1964 (3) New Primate of Russian Orthodox Church Abroad

THE NEW PRIMATE
OF THE 
RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH ABROAD

The newly-elected Metropolitan Philaret was born George Nicolaevich Voznessensky in Kursk, Russia on March 22, 1903.  His father, a priest, was later a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, His Grace Dimitry of Hailar, China, and lived in Harbin, Manchuria.  Metropolitan Philaret lived with his father’s family in Blagoveshensk, Russia from 1909, where he completed his secondary school education.  In 1920 he arrived in Harbin, where he graduated from the Russo-Chinese Polytechnical Institute with the diploma of electro-mechanical engineer.  In 1931 he completed a course of pastoral theology in Harbin.  A year prior to this, on May 5/18, he was ordained deacon, while on Dec. 22 / Jan. 4, 1931 he entered the priesthood.  A few days after this he became a monk and was given the name of Philaret.  In 1937 he was raised to the grade of archimandrite, performing various duties in the Harbin diocese.  After the occupation of Manchuria by soviet troops, Harbin fell upon troubled and difficult times.  Having been deceived by false information about the position of the Church in the USSR, the very old Metropolitan Meletius recognized the authority of the Moscow Patriarchate over himself and his clergy.

Now, while Archirnandrite Philaret was a member of the clergy at that time, he absolutely refused to accept Soviet citizenship.  When, in an interview by a newspaper reporter, he was asked how he regarded “the wise move of the Soviet Government in offering the Russian population of Harbin the right, once again, of becoming citizens of their native land”, the reporter received the following bold reply: “I do not consider it possible to accept soviet citizenship, nor will I accept it, until such time as I am one hundred percent convinced — by facts and beyond any shadow of doubt — that the persecution of religion, anti-religious propaganda and baiting of the Church‘s servants have ceased completely; when the Church, which is not merely “separated” but has in fact been banished from the State, once again takes Her rightful position within it.”  And His Eminence never did take out Soviet papers throughout the many years of his stay under communist rule in China, despite the grave danger in which such a stand placed him.

On another occasion Archimandrite Philaret was subjected to certain disciplinary measures for his outspokenness.  Haying read in an issue of the Moscow Patriarchate's Journal the name of Lenin included in a list of geniuses and benefactors of the human race, Archimandrite Philaret expressed his indignation openly in a sermon from his pulpit which became widely known.

In spite of frequent warnings and threats, Archimandrite Philaret repeatedly urged his flock to refrain from all pro-Soviet declarations and demonstrations.  In his own words, he "never defiled his mouth and his prayers by praying for Antichrist's servants.”  At the same time, in the course of quite a number of years, he had kept in touch with His Eminence, Metropolitan Anastassy by various means, disregarding the real danger connected with these activities.

The Holy Synod had been taking all possible measures to get Archimandrite Philaret out of China since 1953.  Visas to various countries were obtained for him repeatedly, but no advantage was taken of them.  Sometimes this would be owing to the fact that he refused to leave his flock to the mercy of fate; at others, the communists would not issue an exit permit.  And so His Eminence remained in a position which he himself described as that of a hunted rabbit being pursued by a pack of hounds.

His Eminence Metropolitan Anastassy always wanted to have Archimandrite Philaret with him in New York, but yielded to Archbishop Savva’s insistent pleas to retain him as his suffragan bishop in Brisbane.  Exactly a year ago Archimandrite Philaret was ordained Bishop of Brisbane, Australia.  His labors there led to the fruitful development of many of the Church’s activities.
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