2007 December: Crisis in Haiti

2007, December: Crisis in Haiti
20 Nov/ 3 Dec 2007
Eve of the Feast of the Entry 2007

To: Haiti Yahoo Group
From Fr. Gregory Williams

Almost everyone who will see this document is already aware that, when most of the bishops of ROCOR submitted to the Moscow Patriarchate on Ascension 2007, His Grace Bishop Agafangel of Odessa did not, nor did I or the community at the Church of the Annunciation in Liberty, nor did a large part of the Haitian Orthodox Mission (the priests Jean-Chénier Dumais and Grégoire Legouté did; Fr. Dcn. Amboise Noël did not; in an open parish meeting the faithful of St. Augustine’s at Cyvadier, Jacmel, likewise unanimously declined to do so.)

Several weeks ago I was informed of an impending visit to Haiti by Bishop Michael of Geneva (ROCOR/MP), to be accompanied by my son Fr. Dcn. Matthew Williams, planned for the latter part of December (after my return from the now-impending visit). No further information reached me.

Last Wednesday evening (15/28 November), the first of the following documents arrived by e-mail, translated from the French (and with some minor editorial omissions of matters not directly relevant).

Good evening, Father! This morning, Augustin came to see me at the school office [reader Nicolas is director of St. Augustine’s School at Cyvadier] to invite me to a meeting which was to take place at 10:00am this same day with the bishop [Michael] at the church. He came as having been delegated to pass the message, having been at Port-au-Prince; he had come to assemble the people. I clearly responded to him that I would not participate in such a meeting, and that I would not let Bishop Michael enter the property of the church, and that there had been no planning for such an encounter. He responded to the contrary; and I, I had made my formal decision.

Just this morning, he had visited all the faithful so as to convey the message. Effectively, he was able to mobilize many of the faithful for this meeting.

At ten o’clock, I heard a vehicle horn outside the barrier of the school [and church]. I went out and saw Bishop Michael, Deacon Matthew, Fr. Jean and Fr. Grégoire in the car. They greeted me and asked me to open the barrier so they could enter the temple grounds. I replied that it was forbidden [for them] to enter the property [formal letters of exclusion have long since been sent to Fr. Jean and Fr. Grégoire; copies are in the Church archives in Odessa] as I had no word from Fr. Gregory advising me of such a visit. At that moment, I saw a number of faithful coming to participate in the meeting with Augustin at the head of the group. They wanted me to let the group from Port-au-Prince enter the premises. I was alone to refuse this penetration. The bishop called out to tell me, Good Nicolas, you have sinned in that you don’t want to allow me to enter the church. I have the right to come here at any time, because I am your bishop. I replied that he was before, but that now by bishop is Bishop Agafangel. He told me he is a false bishop, and he had made a decision to sanction me because I refused to let him enter the property of the church for a visit. I replied to him that I had no problem with that; only that I was trying to defend the true Faith. He said, you must remember that it was I who ordained you, and I replied that I remember. I spoke at some length with the bishop while he was seated in the car, to try to explain to him that here, we belong to the historic Church. Fr. Jean soon said that he was going to take over this church as well as that at La Plaine. I told Bishop Michael that we recognized only one pastor, Fr. Gregory Williams, in communion with Bishop Agafangel.

Finally, he decided to leave the barrier, to go to the [nearby] hotel [Cyvadier] with the group, and he invited me as well. I replied to them that it wasn’t worth the trouble; I was occupied with the affairs of the school.

There were several who participated in the meeting at the hotel, both men and women [names omitted] — about 20 in all.

According to rumor, they plan to rent a temporary location for services (probably the old chapel), buy a piece of ground, give out aid to the faithful, etc.

Thus, we are truly crowned by spies in the heart of our community; now today, they declare themselves clearly and I, my life is truly threatened. I beg you to pray to be able to continue to struggle against these enemies and to defend our community. I’m truly afraid because of these faithful who decide to collaborate with this group….

After the declaration of Fr. Grégoire and Fr. Jean outside the barrier, he [Augustin] characterized me as the biggest obstacle to the advancement of the church, as I had decided to remain with you. Now, we must take measures and precautions to avoid the invasion of this group. I’m ready to struggle and take all possible steps to stop these people. I’m in place, I know the people, I see their mentality — but you, you have put too much confidence in them, and didn’t want to listen to me, Father. Now we are truly taken in a trap, for many of the faithful have betrayed us. (…)

Thursday 16/29 November

Good evening, Father! I greet you in the name of the Lord Who knows the true friends and the false friends.

I spoke with Fr. Amboise yesterday. He called me because they had demanded a meeting with him also. He responded as I did, and no one went to La Plaine. (…)

I have received word that Fr. Grégoire will be at Jacmel this weekend to celebrate the liturgy in a provisional location [apparently this did not happen, as no further word of it has reached me]. There a number of the faithful who want to join with him because he offers them advantages. (…) Now, I’m in the process of consulting with an attorney to examine the means for preventing them from harming us. If they want to snatch this property, as they claim, it will be a long procedure. I am certain the procedure will end in our favor, because we are on solid legal ground.

Sunday 19 Nov/ 2 December

The parish council of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia [at St. Augustine’s] greets you and reaffirms the confidence of all the members [elected at a parish meeting earlier this year] as well as the faithful place in you and in our Bishop Agafangel of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia.

An untoward incident occurred Wednesday 28 November: At 10am a vehicle drew up at the entry gate of the property, in which had come: Bishop Michael, Fr. Jean, Fr. Grégoire, and Deacon Matthew Williams, this latter the son of Archpriest Gregory Williams. The council had already received a formal directive from our administrator forbidding any impromptu visits or other actions by clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate. One of the members of the council was on the premises at the moment of this visit, and he forbad the four clergymen to enter into the heart of the property.

This Sunday [today], after the liturgical services, a general meeting was held with all the faithful present, some 60 persons, who reaffirmed their confidence in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia as well as its directors. This meeting was presided over by Lucien.

Rest assured that we guard our fidelity and firm commitment for a [true] Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia in Haiti in perpetuity.

Please accept our respectful homage and count upon our collaboration, anticipating already the feast of the Nativity in Haiti. Christ is born! Glorify Him!

For the Parish Council,
Lucien, secretary

Monday 20 Nov/ 3 Dec [from Nicolas]

Yesterday, we gathered after the services to discuss this deeply troubling situation. All the faithful were gathered together; Augustin was there, as well as Cyril and many others. I intervened in this meeting as being most aware of the matters, and later I tried to unravel some confusion arising from what the bishop [Michael] had said concerning our community, and to remind them to keep their word as they had spoken at the time of our general meeting, in which they had declared that we wanted to remain faithful with Fr. Gregory, in communion with Bishop Agafangel. (…)

[Augustin spoke out to say that you [Fr. Gregory] were illegal, as there had been no paper signed for the division of the goods of the Mission. He believed the words of the bishop, for whom he is working.

Other information: The bishop plans to send three letters to Augustin — one for the Notary M. Hoche, one addressed to the hotel to the end that you be forbidden to come to the hotel as a priest of the Orthodox Church, and a third, I believe, for the Ministry of Religions. — omitted from generally distributed text]

End of translated documents. They, and the events they relate, speak for themselves.

I leave tomorrow after liturgy for Haiti, and I beg your prayers both for myself and for “least of these little ones” there, who are the most likely to suffer grave spiritual injury in this situation.

1 comment:

Joanna Higginbotham said...

Dear Fr. Gregory,

Father Bless. Well, well, we just start to get over
the fact that our Bishops abandonded us, and now they
turn again and come to tromple and smear us.

I'm deeply saddened that Fr. Deacon Matthew would
dishonor you with public and direct opposition. God
help him! We see how evil they are that they would
delight in pitting a son against a father. And making
a display of it. You have my deep sympathy.

Reader Daniel says that this is common, such
family/friends splits because of this "union". That
there are many similar stories. But this is more than
just one member being pro and another being anti.
Matthew has met you in open combat. Even if his
conscience is thoroughly convinced the union is good,
out of respect for you and the Commandments, he should
have not appeared in person on Haiti's streets on
behalf of the MP. There are eternal consequences...

I should have known they would come after Haiti before
they come after the Press. Don't doubt they will be
no less ruthless.

Love In Christ, Joanna