MP Sues Church in Buena, New Jersey

Cold War Lingers At Russian Church In New Jersey ~ Wall Street Journal

Orthodox Dissidents Defy
New Union With Moscow,
Fearing Putin's Spies
July 18, 2007; Page A1

BUENA, N.J. -- An unlikely combatant in an international legal battle
over Russian power and religion, Adelaida Nekludoff, age 83, chants
"Lord have mercy," amid flickering candles and the whiff of incense.
The only other worshipper at the Sviato-Pokrovskiy Russian Orthodox Church
is her daughter.

Mrs. Nekludoff has led prayer services at the onion-domed church since
2004, when her husband, its only priest, died. When he wasn't replaced,
members opted to attend Orthodox churches nearby rather than hear Mrs.
Nekludoff read. She stayed on, and continued her husband's opposition
to the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow and its prelate, a man she calls

Her defiance has landed her in court. A Russian Orthodox diocese in the
U.S. has sued to evict Mrs. Nekludoff and take control of the Sviato-Pokrovskiy
property. The case, scheduled to go to trial next month in Atlantic City, is being
watched by a number of Orthodox dissidents who are defying new orders to
submit to the Moscow patriarch because, they say, he aided Soviet Communists
who tried to destroy their faith.

Mrs. Nekludoff argues that she cannot obey an institution that colluded
with atheists. "Where there are lies, there is no God," she says.

Russian Orthodoxy has long been divided, with rivalries over prayers,
personalities and even which fingers to use when blessing oneself. The
largest rift of the modern era occurred in the aftermath of the 1917
Bolshevik Revolution. Bishops who fled, horrified by squads that shot
priests and jailed believers, formed the Russian Orthodox Church
Outside of Russia, which eventually chose New York as its base.

Also known as the Church Abroad, it vowed to "maintain no relations
whatever with the Russian ecclesiastical authorities" while the country
was "subject to Communist rule." For decades, leaders of the Church
Abroad denounced the Moscow leadership.


The 1958 document that archivists say links Patriarch Alexy to the KGB,
as translated for The Wall Street Journal. See the original.
"Agent 'Drozdov' -- born in 1929, a priest of the Orthodox church, with
a post-secondary education, graduate theological degree, and possessing
perfect command of Russian, Estonian, and weak German. Recruited 28
February 1958 on the basis of patriotic feelings for exposing and
exploiting anti-Soviet elements among the Orthodox clergy, among whom
he has ties which are of operational interest to the KGB. During
recruitment, consideration was given (after consolidating our hold [on
him] through practical work) to his future promotion, as opportunities
allow, to the office of bishop of Tallinn and Estonia.

"During the period of collaboration with the KGB, 'Drozdov' made a
positive impression, being neat in appearance, energetic and sociable.
He has a good understanding of the theoretical questions concerning
theology and the international situation. With regard to fulfilling our
assignments, he reacts with willingness and has already provided a
number of materials worthy of attention which are being utilized to
document the criminal activities of a member of the governing body of
the Iykhviskii Orthodox church, GURKIN and his wife, who is misusing
her official position by registering pensions for certain citizens
(accepted bribes). Attending to this matter will represent an opportunity to
strengthen 'Drozdov' in practical work with the KGB.

"In addition, "Drozdov' also presented valuable material concerning the
case being formulated against the priest POVEDSKII. At the present time
he is working on perfecting his German.

"After assigning the agent to practical work with the organs of
governmental security on concrete agency matters, we are planning to
also utilize him for promoting our interests among capitalist
governments as a member of church delegations."
--Translated by George Soroka, a Harvard University graduate student

When Communism crumbled, efforts to heal the rift began, culminating
this year in May in a Moscow ceremony attended by President Vladimir
Putin. There, the two sides signed the Act of Canonical Communion,
joining members of the Church Abroad with more than 140 million Russian
Orthodox world-wide.

But dissidents believe the Moscow church hasn't adequately repented for
its sins and is still too close to the Kremlin. About 100 of the 340
Church Abroad clergy around the world have broken away in the past four
years, particularly in recent months. At least 10 of the Church
estimated 145 U.S. parishes have asked other Russian or Greek Orthodox
bishops to lead them instead, while many parishioners have joined
Serbian or Russian Orthodox churches unaffiliated with the Church

Several Church Abroad priests who opposed the canonical union have been
ordered out of rectories and stripped of their parish posts. Seven
clerics quit the Protection of the Mother of God Church in Rochester,
N.Y., splintering the worshipers. In some locales, family members are
attending separate churches.

Mr. Putin helped broker the Canonical Communion and met with U.S.
Orthodox bishops in 2003. The agreement has mutual benefits. The
Moscow-based church gains influence in the U.S., Western Europe and
South America, where it had little presence. The Church Abroad becomes
part of a major world faith.

Mr. Putin also gains. The union blunts what has been one of his largest
group of critics -- Church Abroad clerics who regularly attacked his
policies and human-rights record. Mr. Putin has used his own Orthodox
faith to soften his autocratic image, vowing to rebuild churches
destroyed by the Soviets, while asking the church to bolster the
country's moral fiber and unite the Russian diaspora.

Sviato-Pokrovskiy Russian Orthodox Church in Buena, N.J.

The dissidents decry the relationship between the president and church
leaders, maintaining that his support came even as he clamped down on
the press and government critics. They also say the Moscow church has
done too little to address corruption and poverty in Russia.

The Church Abroad has taken steps to rein in the critics. The church is
suing for the property of a California parish that joined a Greek
Orthodox church
. Internationally, three priests and a bishop have been
told they can no longer administer sacraments.

The dissidents -- including World War II refugees, U.S.-born converts
and some Russian monarchist descendants -- say they will continue the
Church Abroad as they believe it should be run. A particular sore point
with them is the Russian church's links to the KGB.

Archivists who have plumbed Soviet-era records say KGB informers
infiltrated churches for decades, reporting on clergy and parishioners,
at home and abroad. Indrek Jurjo, chief of the publications division of
the State Archives of Estonia, says that one of those agents was
Patriarch Alexy II, the current leader of the Moscow church. Mr. Jurjo
says that biographical details of an agent named Drozdov, found in a
1958 KGB annual report, match the cleric's Estonian background, year of
birth, education and career path. Oleg Kalugin, a former KGB general
now living in Maryland, says Patriarch Alexy told him at a 1991 dinner
party that "I had to collaborate. That is the price of survival."

See the 1958 document that archivists say links Patriarch Alexy to the

Some dissident priests fear for American security, saying Mr. Putin
use the union to send over government agents disguised in cassocks. The
Rev. Victor Dobroff of New York City, who broke with the church, says
that "in a very short time," Russia's current FSB security agency will
have hundreds of "new spy nests all over the world, absolutely
untouchable, working under the cover of the church."

Alexander Abramov, secretary for external affairs in the U.S. for
Alexy's church, says that no one has ever proved the patriarch spied.
Father Abramov says the Estonian document doesn't directly link the
patriarch to the KGB. He recalled that Alexy said in a speech years ago
that bishops who were in contact with Soviet authorities "did not
the people."

Alexei Timofeev, press secretary for the Russian Embassy in Washington,
says concerns about spying priests are "old stereotypes of the Cold
no longer applicable.

Sviato-Pokrovskiy, or Holy Protection Church, was built by Cossacks who
had fought the Bolsheviks. They settled in New Jersey's Atlantic County
in the 1950s, and church membership eventually grew to 150. Every
season, the Rev. Nikolai Nekludoff held a service honoring the dead in
the church cemetery, followed by herring and vodka served at tables set
by tombstones.

In May 2005, as the union with Moscow looked imminent, his widow, Mrs.
Nekludoff and three members of her family voted to leave the Church
Abroad. Father Nikolai had been devoutly anti-Soviet; the Bolsheviks
killed seven of his relatives one night, his daughter says. The family
drew up new corporation papers stating the parish beliefs were
"pre-Revolutionary Russian Orthodoxy." They joined a breakaway church
formed by a retired Church Abroad leader who had spurned Moscow.

A few months later, Gabriel Chemodakov, Bishop of Manhattan, told the
Nekludoffs in a letter that the diocese wanted to have the Buena
property cared for by a "brotherhood," which the family assumed would
turn it into a monastery. Mrs. Nekludoff's daughter, Maria, a church
trustee, replied, saying the parish declined the "offer" and was an
independent entity "founded on Russian Orthodox anticommunist
which clearly and categorically reject any conciliation with the Moscow
Patriarchate." Association "with your Diocese or Synod is not
with our religious convictions,'' she wrote.

The diocese asked a Superior Court judge in February 2006 to declare
that the parish was holding the property in trust for the Church
a ruling that would place Sviato-Pokrovskiy under the hierarchy's
control. The church's lawyer, Richard Mongelli, wouldn't comment on the
case. Nicholas Ohotin, a church spokesman, would only say that no
may take its property to a new church.

Write to Suzanne Sataline at

Letter from V. Aga to RTOC
July 15, 2007

A Letter of ROCOR Bishop Agafangel to RTOC archbishop Tikhon

A Letter to Archbishop Tikhon, Hierarch of the RTOC

Your Holiness!

            In recent days, much attention has been paid to the question of the interrelation between ROCOR and the RTOC. I believe, as many others do, that we should expend maximum effort to determine a possible and acceptable solution to the circumstances in which we find ourselves today.

            Since we, at our Conference in New York, in July of this year, accepted a basis for the possible union or rapprochement of the parts or “fragments” of the former ROCOR, in essence a desire to return to those days when we existed as one and were in full agreement, and in an attempt to achieve unity on this basis, I propose the following in this letter:

            To reestablish the Bishops’ Council of Russian Hierarchs in the form in which this Council was founded and functioned lawfully. The Council Chairman will be a member of the ROCOR Bishops’ Synod, as was the case with Archbishop Lazarus. As to those bishops and parishes within the jurisdiction of the Council, and who find themselves canonically within the structure of ROCOR, they will retain their legal affiliation to the RTOC (a form of autonomy within the ROCOR structure).

            As regards to all other matters, and for the sake of achieving unity, we should return to the methods practiced in ROCOR when we are all one. Later, all future matters concerning our existence will be considered jointly at Bishops’ or All-Diaspora Councils.

            At this time, in regard to our interrelation, the return to the methods of the lawful Bishops’ Council of Russian Hierarchs seems to me to be the only possible solution to our disagreements.

Hoping for our mutual understanding,
Your sincere supplicant in Christ,

Bishop Agafangel of Taurida and Odessa
Chairman of the ROCOR PSCA

July 15/28, 2007, Odessa
Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Great Prince St. Vladimir
Enlightener of the Russian People

V. Aga to Sister Church about RTOC

An Epistle of Bishop Agafangel

To the Hierarchs of the Holy Synod in Resistance –
the Greek Church of True-Orthodox Christians,
the Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Romania, and
the Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Bulgaria

July 13/26, 2007
Archangel Gabriel

Your Eminences, Your Holinesses!

            I am grateful that you found it possible to support us – those of us who have remained in the Russian Church Abroad in this difficult and dramatic period in its history. We will always remember and value this brotherly support of yours, which has helped us in many ways to withstand the hardships we have encountered.

            In your letter, though, you ask us to unite with the group headed by Archbishop Tikhon (Pasechnik).   I affirm that the issue of the unity of the Russian Church is always paramount in our thoughts, prayers and actions. Our part of the Russian Church Abroad will always strive to the utmost towards such a unity. As is known, the Russian True-Orthodox Churchemerged from within the Russian Church Abroad. In the past, I personally gave this name to this part of the Church. I also wrote its Charter by my own hand and registered this Charter in Kiev, which was necessary, because at that time the authorities categorically refused to register the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in the Ukraine. Again, the “Russian True-Orthodox Church” part of the Church Abroad was given this name only because of circumstances in the Ukraine and necessary only to receive the registration from government agencies. Later, having separated from ROCOR on its own will and without any grounds based in the canons or ecclesiology, this part of the Church announced its independence and declared that it was a new Church, purportedly a Sister-Church of ROCOR. I would ask, if something like this occurred in Greece, Bulagria, or Romania, if a small part of the Synod which you head, broke off without any grounds for such an action and were to declare that it was a “Sister” of the existing churches in Greece, Bulagria, or Romania, would you recognize and legitimatize it solely for the sake of unity? Would you sanction, presumably, two Bulgarian or Romanian Churches with the same observances and theology? Let me say again, that the RTOC (under the authority of Abp. Tikhon) has no other origin other than emerging from the Russian Church Abroad. Therefore, I dare not legitimatize (by establishing Eucharistic communion with them) the existence of yet another Russian Orthodox Church, lacking an independent spiritual and historical origin. I wrote earlier that we are happy to welcome the bishops, clergy, monastics, and laypeople of the RTOC back to where they came from - the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. Welcome them, I will add, in respect to your appeals to us and with the maximum amount of ekonomia possible – in their current clerical status.

            That is why, having heeded your wise counsel, dear hierarchs, our brothers in Christ, and recognizing that you have taken upon yourselves the difficult burden of being our intermediaries, I ask:
-         in the name of the unity of the holy Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
-         in the name of the unity of our common witness of Orthodoxy
-         in the name of the “little ones” (Matthew 18:14), the loyal brethren of the Russian Church Abroad, whose sacred Orthodox conscience was crucified on the cross by its bishops-uniates and whose hearts bleed over the split. Those who only yesterday were together, as one, and now find themselves broken apart

that you relay to the loyal brethren of the RTOC my appeal for them to return to the source from which they emerged, the Russian Church Abroad, and I promise that we will greet them with outstretched arms, giving thanks to God that He in His wisdom helped us to overcome this disastrous separation.

            I understand quite well, that for the sake of the unity of the Church, we should forget all personal offenses and hurt and set aside all the meaningless accusations and disagreements. The unity of the Church is more important than any personal matters. That is why I ask for forgiveness from all representatives of the RTOC, and all the other “shards” of ROCOR as well, and from all those who I may have unknowingly offended and led into temptation either by my words or actions. Let none of this remain between us going forward!

            With love of Christ and with an impassioned prayer to Him for all of us to be one,
            Your fellow supplicant and servant in Christ,

+ Bishop of Taurida and Odessa Agafangel,
Chairman of the ROCOR Provisional Supreme Ecclesiastical Authority 

Epistle to faithful members

An Epistle of the conference of ROCA parish representatives to all faithful members of the ROCA

…If the public so desires, it can come pray with me.
 If it does not, there is nothing to be done – I will pray alone. 
If I assemble enough followers, then our church group
will establish some organizational structure…
From an interview with Patriarch Tikhon,
after his release from detention,given to a
reporter of the Russian news agency, June15/28, 1923.
An Epistle of the conference of ROCA parish representatives
to all faithful members of the ROCA
            Gathered here in the Church of the Holy Trinity in the God-fearing city of New York, the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCA) parish representatives make known their sorrow and concern regarding the decision of a part of our Church to join the Moscow Patriarchate, which continues to engage in ecumenism and sergianism.  This sorrow is made even more severe, as this decision was made in contradiction to the sobornost of our Church, the decision of the Pastoral conference in Nyack, the IVth All-Diaspora Council, and without the approval of a corresponding declaration of the ROCA Bishops’ Council, and even by violating the regulations of the Bishops’ Synod.  It was undertaken in ways foreign to ROCA in earlier times, but sadly, typical of the Moscow Patriarchate, a part of the Church dependant on secular authorities.
            We share the sincere desire of all faithful members of our Church to see a united Russian Orthodox Church.  We desire no less, though, to see the Russian Church based in Truth.  In this instance, we observed how the representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate demanded loyalty to their principles of ecumenism and sergianism, while our representatives surrendered to their insistence.  At the same time, having strayed from one of the fundamental tenets of the Russian Church Abroad – the free existence of the Church in the world around it, they entered into a type of dependence to this world, to the extent which results from the participation in matters of ecumenism and sergianism.  The assertion of some of the ROCA representatives that one can avoid involvement in heresy and be in Eucharistic communion at the same time, contradicts the dogmas, canons and the entire Sacred Traditionof the Orthodox Church.
            In these circumstances, we believe it is essential to keep our Church free from serving the spirit of the this world, as we recognize only one Master – our Master, Jesus Christ.  The Provisional Supreme Church Authorityof the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, made up of members chosen by us, has as its goals to organize the canonical order of our dioceses and parishes and to prepare for the convening of the Vth All-Diaspora Council, which will reinstate the canonical foundation of our Church.
            For us at this time, the preservation of our ROCA and the restoration of its organizational structure is important above all else.  That is why we accept the idea of the union of the different parts of ROCA as proposed by Bishop Agafangel:  “The reason and goal of uniting the parts of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad is to preserve the Russian Church Abroad in the state in which it existed under our hierarchs of blessed memory – Metropolitans Anthony, Anastasiy, Philaret and Vitaliy.  That is why we may unite only with those who wish to remain in, or those who want to partake of, the spiritual legacy of the Church Abroad, and through this legacy, to be a part of the Sacred Traditionof the Universal Church.” 
We consider it possible to begin a dialogue with representatives of the other parts of ROCA on the basis of the principles proposed by Bishop Agafangel.  In the future, with God’s help, we hope also to begin a dialogue with other parts of the divided Russian Orthodox Church, so as to not give credence to the false assertion that we do not wish to see a united Russian Church .  In the meanwhile, we will concern ourselves with the building and strengthening of ROCA , as much as it is possible in our current circumstances.  To that end, we place great importance on the furthering and widening of brotherly relations between our Church and the Old-Calendar Churches of Greece , Romania and Bulgaria .
Again, let us remind all our faithful members that our main task is the restoration, regulation and strengthening of the life of our dioceses and parishes.  We must emerge from this difficult period with honor, so that we may continue to witness true Orthodoxy to the world, as the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad has always done with such success.
May God help us in this calling!
Conference Chairman,
Most Reverend Agafangel,
Bishop of Taurida and Odessa ,
Temporary Ruling Bishop of the Zaporozhiye,
Buenos-Aires and South American Dioceses

Conference Members

Bp. Photii report on ROCA 2007

On the Current State of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad ~ Bishop Photii of Triaditza

Bishop Photii of Triaditza*
On the Current State of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad1
Selections from answers by Bishop Photii to questions posed to
him by the faithful during his pastoral visits to the parishes
of the True Orthodox Church of Bulgaria
    We are the witnesses of a profoundly tragic event. Before our very eyes, a Church which for more than seventy years constituted an extraordinarily precious witness for Orthodoxy is being destroyed. First, this was the Church that raised its voice in the West regarding the actual situation of the Orthodox Church, and religion in general, in Soviet Russia. It was precisely this Church that, for long years, was the only one to resist the great Soviet lie, which concealed the true conditions of the Church in the Soviet Union. Second, the Church Abroad, which almost covered the world with its dioceses and parishes, proved to be a missionary Church, acquainting the Western world with Orthodoxy.
    This tragedy is difficult in numerous ways. One could in a few sentences treat with what is happening in the Russian Church Abroad today, but this would not be sufficient at all, since what we see now is the result of a process which has its roots in the past. What we are seeing should neither shock nor surprise us. We ought not to ask ourselves: “How can such a thing happen so abruptly to the Church Abroad?” The fact of the matter is that it did not happen abruptly.
    First we should say that, in general, as evinced both in the history of the Old Testament Israel and in the history of the Church, the New Israel, prior to any difficult trial, the Lord always fortifies with His Grace those who are about to pass through such an ordeal. I could say the same, without any hyperbole, with regard to the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.
    During its formation as a jurisdiction, the Church Abroad went through significant hardships. As you know, Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) himself maintained incorrect views on a dogma which is central in our Christian doctrine—the dogma of redemption. This in no way diminished the quality of his skills as a spiritual Father and as the founder of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. Indeed, in a private conversation between St. Seraphim of Sofia and Metropoltan Anthony about the notions underlying the Metropolitan’s book On the Dogma of Redemption, and several other publications of his, while the latter did not renounce these views of his, being a man of extremely high ecclesiastical consciousness, he promised the Holy Hierarch, St. Seraphim, not to disseminate these views, lest they sow discord and occasion temptations in the Church. And this—his promise—he fulfilled. Nevertheless, after his repose, his disciples and admirers commenced promulgating his erroneous views on a wide scale, by publishing his works on these subjects.
    After a series of initial difficulties, the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad passed through the Eulogian schism of the 1930s.2 Then came the extremely hard blows experienced by the Russian emigration after the end of the Second World War. The emigrants who took refuge in former socialist countries, including East Germany, were forced to withdraw even farther to the West, while the immigration in Northern China (e.g., in Harbin and other cities), which was also rather dense, faced horrendous calamaties. As you probably know, the Red Army forced its way into China in 1945, after war was declared between the Soviet Union and Japan, and seized all territories with substantial Russian populations. A significant part of these immigrants was tricked, in a very reprehensible manner, by Soviet emissaries to return to the Soviet Union. The latter persuaded these immigrants that their country had been devastated and depopulated by the war, and that it badly needed human resources. They impressed on them that they would receive amnesty and that nothing bad would happen to them. That is to say, in a repugnantly perfidious manner, they exploited the patriotic feelings of the Russians, and most of the immigrants in Northern China returned to the Soviet Union. There, they were deported—literally at border entries—to various concentration camps and, in some instances, murdered. These people were subjected to a monstrous mockery. There is no need to mention the frightful tragedies in the West, where brigades of the disbanded Liberation Army of General Vlasov, which fought against the Soviet army (together with other Russian prisoners of war), were also perfidiously surrendered by the English and the American occupation authorities into the hands of the Soviet forces. They were subsequently forcefully taken to the U.S.S.R., where they of course faced either imprisonment in a concentration camp or death.
    After all of this, the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, towards the end of the 1960s, on account of the ecclesiastical policies of Moscow, suffered utter isolation from the rest of the local Orthodox Churches. This, in fact, was the greatest success of the external ecclesiastical policies of the Moscow Patriarchate, at the time under the guidance of the Metropolitan of Leningrad, Nikodim. In 1969, Metropolitan Nikodim, having shuttled frequently between the principal national Orthodox Churches (Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and others), managed to persuade these Churches to cease any communion with the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, under the pretext that it was uncanonical and that the only canonical representative of the Russian Church was the Moscow Patriarchate. He never ceased spewing the lie that the Church in the U.S.S.R. enjoyed perfect freedom and that every word of the representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad regarding persecution of the Faith was sheer falsehood. He portrayed them as political émigrés and enemies of the Soviet state. These were the principal insinuations of Communist propaganda at the time, and the Moscow Patriarchate—subservient to the Kremlin in all matters—became the mouthpiece for those insinuations.
    Then another very important event occurred, one which shook the Orthodox world to its very foundations; viz., the wholly unilateral initiatives, in the mid-1960s, by the Patriarch of Constantinople, Athenagoras, for rapprochement with the Roman Catholic Church. The virtually autocratic and illicit revocation of the Anathema of 1054 against Rome, Athenagoras’ meeting with Pope Paul VI in Jerusalem, in 1964, and the overt super-ecumenical policies of Patriarch Athenagoras, a thirty-third degree Mason, created panic among many of the True Orthodox faithful, both in the Greek-speaking Orthodox world and in the Slavic Orthodox world—and particularly in the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. On the one hand, this Church was at the time in isolation; on the other hand, and especially after Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky) became its Chief Hierarch, it took the manifest path of being a Confessor of Orthodoxy in the struggle against modernism and ecumenism and the policies that were strongly advocated by Patriarch Athenagoras in the mid-1960s. It was perhaps in the middle of the decade of the ’70s and the beginning of the ’80s that the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, under Metropolitan Philaret, reached its peak as a Church—as a Confessor of Orthodoxy and a missionary Church, which it had been, incidentally, even earlier on, during the time of St. John of San Francisco, who did much to spread Orthodoxy in the West.
    After having thus briefly outlined its history, ley us ask ourselves in what way has the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad benefited by that assistance from the Grace of God that comes on the cusp of difficult trials? In the twentieth century, the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad produced, from among its Hierarchs, more holy men than any other Church. Not a single local Church produced so many Bishops of holy and righteous life during the past century as did the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. Starting with St. John of San Francisco and the Holy Hierarch Seraphim, the Wonder-worker of Sofia, who carried out the larger part of his Hierarchical service in the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, we can proceed to St. Jonah of Hankow, who was glorified quite recently (1997); and then we can cite, as well, Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky), the third Chief Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, whose relics, when disinterred, were found wholly incorrupt,3 Archbishop Averky, Archbishop Leonty of Chile, and an entire constellation of righteous Hierarchs from the Far East: for example, Metropolitan Methody of Harbin, Metropolitan Innocent of Beijing, and others. It is not uncommon that the Grace-filled presence of righteous Bishops (holding correct spiritual and theological views), on the one hand, and manifold instances of miraculous intercession, on the other, should foretell impending trials, for Grace is given precisely to the end that ordeals might be endured. Now we can see what the significance of these things was. Nonetheless, the final choice of direction depends fully on the free of will of man. Already, in the Old Testament, the Lord had shown that were two possible choices: a blessing or a curse.
    To our great regret, the leftist leanings in the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad became preponderant. This tendency actually surfaced as early as the 1970s and the 1980s, during the presidency of Metropolitan Philaret. Even at that point, dissent was beginning to occur among the clergy and the faithful of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, though in secret and covertly. It had not yet revealed itself in some form of fractionalism or in some overt movement, but, rather, in the formation and declaration of simple opinions. For example, Archbishop Averky was not perceived in an unambiguously positive light; on the contrary, he was seen as too conservative and withdrawn from the modern world and its problems. The Archbishop was openly taunted, in Jordanville, as a brooding person who ceaselessly preached on apocalyptical subjects and possessed no cheerfulness—albeit cheerfulness as seen from the Western mind-set. Cheer and optimism, from this view, exist solely within the realm of this world; otherwise, one is doomed to gloom, dejection, and boredom: “We will not listen to such people as Archbishop Averky, since they are killjoys.” So, even in those days, there developed tendencies that became quite distinctly delineated after Metropolitan Philaret’s repose, when the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad came under the guidance of Metropolitan Vitaly. These tendencies came to the surface at the very beginning of the 1990s (perhaps some of you remember the first visits of Archbishop Mark of Berlin to Russia, without Metropolitan Vitaly’s blessing, his meetings with Patriarch Alexy II, and so forth). Overall, there was formed in the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad an opposition party, dissentient chiefly with regard to Metropolitan Vitaly’s ecclesiastical policies. One could feel implicitly—as in the stark letters written by Father Victor Potapov and many others in criticism of the Metropolitan—a distinctly liberal and progressivist mood: “In order to avert our degeneration into a sect, our road necessarily leads to unity with Moscow.”
    At this juncture, we should be honest and candid, admitting that most unfortunately, with respect to the Moscow Patriarchate, the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad did not always hold to a theologically and spiritually consistent position. Many of the overly critical characterizations of the Moscow Patriarchate—as a “graceless assemblage,” “Soviet,” “the red church,” etc.—were extreme opinions, expressed in the Church press, rather than theological assessments per se of the extremely heterogeneous and intricate organism which the Moscow Patriarchate represents. For, if its leaders have been, sadly enough, individuals entirely subservient to the politics of Sergianism (and, in Sergius’ time, obedient tools of the communist régime in Moscow), this we cannot say unconditionally about all of its Bishops, Priests, and faithful. Nor, in this regard, can we apply, in a way both fanatical and formalistic, the maxim: “If their ruling Bishops are such, then all of them are such, and therefore they lack Grace.” Indeed, the situation in Soviet Russia after the Revolution was extremely complex—extremely difficult—, and we cannot ascend the judge’s bench and require that every Bishop, every Priest and every layman should have become a confessor or martyr. We know that Sergianism led to horrendous consequences and that it was inadmissible treason. We know that the path of confessing the Faith is the way whereby the Church survives. But at the same time, we have no right to judge any person whomsoever, having not ourselves been subjected to such pressure and such horrifying conditions.
    Unfortunately, the liberal clergy and laity in the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad took advantage of these past errors in characterizing the Moscow Patriarchate, in order to substantiate their “leftist” leanings. As well, many mistakes were made in relation to the rash establishment of parishes in Russia, after the fall of Communism, and especially with the hasty and unconsidered consecration of Bishops there. And those errors, regrettably, very quickly and in rather short term eroded the lofty spiritual authority of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, which accrued to it during the several decades in which it dauntlessly spoke about the true conditions of the Orthodox in Soviet Russia, sending—insofar as possible, in the prevailing conditions—ecclesiastical and theological books everywhere within the boundaries of the U.S.S.R. of that time.
    Hence, we come to the tragic events which took place around the year 2000. It was in that year that Archbishop Mark, who is doubtlessly the leader of the movement for union with the Moscow Patriarchate, succeeded in gathering around himself the rest of the Bishops. Metropolitan Vitaly’s poor health was categorically misused both “on the left” and “on the right.” “The right wing” issued a series of ukases on his behalf. The contents of these, and what he was signing, he could hardly have known. Even in 1994, when I met him for the first time, he was suffering from advanced cerebral atherosclerosis. Such exploitation of an aged Hierarch was vile. It is disgusting that anyone should have taken advantage of the Metropolitan’s ailment in order to promulgate his own line of ecclesiastical policies and, at the same time, to conceal himself behind the man’s authority, while placing the entire responsibility on his shoulders. This is absolutely immoral, no matter who perpetrates the deed—the “left wing” or the “right wing”.
    What was for me very painful—first, to see and then to ponder over—was the following: Unfortunately, the newer generation of Bishops in the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad has been raised in the conditions of the Occident. To a great extent, in their mind-set, they were reared in the conditions of the West and, logically, do not possess that pre-Revolutionary leaven which the Bishops of the first émigré generation possessed. Precisely this new generation of Bishops and—alas!—some of the older Bishops, began to resemble, internally, the Bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate. When saying “internally,” I do so wholly intentionally, since I have been supplied with firsthand information regarding concrete actions which, though I am not willing to adduce them here, unfortunately also place a seal upon what a man has within himself. To me, this was the cruelest truth: becoming convinced that these people had begun to resemble internally, in spirit, the Bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate. This means cunning; it means aspirations towards the benefits of officialdom and of worldly recognition, towards material profits and advantages. It means embarking on the path of ecclesial diplomacy and politics, flexibility dictated by self-interest, of double standards and the language of ecclesiastical politics: “It may be both this way and that way. What matters is whether it serves our political line.” Alas! That for which the Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad were so highly respected in the past has now melted away. Of course, as humans, we all have inadequacies, foibles, and errors; but for the Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad of the first émigré generation the following was de rigueur: never did they consecrate anyone in haste, as was the case, at the end, during the presidency of Metropolitan Vitaly. They never ordained a clergyman to the rank of Bishop rashly, but always after circumspect investigation. They were honest, respectable, and moral people—such as those who would never sing the song of ecclesiastical politics. And this created a superb general image of the episcopate of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad: an episcopate which has always been highly esteemed.
    Now you can see for yourselves the course of the Russian Church Abroad. After an internal change has taken place, following upon a fall, one proceeds to external apostasy, since apostasy starts in the human heart. Where principles are concerned, you either stand before God and measure all of your thoughts and actions with the standards of the Gospels—according to the Savior’s words: Let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay (St. Matthew 5:37)—, or you take another road, the road of compromise in matters spiritual, wherein compromise is equal to spiritual suicide, which is what in fact befell the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. This is indeed unpardonable compromise. The Church Abroad is truly dooming itself to self-destruction (not administrative, not jurisdictional—because the problem is not there), but spiritual, since therein lies the heart. The Russian Orthodox Church Abroad will see what the Moscow Patriarchate is. By the by, this is already self-evident, since the very initiative for rapprochement was initiated by none other than President Putin. The Moscow Patriarchate has always been extraordinarily calculating. It would never have undertaken such an initiative on its own, even if the initiative is, at the present stage, properly in its hands. In fact, the classical Sergianist norms of behaviour are at present intact: the Church takes no initiative before it is certain what the civil authorities wish to undertake and where they wish to go. Afterwards, the Church itself follows the same route.
    No one is opposed to dialogue. But prior to engaging in any dialogue, its preconditions and foundations must be clearly and categorically set; and if it turns out that the very approach to dialogue is not entirely sincere, candid, upright, and well-meaning, then to engage in such dialogue is simply meaningless. Unfortunately, the dialogue between the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad and the Moscow Patriarchate was conducted completely in a manner and on a basis utterly inadmissible from the viewpoint of a consistent Orthodox ecclesiastical consciousness founded on firm principles. I stated this in an appropriate manner, but quite candidly, to the official representative of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, Archpriest Alexander Lebedeff, who, in April 2006, paid a visit to our Church, in order to inform us officially about the progress of the dialogue between the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad and the Moscow Patriarchate: “It is obvious that the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad itself will discontinue its communion with us—4we who were until yesterday a Sister Church, but who, starting tomorrow, will simply become, in its eyes, a dissident schismatic group, outside of the Church—, since it intends to establish Eucharistic communion with the Moscow Patriarchate and, through this, with all of the rest of the ‘official’ local Orthodox Churches. We remain in our position, and it is the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad which, in the persons of its Hierarchy, is making a 180-degree turn in its position.”
    And what is the situation among the clergymen, the monastics, and the laity? What is happening among them, generally speaking?
    First, the greater part of the clergy and the faithful of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad in Canada and the U.S. are positively in favor of the union with the Moscow Patriarchate. A large part of the clergy and faithful in Western Europe are also in favour of this union, while the whole of South America (i.e., the entire flock—and particularly so in Brazil, Chile, and Argentina), together with their clerics, are categorically against it. A part of the clerics and the faithful of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad in Australia are also against the union. You may perhaps imagine what frightful divisions will result from this.
    A faction of the clerics of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, of fanatical and extremist mentality, left the Church Abroad long ago, establishing their own jurisdictions, which began disintegrating in a fashion similar to that which we see in the extremist Greek Old Calendarist jurisdictions. By their existence, by what they speak, write, and do, they bring enormous detriment to our Churches and our witness, since they allow others to create a false caricature of us. By their fanatical and extremist conduct, they create a horrendous image of Orthodoxy. In so doing, they supply additional grounds for the modernistic and liberal-minded members of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, who are in favor of union with the Moscow Patriarchate, to declare: “Well, is this what you wish? That we become as these, as will be the case if we do not join Moscow? Is this the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad [that is to say, this caricature]?” In this manner, the advocates of union with the Moscow Patriarchate provide themselves with arguments drawn from the warped conduct of the fanatics, whereby they make apologies for their own theory: that, in order to survive as an Orthodox Church, they have to join “canonical Orthodoxy”—the Moscow Patriarchate and “the numerical (rather than right-believing) majority of the Orthodox Church”—fixing in place these notions, moreover, by substituting wholly external, contrived, and formal accidents for essential content! Generally speaking, this is the logic of the matter. And the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion is merely a question of time; it has been already approved by both Synods. This really signifies the end of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad as we have hitherto known it.
    All that is happening is quite depressing; but, unfortunately, it is a fact. Indisputably, finding themselves in the gravest difficulty are those clerics and faithful who are serious and responsible (and they are not just a few), who are still members of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad but who cannot possibly in good conscience accept this union. And the accomplishment of this union is knocking at the door. The hearts and consciences of these people are crucified and bleeding, believe me. I can say this in absolute candor, because there are Priests who write to me and who wish to converse with me by telephone. There are laypeople, wonderful faithful, who are pristine examples of a pure Orthodox ecclesiastical conscience, who are not in the least prone to judge their Bishops or speak personally against anyone, who are completely alien to the spirit of fanaticism and extremism, but who are suffering profoundly on account of what is happening. They see how their Church is simply destroying itself; i.e., how it is being betrayed by those persons who were called to be the supreme guardians of its legacy—by its Bishops.
    So, I ask you to pray for these fathers, brothers and sisters of ours, whose hearts and consciences are literally crucified. In my opinion, the best outcome of this extremely dire situation is that there might eventually be elected, precisely from the midst of these responsible suffering clerics and laymen, people worthy of the Episcopal office, who will in fact continue the struggle of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, standing in the fullness of the Orthodox Faith and having as their goal spiritual victory, in their very lives, and the fullness thereof, not in words, not in phrases, not in writing, but in spirit and truth, which are essential and definitive.

  * His Eminence, Bishop Photii, First Hierarch of the Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Bulgaria, was ordianed to the Priesthood by Metropolitan Cyprian of Oropos and Fili and consecrated to the Episcopacy by Metropolitan Cyprian and his Bishops. He is a former Lecturer (a European designation equivalent to the rank of Assistant Professor in the U.S.) at the University of Sofia, where he studied Classics and Theology and later taught the former subject. He speaks, in addition to his native Bulgarian, Greek, Russian, and French. He also reads English and Latin fluently. He was formed spiritually by the late Bulgarian theologian and academic, Archimandrite Dr. Seraphim, a spiritual child of St. Seraphim of Sofia and an Old Calendarist confessor, and Abbess Seraphima (Princess Olga Lieven) of the Protection Convent in Sofia. He is much loved and revered for his spiritual gifts and humility.
  1 Selections from Bishop Photii’s talks with congregations in Plovdiv, Pazardzhik, and Blagoevgrad, which took place on November 16 and November 27, 2006.

  2 In 1923, the St. Sergius of Radonezh Orthodox Theological Institute was established in Paris, and it soon turned into a hotbed of ecclesiastical modernism. The disputes which arose around the activities of this Institute precipitated the outbreak of schism in the Church. In 1926, the Metropolitan of Western Europe, Eulogius, together with the Metropolitan of North America, Platon, separated from the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad). This schism became a visible expression of the profound ideological split that existed between the “Eulogians,” who took the path of ecclesiastical modernism, and the “Synodal Party,” composed of followers of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, advocates of Traditional Orthodoxy.

  3 On November 10 (October 28, O.S.), 1998, Metropolitan Philaret’s remains were translated from the cemetery Church of the Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY, to a specially-constructed sepulchre annexed to the main monastery Church. It was then that the saintly Hierarch’s remains were seen to be incorrupt. See Pravoslavno Slovo, June 1998, p. 23—Editor’s Note.

  4 This supposition of Bishop Photii proved to be right. By their decision of September 6 (August 24, O.S.), 2006, the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad pronounced its cessation of ecclesiastical communion with the Old Calendar Orthodox Churches of Romania and Bulgaria (as they had with our Sister Church, the Orthodox Church of Greece, Synod in Resistance, earlier), without informing the Chief Hierarch of the Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Bulgaria to this effect, either in writing or orally. Bishop Photii learned of this decree almost half a year later, from outside sources.—Editor’s Note.

Who is my bishop?

Metropolitan Agafangel Pashkovsky

His Eminence Agafangel, Bishop of Taurida and Odessa; ruling bishop of the Odessa diocese, ruling authority of the South American and Zaporozhskoye diocese; Chairman of the ROCOR PSCA.

Mikhaylovskaya Square 1, Odessa, 65005, Ukraine.  
Tel: (048)7311203, 7334464.  
Fax: (048)7320801.

His Eminence Agafangel (born Mikhail Ivanovich Pashkovskiy) was born on November 22, 1956, in Odessa (Ukraine) and is Ukrainian.  He graduated from the Odessa Pedagogical Institute.  He was tonsured a monk on August 31, 1991, with the name Agafangel in honor of St. Agafangel (Preobrazhenskiy) the Confessor, the Metropolitan of Yaroslav (celebrated on October 16, N.C.).  He was ordained a deacon on September 1, 1991, and a priest on September 8, 1991, in Moscow in the Catacomb church of the Holy New Martyrs of Russia by Lazarus (Zhurbenko) (ROCOR), Archbishop of Tambov and Morshansk.  In 1992, he was able to take possession of the Sts. Nicholas and Ariadna church in Odessa (now known as the Church of St. John of Kronstadt) for our jurisdiction and was the parish priest from that time on.  On March 27, 1994, in the Emperor Constantine cathedral in Suszdal, he was ordained and made the Bishop of Simferopol.  From 1996, he was Bishop of Simferopol and Crimea.  At some point he joined ROAC, but then repented of that and returned to ROCOR and served a penance.  From December 17, 2003, he was the Bishop of Taurida and Odessa.  On July 10, 2007, he was elected Chairman of the ROCOR PSCA.

from SIR Metr. Cyprian 2007

July 9, 2007

Your Eminence, dear brothers and sisters in Christ our God and Saviour,

It is with the greatest pain of heart that we have witnessed the fall of the glorious Russian Church Abroad from its confession of Orthodoxy against the twin evils of Ecumenism and Sergianism, and its acceptance not only of subjection to the Moscow Patriarchate, but also of full communion with all the other local Orthodox Churches, which are almost all more deeply involved in the apostasy of ecumenism than is the Moscow Patriarchate itself.  The Russian Church Abroad, which, over the years 1992-94 entered into full and official communion with the Old-Calendar Churches of Romania, Greece and Bulgaria , and last year, at the request of the Moscow Patriarchate, severed communion with them, advised these three Churches to follow their own example and to unite with their new-calendar so-called “Mother Churches”.  This call we have all, naturally, rejected, as we are fully aware of what is the purpose of our struggle as Orthodox pastors.

Our pain is however relieved by the fact that one of the bishops of our sister Russian Church, who, what is more, had consistently refused to accept the severance of official communion with us, has resolutely refused to follow the path of apostasy, or, as has been succinctly expressed by our brother, Bishop Photii of Bulgaria, of descent from the cross of Orthodox confession,  and, followed by a number of clergy of the ROCA, has resolved to continue its witness and its confession of pure Orthodoxy.  As Bishop Agafangel has never severed communion with us, nor we with him, he continues to be for us the representative of the Russian Church Abroad, and we encourage all those who wish to continue the witness of the ROCA to follow him, and to help him to re-organize the structure of the remaining faithful part of your Church.

In order for this to be realized, it is clear that other bishops will have to be consecrated, and we have already expressed to Vladyka Agafangel our willingness to taking part, together with representatives of the Romanian and Bulgarian Churches, in such ordinations at some date in the future.  This would be a wonderful way to repay the debt which we owe to the Russian Church Abroad, which, in 1960-61 consecrated a new episcopate for the Greek Church of the Old Calendar, which had remained without bishops since 1955.  We also take this occasion to warn you that there will be other Old Calendarist groups from Greece which may well approach you, probably with various accusations against us; such accusations were fully examined by the episcopate of the ROCA which decided in 1994 that these are baseless, and that our ecclesiological position corresponds exactly with that of the ROCA.  From then until the falling-away of the majority of the ROCA, she was in full union with both us and our sister-Churches in Romania and Bulgaria.

The process of union with Moscow has been underway for several years, with the result that a number of groups broke away from the ROCA previous to the union itself.  Some of these have adopted positions inconsistent with the history of the ROCA , while others have divided in such a way as to lose all semblance of churchliness.  However, the one group that has preserved both a serious witness and a true continuation of the teaching of the ROCA is that headed by the late Archbishop Lazar, and now by Archbishop Tikhon.  We fully recognize the canonical problems involved, but there are ways in which these can be overcome, and, at this critical moment for the Russian Church, it would be tragic if its forces were divided between these two entities whose aim is, in essence identical. As we have received from this group their appeal to serve as intercessors, we implore you to find every way possible within the context of good reason, to achieve unity with them.  We are certain that such an event would convince many others, who are at present uncertain where to turn, to follow your good example.

We pray that our gracious Lord may enlighten you all, Vladyka and dear brothers in Christ, to make wise and well-considered decisions which may assure the future of the Russian Church Abroad; it is our prayer that you, together with the three local Orthodox Churches here in the Balkans, may continue in harmony the same struggle for the preservation and preaching of our true Orthodox faith.

In the love of Christ our Lord and God and Saviour,

+Cyprian, Metropolitan of Oropos and Fili,
          President of the Holy Synod

Feeding the Wolves and Saving the Sheep?

It appears to me this article was first posted in April of 2007 here,  then reposted July 2007 here at the request of our Fr. Victor.
№60: Plan to be in the MP, yet not to commemorate Alexis II?
Non-Commemoration of the Prelate and yet Staying Under His Aegis 
Leads ROCOR to Self-Destruction 

Dear Fathers, Brothers and Sisters!

Once again, another very dangerous obstacle has appeared on the road to our salvation. It has arisen in the last few days and can be considered a type of “diaspora neo-sergianism” and presents a compromise to the faithful servants of ROCOR on one of the most important issues regarding relations with the Moscow Patriarchate.

The idea is to create a group of parishes that will remain under Metropolitan Lavr and his Synod and within the Church Abroad, but which will not commemorate the Moscow Patriarch after the ceremonial signing on May 17th of the “Act of Canonical Communion” between ROCOR and the MP. Instead, they will continue commemorating the Metropolitan of the Church Abroad.

Before considering this matter, it is important to remember that not commemorating the Moscow Patriarch is not something new, and in fact, occurred not so long ago in the MP itself. Where are those righteous priests and their parishes now? All of those “protestants” were severely punished and their parishes were returned under MP control. One can be sure that this handful of “non-commemorating” émigré priests will suffer the same fate. The only difference will be that our Russian brothers were unable to escape to religious freedom from their cage, which they desired so fiercely, while our émigré dunderheads are willingly entering the cage, accompanied by festive singing.

Let us now look at the matter of non-commemoration more closely.

It is clearly stated in the fifth paragraph of the “Act of Canonical Communion” that the MP Patriarch is the Primate of the one Russian Orthodox Church. This Act was accepted by our Synod, and after it is signed in Moscow, those faithful of our Church who remain under Metropolitan Lavr and his Synod will have to recognize the Patriarch’s authority over them.

Normally, according to the canons, neither a bishop, nor a priest, can act in separation from their Primate and neglect to commemorate him during the Holy Liturgy and still gain access into the Catholic Space of Divine Grace. (Catholicity has nothing to do with the Roman Catholic Church.) That is why the commemoration of the Primate of the autocephalous orthodox church is strictly regulated by the Holy Canons. The guarantee of being able to go into the Catholic Space with its associated state of Grace in its Mysteries, is not possible in the Church without a canonical Primate. For a Primate to be canonical, it is essential that the Apostolic Succession remain inviolate along with the correct preaching of Orthodox beliefs. Once these criteria are met, then we can go into to the Catholic Space and through the liturgy, remain one with God Himself.

As a rule, a Primate is the head of an Autocephalous Church, and only in liturgical union with him is this entry into Catholicity achieved for every bishop or priest. This is equally vital for all the Mysteries of the Church. That is why the Primate’s name is proclaimed during the appropriate time in all the litanies. However during the rite of the Mystery of Mysteries -The Holy and Divine Liturgy, this commemoration has a unique arrangement-the canons stipulate that during the Prothesis, the first portion of the prosphora is removed in honor of the Primate of the Church. His name is also proclaimed during the Grand Entrance and during the Consecration of the Gifts.

The Metropolitans of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia have canonical status as Primates. This fact is without question and is recognized by the entire Orthodox world. Perhaps they may be the “lesser” of the others – as Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky) pointed out correctly (in his usual humble manner) in his Sorrowful Epistle to the Ecumenical Patriarch – but the question is not of “relative size.” For our salvation it is enough that through their connection to the lawful Primate, our priests can administer the lifesaving Mysteries to the faithful and the faithful can thus enter into living communion with God. 

One sees a completely different situation within the MP in the way it exists today. Setting aside a complete discussion of all the troubling aspects of life within the MP, we will ignore the dubious ordination of the MP episcopate and its steadfast dedication to ecumenism, a dangerous belief that threatens to preach Orthodoxy using secular logic and a belief that is excused by politically-based justifications. Nor will we address the new forms of sergianism, which have become the norm now and which bedevil the church like a chronic illness. Neither shall we dare to entertain the literal question of God knows how the Moscow Patriarchate, a church body rife with so many canonical irregularities, can pass Divine Grace to its Christian believers.

One question only concerns us at this time-is “non-commemoration” a solution, even if only a temporary one, that can safeguard the spiritual state of the faithful of the Church Abroad during these “times of troubles”? 

Therefore, let us begin by discussing the issue of the Primate of the MP. We hasten to add that we are not talking about a specific person. Alexy II is the current Primate of the MP. Tomorrow, it could be Metropolitan Kyrill (Gundaev) or someone else, perhaps even someone more worthy, but this is irrelevant to our discussion.

We will not burden the reader by citing the many quotations from the Conciliar and Synodal Declarations of ROCOR, but we will remind the reader that since 1943, not a single “Soviet” Patriarch, including Alexy II, was considered to be legitimate by the Church Abroad.

It is known to all, that seven years before he became the first Soviet Patriarch, Metropolitan Sergius found himself in schism from the Local (Pomestniy) Orthodox Church. He perpetrated this schism in 1936, when, upon news of the death of the Locum Tenens of the patriarchal throne, Met. Petr (Krutitsky), he did not immediately relinquish his right to succession and did not pass the reins of power in the church to Met. Kyrill (Smirnov), who was alive at the time and was the Locum Tenens chosen by Patriarch Tikhon and the Local Council of 1918.

In addition to this irrefutable fact of church history, we can add another, no less important fact: while in schism Met. Sergius was elected Patriarch not by a Local Council as stipulated by the Declaration of the Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1918, but by a Bishops’ Council. (And can one really call this a council, as it was made up of bishops frightened to death by Stalin and summoned hastily to Moscow by the “Great Father and Teacher”? Would it not be more correct to say that the “Father” of “All People” actually decided and “blessed” this nomination?) That is when the most horrible moment occurred – the break in the apostolic succession of the Primacy.

As a result, the Moscow Patriarchate is a religious body headed by an uncanonical Primate, which leads us to the main point of our discussion-What does this mean for us? 

It would seem that the “non-commemoration” of an uncanonical Primate would be the most correct action to take in this situation, but let us look a little more closely.

Being a Primate is a mighty Gift of God, and like all of His Gifts, it requires careful attention, lest we repeat the fate of Esau of the Old Testament, who exchanged his birthright for a stew of lentils.

Sadly, that is what has already happened to ROCOR in a legal and substantive sense, when Met. Lavr signed the Synodal Declaration accepting the “Act of Canonical Communion,” which establishes his subordination to the Primate of the MP Patriarch, once the two churches become one on May 17th. Met. Lavr will completely lose his canonical “birthright” – his Primate status – when, according to the accepted protocol, he serves with the Patriarch after the signing of the “Act.” At that liturgy, he will remove a portion from the prosphora during the Proskomedia in the name of “His Holiness, Our Great Lord and Father, Alexy II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia” and will also commemorate him during the Grand Entrance. From that moment on, having recognized the Primate pre-eminence of someone above him, Met. Lavr will lose his Primate status.

For those members of ROCOR who accept the “Act of Canonical Communion” with the MP, Met. Lavr will remain their First Hierarch, the most senior bishop of all the ROCOR bishops, but the Primate will be someone else, Alexy II in this case, the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.

Herein lies the travesty of this situation. Having willfully relinquished his status as Primate, Met. Lavr also denies us this privilege as well. Instead of having a lawful and real Primate, we will recognize one that is uncanonical, born of schism, sullied by sergianism and ecumenism, and therefore without Grace.

But that’s not all! What is most tragic, and not quite yet understood by many, is that the entire population of Russian faithful will not only lose its lawful Primate as represented by the First Hierarch of the Church Abroad, through which and with the help of whom they could have reestablished in Russia in due time a legitimate Primacy but will also lose its only link to the canonical, legitimate church hierarchy. As a result, the Local Russian Church, whether She understands it or not, whether  wants to admit  or categorically reject it, She will find herself in a state of canonical chaos. How this will affect the lives of our brethren in the homeland and in what way, only time will tell.

To return to the matter at hand, we must conclude that commemorating the uncanonical Patriarch of the MP will not grant us the Grace of the Church’s Mysteries, no less than the continued commemoration of the ROCOR Metropolitan, who willfully surrenders his Primacy.

To not commemorate the MP Patriarch and commemorate the ROCOR Metropolitan instead makes no sense, because after May 17th, neither one can be considered the canonical Primate of the Russian Church. This is what the “non-commemorators” do not understand or perhaps choose not to understand, and therein lies their grave and dangerous mistake as regards to the canons. Further, this can lead to a disastrous canonical schism and not only a separation from the Local (Pomestniy) Russian Church, but from the entire Ecumenical Orthodox Church. An Autocephalous Church is no longer an Apostolic Church if it is led by a Primate who does not have Apostolic succession!

Sadly, the level of knowledge of the Holy Canons in the Russian Church Abroad is not very advanced. As a result, those who sense the spiritual ruin of the “Act of Canonical Communion” with the MP unfortunately run off every which way! There are even those among us who seek a “temporary” safe haven in the schismatic "Russian True Orthodox Church" of Bp. Tikhon, or the "ROCOR" that was based around Met. Vitaliy.

There are others who believe they can remain after May 17th in the Canonical Field of the “ Act of Communionunder the MP Patriarch and the ROCOR Metropolitan, and ask them to assign one of their ROCOR bishops and  allow to commemorate only him. Lack of knowledge of the canons,as they say, knows no bounds!

Matters relating to our salvation always require total honesty, and it would seem, that it is better to stare difficult and grave truths in the face than to fall into self-deception.

As faithful Christians, we must never lose hope in God’s charity right up to the last minute, however, if the “Act of Communion” will be signed, we will have but one correct action to take – the restoration of the canonical structure of the Church Abroad.

To this end, it is imperative to announce one’s opposition to the union. This is critical, since all bishops and clergy who do not publicly declare their opposition to the “Act of Communion” between ROCOR and the MP will become canonically and legally subordinate to the MP starting on May 18th and will suffer all the resulting changes and consequences. Met. Lavr and his Synod will enter into schism on May 17th and any dissenting ROCOR clergyman who openly frees himself from subordination to them will risk losing his church property,possibly be evicted into the streets, and most likely will be deposed, which from Met. Lavr and his Synod’s perspective will be legally and canonically correct given their newly-created church structure.

There will be dioceses without bishops who have declared their intention to remain in the true ROCOR. These need to immediately call a diocesan conference on May 18th or as soon as possible. It does not matter if the diocese has many people or not, those that wish to remain in the true ROCOR will inevitably grow. At these meetings, everyone in the diocese needs to announce their intention not to remain subordinate to Met. Lavr and his Synod (after these bishops leave ROCOR) and go under the omofor of Orthodox bishops who will create a Provisional Supreme Church Administration, who will convene a V-th All-Diaspora Council, and who will restore the canonical structure of the ROCOR church administration based on Holy Patriarch Tikhon’s Ukase #362.

Of course, the path we propose here, will interest only those who wish to remain in the real Russian Church. It may seem difficult, but it is the only way to preserve the Church Abroad.                                  

All other roads lead to schism.
•The Editorial Board of Sobor2006