№16: Letter to "Nasha Strana"
by Father Michael Ardov
OPEN LETTER OF FR. MICHAEL ARDOV,
RECTOR OF MOSCOW ROAC PARISH
TO THE EDITOR OF NASHA STRANA
(OUR COUNTRY), BUENOS AIRES
Dear Nikolay Leonidovich,
Please accept my immense gratitude for the copies of the newspaper that you sent, and for the flattering references concerning me. I have read Nasha Strana only sporadically until now, but each time that I have read it, I have been struck by the main characteristics of your publication - honesty, and a stand which is rooted in principle. I was thoroughly delighted to see in your newspaper the first use of the term RF-ia. This was a true find, indeed! With the red banner flying overhead, the Masonic pentagram on its forehead, and Mikhalkov’s anthem on its lips, RF-ia looks like the direct descendent of the bloodthirsty Sovdepia.
And now, on to the issues of Nasha Strana that you sent me. I read them all at once. God bless you and your staff! The White emigration is, indeed, still alive! There is still some powder left in the magazine!
But I will cut directly to the problems concerning the Church, which is the main area of interest for me. All of your writers and reporters suffer from one essential flaw; they are too obsessed with current events, and do not bother to look into the not-too-distant past.
If we compare the history of the ROCOR with the history of Russia, we can find some similarities. It is appropriate to compare that which took place at the Sobor of October, 2000, which destroyed the reputation of the Church Abroad, with the revolution of October, 1917. In both cases, there was a usurpation of power by completely cynical people who were, to put it simply, “agents of Moscow.” But nowadays, practically no one remembers that the Church Abroad also had its own sort of February revolution, perpetrated by the same powers, which pushed the present shameless bishops into the embrace of President Putin and Patriarch Ridiger.
In my opinion, the ROCOR was, for decades, the most implacable of the enemies of Communism. It suffices to recall the Epistle to the World Conference (Genoa) of 1921, which was published by the Sobor held in Sremsky Karlovtsy. In part, it says the following:
“Peoples of Europe! Peoples of the world! Have compassion on our good, open, noble-hearted Russian people who have fallen into the hands of criminals on a world scale! Do not support them, do not strengthen them against our children and grandchildren! Rather, show assistance to those of our Russian citizens who are honest. Arm them, send them your volunteers, and help them to eradicate the Bolsheviks - that cult of murder, pillaging, and blasphemy - from Russia, and from the entire world.”
The Church Abroad always exposed the Bolsheviks and their accomplices for what they were, independently of how “cold” the war may have been between the USSR and the West, without looking over its shoulder all the time at the statements of the Kremlin’s ideologues about “peaceful coexistence” or “détente.” And, understandably, the Soviet agents waged a merciless war against the “Karlovtsy.”
We remember that after the end of the WWII, when the expansionism of the Communists grew by leaps and bounds, there were two major victories over the Church Abroad. The first was when that part of her that existed in China was destroyed. The second was when, in 1948, the Israeli government gave all of the properties within its territory that had belonged to the “Karlovtsy” over to the “Soviet church.”
However, the agents of the Soviet Union were unable, at that time, to destroy or enslave the Church Abroad, partly because the person managing the affairs of the Synod was the unbending and uncompromising Count Yury Pavlovich Grabbe, (later, Protopresbyter George, and from 1979 on, Bishop Gregory), the confidant and right-hand man of three First Hierarchs: Metropolitans Anthony (Khrapovitsky), Anastasy (Gribanovsky), and Philaret (Voznesensky).
Here is a notable episode from the history of the 20th century. During the spring of 1972, an important pilgrim visited the Holy Land - Patriarch Pimen of Moscow, who had just recently been elected to that lofty position. Visits of this kind always had a propagandistic effect as their aim. They were designed to convince the outside world that there was “freedom of religion” inside the USSR, and that the Moscow Patriarchate was no puppet of the Bolsheviks, but a completely normal local church. In those days, the head of the Church Abroad’s Mission in Jerusalem was Archimandrite Anthony (Grabbe), the elder son of Protopresbyter George. Through the efforts of these two men, the significance of the Patriarch of Moscow’s visit was lessened and watered down. In the archives of Bishop Gregory, there is a copy of a letter that he had once written to one of his supporters, V.I. Alekseev. The future bishop wrote:
“May 25/June 7, 1972
Dear Vasily Ivanovich,
My doctors have been insisting that I get of New York for a while and go to a place with a warmer and more moderate climate. So, I have chosen Jerusalem, from where I am writing this letter. I am staying at the highest point, on the Mount of Olives, and the air here is wonderful.
I arrived on the second day after Patriarch Pimen and his entourage left. For now, my general impression is that his visit didn’t do much for Moscow in spite of the great expense and all of the pomp and circumstances. Pimen showed only too clearly that he is not someone who amounts to much. Both the Jews and the diplomatic corps noticed that he didn’t say anything without having a specially prepared cheat sheet in hand. The main theme of his speeches was attacking us. The most active one of them was Juvenaly. In every case, if he didn’t have his cheat sheet, Pimen deferred all questions to him for an answer.
I haven’t met with the Greeks yet, who are clearly confused when face to face with us, and who have the feeling that by bowing down in front of the Muscovites and receiving their gifts, they have somehow been sullied by it. By the way, several of them showed a rather open disdain of them since Fr. Anthony has been doing a good job here of informing them about the true nature of the Moscow Patriarchate…
I am sending you a copy of a rather important statement concerning the visit of Patriarch Pimen. I consider it to be very important. As you know, there was a ten year gap in the biography of Patriarch Pimen, ending in 1946. If he, being a hieromonk, served in the military and reached the rank of colonel, then he would have had to renounce his faith. Aside from that, military service is incompatible with the priesthood.
Thus, he may have been liable to being defrocked, let alone being a candidate for the patriarchal throne, and, in general, couldn’t even be a bishop.”
It is my deeply held conviction that this very incident, the somewhat unsuccessful visit of Patriarch Pimen to the Holy Land, is what motivated the powers that be in Moscow to make an important decision: the Grabbes, both father and son, must be removed from the leadership of the Church Abroad at any cost. However, as long as Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky) was the First Hierarch, this goal was unattainable. But as soon as this hierarch went to the Lord, Moscow’s agents, who were already in force inside the Church Abroad, were able to realize what can only be called a revolution.
At the Sobor of 1986, in addition to violations of canonical and civil law, the manufactured “case” of Archimandrite Anthony (Grabbe) was examined, resulting in his being chased out of the Church Abroad. And his father, Bishop Gregory, a man who had run the affairs of the Synod for 55 years, was literally forced into retirement. His newly vacated position was filled by none other than Archbishop Laurus (Shkurla), presently First Hierarch, who, as we now see, was assigned the job of completing the process of the inglorious unification with the patriarchate, i.e. of the complete subjugation of the remnants of a once valiant Church to the dictates of Moscow.
Bishop Gregory (Grabbe) was covered with all kinds of filth his entire life. This continued on even after his retirement, and in a certain sense, continues on even until today. Alas! Amongst the Russian émigré society there have been found but few people who bothered to question the nature of the incessant slander and ask themselves: Who profits from this harassment, and what could be the goals of the evil persecutors of such a wonderful man? There is another question: Is it really possible that Metropolitans Anthony, Anastasy and Philaret were so stupid? And yet, not only were they well disposed toward their assistant, they trusted him completely.
We have to hand it Vladyka Gregory. He understood exactly which way the wind was blowing, and that is why he reacted so stoically to his evil-breathing detractors, and, one may say, with true Christian meekness. In 1963, he wrote to one of his supporters, Archpriest Alexander Trubnikov:
“Thank you for your letter and for your kind words. This is not the first time that I have been the subject of intrigues and attacks. For now, they have abated a bit, but at one time, they were very intense, and, of course, have yet to be be exhausted. They will come back to bite me whenever they get a chance. My only consolation is that they arise not so much from personal enemies, but from those who wish to weaken our center and divide our Church.”
But I would like to return to the Sobor of 1986. The Canadian bishop Vitaly (Ustinov) became the new Metropolitan of the Church Abroad. God bless him, but aside from his inarguable piety, he is a man of limited mental capacity and extreme pridefulness, and it is not very difficult to gain control over such people. “Moscow’s agents” manipulated this First Hierarch for as long as it took for all of the older bishops of the Church Abroad to die off and it became possible for the course of the ship of the Church to be radically altered. Then the unfortunate Metropolitan Vitaly was kicked out into “retirement” so that he would not be underfoot and get in the way.
But let me return to the fate of Bishop Gregory. Even though he was already retired, he nevertheless tried to take part in the life of the Church. In particular, there are no less then seventeen letters and reports addressed by him to the Sobors, the Synod, and the Metropolitan in which he warned his fellow bishops, literally pleaded with them, not to swerve from the salvific course upon which the Church Abroad had always proceeded. But, alas, this was a voice crying in the wilderness. Take, for example, the report of Bishop Gregory to Metropolitan Vitaly of July 17/30, 1993, Concerning Rapprochement with the Moscow Patriarchate. Here he mentions the regular contacts with the “Sergianists” that were already taking place with Archbishop Mark (Arndt). This report concludes with the following sentence:
“I must again ask for an answer to my prior question: When, and from whom, did Archbishop Mark, or any of our bishops, receive the authority to enter into a dialogue or talks with the Moscow Patriarchate?”
Vladyka Gregory received no answer to his question this time either.
Less than a year later, he wrote a lengthy letter to the Metropolitan which one could call sorrowful and prophetic. Here are several excerpts from it:
“For all these years of the existence of our Church Abroad, we were respected and famous for nothing less than our uncompromising adherence to the canons. Others hated us, but they dared not show disrespect for us. Now, however, we have shown to the whole world that the canons are nothing more to us than empty words, and we have become a laughingstock in the eyes of all who have any kind of connection to ecclesiastical questions.
At the Lesna Sobor, you yourself permitted yourself to tell those of us who were in attendance, that now is not the time to be bothering with the canons, but that we have to act quickly. You, who are the helmsman of the ship of the Church, triumphantly, before the entire Sobor, announced to us that we have to hasten to set sail upon a course without sails and without a rudder. At the time, I was greatly dismayed by your words, but knowing your irritation with me for insisting upon the necessity of abiding by the canons, I nevertheless hoped that all was not lost and that our bishops would somehow be able to shake off the nightmare of the last few years.
Think, Vladyka, of the tens of thousands of Orthodox souls that we have scandalized, in Russia and abroad. Do not console yourself with the thought that if there is blame to be had, that it lies equally upon the shoulders of all of our bishops. The main part of the blame lies squarely upon your shoulders, as the leader of our Sobor. …
I was a witness and participant in the glorious period of the life of the Church Abroad, and now, with pain I look upon what I regard to be her inglorious end. …
It is absolutely essential for you to abruptly and decisively alter the course of our Church’s administration back in the direction of observing the canons, before it is too late. Vladyka, please do not allow your name to go down in the history of the Russian Church as being connected, not with the peaceful continuation of the development of church life, but with her radical and shameful destruction, in Russia and abroad.
March 24/April 6, 1994
As can be expected, there was no response.
I would be very pleased, my dear Nikolay Leonidovich, if my letter to you would happen to appear on the pages of your most esteemed publication.
With that, I call down God’s blessing upon you and your staff.
Archpriest Michael Ardov
©Vertograd, 2004. http://www.vertograd.blogspot.com/
Vladyka Vitaly being "kicked out into 'retirement'" is not hard to imagine. The Laurus synod insisted he retire voluntarily because of his admitted "dementia." It is easy to imagine that the suggestion to him to go into voluntary retirement was rather insistently repeated until he gave in.
This is important history, and true, but it is not a reason to run and join ROAC. If all the strong people who understood the situation had stayed home, in ROCOR, then maybe we would have had a fighting chance against the Laurus synod. But as it happened, many of us conveniently stepped aside and cleared their path to the union. That was wrong. All the schisms [ROCIE, ROAC, RTOC] served to weaken ROCOR, and cooperate with the aim of the MP to annihilate the ROCOR, whether they are aware of it or not. And it is certain that some of the hierarchs were and are quite aware.
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