to the total disposal of the atheistic Soviet regime. But this not only failed to placate Soviet antireligious policies, but rather it allowed them to develop even more, such that by the beginning of the 1940s, according to Fr. Ardov, there were only three or four parishes left throughout all of Russia at that time.
The most terrible temptation befell the church in 1943, when Stalin decided to employ it as a lever to enslave and dupe the people even more, all in order to get greater collaboration from his people in his struggle with Germany. Since the country was atheistic, the Patriarchate had for all practical purposes ceased to exist after the death of Tikhon in 1925. Stalin then summoned Sergius Stragorodsky to one of his regular night consultations in September 1943, together with several Church hierarchs “willing to collaborate”, and with them he drew up a plan for a restored Moscow Patriarchate, now consisting of “obedient” bishops, almost all of whom were recruited by organs of the secret police - the NKVD. It is said that the Soviet bureaucrats Karpov and Kuroedov were the inspiration behind this affair.
What is more, a specifically Soviet Russian situation in church relations came to pass at this moment and has continued for over a half century whereby the untainted, truly religious, ascetic and secretly prayerful flock has fallen into the hands of a pseudo-hierarchy thoroughly seduced by Soviet central authorities. I know of no other state except the Soviet Union where such a system could exist for so long. It is interesting that Stalin laid down, and subsequent Soviet leaders further developed the condition in their organization of the church whereby the apparent to all “Patriarchate” was subordinated to the semi-public state “Kuroedov Department,” or the so-called “Committee for Religious Affairs,” which in reality managed church policy and directed it according to the atheistic interests of the Soviet state. Precisely this merging of “Partriarchal” and “Synodal” principles can still be observed in the organization of the church even today.
From the outside everything looked quite nice and neat in the newly minted Moscow Patriarchate, since each hierarch knew his role and played it as a matter of life and death. This took place in internal affairs, when the secrets of the confessional were systematically divulged, or in the “election” of a new Patriarch with the “blessing” of atheistic authorities, and it occurred, ultimately, in foreign settings as well, in work with the World Council of Churches. The Moscow Patriarchate demonstrated special zeal in the seizure of church property located abroad, which émigrés had earlier succeeded in preserving from Soviet hands. And it was doing this not even for itself, but for the atheistic state, because in the USSR all property belonged to the state. It is extremely interesting that with minor exceptions this continues even up to the present day, despite all the regime changes.
But let us return to our tale. Over a period of more than fifty years a system has been put together in which the congregation has managed to expand somewhat and even disassociate itself to some degree from the state, while being still subjected to temporary, yet intensive persecution as, say, during Khrushchev’s attack on the church or during Brezhnev’s “period of stagnation.” Among the masses of this same – now “officially permitted” – church there appeared without doubt a series of heroic laymen and truly dedicated lower clergy. Yet the church hierarchy, especially its bishops, continued to be either the direct creation of atheistic authorities or to be totally corrupted by personal dependency on them. In this way a system was developed whereby the KGB or the NKVD, through its “church” organs, exerted dual influence on the congregation at large: from above, hierarchically, through “its own” bishops, who were its subordinates, and through intelligence gathering, among the masses, with the help of a web of secret informers and their assistants. From the outside there was the complete appearance of a relative freedom of religion. In this way there developed a distinctive church divide in Russia, which continues to this day – an uncorrupted, truly faithful congregation and its priests, and the corrupted higher episcopacy.
The events of 1991 are difficult to describe with the usual terminology. There were indeed some changes, but a great deal remained from the previous Soviet regime. The one-sided "concordat" of Sergius Stragorodsky, spiced with Stalin’s agreement and the founding of the Moscow Patriarchate in 1943, continues in force. The Patriarch Alexis II recently delivered a speech in praise of Sergius on the sixtieth anniversary of his death. He has also sent a telegram of thanks to Yassir Arafat for transferring to the Patriarchate our church lands in the Holy Land. Although there have been frequent press reports that the Patriarch somewhere condemned Sergius’ 1927 Declaration, I keep trying but still cannot locate the place and text of this condemnation. All the "Red" bishops, who comprise approximately sixty percent, have retained their positions. Not a word is said about the fact that the Moscow Patriarchate itself is a Stalinist creation which ought to be somehow returned to its normal condition.
Let’s conduct an experiment: if we were in the position of the Moscow Patriarchate at the end of 1991 and the beginning of 1992, what would we have done immediately after the change in power? First of all we would have abolished the Declaration of Metropolitan Sergius by declaring it contrary to all Christian principles and we would have conducted a series of prayer services of repentance. Then, insofar as the Moscow Patriarchate is a “poisoned fruit from a poisoned tree,” we would have dissolved it by replacing the Patriarch with a temporary locum tenens or incumbent of the Patriarch’s seat. We would then have called for an All-Russian Church Council, which would elect a new Patriarch who would be a worthy successor to St. Tikhon. Simultaneously with establishing this incumbency, we would have retired all bishops without exception who had stained their chasubles by serving atheistic authorities. We would also have proclaimed that we would not tolerate a government that allowed the portraits, statues, titles, music and all sorts of symbols of the atheistic Communist past to remain. This is what we would have done. One may ask whether the Moscow Patriarchate undertook at least one of these steps? If not, why not? And why does it, nonetheless, so insist on its desire to unify with us and to absorb us, but at the same time continue its attempts to confiscate our last property in the Holy Land? Does it not seem that the Soviet regime has already fallen and there is no longer any need to confiscate anything from the émigrés?
Not only do the Soviet symbols remain, but so do its laws as well. For example, all churches built before 1917 are “state historical objects” which belong to the state. Poor Empress Maria Fedorovna, apparently, upon her “arrival” in the former USSR will also be interred in a “state historical museum,” which is the Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral and where her husband, Alexander III, now lies. The “privatization” of churches, i.e. their transfer into the hands of their original owners, was halted in St. Petersburg in 2002. In the legislation of the state, which is not even called Russia, the Russian Federation is declared to be the successor-state of the RSFSR and the USSR, and the Russian Empire, which existed two hundred years, and another eight hundred before then, seems not to have existed at all. The “Kuroedov Department,” which joined the church and the state with the predominance of the latter, also continues its life, although under a different name, as is the case with a series of other no less odious departments. Truly, “round and round it goes, ever returning on its course.”
From all that the Moscow Patriarchate can and wishes to do at the present time, it is clear that it will in no way come out against the neo-Soviet regime that has established itself in the country. It will obediently follow the secular authorities, shutting its eyes to one thing and purposely not noticing the other. Putin, of course, who crosses himself correctly and kisses the Patriarch’s hand, has distanced himself to a great degree from Stalin and even Gorbachev in his relations with the church, but he still does not even come close to, say, Alexander III. The Czar was a profoundly pious individual, but for Putin this is only a charade. It appears that all the talk about unification is the same sort of charade.
In general, one somehow has no wish to join the “Stalinist tree,” and if one adds to this the “Red” bishops, the “mummy” on Red Square, the Soviet national anthem and the red flag which are constantly and automatically inserted into all this, then it simply makes one sick. Yes, the faithful Russian masses are innocent of the affairs of their hierarchs and doubtless Divine Grace is present in their churches in some inscrutable way. But we, after all, have been offered to join with the Moscow Patriarchate and not with them. For a long time now, since the time of the “catacomb church,” we have shared with them all their terrors and the passions of their sojourn under the Soviets. We do not have to join with them since we have always been one with them. The Moscow Patriarchate, however, has taken no steps to some-how “normalize its status,” but on the contrary continues to demonstrate its fidelity to the words and deeds of Metropolitan Sergius and prepares to “forget” about its own Stalinist origins.
Another matter is no less disturbing. The deliberate and increasingly profound return of everything Soviet, from the higher state apparatus to even the ordinary “militia,” which is what in Russia they keep calling the police. The term had sunk into oblivion some fifteen years ago even in the nations of Eastern Europe and its use in Russia now arouses justifiable misgivings in us. Unfortunately, the church in any state is almost always thought of together with the state in which it is located, because it is the state that usually governs church forms and relations. Therefore, if we were to unite with the Moscow Patriarchate, we would thus be uniting with a semi-legal church of a newly “Sovietized” state. Do we really need that? Would it not be better for us to wait for some time to pass, at which point the church and state, we hope, will come to their senses, and everything will return to some kind of more or less normal course, which does not now exist and which is not anticipated soon?
Thank God, we have somehow existed independently for 87 years without the Stalinist legacy and, with God’s help, we will continue to exist. And, perhaps, we will hold on until that time when we can really and truly unite with the original Russian Orthodox Church, if it remains intact as such, and not with some sort of surrogate, but without any of the reservations or conditional or concessive proposals which are apparently necessary in our present conversations. An example for us all is the conduct of the Russian Orthodox Archepiscopacy in France and Western Europe (formerly the “Evlogian”), which did not unite with the Moscow Patriarchate despite all its promises, and which continues to exist under the spiritual jurisdiction of the Exarchate of the Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch in Constantinople (Istanbul).
START===> Taking into consideration all that was said before, one has to remember one unique condition which developed. When in 1943 Stalin created the Moscow Patriarchy he did not realize the full import of what he was doing. This is very clear now. The main thing was that he was creating such an institution in an anti-religious, godless state, one of the main purposes of which was the eradication of all religions. He thought that he was organizing a governmnetal structure totally “obedient” to him and helping him further to marshal his forces against his war with Germany. Possibly, he also thought he was acquiring another means of influencing the world religious community which he could now also use for military purposes.
It seems that he viewed this newly created body only from the top, concetrating on the top governmental level of “People’s Commissariats”, “Ministries” or dioces, and not paying much attention to its local intitutions, such as parishes which were historically the centers of religious life. He created a special state “church-bureacracy”, full of NKVD- and, later, the KGB-men. In general, he was looking more at the top levels of this organization than its lower rungs. He also did not seem to pay any attention to the contents of the old ecclesiastical texts which have been used in church services for centuries. Therefore, very soon old customs, habits and practices gradually found their way back into the prayerful folk. Of course, the vigilant eye of the NKVD or the KGB kept watch over their behavior, but the country was large and one cannot pay attention to absolutely everything. So that if not true freethinking, then at least a certain church outlook, created by these texts, gradually began to penetrate into the masses.
This was a long process, lasting almost fifty years and moving in wave-like fashion, with its nadirs and its zeniths. At the same time, the character of the Soviet power and state was also changing. The active embittering of the system of terror, which reached its apogee in the year of Stalin’s death in 1953, gradually gave way to merely trying to keep the Soviet system within certain bounds. The state institutions of suppression were slowly getting the idea that it wasn’t necessary anymore to threaten the population with loss of liberty or life to keep it in check, that there are other more effective methods to ensure the “proper behavior” of the Soviet populace. There also appears a rather rare but as very significant phenomenon, the “atoning KGB-man”, reminiscent of the “atoning gendarme” of the past, who finds his present police duties burdensome and thusly rocks the entire system of naked terror.
“Good behavior” was also achieved by using the top strata of the church hierarchy, at the controlling positions of which sat the “red” bishops. A “red” bishop was a person who had completed NKVD training, then entered a seminary or even an allowed for this purpose church academy, depending on the kind of work he was sent to perform. Later the “red” bishops could be volunteers, coming not only from the secret police ranks but also external sources.
Nevertheless they would prove to be good keepers of the social order for their political bosses. In this fashion the entire top church hierarchy was corrupted by direct or indirect collaboration with the godless powers that be. The lower rungs of the hierarchical ladder were affected by this to a much lesser degree and, at times, remained almost totally unaffected. These were, mainly, the small parishes and little monasteries. Therefore, when the Soviet Union fell in 1991,these “lower rungs” of the ecclesiastical ladder, mainly parishes and small monasteries, were liberated from the direct political controls, which remained in the dioceses, metropolies and higher, since the personnel there was still old, Soviet. This seems to continue to the present day.
With the disappearance of the Soviet Union, those of us living abroad had a faint hope that the “Soviet church”, too, would fall, especially since it had in its lower rungs almost totally liberated itself from its Stalinist constraints and was ready, together with its “red” bishops, to fall by the wayside. But to reform the lower rungs is evidently much easier than the upper echelons and we are now still standing at that point. At the higher echelons there existed another form of attraction…quot;the “warm soft spots” that wedded some people to them, to leave which, especially during the years of the financial uncertainty in the Russian Federation, was hardly desirable.
And since these “spots” were still old Soviet ones and covered by the old “nomenklatura” perks, to remain at such a “warm spot” was very beneficial. Therefore the “red” hierarchs, on the whole, remained in their old positions. Only a very small group of them did make sounds renouncing their former masters, but most just stayed put. Such is the situation to the present day.
What kind of relations can we have with a church like that? I think this question is already being answered by us individually. Some of us attend the Moscow Patriarchy churches and even take communion in them. Others avoid them, but do not shun their priests, should they meet them on some neutral ground. Still others do not go to their churches and avoid any contact with their clergy. This is approximately the whole scale of our relationships with the Moscow Patriarchy. But, of course, we cannot even hope to have any talks with them about us joining it right now.
Before we could merge, the Moscow Patriarchy has totally to restructure itself. First of all, it has to purge itself of its “red” bishops.
Second, it should denounce its pact with Antichrist, the 1927 Declaration by the metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky) and the establishment together with Stalin of the Moscow Patriarchy in 1943.
Third, it has to accept that all of the fifty years of its existence were spent under the godless yoke of the Soviet power, without any ability to freely address the world and to speak its mind. The Patriarchy should announce that during a special church service clearly, loudly, openly and publically.
Fourth, it should complete sever its ties with the Soviet past, stop participating in purely state occasions and cease to mark such dates as, for example, the 30-th anniversary of the establishment of the anti-terrorist military group “Alpha”, founded by a Communist, Andropov.
Fifth, it should establish in its churches at least a weekly commemoration of the millions of nameless innocent victims of the godless regime, martyred and driven to death at the hands of Communists.
Sixth, the church should be returned to the state it was in during the stewartship of St. Patriarch Tikhon. Only then will it be possible for us to talk about some kind of union. <===END
Father Palladius related how the Soviet authorities had brought the priests to submit to Metropolitan Sergius. That was in 1927/28 in Kiev:
"They collected about two hundred of us clergy on the third floor of a building in Kiev, evidently occupied by the GPU. They declared to us that we were all obliged to sign the declaration of Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky), to whom the Soviet authorities had entrusted the government of the Orthodox Church in the U.S.S.R. This was the so-called 'signature of loyalty'. Whoever signed the required obligation would be received into the clergy by the 'bishop' and appointed a place where he was to serve. But whoever refused to do this would be looked upon by the Soviet authorities as having, by this refusal, committed an act of counter-revolution. And with such people, as with 'enemies of the people', they said, we can deal severely... "And then they began to call us up according to a list... But they positioned us in such a way that we were well able to see both the table to which they called us up individually and the window, close by the table, and what was happening beyond the window, below, in the inner courtyard of this building. "When they began to call out the names, no one faltered and not one gave his signature. One after the other they went up to the table and replied with a refusal. And immediately they threw the man who had refused through the window onto the concrete square. Some of these courageous martyrs for Christ, on falling from the third floor, were immediately killed and did not move. When others hit the concrete, their eyes fell out, but they continued to move... And immediately they picked each of them up and hurled them into a lorry... Seventeen clergy were thrown in in this manner. The queue now came to me - I was the fourth after these seventeen. "I was in such joy, it is impossible to describe it," he continued. "Fervently I thanked the Lord: 'Glory to Thee, O Lord, Who hast counted me worthy to receive a martyr's death!...' But alas! at that moment, a chekist came in and gave the order to wait a little with the refusers... Apparently, they understood that with this method of punishment they would be able neither to shake nor to terrify any of the confessors of the Faith of Christ. And after seventeen had been thrown through the window, they stopped hurling down those who refused to submit to Metropolitan Sergius, and began to give them terms of imprisonment in camps from five to ten years. They gave me eight years' imprisonment in camps... At the end of this term, they gave me three years more in exile in Kirghizia..."
Vladimir Putin tried to unite the Orthodox churches. However, the competitiveness between Metropolitan Kirill and Father Tikhon Shevkunov got in the way.
The process of unification of the Rusasian Orthodox church, personally launched by President Vladimir Putin on September 24, 2003, had its first serious slowdown. On the last day of January of this year, Patriarch Alexey II touched on a subject that the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) - with whom they are on the road to unification - finds exceedingly painful. In a meeting at the Danilov monastery with the new Palestinian leader, Mahmud Abbas, the Patriarch asked that the Russian Orthodox Convents in Hebron and Jericho be attached to the Moscow Patriarchate (MP). These two Convents, located in two biblical cities, had been taken from ROCOR in 1997 and 2000 respectively, with the use of excessive physical force. Acting in the interests of the Moscow Patriarchate, Palestinian soldiers and police had beaten up nuns and novices; whereas, the elderly Abbess Juliania's head was bashed against the steps of the Hebron cathedral.
The first fruits of the discussions between the MP and ROCOR which began immediately after the "historical meeting" between Putin and the "abroaders" Metropolitan Laurus (Shkurla), was the pledge of the MP to cease all asset quarrels and call off all court proceedings against parishes of the ROCOR. Within the ROCOR there are very many opponents to the unification, which is seen as a "total and unconditional surrender" of ROCOR before the MP. These opponents quite frequently point to these lawsuits as a serious symptom of the lack of "free will" between the partners in these discussions. Therefore, when the MP agreed to call off the lawsuits, the advocates of the unification between the ROCOR and the MP headed by Archbishop of Berlin and Germany Mark (Arndt), were too quick to celebrate their first victory over the opponents of the unification.
And so the long-awaited victory became a Pyrrhic victory. Archbishop Mark did not take it as a laughing matter and was offended by the Patriarch. The following day after MP's head met with Mahmud Abbas, the German Bishop announced: "I am very disappointed. We cannot be silent about such announcements. This will turn our entire flock against the dialog process". Calling the problem of ownership in the Holy Land one of "the newest wounds on the body of the Russian Church", Archbishop Mark remembered other areas of differences. "Here just recently, the MP voiced the opinion that all our priests in the ROCOR need to be re-ordained in Russia. Not one of our Bishops will go for that. Sometimes I ask myself, maybe, this is just someone's goal to break off the dialog process."
The topic of ownership in the Holy Land is especially painful for Mark. In 1997, he, as the most energetic Bishop, was appointed by the Synod of Bishops of ROCOR to "oversee the affairs of the Russian Mission in the Holy Land". He had suffered then, a great diplomatic defeat, which still throws a shadow onto his ascetic appearance. Instead of appealing to the public opinion in the West, which was on the side of the hunted ROCOR, instead of a formal judicial review of the grabbing of someone else's property, Archbishop Mark decided to "make peace with the aggressor". He met with Yassir Arafat, and in pejorative expressions, begged forgiveness, and then, in the name of the ROCOR Synod, he spread an announcement in which he blamed his own clerics for supposedly provoking the aggression of the enemy. After the public self-flagellation of Archbishop Mark, none of her properties were returned to ROCOR, and she was only laughed at, as the promise was made to continue the transfer of Russian Church properties in Palestine to the MP.
And it was Archbishop Mark, again as the most energetic of the ROCOR Bishops, who became the leader and ideologue of the dialog process of the unification with the MP, at first his counterpart in the MP was the Archimandrite Tikhon (Shevkunov), who is called the "Father Confessor" of President Putin. It was he, who managed to arrange a meeting between the President and Metropolitan Laurus. Unification with ROCOR is totally in line with the conservative persona of Fr. Tikhon, who always was a proponent of the "spiritual inheritance of the Russian abroad". On the other hand, the success of such an historical event, as the unification of the Russian Church, would have brought Fr. Tikhon into a leadership role in church-social life in Russia - to those positions, which are presently occupied by the liberal Metropolitan Kirill (Gundyaev), who has compromised himself with tobacco and oil scandals.
By the way, could he be the one Archbishop Mark is alluding to, when he speaks of someone whose goal is to "break off the dialog process"? It was only one and a half years ago in private conversations, that Mark admitted that he wouldn't want to sit down at one table with Kirill, to whom he experiences a severely allergic reaction. Interestingly enough, Metropolitan Kirill, the "Minister of Foreign Affairs" of the MP, was not present at the meeting between Putin and Metropolitan Laurus. However, last year, Metropolitan Kirill, took over the initiative toward unification from Archimandrite Tikhon, moving him over to a secondary position. "Holding their noses", the ROCOR clerics were forced to sit down at one table for talks with the least acceptable of the MP Hierarchs.
Indeed, can Metropolitan Kirill be an enemy of the unification? Quite. First of all, neither he nor the MP loses anything if the unification does not take place. The crawling process of transfer of the Russian Abroad church property from ROCOR to MP has been going on consistently for a long time. The number of MP parishes outside of Russia already outnumbers the number of ROCOR parishes. Property quarrels in the courts, as a rule, are decided in favor of the MP. Second of all, having torpedoed the unification process, Metropolitan Kirill will weaken considerably the position and will eliminate "the trust of the President" from Archimandrite Tikhon, who, by virtue of his "access to the body", seems to be a serious competitor.
However, these are only theories. For the time being, the department under Metropolitan Kirill, the Department of Foreign Church Liaisons, is sending victorious news from the "front", the meaning of which can be summarized simply: the ROCOR clerics have no place to go. One of the announcements of the Department noted that property quarrels are inconsequential, when the topic of discussion is unification of the churches. What difference does it make to whom one or another building belongs, if prayer and services can be performed by representatives of both sides? It is, indeed, strange that the emissaries from ROCOR seem to have nothing against being swallowed up by the giant MP, but grab onto to such trivia, as the Convents in the Palestine. Perhaps a more convenient reason to back off from the rapprochement couldn't be found.
Moscow News, Feb. 25, 2005 Translated from Russian by Mrs. M.N. Nekludoff
OUR VIEW OF THE MOSCOW PATRIARCHY
Dr. Eugene L. Magerovsky
The ROCOR Council of 1971:
Resolution of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia Concerning the Election of Pimen (Isvekov as Patriarch of Moscow)
The Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia on September 1/14) 1971 considered the gathering which, calling itself an All-Russian Church Council, met in Moscow from May 30 to June 2 of this year for the purpose of electing a Patriarch of Moscow and all Russias. This gathering declared that Metropolitan Pimen was elected to the Patriarchal Throne. After considering all aspects of this election, the Council of Bishops, representing the free part of the Russian Orthodox Church, came to the following conclusion:
I. For the election of the Primate of a Local Church it is essential that such an election take place according to the laws of the given Church and that it be free, representing a genuine expression of her voice.
2. In 1917 the All-Russian Council adopted a resolution restoring the Patriarchate in Russia, and elected to the Patriarchal See His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon. This council included all canonically consecrated bishops of the Russian Church, representatives of the monastic clergy and the Orthodox Theological Academies, invited by the Synod on the basis of the Regulation it had issued. All the representatives of the diocese were chosen freely at elections on three levels: parish elections, deanery elections and diocesan meetings. The actual election of the Patriarch took place in a fashion that guaranteed freedom in the nominating of candidates for election. The latter were established by a secret ballot, and at first a large number of candidates were named. From among them, by systematic balloting, the three who received the highest number of votes were picked, and of those one was finally elected by the drawing of lots. This system of election, guaranteeing complete freedom and confirmed by the All-Russian Church Council, was never abolished by a free council of equal authority. Therefore, and election of Patriarchs effected otherwise and not in a free manner, does not express the voice of the Russian Orthodox Church and is not lawful. Not only the election of the present Pimen, who claims to be Patriarch, but those of his two predecessors must also be regarded as unlawful. Their supporters can not defend these elections by saying that the external conditions caused by persecutions against the Faith prevented the realization of a lawful form of election, since, despite the obvious, they constantly insist on the supposed full religion's freedom in the Soviet Union. Similar decisions were made the now elected Patriarch Pimen. At all three patriarchal elections, no one attempted or had any possibility of nominating a candidate other than the one indicated beforehand by representatives of the secular authorities.
3. The lawful succession of higher Church authority in the Russian Church has been broken since 1927, when the Acting Locum-Tenens of the Patriarchal Throne, Metropolitan Sergius of Nizhny-Novgorod, went against the order of the Metropolitan of Krutitsa whom he was replacing and signed an agreement with the atheistic secular authorities, to which neither Metropolitan Peter nor the other elder hierarchs agreed. The Soviet government began to throw all the hierarchs who did not agree with Metropolitan Sergius in prison, thus clearing the path for him to become head of the Russian Church.
He, for his part, taking no account of the elder bishops, formed a Synod by his own personal choice and, while Metropolitan Peter of Krutitsa, to whom by position the Moscow diocese belonged, was still alive, he unlawfully gave himself the title of "His Beatitude the Metropolitan of Moscow" with the right to wear two panagias. In 1943, by order of the atheist and the malicious persecutor of the Church, Stalin, he hurriedly (in four days) pulled together, in fulfillment of the latter's political plans, a Council consisting of bishops specially chosen and freed from prison for the purpose by Stalin, a Council which, counting Metropolitan Sergius, himself, consisted of only 19 bishops, and which elected him Patriarch. In 1945, after the death of Patriarch Sergius, Metropolitan Alexis of Leningrad gathered a Council, to which representatives of the other autocephalous Churches were also invited. This Council, besides recently consecrated bishops, consisted of representatives of the clergy and laity, picked without elections and prepared for the election of a Patriarch, and, submissively following the directions of the atheistic authorities, unanimously elected as Patriarch Metropolitan Alexis of Leningrad. After his death, in the same illegal manner the so-called All-Russian Council was convoked this year for the election as Patriarch of Metropolitan Pimen, known not so much for his devoutness or theological education, but rather for his diligence in carrying out the orders of the atheistic government, which are directed toward the destruction of the Church and toward fulfilling the political plans of the Soviet Regime.
4. All of the elections of Patriarchs in Moscow, beginning in 1943, are invalid on the basis of the 30th Canon of the Holy Apostles and the 3rd Canon of the 7th Ecumenical Council, according to which, "if any bishop, having made use of secular rulers, should receive through them Episcopal authority in the Church, let him be defrocked and excommunicated along with all those in communion with him". The significance that the Fathers of the 7th Council gave to such an offence is obvious from the very fact of a double punishment for it, that is, not only deposition but excommunication as well, something unusual for ecclesiastical law. The famous commentator on Canon Law, Bishop Nicodemus of Dalmatia, gives the following explanation of the 30th Canon of the Holy Apostles: "If the Church condemned unlawful influence by the secular authorities in the ordination of bishops at a time when the rulers were Christians, then it follows that She should condemn such action all the more when the latter are pagans and place even heavier penalties on the guilty parties, who were not ashamed of asking for help from pagan rulers and the authorities subordinated to them, in order to gain the episcopate. This (30th) Canon has such cases in view". If in defense of this position examples are given of the Patriarchs of Constantinople who were placed on the Throne at the caprice of the Turkish Sultans, one can reply that no anomaly can be regarded as a norm and that one breach of Canon Law cannot justify another.
Taking into consideration all the above mentioned reasons, the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, as the representative of the free part of the Russian Church, determines:
The election of Pimen (Izvekov) as Patriarch of Moscow and All Russias at the gathering calling itself an All-Russian Church Council in Moscow the 2nd of June of this year, on the authority of the 3rd Canon of the 7th Ecumenical Council and other reasons set forth in this decision, is to be regarded as unlawful and void, and all of his acts and directions as having no strength.
We understand very well the position of the Russian Federation (RF) residents and really commiserate with them because they do find themselves in quite ambivalent circumstances put there by political conditions. On the one hand, the church which is found in their state is an uncanonical one and devoid of Divine Grace. On the other hand, it is - it would seem - the only church which the people could attend. There were no other ones there or they were so well hidden that people could find them only with great difficulty. We expected that the church, understanding the unnatural position in which it found itself, should seek somehow to correct the situation when an opportune moment would come. But such was not the case. And its flock, not knowing or understanding all the canonical difficulties connected with its status, especially of the absence of Divine Grace in its services, continues to believe that everything is in good order and things are as they should be. Therefore, unfortunately, they themselves do not realize that the foundations of their belief are very tenuous and in need of support from the same church. Whether she will give it to them is another question.
We can only say that there are some one hundred million people who were forced by political circumstances to elect the Moscow Patriarchy. Not wishing to say really unpleasant things - especially when the people themselves could not do anything about them - but the Moscow Patriarchy, either by its own volition or being "egged-on" by Comrade Tuchkov decided to publish its "Declaration" of 1927, and later the same Metropolitan Sergei (Stragorodsky) decided, together with Stalin, to "resurrect" the Moscow Patriarchy as a department of the Communist Soviet state, thereby losing by these actions the original Divine Grace of the church.
It was not the only way of "saving" the church during her times of tribulation as it is now often said. There existed then, and still continue to exist now, the "True" and "Catacomb" underground Orthodox churches that did not follow the "official" church which made common cause with the godless government and thereby retained their Divine Grace. Although, if one is to believe the saying of the present Metropolitan Cyril of Kaliningrad (Koenigsberg), a mover in the Division of Foreign Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchy, that "we had no catacombs", we had nonetheless a "Catacomb" Church. So the people really had a real choice, a difficult one, but nonetheless a choice.
We all knew that the decision to join the godless crowd and to unite with the Soviet government and those who hated God and all He stood for could not have been one taken voluntarily. Therefore we all had awaited in 1991-92 some acts of public contrition and repentance for those past acts which the church was forced to undertake. That act would have returned Divine Grace to the church and it could, then, continue as before the death of St. Tikhon in 1925. The most logical way to achieve this would have been through the calling of a General Church Council, where everything would find its place: a public repentance (not before people, but before God) and the return of the Church Abroad to its original place as a part of the Russian Church. Finally, if there would be a need for it, the Council could also elect a new Patriarch. In this way the church would shed its godless state, return to St. Tikhon and again be in receipt of Divine Grace.
It seems to me that it was very easy to do this in 1991-1992. Patriarch Alexis II appeared ready to disavow the 1927 "Declaration" by Sergius, having written a very good article in the Jornal of the Moscow Patriarchy, No.10, 1991, pg.5-6, and a very natural further act would have been to renounce the church's Stalinist roots. But, it seems, he had evidently thought the better of it and did not do it. On the contrary, the Moscow Patriarchy even today continues to hold on to the fiction that Metropolitan Sergius was a "great patriot" and a "savior" of the church and that the church is a follower of St. Tikhon and in possession of Divine Grace, which it has lost at least twice and never regained. Therefore we cannot have any prayerful relations with it and with the people it serves. The normalization of relations between us depends only on it. Canonically, we are on the sidelines and cannot in any way participate in their decision. We can only patiently await until they see good reason.
However, until they do see reason, we will have to continue our rather two-faceted attitude toward them. It must be two-faceted because - as it is evident to all of us - the "abnormal" situation they find themselves in was a result of political conditions in which they had perforce to revolve. We know also that by the force of circumstances the lower rungs of their church's structure have almost totally liberated themselves from the erstwhile political controls and are firmly on the path to true spirituality and ardent zealotry. However, she should take the last step, without which she cannot be considered in possession of Divine Grace. She should return in history and change the decisions she was forced to make in the past. Just to "forget" about them will not do, because, unchanged, they will remain an eternal blot of her cravenness and cowardice, and continue to hold her in an uncanonical state. If she does not repent, we will have to continue to look at this church with human compassion, pity and understanding, but with a firm canonical nonacceptance.
So, as it is evident from the above, the crux of the matter is not in the reunification. If it were so, we would have reunited a long time ago. The crux of the matter is that as the "restored" Moscow Patriarchy had begun its tortuous journey on a dark night of September 4th, 1943, from the office of Joseph Stalin in the Kremlin to the gold-leafed domes of its present-day newly-built stone churches, so it continues to remain on it, without any clearly visible way of seeking to return to its traditional historical path. Unfortunately, everything now depends on your bishops and metropolitans. You should apply to them and not to us. Until this public repentance takes place, we shall be forced to continue to look at your church as an entity which is perhaps on the way to obtaining Divine Grace, but which has not yet fully obtained it.
We are not trying to hide anything from anyone or somehow to separate ourselves from you or somehow go to the sidelines. However, there are things which we can do for you together with you and there are things which you can only do for yourselves.Regrettably, the matters concerning your church belong to the second category. We can only advise you what to do, but to do this or not - can only you. We do not hold anything back from you, from the very beginning all that was said or written by us was open to you as well as to all others. However, we have to keep to the canons, some of them dating back to the fourth century A.D. Everything of ours is open to you, as is your unrestricted entry into our churches, if only you would have the will.
Remnants of Revisionism in Today’s Patriarchate
G. M. Soldatow
Not one of the Russian archbishops has harmed the faithful as much as Metropolitan Sergey (Stragorodskiy). It is apparent that his lethal influence will affect the life of the church for a long time to come. Much attention is always shown to his “Declaration,” which he issued in 1927. Based on this “Declaration,” a pact was made with the atheistic government, which basically subjugated the church hierarchy to the Soviet regime. Typically, discussions of Met. Sergey do not go any further, which overlooks a wide range of dire distortions, changes and violations of the canons which he perpetrated. These violations of the canons deserve just as much attention as his ill-fated “Declaration.”
Sergey (Ivan Nikolayevich Stragorodskiy), the first Soviet “Patriarch,” was born to a priest’s family on January 11, 1867. He completed studies at the Arzamatskiy theological college, the Nizhegorodskiy Theological Seminary, and in 1890, the SPB Theological Academy. Even as a dean at the SPB Theological Academy, Bishop Sergey showed an anti-authoritarian character. He spoke out in favor of the separation of the church from the government and urged a “new reform” of the church. In 1905, he presented an indictment of the tsarist government. After the February Revolution in 1917, when all the members of the Synod resigned in protest against the chief-procurator Lvov, he helped Lvov assemble a new Synod.
When the Soviet government began the looting of the church’s treasures, Met. Sergey opposed Patriarch Tikhon, who desired to preserve the sacramental items and other valuable, sacred objects of the church. When he thought that the government would cede power in the church to the new “reform” movement, Sergey joined the “reformers” in June 16, 1922. Together with two other “reformers,” they issued the following appeal:
“After reviewing the platform and the canonical legitimacy of the Provisional Church Commission, Archbishop Yevdokimov of Nizhegorod and Arzamas, Archbishop Seraphim of Kostroma and Galich and I, Metropolitan Sergey of Vladimir and Shuisk, declare that we wholly support the Church Commission. We regard it as the sole canonical, legitimate, leading church authority, and consider all of its directives to be fully legitimate and binding. We ask that all pastors and laypeople in our dioceses, as well as in others, do the same.”
Due to his influential senior position in the church, Met. Sergey was able to lead a large part of the clergy into error, and as a result of his “Declaration,” a massive defection occurred of the clergy to the “reformists.” Nevertheless, a majority of the believers in Russia did not give in to temptation and continued to support the clergy loyal to Patriarch Tikhon. After the Patriarch was released from detainment and it became clear that the “reformist” movement was not taken seriously by the faithful, Met. Sergey did an about-face. In the Donskoy monastery cathedral on August 15/ 28, 1923, before the Holy Patriarch, he publicly asked for forgiveness for the errors of his ways and his falling away from the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). Consequently, he was taken back and retained his rank.
Thus, Met. Sergey was held accountable before the Church for leading the episcopate, the clergy and the laity into folly. He knowingly used his position of authority to try to turn the Church against the Holy Patriarch. The faithful saw that the “reformist” clergy should not be trusted, and that among this clergy, there were many who had been married several times, others that were drunkards, or blindly ambitious or reckless individuals, who strived to enact anti-canonical reforms in the Church. Met. Sergey’s return to the patriarchal Church rocked the “reformist” movement, yet even though the movement officially ceased to exist only in 1943 when Met. Sergey became Patriarch, its views were integrated into the beliefs of the Moscow Patriarchate.
In the Kremlin, on the night of September 4, 1943, a historic meeting of Stalin with Metropolitans Sergey, Aleksey and Nicholas took place, at which they were told of the decision by the government to allow the “election” of the patriarch and the Synod of the ROC. Along with that, Stalin informed the metropolitans that the regime would form a special governmental agency, “The Council of Affairs of the ROC,” which would be headed by Comrade Karpov.
After Stalin’s orders to the metropolitans, the atheistic regime no longer needed to provide long-term support to the “reformist” movement, which was not acknowledged by the faithful or the Orthodox churches. Only four days after the notable meeting of Stalin and the three metropolitans, the “election” of Met. Sergey as Patriarch to replace the acting head of the patriarch office, occurred. It was done as quickly as possible and in violation of all existing procedure. Met. Sergey was already 76 years old by that time. Nineteen archbishops participated in the so-called “synod” to appoint the new patriarch. The “synod” was held in the Patriarch’s “residence,” a house at 5 Chistiy Pereulok which was given to the church by Stalin and was once the German Ambassador Schulenburg’s residence.
The enthronization of “Patriarch” Sergey took place on September 12, 1943, in the Bogoyavlenskiy cathedral in Yelokhov. On October 8, 1943, the “Council of Affairs of the ROC” came into existence, headed by Comrade G. G. Karpov. Already by September 12, Karpov sent Stalin a written report that the “reformist” clergy had lost its mission and many were considering joining the “sergian church.” To facilitate control by Karpov and the “Council” over the Moscow Patriarchate and the “reformist” movement in the Soviet Union, it was decided to merge the two. The regime considered the “reformist” movement a part of the Orthodox Church. In his report to Stalin, Karpov explained that he had spoken with the “Patriarch,” who made the following demands before the “reformist” movement would be welcomed into the MP: married metropolitans and bishops would not be defrocked, but excluded from church affairs. Metropolitans and bishops who were monks or widowed would be allowed into the MP. They would be demoted in rank, but based on their activities, reinstated in the near future. As a result, “reformist” metropolitans were lowered to the rank of archbishops or bishops, and bishops became archimandrites or igumens.
Stalin noted in the report in his own hand – “To Comrade Karpov, I am in agreement with you. J. Stalin.” and “Approved. J. Stalin.” Three days after the resolution was released, the Soviet National Committee of the Soviet Republics issued guidelines on how the “reformist” clergy and faithful would be merged into the Moscow Patriarchate.
On November 25, 1943, at one of the regular meetings between Karpov and the “Patriarch,” while talking about the merging of the “reformist” episcopate into the MP, the subject of the married episcopate came up and Sergey offered the opinion that the subject was still open to discussion. In other words, he was prepared to allow the married episcopate into the church, only he feared the resentment of the laity if it was not sanctioned by an “Ecumenical Council.” The “reformists” had been pushing for an eighth “Ecumenical Council” since the start of the 1920s, in the hope of codifying a list of reforms and changes in the canons. It is well known that the Soviet government was also interested in holding the “council” for its own political goals. The proposed date for the “council” kept changing until the idea was finally dropped.
The “reformist” Metropolitan Vitaliy (Vvedenskiy) was made a bishop on March 3, 1944. Soon, he became an archbishop and was made the chairman of the council to the “Holy Synod” on missionary work. He is infamous in that he signed the order to “defrock” Patriarch Tikhon and remove him from the monastic order. A married, “reformist” Metropolitan, Vasiliy (Kozhin), whose diocese was solidly “reformist,” was given the rank of archpriest. Later, he was tonsured a monk, and in the beginning of 1946, he was made a bishop and named the dean of the Theological Academy and Seminary of Moscow. In 1948, he was raised to the rank of archbishop and became involved in international political affairs. He was sent to Palestine, the United States and other countries. In 1954, he became a metropolitan and was placed in charge of the Aleutian and North American diocese.
Many other “reformist” clergy joined the patriarchal “church,” without renouncing their prior radical views or their intent to enact corresponding reforms in the church. Having assumed senior positions in the various departments, theological schools and administrative posts of the MP, they contributed to the campaign of hate and smear tactics against the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad and the tsarist government, while at the same time, appealing to Russians abroad to be loyally support the Soviet government. Thus it can be said that the acceptance of the unrepentant “reformers” into the Church was a malevolent act perpetrated by “Patriarch” Sergey, who had, by this time, disgraced himself as a traitor to the Holy Patriarch Tikhon by the issuance of his reprehensible “Declaration” and his many statements that the church was not being persecuted in the USSR.
This is a short summary of the heinous acts of Metropolitan – “Patriarch” Sergey in the Russian Orthodox Church.
It is not surprising; therefore, that having come to the West from the former USSR, this “reformist” clergy (which has preserved the tradition of “Sergianism”) is now trying to influence the faithful abroad. For example, the well-known, former archpriest of the cathedral in Minsk said in his sermon upon a major feast day, that during the eighth Ecumenical Council it is imperative to finish the work begun at the last council. Namely, to alter the Creed according to the teachings of St. Gregory the Theologian (Bogoslov) and other reforms. The archpriest also pointed out in his sermon that for about a thousand years, the episcopate had included married clergy. His views certainly coincide with other “reformers” in Russia.
Metropolitans Anthony, Anastasiy, Philaret and Vitaliy of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad had always preserved the True Faith as it existed in Holy Russia, not allowing any reforms in the beliefs or the canons. Therefore, we believe the Church cannot enter into any arrangement with the MP and come under its harmful influence. The time for “union” with the Moscow Patriarchate has not come! We must preserve our de facto, complete independence until the Moscow Patriarchate comes to its senses and returns to the correct teachings, traditions and conventions of the Holy Orthodox Church.
Letter by Bishop Agafangel
In light of the actions and announcements made by members of the delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church upon their meetings with the Patriarch and members of the Moscow Patriarchate Synod (which have been well publicized), I feel compelled to state the following:
The very idea of sending a delegation to meet with the Patriarch of the Moscow Patriarchate (MP), Alexei II, is solely that of our Synod, and therefore, it is a provisional step, which still requires the approval of the entire Bishops Council. For example, I did not take part in this decision in any way. Therefore, I feel within my rights to express my views regarding what has transpired to date.
I do not oppose our Hierarch (Metropolitan Lavr) meeting with Russian Federation (RF) President, V. Putin, as our Church has its own interests in Russia and sidestepping the current government to attend to them is not possible. But more than that, the fact that the president participated in the discussions on union of our Church with MP as an intermediary in the process, I consider an example of “sergianism,” against which our Church was always opposed. We can only deal with the MP “face to face.”
After ROCOR representatives met with RF President, V. Putin, our side pointed out that he displayed a deep understanding of the situation and listened attentively to our views on the primary issues. They implied that we owed him our gratitude, but the way in which this matter was handled by the RF President should not be considered out of the ordinary. Various socio-political matters are typically handled in this professional manner. Before making any decision, a lawyer, banker, businessman or politician will carefully and precisely research the positions of all interested parties and possible outcomes in a given matter. A correct decision cannot be otherwise achieved.
I definitely believe that such a professional approach has a place in our Church. At all times, we should exactly and clearly know the MP’s positions on all the issues important to us. Patriarch Alexei’s opinions are well known to us, he has freely offered them through the years. He is a confirmed supporter of Metropolitan Sergei (Stragorodsky), and has even called his infamous declaration a “brave act.” He is similarly a confirmed supporter of ecumenism – “our church (MP) cannot keep to itself.” Not to mention, he considers heretical-papists to be a sister church equal to all the other established Orthodox Churches (which is why he is unhappy with their attempts at proselytization). It would be one thing if this was simply his personal opinion, but he is not alone in these views within the ranks of the episcopate. As a result, even if Patriarch Alexei changed his opinions on issues dear to us, it would still be only his mind that has been changed. Therefore, I believe, we should not hope and strive to change Patriarch Alexei’s mind on the issues that trouble us.
The fundamental argument that Patriarch Alexy uses to call for the union of ROCOR with the “Mother Church” is that before perestroika, the MP was “held captive” and now it is free. This argument does not withstand any critical examination. ROCOR broke off relations with the MP not because the latter was being held captive. Just the opposite, this became the reason for impassioned prayers for the church, as it was for our prayers for the Catacomb Church (“not to be mentioned in the liturgy” according to the Moscow church), and which was being literally held captive. As it relates to the MP, we are talking about a willful, spiritual subjugation (“not from fear, but conscientiously”), the consequences of which the MP Patriarch does not denounce and the only offer from him is to begin our dialogue from a “clean slate.” A “clean slate” implies repentance, but there is none. There is only an attempt to “free oneself from circumstances” and enter into new arrangements. Or has a “clean slate” come to mean the mutual forgetting of the historical past? As if the 70-year period of atheistic dictatorship was simply a bad dream, which needs to be forgotten as quickly as possible. If the MP is free now, why does it not give an open evaluation of the godless dictatorship in our country and the part it played in it? Until that time, when we have unanimity in our views on the new era that has begun in the history of the Russian Church, we cannot seriously talk of any realistic rapprochement.
It is well known, that the last bishops’ synod of the MP voted in favor of ecumenism (several bishops abstained and only one, from Vladivostok, voted against). The deeds of Metropolitan Sergei were not condemned by the synod. Their newly-minted “social doctrine” was never even read from start to finish by at least half of the bishops, and remains to this day the stillborn child of Metropolitan Kirill (Gundyayev), who hoped this new “holistic” approach would replace the traditions of the church fathers. As a result, as I see it, it is not possible to speak to this day of any fundamental change in principles of the MP as represented by the Patriarch and the synod of bishops. One can say only that, once again, the direction of the church has been adapted to the ever-changing conditions in the political life of the Russian Federation.
That Patriarch Alexei has often repeated that the MP, which he heads, is the “Mother Church,” has no bearing on reality. Since 1927, when due to external forces the True Russian Orthodox Church split into the “Church Abroad,” the Catacomb Church and Sergianist jurisdiction, not one of the parts can call itself the “Mother Church,” and this is how the issue has been traditionally viewed. Our “Church Abroad” and the Catacomb Church always held to this belief. The MP, as represented by its prelate Patriarch Alexei (especially in his recent statements), continues to insist on calling itself the “Mother Church.” This usurpation is of the same kind as Met. Sergei’s appropriation of power within the Russian Church in 1927. For us, the real Mother Church is the True Russian Orthodox Church, which remained whole until 1927 and which we never left. The MP’s attempts at appropriating this title are clearly baseless. Unfortunately, not only do we need to demand that the MP renounce “sergianism,” but also for it to publicly state that it has no grounds for being known as the “Mother Church.” It is now necessary for us to agree on this question as well.
Our church has already made major concessions in its desire to join with the MP. We have tempered our statements regarding the MP and the split in 1927, which was quite a painful event for us. To discuss these issues, we are preparing to hold a conference of all the pastors of the Church Abroad followed by a bishops’ synod. We cannot be content with the Patriarch and the MP’s current positions on ecumenism and sergianism. We must require that the MP call for a general conference within the patriarchate to resolve these questions. Until such a conference is held (and certainly, a clear renunciation made of ecumenism and sergianism), I see no reason to change our existing stance towards the MP.
I will not take this opportunity to discuss the other sensitive matters facing the MP; the alarming moral transgressions practiced by a large number of bishops and priests, and the laxness in the MP in regard to the canons of Orthodoxy, as I believe they need only be considered after resolving the matters listed earlier. Other tendencies within the MP are similarly disturbing, for example, the canonization of political figures. Currently, along with those already canonized, new candidates such as Stalin, Met. Sergei and others are being seriously considered. One could ignore such extremes, if the MP had already condemned communist ideology, which has lately found a home in the MP and is flourishing again in one form or another (like church synods resembling official party meetings).
Thusly, I underline what has been said above and state that our efforts in establishing dialogue with the MP should be to convince the hierarchy of the patriarchate of the necessity of a general conference within the MP and that this conference delineate the MP’s actions - past, present and for the future. Depending on the outcome of such a conference, the state of affairs will be clear to us, and more importantly, to the MP, upon which we can then begin real dialogue. Otherwise, every time we begin talks with the patriarchate, we stand the risk of being drawn into fruitless discussions not with it, but with various representatives of the patriarchate who have their own personal opinions.
Dimitri Gontscharow – Pascha 2005
The fast pace of negotiations for the union of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) with the Moscow Patriarchate (MP), so resented by a majority of the faithful, has slowed somewhat in 2005. The all-ROCOR conference scheduled for Spring 2006 in San Francisco has provided a delaying tactic. Nevertheless, the committees from both sides continue to have regular meetings to resolve all outstanding issues and are still pushing their agenda forward. Since there is a slight pause in the mad rush towards union, it provides an opportunity to consider the mood of the laypeople and clergy of the Church Abroad.
Some information regarding the negotiations and events that have taken place in the last several years has become known to people in the Church. Unfortunately, much more continues to be hidden from them and decisions are being made by small circle of bishops, rather than by openly involving the laity in true Orthodox fashion. Understandably, all of this has been met with a range of emotions. Many are unsure of whom to believe or how to understand the rapid changes that have occurred. They console themselves for now by continuing to trust the bishops. They cannot imagine the bishops betraying that trust or the church. Yet, as events unfold and the truth comes out, it is repeatedly evident that the bishops do not seem to be acting in the best interests of the people, a majority of the clergy or the church overall. Instead, they continue to risk everything the Russian Church Abroad has stood for all these years.
There are those laypeople who snort in disdain at all this “needless politics.” They simply want a church to go to and consider all of this to be petty, human squabbles over power, title and position. Another large portion of laypeople have been influenced by the current mood of apostasy throughout the world and react with indifference to the issues and ongoing events. They subscribe to the popular belief that most organized religions are an invention of man and not worthy of their attention. One wonders how strong the allegiance of any of these people to the Church actually is and how their loyalty wanes in this critical time. There are others who have long grieved at being cut off from the homeland and see any slight positive change as a momentous event. They eagerly embrace the developments with feelings of nostalgia and homesickness. Only they forget that when the Soviet regime crumbled, old Russia sadly did not miraculously reappear like a Phoenix rising from the ashes. This overly optimistic view avoids the harsh truths and the difficult tasks ahead for the Russian people in rebuilding their country and society.
There are other groups with other feelings and opinions, but all of it apparently means nothing to the ROCOR hierarchy. They claim divine inspiration to know that joining our church with one headed by a former (or not former) KGB agent is the right choice. Priests and laypeople have asked the bishops to slow down and take their concerns into account. At the same time, the MP has forcibly taken possession of our property and issued statements showing complete indifference to our church’s canonical or legal status. All of this has been either ignored or feebly protested by our bishops. It becomes hard not to believe that an order went out to individuals in the church for the union to take place and everything is being done to achieve that goal. It is peculiar how the very bishops that support union were vehemently opposed not so long ago, even after the Soviet regime fell. Then like a light switch, they are suddenly passionately pushing to join the MP. Meanwhile, the calling of the all-ROCOR conference in San Francisco is but window dressing. The decision to hold it was only made after sufficient protest was heard and is seen as a sop to the laity. The architects of this union know that regardless of what is said or decided at the conference, the synod of bishops, which will be held immediately afterwards, will be the final arbiter. They can then fall back on their bishops’ authority and announce that union will proceed.
It is the duty of all the laypeople who consider themselves sons and daughters of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad to be more involved in the issues that face our Church, but their weakness of spirit can be, in some instances, understood. The Russian émigré communities throughout the world have been cut off from the homeland for so long that the peoples’ frame of reference is whatever country or society they find themselves in. The many issues of what to do with Russia, its problems and the Church seem distant and have no immediate relevance to their everyday concerns in their new homelands. The current hierarchy of the Russian Church Abroad does them a great disservice by not providing more information and making its intentions clear. This raises another question, if union is the right thing for our church, it should be able to withstand the light of day. The bishops should be able to explain it openly in the belief that the correctness of this plan would be self-evident. The exact opposite is occurring.
The matter of the clergy is quite a different story. Indifference, apathy, resignation, acquiescence or other such emotions have no place in the hearts of priests and bishops who have sworn to uphold the precepts of Orthodoxy and the Church. They have an obligation to learn all the facts of what is occurring and stand firmly on the side of protecting the sanctity of the Church. Though they must remain obedient to their bishops, the clergy must ask God for guidance and protest the changes if they believe them to be misguided. They should not allow themselves to be influenced by fabricated pseudo-nationalism or pseudo-patriotism. The Church is above all such earthly constructs and must not be served on the basis of any ideology. The clergy will be held to a higher standard when they come before God. They will answer for themselves, but they will also answer for the stewardship of the flocks entrusted to them.
We see an ever-increasing number of priests and bishops traveling to Russia, paying homage to the many holy sites within the country, meeting with the faithful and being overwhelmed by the rebirth that is trying to burst forth in the land. Sadly, although churches and monasteries are being rebuilt, attendance is still low. 6) Since the MP is more concerned with many non-church-related activities and is of questionable canonical basis, it cannot serve as a moral authority and call the people to church. Especially, when the MP remains silent while Putin and his government continue to resurrect the old Soviet system. Lenin remains on the Red Square, the Soviet national anthem and other communist symbols have been brought back, statues to Stalin, Derzhinskiy and others still stand, and some sources say almost 60% of the regional governors are former KGB officers. In a recent address, Putin went so far as to say that the demise of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”
Nevertheless, our clergy insists that everything must be done to connect with the Russian people and help them further. No one can argue with that, but the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia has always been in contact with the Catacomb Church in Russia and the many other groups of believers loyal to Orthodoxy. It opened churches, created parishes, and gave them hope that their faith was being defended and upheld. It is the ultimate betrayal of all these faithful to now join forces with the Moscow Patriarchate, believing that union with that church will allow greater freedom to assist in this spiritual renewal. What folly! If a real rebirth is desired, we need to help believers in Russia to cleanse the Church of clergy tainted by collaboration with the KGB and to rid it of modernist beliefs antithetical to Orthodoxy. If God has released Holy Russia from bondage, it is our duty to fulfill that promise, not perpetuate the corrupt hierarchy of the MP. How can we help the rebirth if we compromise our beliefs and betray the precepts of Orthodoxy?
In most matters in life, the end rarely justifies the means. In matters of faith, this strategy cannot be used as it inevitably leads to compromising one’s beliefs. It is the height of presumption for our clergy to believe they can cooperate with the MP with a wink, a knowing nod and think they can fool the ruling elite in Moscow. That union will allow them broader access and allow them to work from within to revive the church. The MP hierarchy is composed of hardened individuals, adept at manipulating the Soviet system and they will not allow any threat to their dominance. They tightly control all avenues of access and will shut us out immediately if they feel we are jeopardizing their rule or their financial interests.
In all the history of the church, compromise never benefited the church. Using the current logic, we should have advised the early church martyrs to cooperate with the Romans in order for them to allow the church to flourish. Instead the martyrs gave their lives and Christianity eventually spread throughout the entire world. Many similar examples of the brave defense of the faith abound throughout the centuries. If we consider a more current example relevant to the current question of union, Patriarch Tikhon’s refusal to cooperate with the Bolshevik usurpers after the Russian Revolution was a turning point in the history of the Russian Orthodox Church. He and many others paid with their lives in refusing to collaborate with the atheistic government, but by sending the church abroad to save it, even more glory was brought to the church. Orthodoxy spread to every corner of the globe and led to the conversion of a multitude of non-Russians.
As we celebrate Paskha this year, we must remember the ultimate refusal to compromise, Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, and ask ourselves, “Quo Vadis?” “Where are you going?” Will going down the path of union with the Moscow Patriarchate lead to the Church becoming stronger and a better witness for Orthodoxy? Or will it lead to a dilution of our beliefs and contribute to the growing erosion of faith in this world? Will union strengthen Orthodoxy in Russia or will it cast us as collaborators in the further denigration of our church? We need to think hard about this decision and clergy and laypeople all must do what is right.
Due to the 1927 declaration of Metropolitan Sergius and the subsequent activities of the Sergianists, the true Russian Orthodox Church was forced to enter into the catacombs. Metropolitan Sergius and his uncanonical "synod" went into schism in 1927. In 1943 Stalin made Metropolitan Sergius "Patriarch" and established the so called "Moscow Patriarchate" which continues to exist till this day. This group which calls themselves the Moscow Patriarchate never was reunited with the Russian Orthodox Church (the Catacomb Church and the ROCOR), thus they remain uncanonical and schismatic till this day. The reason this group (the so called MP) grew from having 18 bishops in 1943 to about 150 bishops today, and the true Russian Orthodox Catacomb Church shrunk from 82 bishops in 1943 to just a handful that still exist today is as follows: The true Church was almost totally annihilated by the communist government often with the help and participation of the Sergianist Church organization. But they (the sergianists) say they had to do it to "save the Church"-while in reality they were drawing people away from the true Catacomb Church and at the same time they were persecuting and destroying the true Church. Many of them were assisting in killing the martyrs and persecuting the true Russian Orthodox Catacomb Church, while at the same time proclaiming the lie that they (the uncanonical schismatic group that calls themselves the MP) are the true Church (the so called Mother Church). So not only did they persecute the true Church but they even drew people away from Her and into a schismatic Church organization, while forcing the true Church to descend into the catacombs, thus making Her almost impossible to find and nearly inaccessible to the common people who they then betrayed, corrupted, and brain washed by their lies. Such are the fruits of the Sergianist betrayal.