2000 (1) Church of St. Nicholas Bari

2000 (1) Church of St. Nicholas Bari

The Church of Saint Nicolas in Bari
Communique of the chancellery of Bishop Ambrose of Vevey

The Russian Orthodox Church of Saint Nicholas in Bari, Italy, was founded in 1911 by the V. Rev. Father Ioann Vostorgov, a future New Martyr of Russia.  This is the only Orthodox church located in the city were the Wonderworker's relics repose and it is therefore invaluable for the entire Orthodox Church.

Following the tragedy of the 1917 Revolution in Russia, the church was administered by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCA). From 1921 to this day, priests appointed by the ROCA celebrated the religious services without interruption.

"However, in 1937 financial problems made it impossible for the owners to look after the church and the adjacent buildings.  An agreement was then reached between the city of Bari and the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.  According to this agreement the city of Bari became the owner of the property, while the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad was granted complete and permanent use of the church and the buildings while the city was given the responsibility for the maintenance of and care for all the buildings and the salary of the priest serving at the church.  One of the buildings located next to the church was made available for several municipal administrative offices. 

The same agreement described the obligation of the city of Bari to guarantee the celebration of Orthodox church services "under the same clerical administration"  (i.e., the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad).  From this moment on, the newly appointed priests always registered themselves with the municipality without any bureaucratic interference.

The Russian Orthodox Church Abroad was always thankful to the city of Bari for making it possible that for the duration of almost sixty years a Russian Orthodox priest has been able to serve near the relics of the great saint.  The parish of the Russian church in Bari is rather small but very diverse as it includes Russians, Serbs, Greeks and Orthodox Italians.  The parish never limited itself to the city of Bari proper, and many letters were regularly received from Russia and the rest of the world from those who were affectionately referred to as "distant parishioners" and who requested that prayers be said for them and their relatives at the saint's relics.  Many pilgrims also regularly came from all over the world.

Before 1996, during the time when repairs were being made at the upper church, services were celebrated alternatively in the upper and lower churches.  Daily services are still currently celebrated in the lower church: Father Nikolai Todorovich, appointed to the church in 1999, celebrates the Vespers and the Typika daily.

Following the political changes in Russia, the early 1990s saw an increase in the number of pilgrims from Russia.  The decades of separation between the MP and the ROCA and the open propaganda which was conducted against the ROCA in Russia had their effect: in several instances Russian pilgrims were told to go and pray even with the Roman Catholics rather than with the "Exiles".  In the meanwhile, Russian officials paid increasingly frequent visits to the officials of the city of Bari.

In 1996 the office of the Mayor of city of Bari offered the ROCA to create a commission tasked with discussing the changing situation and find ways to define new rules that would take into account the influx of pilgrims from Russia.  Bishop Ambrose, who is responsible for the ROCA parishes in Italy, agreed to discuss this issue.  During the month of May 1998, however, the city of Bari without ever having called the commission into session or consulting the ROCA, signed a memorandum of intention and later, in November of the same year, an agreement with the MP.  This agreement stated that the church and several sections of the former house for the pilgrims were handed over to the MP.  The agreement also referred to some undefined "rights of the current users".

The MP immediately appointed a priest responsible for the church in Bari, Father Vladimir Kuchumov, but he arrived in the city later and began to celebrate only in December 1999 in the upper church that is currently undergoing final repairs.

This situation was unacceptable to the ROCA: the 1937 agreement had been unilaterally violated, the presence of the ROCA parish was deprived from a legal status, while the area available for the parish, the religious services and housing for the priest was substantially reduced.  In the course of 1998 Bishop Ambrose sent several letters to the Mayor of Bari asking for clarifications; he also offered a plan for a settlement in response to a request made by the authorities.  His letters and his proposal never received any response.  There can be no doubt about the fact that a Church should not have to prove its ecclesiological existence in front of a secular court.  This blatant violation of the 1937 agreement forced Bishop Ambrose to seek to defend the rights of his parish by legal means.  In January 1999, a civil lawsuit was filed against the Municipality of Bari.

In October of 1999, the court rendered a preliminary verdict, which prohibited the Municipality from making any changes to the legal ownership of the church premises until the final verdict of the court.  Basing his actions upon this decision, Bishop Ambrose demanded from the authorities a full implementation of the 1937 agreement.  The authorities refused to comply.  In response, Bishop Ambrose, in accordance with the preliminary verdict of October 1999, during his visit to Bari for the Feast of Saint Nicholas on 18/21 December, 1999, secured for the parish two adjacent buildings which had always belonged to the parish.  It was planned that the family of the priest would live in them, as for the first time in many years a married priest with a family was appointed to the church.  Previously, there had been no need for such accommodations.  On December 23, immediately after the departure of Bishop Ambrose, the local police, responding to a call from the MP priest penetrated inside the church premises.  Father Nikolai was manhandled in front of his 12-year-old daughter and had his keys taken from him by force.  The police even had the impudence of brutally interrogating Father Nikolai while using his daughter as a translator.  Bishop Ambrose returned to Bari on December 27 when he filed a lawsuit (a criminal lawsuit this time) against the Mayor and the Chief of Police.  Following Bishop Ambrose's departure, the police broke into the church grounds again, forcibly expelling Father Nikolai who was forced to leave Italy for Yugoslavia.  He was allowed to return two days later.

What has happened, and what is still happening, is a blatant abuse of power by the city authorities who, instead of upholding the rule of law and order, refuse to submit to the decisions of the courts.  The city of Bari and the MP priest, who constantly interfere with the life of the ROCA parish (by for example, preventing Father Nikolai from accessing the bell tower), come close to violating the Italian Constitution (and the constitutional norms of any other democratic country) which guarantees religious freedom.

The court will soon render its verdict, but it is already becoming obvious that the dispute in Bari is not simply an issue of "ownership" and that it has a much more profound dimension.  The church of Saint Nicholas in Bari is miraculously linked to the names of numerous New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia.  The inspirer and the main donator for the construction of the church was the Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II; the director of the construction committee was the monastic martyr the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna and the first ruling bishop the Metropolitan Benjamin of Saint Petersburg.  The nun Mother Nikolaia who lived by the church for more than six decades had been told to go live there by the Elders of Optina even before the construction of the church had begun.  The current struggle in Bari is a struggle between, on one hand, those who for three quarters of a century were being the true witnesses for Orthodoxy during the time of the worst persecutions the Church has ever suffered, and on the other hand, the successors of those who executed and approved of these persecutions.

Chancellery of the Bishop Ambrose of Vevey
18 rue de Beaumont, CH 1206 Geneva

Geneva, January 23/February 7 2000AD.
St. Gregory the Theologian

1970 (2) Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy

Before the Face of Antichrist
Archimandrite Konstantin
Orthodox Life March 1970

That the world is leaving Christ and that it is united in this movement, embracing with it even all that was included in Christendom in all its manifestations, including Orthodoxy, which has remained successively the original Church of Christ, is already, to a degree, becoming accessible to the understanding of Christian man,  And this is already calling forth certain actions of self defense on the part of those who want to remain with Christ.  Something of what is done in this line, more or less by chance, becomes known to the general public.  But the consciousness of the unity which disregards all the bonds which,  until the present "ecumenical" period of the history of the Church, were accepted as being absolutely impassable, and in this, especially in regard to faithfulness to Christ, however subjectively it might be understood -- such a consciousness has by no means yet defined itself.

Christ once spoke perfectly clearly about the character of a similar unity. Before us stand two statements of two completely different hues of meaning.  He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad[Matt. 12:30].  This is the first: he who does not manifest active solidarity with Christ is not only not Christ's but is a force already inimical to Christ.  But in as much as He speaks about the disciples following Him, the Lord gave a completely different explanation when they told him that they had forbidden a man who did not associate with them to cast out demons in the name of Christ.  Forbid him not; for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.  For he that is not against us is on our part [Mark :38-40].  This is the second statement, according to which service to Christ is by no means limited formally; it can be accepted by Christ in any form -- by grace adopted and clothed by Him in His power, to one degree or anther.  Both these sayings of the Lord cannot but have a permanent significance and, perhaps, it is now that they must be revealed in full measure -- at a time when, although in a reverse direction, an atmosphere akin to early Christianity arises.

Those who are not actively united with the true Christ -- those, by the force of things, turn out to be against Him.  This is manifest today with an astounding clarity which takes on an ever-increasing mass character.  But as for the forms of communion with Christ, they are losing more and more their character of formal successiveness.  Communion with Christ, in an entirely new and ever growing force,is capable of being born anew, on any soil!  And thus there is formed a mass phenomenon, characteristic of the end of the world, which will be met by the most decisive counteraction on the part of the Antichrist -- a counteraction so disastrous that, as the Lord Himself told us, He will be prepared to hasten His coming in order to intercept this destruction.

This phenomenon which will decisively define itself only in the time of the Antichrist, nonetheless can be noted in our times in the natural, mutual attraction to one another of those who want to remain with Christ.  Thus there appears a certain contrasting analogy to the ecumenism of Antichrist -- in the spiritual kinship of all the appearances of faithfulness to Christ, wherever they be found, even if in the manifestation of heterodoxy, if there arises a reaction against the ecumenism of Antichrist in the form of a defense of minimal bit of the genuine Christ that remains in that ecclesiastical body, then this cannot but arouse sympathy from all the "faithful" regardless of the degree to which they are "Orthodox".  And here, of course, is not excluded any formulation of such a unity in faithfulness to Christ.  Moreover, if this unity embraces all the "faithful," regardless of the fullness of their faithfulness, then does there not quite naturally arise a striving for the general possession of the fullness of Truth?

And here one saying of Christ attracts special attention, a saying which until the present time remained unrevealed in its concrete content.  So often we hear the following words of the Savior in church:  I am the door; by me if any man enter in he shall be saved, and shall go in and out and find pasture ... I am the good shepherd... I am the good shepherd and know my sheep and am known of mine.. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:  them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd [John 10:9-16].

Is the meaning of that which is proclaimed in these words revealed in what must naturally arise at the present time, under the conditions of the epidemic regeneration in the direction of Antichrist of all church "denominations", even Orthodoxy?  All those, each in their own denomination who courageously remain with Christ, thus separate themselves from their own denomination, which as a whole, is joining Antichrist.  And is not their mutual drawing together, generated into a general preparedness to rise to the level of the fullness of Orthodoxy?  And in this, does there not seem to be realized just what Christ spoke of as the one fold which will arise, uniting around the one Shepherd?

Thus there appear two conflicting processes which cannot but develop more and more clearly in the process of the unfolding of apostasy:  on the one hand, the appearance within all Christian denominations of a certain kernel of "faithful" who are prepared to endure all in their faithfulness to their denomination in its original from, not corrupted by the influence of Antichrist, and at the same time the appearance, completely natural, with the drawing together in the name of faithfulness to Christ, of a sympathetic interest in the content of the faith of all the denominations thus drawn together, an interest which will extend just as naturally to the realization of the alienation of all heterodox denominations from the fullness of Christianity, which is present only in Orthodoxy.

Thus two new phenomena appear in the atmosphere of the thickening apostasy: mutual, sympathetic interest and inclination to rapprochement from all sides in all Christian denominations as far as faithfulness to the true Christ is concerned, and at the same time, as a result of mutual trust in the atmosphere of faithfulness to the true Christ on the part of all denominations which have left the original fullness of Christianity, a mutual inclination to acquire this fullness.

To define the Orthodox point of view more precisely in this process of thickening apostasy, it can be said that all, in the eyes of Orthodoxy, are her own, if only they manifest a faithfulness to even that little bit of genuine Christianity which they receive in their denomination.  But, on the part of Orthodoxy, more than ever before, a missionary effort must be directed to these heterodox in the name of forming, before the face of Antichrist, one fold following one Shepherd.

1978 (6) Progress or the Cross?

The Kingdom of God on Earth
Progress or the Cross?
by Archbishop Averky of Syracuse
From Orthodox Life, Vol. 28, no.6, Nov-Dec 1978

On August 1, according to our Orthodox ecclesiastical calendar, our Holy Church begins the celebration of the Precious and Life-creating Cross of the Lord, which reaches its climax on September 14, the great feast of the Exaltation of the Cross of the Lord, and concludes with the Leave-taking (Apodosis) of the feast on September 21.

Why is this? Is it not enough that we commemorate the Crucifixion of the Lord on the Cross on Great Friday, and that the Holy Church glorifies the Cross of the Lord every Friday?

A profound, inner meaning is concealed in this celebration of the Cross of the Lord: the Holy Church, our concerned mother, wishes to direct our particular attention to this great and saving sign, against which the world, “which lieth in wickedness” (I Jn. 5:19), has always waged, and in our days continues to wage, a deliberate and unrelenting battle – the world which has now plainly fallen away from Christ and is preparing itself to worship Antichrist.

Can anyone dare call himself a Christian who shuts his eyes to all the horrors taking place in the world today, and soothes his conscience, and the consciences of those around him, with assurances that everything is an incidental, transient phenomenon, and that in general the world is moving towards “progress,” towards the establishment of the “Kingdom of God on earth”?

It is frightening to think that we are hearing such assurances more and more often in our days, not only from non-believers, not only from the sectarians who are “chiliasts” (those whose doctrine includes belief in a thousand-year kingdom on earth), but even from certain Orthodox clerics, including some who bear the rank of bishop!

It is difficult to say what these people believe who have apparently been appointed to instruct the people in the pure teaching of the Word of God and the holy Fathers of the Church, and why they are so disposed, marching to the tune of the sectarians at times, and at other times with those who do not believe in God and with the “Christian progressives.” Either they are naive in the extreme and completely ignorant of the clear teaching of the word of God, or they themselves do not believe in anything, but say that which is required of them by the overlords who provide for them, whom they faithfully serve, fearing to lose those worldly goods received from them: money, titles, jobs, high rank in society, pleasures, etc.

The word of God does not give us even the slightest foundation for belief in the establishment of a “Kingdom of God on earth,” or in any worldly progress for humanity; quite the contrary.  It foretells much suffering for true followers of Christ and the “bearing of the cross” in imitation and following of the Lord Who bore the Cross; and for this world, which lieth in wickedness, it foretells an inevitable end.  The promised “Kingdom of Christ on earth” is by no means tangible, but noetic – within the souls, of those who truly believe in Christ, for Whom the Lord became King.

Surely it is not in vain that, laying down the whole course of a true Christian’s earthly life, Christ our Savior said: Whosoever, will come after Me let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me (Mk. 8:34), and at the Mystical  Supper before His suffering on the Cross, He forewarned His disciples: “In the world ye shall have tribulation” (Jn. 16:33). Neither in vain did the holy Apostles, in complete accord with these words of the Divine Teacher, instruct Christians, We must through much tribulation enter into the Kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22), or “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow His steps” (I Pet. 2:21).

But this transient, earthly world in which the “progressives,” despite the sorry witness of their own eyes, promise the people some completely illusory, happy, “paradisiacal” life with total well-being and prosperity for all, is doomed to destruction on the “day of the Lord,” according to the clear teaching of the word of God, when “the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (II Pet. 3:10).

Modern thinkers do not want to hear of this, saying that this might happen “some day,” “many million years hence,” but “never today.”  By such statements, they liken themselves to the “scoffers” that the holy Apostle also refers to, alerting Christians to the dangers lurking for the morality of Christian people.  “Know this first, that there shall come in the last days deceitful scoffers, walking after their own lusts and saying, Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation” (II Pet. 3:3-4).  It is a characteristic indication that those who speak thus are people who are “walking after their own lusts!”  To such “lusts” have they surrendered themselves, darkening the eyes of their souls so that they no longer see anything, for they look at everything only from the distorted point of view of their “lusts,” which occupy all their attention and interest.

Yet, our Lord Himself clearly taught us not to think of relegating His Second Coming to some vague remote future – “millions of years hence,” – but commanded us to expect Him always, comparing His arrival in its suddenness to that of a thief: “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.  But know this, that if the householder had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken into.  Therefore, be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Mt. 24:42-44).  The “faithful and wise servant” never says that the Second Coming will be “sometime after many, many years;” and that it is thus not necessary to trouble oneself with this thought, for he knows that the Lord Himself has forbidden him to say: “my Lord delayeth His coming” (Mt 24:48).

What, then, can be said of those who not only do not consider the possibility of the nearness of the end of the world and the Second Coming of Christ, which many signs indicate to us, but believe in some imaginary progress of humanity and the approach of a general well-being and prosperity, although all of modern life, with its total decline of true faith and morality, with its terrible, destructive inventions which deal death to man, simply cries out against this.  Such people are totally alien to Christianity, even though they bear the exalted positions and titles of Christian clerics and hierarchs!

One must know and remember that it is such earthly “progress,” such illusory well-being and prosperity of man on earth, that Antichrist, Christ’s opponent, promises to give to the people.  His servants, who are preparing for his reign on earth, are already striving beforehand in like manner to influence the people, shouting and preaching everywhere about this “paradise on earth” which supposedly awaits the people.  And all those who strive for this earthly “progress” forgetting Christ’s words: “But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mt. 6:33), who avoid bearing their cross as Christ commands, but think only of how they might make the world better and more free, richer, and more carefree, enjoying all the earthly goods and pleasures, are in the same camp with the servants of the imminent Antichrist, working consciously or unconsciously for his swift appearance and reign in the world.

Such as these are not of Christ, but of Antichrist. 

But we, if we are true Christians and do not falsely or hypocritically bear the name “Christian,” must gaze constantly upon the Cross of Christ, that saving sign of God’s love for us, the token of our salvation, and drawing therefrom abundant and grace-imparting powers “which pertain unto life and godliness” (II Pet. 1:3), must bear our cross as the Lord has commanded us, and must regard this transient earthly life as but a sojourn in a hostel, whence we must return home, to those “heavenly mansions” which the Lord has prepared for us by His suffering on the Cross (Jn. 14:2).

With the great Apostle, we must “consider all things as dung in order to win Christ” (Phil. 3:8).  And we must thus forsake all our purely earthly concerns, all controversies, quarrels, disputes and altercations, from which no one receives any benefit, but only spiritual harm.  “Our life is in Heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20). This we must ever constantly keep in mind.

Soon all will come to an end – all this temporal, transient, corrupt earthly world.  Surely we shall not lose our hope of eternal life by surrendering ourselves to our petty passions and lusts!  “Seek those things which are above,” the holy Apostle Paul thus exhorts us, “where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:1-2).

Translated from: True Orthodoxy and the Modern World, by Archbishop Averky [Jordanville, N.Y.:  St. Job of Pochaev Press, 1971], pp. 295-299

1990 (4) ROCOR Position Statement

Not checked against original.

The Position of the Parishes of the
Free Russian Orthodox Church

(Adopted by the Council of Bishops of the Russian Church Abroad,
2/15 March 1990):

I. The free Russian Orthodox parishes are neither an independent nor a new hierarchal structure; they are in eucharistic communion with and in the jurisdiction of and subject to the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, which is headed by its first hierarch, Metropolitan Vitaly, and is the preserver of unadulterated Orthodoxy and the traditions of the Russian Orthodox Church.

II. The clergy are not to join in eucharistic communion with the Moscow Patriarchate until it renounces the declaration of Metropolitan Sergius, until it repents of the errors which followed this uncanonical declaration, and removes those ruling bishops who have compromised themselves by uncanonical and immoral acts, who have been involved in corruption and the embezzlement of church funds, who have been placed in power through the interference of the secular authorities, and who have allowed distortions in the services of the Russian Orthodox Church.

III. The parishes may not pray for the government as long as the controlling and guiding power remains the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which has a militantly atheistic and anti-Church program. In addition, prayer is allowed for apostates only during the prayer, "that Thou might appear to them who have fallen away," but not during the proskomedia.

IV. The reasons for the establishment of free parishes:
The free Russian Orthodox parishes have opened due to the absolutely paralyzed, unrepentant state of the hierarchy and clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate, who have fallen away from pure Orthodoxy through the acceptance of the declaration by Metropolitan Sergius (who usurped the power of the Church in Russia) in 1927 of loyalty to the militantly atheistic communist Soviet power.

The main errors of the Moscow Patriarchate after the declaration of 1927 are as follows:

  1. The excommunication of those hierarchs, clergy, monastics and laymen who did not accept the declaration, which was followed by mass terror and murder of those who did not accept the atheistic government.

  2. The desecration of the memory of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors.

  3. The collaboration with the atheistic government even in the business of closing churches. Devoted service to the government and public prayer to strengthen its power, which in turn fights against faith and the Church.

  4. The distortion of the sacraments, rites, sermon, and carelessness in the spreading of the Word of God. Refusal to catechize, which has led masses of laypeople into ignorance and a superficial acceptance of Christianity.

  5. The participation and membership in the World Council of Churches and the ecumenical movement, for the creation of a worldwide "church", that would unite all heresies and religions.

  6. Submission to secular, atheistic authorities and the allowance of them to rule the inner life of the church even to the extent of direct control, with the ultimate goal of destroying faith.

  7. The alienation of the hierarchy and clergy from the flock, and a careless, proud relationship towards the laypeople in direct violation of the apostolic injunction to clergy to be an example and not exercise power over others.

  8. The wide-spread moral depravity and mercenariness among the uncanonical clergy.

  9. Uncanonical and capricious transferring of diocesan bishops.

V. Parish Life
The basic guiding rules and laws for the free Russian parishes are as follows:

1. The guidelines of the Russian Church before the declaration of Metropolitan Sergius in 1927.

2. The rules and decisions of the council of bishops of the Russian Church Abroad.

3. The free Russian Orthodox parishes have the right to make unbiased judgments concerning social and political events based only on the teaching of the Gospel, and Orthodox Christian morality, but must refuse to take part in political activities.

4. Disrespectful attitudes towards the representatives of other religions is forbidden. Union in prayer with the heterodox and non-Christians is categorically forbidden.

5. The clergy of the Russian Orthodox parishes are members of the Russian Orthodox Church, who have transferred, through written and public repentance, to the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad and who have received their orders directly from our Church. All the clergy of the free Russian Orthodox parishes must make a vow not to reveal secrets of the Church.

6. Those clergy who are laicized or are under disciplinary action for uncanonical or immoral acts cannot be accepted into our Church. This rule does not apply to those who are under ban for turning to the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad for acceptance or for those persecuted uncanonically for criticizing the apostasy of the Moscow Patriarchate's hierarchy .

7. The relationship to the clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate should be like as to those who have fallen away, lost brothers. No concelebrating can be permitted with them considering them to be under penance until there is repentance. There should also be no sign of haughtiness in relationship with them. The relationship towards the laypeople of the Patriarchate should not be condescending but like as to those who have left True Orthodoxy not willfully, but due to circumstances beyond their control.

8. In raising up prayers for the "union of all", the Russian Orthodox parishes hope for the repentance of the Moscow Patriarchate which has become hardened and deeply rooted in its errors. We pray and hope for the imminent union of all the children of the Russian Orthodox Church both in Russia and abroad, which will be a joyous event.

A Possible Form of Accepting Clergy
from the Error of the Moscow Patriarchate:
  1. The clergyman may appear before a bishop of the Russian Church Abroad with the request to be accepted into union with our Church through the repentance of Sergianism and a resolution from the bishop of the Russian Church Abroad.
  2. Repentance of the clergyman before the people on the ambo during the Hours.
  3. An explanation to the people of the errors of the Patriarchate.
  4. Repentance of the people for following the errors of the Patriarchal Church and for all possible offenses in church life.
  5. An invitation by the clergy to those laymen who wish to follow their pastors and remain faithful to their church leaders by kissing the Cross and Gospel and an oath.
  6. Formation by the clergy of a new contract with his parish similar to their former one.
  7. Announcement of the fact of the parish transfer both to the Moscow Patriarchate and the secular authorities.
Bishop Hilarion
Secretary of the Council of Bishops

Excerpt from the Epistle of the Local Council of the Moscow Patriarchate
to the Beloved-in-the-Lord Pastors, Honorable Monastics and All the
Faithful Children of the Russian Orthodox Church:

Editors note: With the election of a new patriarch in Moscow, an epistle appeared in which much attention was directed to the Russian Church Abroad. We offer our readers an excerpt from this epistle which directly concerns us followed immediately by an answer to the words of the new patriarch in the form of an epistle of the Bishops of the Russian Church Abroad.

"With sadness the Council turns its attention to yet another disorder in church life. The Russian Church Abroad having no communion with neither the Moscow Patriarchate nor with any other local Orthodox Church, has taken steps, which witness to the striving of its leaders to deepen the already existing division (among us), and to transfer the "diaspora" schism into the heart of the Russian Church. As of May 3/16, of this year, she announced her intention of establishing her own parishes and hierarchy in our country on the canonical territory of the Moscow Patriarchate.

This action signifies that the leaders of the Church Abroad do not recognize the grace-filled life of our local Orthodox Church which is in full communion with Universal Orthodoxy. In other words she has set herself in a position against the rest of the entire Orthodox Church, crudely trampling upon the basic principles of Orthodox ecclesiology and the sacred canons. This action of the hierarchy in the diaspora conclusively proves that the psychology of the Karlovtsy Schism up to this moment has still not been able to overcome its (false) concept of the Russian Church Abroad. Its current leaders have used the very first opportunity to sow discord and confusion in our Church, to weaken her and to tear apart her unity at a time when this unity will have much to do with the future of our Church and the witness of Christ among our people.

Our local church repudiates the uncanonical pretensions of the hierarchy in the diaspora and calls upon the Orthodox Christians who belong to the Russian Church Abroad, who hold dear the spiritual well-being of our common fatherland, to realize how distant these pretensions are from the real needs of the Orthodox Church. Christians are called upon to show an example of oneness of mind and brotherhood to those people hungering for the Word of God, not to scandalize them by division and animosity.

The Council reminds everyone that political considerations and various opinions of historical events, and even diverse theological views in light of the One Faith cannot and must not serve as obstacles for unity at the Saving Chalice of The Lord, as we read in the words of the Apostle, "For there must be also heresies (Greek trans.) among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest to you" (I Cor. 11:19). We are deeply convinced that life itself will reveal a just assessment of that historical path which the Russian Church and all of our people have followed in the twentieth century. In saying this, we have in mind ourselves and all the Russian diaspora. Whether we desire this or not we all are participants in the fate of our much-suffering homeland.

We have never so warmly desired as we now do to be reconciled with our brothers and sisters. It is well known that we repeatedly, right up to the opening of the present Council, extended our hand to them. Now, relying on the mercy of the Lord towards those who have suffered and sealed themselves with the blood of martyrdom and the tears of the confessors of our Church, we direct our voice to our brothers in the diaspora and cry out: In the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ stop what you are doing, for that which you are creating is displeasing to God! We remind you and all of like mind with you that the sin of dividing the One body of Christ, according to the teachings of the Holy Fathers, is not washed away even by the blood of martyrdom.

To you the beloved in the Lord, all the faithful children of the Russian Orthodox Church, we call in the words of the Apostle: "I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them" (Romans 16:17).

Epistle of the Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
to the Faithful Children of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Homeland & Diaspora

Beyond doubt, major changes in the external order are taking place in Russia in our time, bringing about a spiritual emancipation of the people This emancipation, however, still has not embraced the hierarchy of the official Church. Once again this is borne witness to by both the convocation and the acts of the council of the Patriarchate of Moscow which was called to elect its new primate. As this event was unfolding, we read reports in the press concerning an alleged radical change in the state of the Orthodox Church in Russia resulting from the new politics of so-called perestroika. We did not know whether to hope that new and healthy ecclesiastical powers would be manifested at the council, capable of replacing hierarchs who have discredited themselves by collaborating with the atheistic regime.

Many of the faithful began to think that a radical change had already set in. Certain expressions used in the beginning of the epistle of the Moscow Patriarchate might have raised our hopes. "Our Church and all the people," it says, "have entered an age of great changes, bearing the hallmarks of new possibilities and a new responsibility." The epistle says correctly: 'And now as perhaps never before, it is essential that we interpret critically our own past and present condition, condemning in ourselves not only those internal sicknesses which were engendered by the constrained internal circumstances of church life, but also those which resulting from our own weakness and imperfection, that all of us may 'walk in newness of life' (Rom. 6:4)."

However, further on the epistle does not dwell on the essence of the internal sickness" mentioned in it, nor does it "critically interpret" anything Speaking of relations with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, the epistle places it only on the plane of "dissension" and therefore, open to possible reconciliation. "We have not desired, nor do we desire, anything more fervently than reconciliation with our brothers and sisters," the epistle says.

It is an easy thing for Christians to "be reconciled" when the question concerns only personal offenses, which are eliminated by mutual love and mutual asking of forgiveness. But how can one say "Christ is in our midst" when, on the one hand, there is the Truth so dear to our heart, which forms the basis of the life of Christ's Church, and on the one hand there is falsehood, which is alien to it?

We are compelled to remember that the path of the Moscow Patriarchate, which introduced this falsehood beginning with the policies of .Metropolitan, later Patriarch Sergius in 1927, which were implemented to preserve the external organization of the Church, declared that the joys and sorrows of the regime, which was inimicable to the Church, were also :the joys and sorrows of the Church he headed. Metropolitans Peter and Cyril, who did not agree with this blasphemous falsehood, together with their countless followers, entered the ranks of the martyrs and confessors which adorn the Church of Russia.

His Beatitude, Metropolitan Anthony of Kiev, who then headed the portion of the Church of Russia beyond its borders, condemned the new path of Metropolitan Sergius with great sorrow, as a path of falsehood. On May 6, 1933, Metropolitan Anthony wrote him a letter: "I beseech you as my former student and friend, free yourself from this temptation; renounce, for all to hear, this lie which Tuchkov and the other enemies of the Church have placed in your mouth; do not hesitate in the face of probable tortures. If you are granted a martyr's crown, the Church in heaven will join with the Church on earth in the glorification of your courage and of the Lord Who gave you strength. But if you remain on the wide path leading to perdition (Matt. 7: 13), on which you stand at present, it will ingloriously lead you down into the abyss of hell, and the Church will remember your betrayal until the end of its earthly existence."

At that time, however, the hierarchy headed by Metropolitan Anthony could do nothing more than denounce the falseness of the path of Metropolitan Sergius and his followers, as well as reveal to the whole world the truth concerning the persecution of the faith in Russia, where no bishops were at liberty who were not dependent on the atheistic regime. The declaration of Metropolitan Sergius forms the basis of the schism between the Patriarchate of Moscow and the portions of the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia and abroad which have preserved their inner freedom. Having taken this path, the Moscow Patriarchate has fallen into full dependence upon the atheistic regime.

The hierarchs have become the obedient tools of the persecutors of the Church. There is eloquent testimony to this in the report of the former president of the Council for Religious Affairs, Mr. Furov. Among other things, he remarks that the Council is conducting a systematic "educational work" with the members of the synod and through them is showing the "required influence" on all the episcopate.

Further on in Furov's report he assesses the degree of reliability of various members of the episcopate from the communist point of view. Furov placed Patriarch Pimen first. Metropolitan Alexis, who has now been elected patriarch second Furov places him among a group of hierarchs who "have proved their loyalty not only in word but also in deed" and, "observed the laws concerning religious rites, guiding the rectors of parishes and parishioners in the same spirit. They know, following the government's policy, not to expand religion and the role of the Church in society, and therefore do not try to extend the influence of religion among the people."

Such a man, whatever he might write under altered circumstances cannot inspire the trust of the flock. And when he tries to stigmatize us as "schismatics", when he tries to ascribe to us an alleged violation of the oath of loyalty to the Moscow hierarchy made at his consecration, we must remind him, first of all, that there is not a single bishop amongst us who has ever given such an oath of loyalty to the present Moscow Patriarchate. And as for any "schism", be it known that it was initiated not by the Church Abroad, but by the infamous declaration of Metropolitan Sergius, which those who now head the Moscow Patriarchate continue to follow, and which there newly-elected head defends.

When, in addition to the subjection of the Church to the atheists, they added, because of Soviet policies, a betrayal of Orthodox doctrine on the unity of the Church and entered the World Council of Churches, our division deepened. The Moscow Patriarchate found itself drawn into a heresy new to the history of the Church, a heresy which denies the teaching of the Creed, of the holy apostles and the ecumenical councils, viz. that the Savior founded only one true Church on earth (see Eph. 4: 5). Outside of the Church are all the various heretical religions with which, contrary to the canons, representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate have communion in prayer at meetings referred to as "ecumenical."

The question of the new martyrs also divides us. The Moscow Patriarchate has for many years denied their struggle and even the very fact that persecution has taken place.

If the newly-elected patriarch really desires reunification with us, let him show that he is truly free from the control of the civil authorities, that he cares for Orthodox education of the people with faithfulness to the teachings of the holy fathers concerning the unity of the Church, let him do battle with the propaganda of amorality which is growing in Russia. But as long as he finds it difficult to win the trust of the people because of his former collaboration with the regime, it would be better for him to have the courage and decisiveness within himself to acknowledge that he has compromised himself too grievously to receive the common trust of the faithful children of the Church.

Contrary to the demagogical pronouncements of the new head of the Moscow Patriarchate, we, the bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, have not hastened to form our own parishes on the territory of Russia. Yet we dare not ignore the cry of the believing people, who entreat us to receive them into lawful ecclesiastical communion, following the words of the Savior: "If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?" (Lk. 11: 11). It is precisely ; in this manner that the schism initiated by Metropolitan Sergius in 1927 is overcome.

In view of the continuing servile subjection of the Moscow Patriarchate to the atheistic regime, its trampling upon the canonical and dogmatic bases of the Orthodox Church, and its refusal to submit to the Truth and to the desires and expectations of the faithful of the Church of Russia, we do not find it possible for us to recognize the appointment of the new head of the Moscow Patriarchate as the conciliar will of the Church of Russia. He and the bishops who submissively "elected" him are accustomed not so much to care for the spreading and strengthening of the faith, as to obedience to the atheistic civil authorities.

Conscious of our personal weaknesses we call upon all, to whom the fate of our Church is dear, to cleanse themselves of all sin, falsehood and evil, so that in deed, and not only in word, we may begin to walk "in newness of life," mindful that one cannot achieve God's will by unworthy means. In this may the Lord help us, through the prayers of the holy new martyrs and all the saints who have shone forth in the Russian land.

+ Metropolitan Vitaly
+Archbishop Anthony of Los Angeles
+Archbishop Anthony of Western America
+Bishop Mark of Berlin and Germany
+Bishop Barnabus of Cannes
+Bishop Hilarion of Manhattan
+Bishop Daniel of Erie
+ Bishop Gregory
14/27 July 1990 New York

From Orthodox Life, vol. 40, No. 4, July-August 1990, pp. 16-25.