Bishop Daniel said this about the union

While Bishop Daniel still had some strength he gave us his thoughts on the union prior to the 2006 Sobor. And also he made an address to ROCOR.   First a written statement and second an interview are copied below from Vernost issue #40:

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When examining ecclesiastical rules (apostolic, conciliar and the fathers, that is the canonical basis of legislation of the Orthodox Church), it is not difficult to become convinced that the principal, if not solitary objective of these rules, is the spiritual well-being of the flock. All the rest, for instance, the elevation of individual hierarchs or individual local churches, is relatively insubstantial and must not eclipse the main principle. Therefore, in deciding issues of church management, one must always consider whether the rendered decision is beneficial for the souls of the flock. Neglect of this principle has led to such sorrowful phenomena, as the secession of the Roman church from the fullness of Orthodoxy.

It is known that the Orthodox Church consists of a certain number of separate churches, joined by unity of faith, yet independent from each other. The number of them has never been a subject in the teaching of the faith and could have varied throughout the times. (Rome recognizes only one church – the Roman church to which, in its opinion, everyone must be subjected.)

The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, or the Church Abroad, was established completely canonically, on the basis of the decree of Patriarch Tikhon, as a temporary church administration. No one at that time could suppose that its existence would extend over more than eighty years! The founders of our church had presumed that as soon as the godless, communist regime fell, all the refugees for the sake of whose spiritual needs it had been established, would immediately flock back to Russia, and then there would no longer be any need for the existence of a separate church outside Russia. But eighty years have passed, and there has been no soviet regime for over ten years, yet our flock did not swarm “back” to Russia because these are no longer the refugees from the soviet regime, who had dreamed of returning home, but their children and even grandchildren. (I personally know of only one (!) case of such a “return”). Furthermore, many converts to Orthodoxy from other faiths, not of of Russian descent at all, belong to our church, to whom the concept of “returning to Russia” is not applicable at all. Their number is growing. It is possible that this is the true mission of our church: witnessing Orthodoxy to a world of a different faith.

Having once received ecclesiastical independence (“autocephaly” – this word is far too loud, but in essence it is the same thing) our church must concern itself with the spiritual life of its sheep, and not be too preoccupied with the formal claims of other churches.

One could probably not object to improved relations with the Moscow Patriarchate, since it would be beneficial for both sides: the Church Abroad has many years of experience in being in the free world, without submission to any worldly power, while the Moscow Patriarchate unites the majority of Orthodox in Russia around itself. Such an improvement in relations could eventually lead to establishing liturgical communion between the two churches, but this would be possible if Moscow completely ceases its encroachment on the independence of the Church Abroad and the desire to absorb it.

Some envision the “reunification” of the Church Abroad with the Moscow Patriarchate in the following manner: the Church Abroad would relinquish its independence (i.e. autocephaly), which it had enjoyed the last eighty years, and “infuse itself” into the structure of the “mother-church”, albeit even with the most favorable conditions of “automony”, in the capacity of an exarchate, or in some other fashion, yet with unconditional submission to that church and its head, the patriarch. Talk of autonomy may be attractive for poorly informed people, but the essence of the matter does not change. In other words, in this case the Church Abroad will be expected to “self-abolish” under the cover of flowery words.

Such a “reunification” is completely unacceptable for the Church Abroad. In this case it is impossible to speak of “reunification” since the Church Abroad never belonged to the current Moscow Patriarchate. The very use of the _expression “mother-church” demonstrates the unsoundness of this view. Every birth is simultaneously a separation, since that which is born becomes a separate organism, an entity separate from the birth-giver. It is connected to it only by birth. The one born cannot re-enter the womb which delivered it through the same means that it came out of it. The only way it can re-enter its birthgiver would be not through the womb, but through the stomach, but not one mother would ever devour her own children.

The Church Abroad became independent back in the times of Patriarch Tikhon, without any hostility against the mother-church. After that, within the Moscow Patriarchate, big changes occurred. During the initial period the church in Russia was persecuted by the godless soviet regime. During the Second World War, the church was no longer so heavily persecuted, and after the war Stalin “mercifully” permitted the selection of a patriarch, who metropolitan Sergii (Starogorodskii) was to become, staining himself by active collaboration with the soviet regime. His successors acted in the same manner, the current patriarch not excluded. They all collaborated with the soviet regime and they owed their promotions to it. The fall of the soviet regime occurred independently of them, and even if there had been no fall they would have gone on in subservience to the regime, which stained itself with the blood of millions of Russian people and a multitude of hieromartyrs. Yet now the leadership of the Patriarchate behaves itself in such a manner as if nothing extraordinary occurred, and that they represent the very Moscow Patriarchate from which we supposedly fell away.

From its very beginning, the Russian Church was under the Patriarchate of Constantinople and recognized the Patriarch or Constantinople as its head – he appointed the metropolitans who headed the Russian Church. But in the fifteenth century, the so-called Union of Florence occurred – an attempt to unite with the Roman Catholic church, in which the Patriarch of Constantinople was involved. The Russian Church could not remain under his power without putting its orthodoxy into danger. Therefore, because of dire need and without the permission of the mother-church, it became independent, i.e. autocephalous, electing St. Jonah as its metropolitan. Reconciliation occurred only at the end of the sixteenth century, but the notion of returning under the rule of Constantinople was out of the question. With the consent of the eastern patriarchs the metropolitan of Moscow was endowed with the title of patriarch, and the Russian Church became independent once and for all. 

Something similar occurred even now. In the 1920’s the Russian Church Abroad separated from the church in the homeland, because Russia became enslaved by the godless soviet power, and it is now eighty years since it has been living independently. It is not obliged to “return” under the rule of the current Moscow Patriarchate. It lives in different conditions than the church in Russia, and over the course of eighty years it has adjusted to them. Why should it need to go under submission to Moscow now? What benefit could this bring to its flock?

One must recognize improved relations with the Moscow Patriarchate as desirable, to the extent that this is possible, but one must decisively reject a merger with it because this would mean the “self-abolition” of the Church Abroad, which we have no moral right to do. If our church submits to the authority of the Moscow Patriarchate, then those of us and our sheep for whom this is unacceptable, would be left without a church, which would contradict the main objective of all church rules, as was mentioned in the beginning. Therefore it is better for us to remain in the current situation, be it difficult, but the only right thing to do according to the conscience.

If we were to unite with the Moscow Patriarch, then we would have to recognize the American autocephalous church (O.C.A.) with which we have little in common because of their extreme modernism. Then we would have to be closer with new calendar Greeks, which would push us away from the old calenderists (Greeks and others), who are in communion with us. The flock of the Church Abroad does not need such a unification.

But it would not bring great benefit for the Moscow Patriarchate either. In size it surpasses other churches, and has no need to acquire a small number of parishioners from abroad.

By becoming independent from the church in Russia, we have not stopped being Orthodox; so in the event we join the Patriarchate we will not become Orthodox, for we have never ceased being that. Therefore this unification holds no benefit for us.

If someone personally does not like the independent status of our church, then these people belong to it through misunderstanding. No one is holding them back, they can go under Moscow’s authority, or anywhere else they please, but understandably, without the flock and church property. We have no right to “gift” either our flocks nor the assets of our humble church, acquired with such labour, to the Patriarch.

The Moscow Patriarchate faces an enormous task. That is the spiritual upbringing of the many million strong Russian people, who have spiritually reverted to the wilderness during the years of soviet rule, when people were deprived of all spiritual education and when in all the schools atheism was forcefully planted. In this we can only wish them success, but its absorption of the Church Abroad would not bring them any benefit in this matter, and would merely be an unnecessary fancy.

Everything which has been said can be summarized as follows:

Improvement of relations with the Moscow Patriarchate?
“Yes”, to the extent this is possible.

Unification with the Moscow Patriarchate?
Decisively “No”, since this would mean the “self-abolition” of the Church Abroad.

Bishop Daniel

• •• • •• •• • •• •


To the Clergy, Monastics and Parishioners
Of The Russian Orthodox Church Abroad
On the Threshhold of the IV th Pan-abroad Sobor 2006 In San Francisco

Speaking: Bishop Daniel, Vicar of the First Hierarch of the Church Abroad on Old-Believers Affairs.

I wish to address you and share some of my thoughts on matters which are troubling us, which I had written down a year ago, yet have not lost their significance at the current time.

Dear Vladika’s, Fathers, Brothers and Sisters in the Lord!

At one time I had addressed you in connection with the dialogue which is being conducted between our Church Abroad and the Moscow Patriarchate. I feared that this dialogue would lead to the unification of our Churches under the authority of the Moscow Patriarchate, and subsequently, to the complete annihilation of our independence, which we have had for more than eighty years now.

I was reassured that the issue was not unification of the Churches, and not our subordination to Moscow, but merely improving relations between our Churches.

I have nothing against that, and allowed myself to be persuaded that nothing threatens the existence of our Church as self-sufficient and independent.

Then I received an entire package of documents from our Church’s Synod of Bishops on these matters and it took me quite a while to read them and think them over.

Therefore, I find it indispensable to address you again, since the documents that were sent to me far surpass my worst fears, and I will unlikely be able to personally be present in conciliar discussion of these issues.

In the beginning much is said about mutual relations between the Church and the state, about ecumenism from an Orthodox point of view, and we can only rejoice at this, since in the recent past, or “yesterday” on a historical scale, the Moscow Patriarchate was under full and unequivocal submission to the godless, communist authority, which seized our Fatherland and would have belonged to any organization on instructions from that authority.

Our Church never was in a union with the godless authority and never belonged to any ecumenical organizations, therefore none of this has any direct relationship to us. One can only hope that the Moscow Patriarchate will not elude these principles.

All the talk that unification or subordination to the Moscow Patriarchate is not being conjectured is absolutely unsubstantiated.

At first nothing is mentioned about commemorating the first hierarch, probably so as not to aggravate the flock abroad, but then it turns out that the election of the First Hierarch of the Church Abroad is subject to confirmation by the Patriarch and the Synod of Bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate, and the name of the First Hierarch will be commemorated only after the name of the Patriarch; a commemoration which hitherto had not been mentioned.

The Patriarch together with his bishops is given the right to ratify, and consequently not ratify, i.e., the right to veto all important decisions on leadership within our Church, including election of bishops.

Is this not the union of the Churches and is this not the subordination of our Church unto Moscow?

What is this?

According to the candid admission of the Patriarchate, our Church must become one of its self-governing parts – similar to the Churches of Latvia or Estonia. To say thereby, that no unification or subordination is presumed, as it is done in the draft letter to Metropolitan Kiprian, simply means to consciously lead people into delusion, i.e. to deceive them.

In becoming dependent on the Patriarch et al, our Church will no longer remain independent, i.e., autocephalous de facto, as it had been and continues to be now more than eighty years, having something greater than autonomy, namely independence. Our Church has no need for any autonomy, no matter how alluring this autonomy may seem to poorly informed people.

It is revealing that the word “independence”, which precisely defines our position as of today, is painstakingly avoided by the compilers of the documents under review, with reference to the Church Abroad, and it is quite clear why the Moscow Patriarchate wishes to deprive us of this self-sufficiency and independence and make us subordinate unto itself, using any kinds of truths or falsehoods.

In view of the fact that it has become clear where further talks with the Moscow Patriarchate are leading: to unification with it, under the power of the Patriarch of Moscow, it appears to me to be advisable to cease further talks with the Moscow Patriarchate until such time that their position on this matter is clarified.

If they agree to recognize our independence, then we may have discussions with them on equal grounds, about improving relations between our two independent Churches, even to the point of Eucharistic communion, but if not, we can continue our independent existence with no need of Moscow’s blessing.

The compilers of the documents under review omit from view the fact that religion and patriotism are different subjects. Orthodoxy and the Moscow Patriarchate are not one and the same. One may be Russian and still be Orthodox, and not belong to the Moscow Patriarchate.

Ethnic Greeks belong to various autocephalous Churches, such as Alexandria, Antioch an others. Their adherence to these Churches does not make them Orthodox to greater or lesser degrees than others, and they do not cease being Greeks.

Our common descent from Russian ancestors does not oblige us to submit to the Patriarch of Moscow, particularly since he and the majority of his circle were appointees of the soviet regime, hostile to Russia, yet now they create the impression that nothing extraordinary happened, and that we must submit to their authority.

We must decidedly set this aside!

If we were to submit to the Patriarch’s authority, not only would we lose our self-sufficiency and independence, but also the many thousands of our flock, descendants of those Russian refugees for the fulfillment of whose spiritual needs our Church was established, as well as the majority of our clergy and a part of the hierarchy.

All church rules have as their only, if not sole purpose, the spiritual benefit of the flock. If our Church joins now with the Moscow Patriarchate, then many thousands of these people will be left without a Church. Who needs that?

Can it be that our pastoral conscience will permit this to happen?

Many thousands of people belong to our Church. If they have a desire to be under the authority of the Moscow Patriarchate, they can join it at any time, but they are not doing that. That means, they prefer to be in a Church which is independent of it, and they do this consciously and not by happenstance. Can it be that the majority of people who belong to our Church belong to it through misunderstanding? It is ridiculous to even imagine this!

If we were to join Moscow now, then we would betray our brethren who trusted us. This would be an act of the self-annihilation of our Church, in other words, suicide.

What would we receive in return? Decidedly nothing! We would not become Orthodox, since we never ceased being Orthodox. If there is not one but two independent Russian Churches, then what is wrong with that? There are many Greek Churches. The number of independent Orthodox Churches was never a subject in the teaching of the faith. Also, important questions such as to be or not to be with certain Churches cannot be decided by a simple majority of votes. In this case unanimity is necessary, or an almost unanimous decision by all the members of a given Church. It’s doubtful that we have unanimity in this matter of interest to us.

Therefore, it is better for us to adhere to our old status quo and set aside unification with the Moscow Patriarchate as a frivolous fancy.

This interview with His Eminence Bishop Daniel was recorded by G. Soldatow.
The video and tape recording of this address are in the editorial office of “Fidelity”.
March, 2006

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