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
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