Fr. Gregory's Open Letter of December 2006

21 Nov/ 4 Dec 2006
Entry of the Mother of God

Beloved Archpastors and Fathers in God:

With heavy heart I regard the impending (so it seems) submission of our Church to the Moscow Patriarchate. For more than a quarter-century we have worked together, seeking first, I trust, the Kingdom of God. By His Grace, the work of the St. John of Kronstadt Press has flourished, and the Church's mission in Haiti has grown, and our tiny parish of the Annunciation has held firm in the Faith. Now, I look upon the impending dissolution of my family, spiritual and corporeal, and I weep, serving, perhaps for the last time, with many of my brethren with whom I have so long labored. My own family is only one of hundreds, more likely thousands, which will be shattered if the proposed submission actually takes place.

As you well know, I am not Russian, nor Greek, nor Syrian. I am at least as much Haitian as American at this point, and really neither. My commitment is to Orthodox Christianity and so it should be for every Orthodox Christian. But it seems that an overwhelming tide of sentiment for "Russian unity" is driving the move to submission, with much else laid aside, to be dealt with at a later date, or altogether ignored.

Were the Moscow Patriarchate what it pretends to be, and is in effect proclaimed to be by the proposed "Act of Canonical Communion", that is, truly the Orthodox Church of Russia, then there would be no question: we, ROCOR, must either resume our place within it, or be canonically established as a wholly independent body. But, historically and ecclesiologically, I cannot see this to be the case.

But what is today known as the Moscow Patriarchate has no historical or theological continuity with the Orthodox Church of Russia, the Church of St. Tikhon and the New- Martyrs and Confessors. By the might of the Soviet state, the once-legitimate Metropolitan Sergius, having gone into schism, became at best a usurper, at worst an outright impostor and fraud. The post-Declaration "Church" was wholly the creation of the Soviet power, conceived to further its own evil designs. Following in the same model was the "restoration" of the "patriarchate", at Stalin¹s behest. Unless we engage in Soviet-style rewriting of history (and it seems there are many so occupied), this history cannot be undone. What was created was at best a schism (the legitimate Orthodox Church of Russia continuing within Russia in the catacombs, outside Russia in what is now known as the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia). It was a schism (or far worse) compounded by its later engagement in ecumenism, rightly condemned by the Anathema proclaimed by our Church.

Such a separation cannot be remedied by "negotiations", but only by open acknowledgment of the Truth and public repentance on the part of those who have perpetrated the false "church". This has not occurred. "Regret" will not do.

At a recent meeting of the clergy of the Southern Deanery, one of my brother priests (himself a proponent of submission), asked what would satisfy us (those who cannot in good conscience be party to such a submission). This is a fair question, for, to the best of my knowledge, all of us grieve at the current situation, in which we are (we believe rightly) sacramentally isolated from nearly all of what claims to be Orthodoxy, not only the schismatic Moscow Patriarchate, but as well the so-called OCA, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the rest of "World Orthodoxy". We would dearly love to see an end to this isolation, but not at the expense of Truth.

I can answer only for myself, but suspect many others would make a similar answer. On the count of what has come to be known as "Sergianism", the answer is fairly simple. A clearly stated renunciation by the Moscow Patriarchate (in the person of the "patriarch" himself and enacted by synodal decree) of the infamous "Declaration" which proclaimed the submission of the "Church" to the State, and public repentance for having participated in the institution which falsely proclaimed itself to be the "Russian Orthodox Church" would be necessary. Further, those individuals who received their illegitimate ecclesiastical authority from that Soviet institution must publicly repent and retire from their offices, or be reinstated by a legitimate Sobor, not one controlled by those very same persons and their appointees. Impossible? No; for with God all things are possible.

With respect to ecumenism, the question is far more complex, for it involves not only the Moscow Patriarchate, but as well all those bodies with which it is in sacramental communion. (If the "Act" is ultimately adopted and implemented, those who accept the submission would likewise be in communion with those same bodies). As to the Moscow Patriarchate itself, an immediate and unconditional withdrawal from the World Council of Churches would be an encouraging sign, though far from a complete response.

Incomplete, because it would not address the question of the other bodies with which the Moscow Patriarchate remains in sacramental communion. Briefly, only the two most egregious cases need be mentioned: The ecumenist activities of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (and its subsidiary, the Greek Orthodox Church in the Americas) are too well-known and too current to require further comment; even one of its most "traditional" hierarchs publicly proclaimed the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church to be "two lungs" of the same body. But far more serious is the second: What calls itself the Orthodox Church of Syria has formally and publicly entered into sacramental union with the heretical Monophysite church of Syria (which even now on its web site proclaims its rejection of the Council of Chalcedon and adherence to its heresy). In our own backyard we have, of course, its child, the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America. Are we to be a party to all this? God forbid!

Thus, the only fully satisfactory response to this issue on the part of the Moscow Patriarchate would be for it adopt the course set by Metropolitan Philaret, of blessed memory, and to sever sacramental communion with those ecclesiastical bodies which engage in such heretical activity. Impossible? No. But, sadly, unlikely.

For most of the twenty-six years since my baptism and ordination, I have found it necessary frequently to reassure troubled people that no "intercommunion" with the Moscow Patriarchate was imminent, that I believed our hierarchs would hold firm in their commitment to true Orthodox Christianity. I watched schism after schism, grieved over the premature flight of many of my brother priests out of fear of such an event, and continued (and still continue) to voice my conviction that only official (as opposed to disorderly and disobedient behavior) action is ground for active response. Now, it appears, we are on the brink of such action. If the "Act" as proposed is actually adopted by our hierarchy, and proceeds to implementation (in the form of public concelebration by hierarchs of our Church and those of the Moscow Patriarchate), our Church as I have known it will have ceased to exist - or will continue to exist only as a remnant Church, not a party to the "Act" or submission to the Moscow Patriarchate.

Should that day arrive, God forbid, I cannot in good conscience be a party to the submission. I have no "plans", have communicated with no other hierarchs, and do not know what is to become of me personally, nor of those committed into my charge. As directed by ukase, I will do my best to inform my flock of the situation, of the proposed actions and of my own response to it. In response to numerous anguished inquires, from clergy and lay people alike, I have counseled the same: wait, and pray; when and if the day of definitive action comes, the godly path will become apparent.

As you well know, I have resisted, and continue to resist, anything resembling the Mansonville schism. This does not mean, however, that my conscience is quiescent. Vladyka Gabriel, you and I discussed the proposed preposterous "permissive non-commemoration" some months ago, at which time you found it as absurd as I. Indeed, it is an insult to the integrity and intelligence of those to whom it is addressed. How does this differ from a conscripted soldier hiring a replacement, or a Christian who hires someone to take his place before the idol?

I cannot commemorate a false patriarch, nor can I be part of the false church which he heads -- whether I myself utter his name at liturgy or not. The time has not yet come, though it now appears it almost certainly will do so -- but when it does, if need be I'll stand alone, whatever form that might take. At that point, as I see it the Church which gave me birth and has nourished me will have ceased to exist swallowed up in an anti-church. I won't have "gone into schism" or "left" -- I'll simply be left standing
where I was before.

What is that point? The point at which submission is formally declared, and/or Metropolitan Laurus publicly concelebrates with or commemorates the pseudo-patriarch.

Is it possible I am wrong? Of course, and I freely admit that I might yet be "enlightened" - but not by "negotiations" and rewriting of history.

On the brink of departure for a two-week visit to our missions in Haiti, I am especially concerned for the future of the flock there: two priests, a deacon, six established missions, some hundreds of faithful. What is to become of them? Again, I will do my best to explain the situation (in a meeting of clergy and the most aware readers and laymen next week), and to explore with them their options.

Beloved hierarchs: If this "Act" is adopted and implemented, it will have a devastating effect upon me personally, and upon a very large number of our clergy and faithful. Many will scatter, grieving and reluctant, into other "jurisdictions". Not a few will despair and fall into total apostasy. Some will withdraw into isolation (as has already at least one family), doing their best to survive with private prayers and readers' services, cut off from all sacramental communion.

In the name of God, I beseech you, stop this course while it is yet possible. Continue discussions, of course - not only with the Moscow Patriarchate, but even with outright heretics, where it is possible in good faith. But discussions are not negotiations, and the Truth is not to be compromised.

Prior to sending this letter of appeal to you I have shared it with a few close associates amongst the clergy (not for further distribution), trusting their insights to help me better to say what must be said. I intend later -but only after allowing time for your responses, if any -to make it public, believing truly that "by silence is God betrayed".

Please forgive me if I have been over-bold, or if I have in any way offended you. I regret that I cannot simply lay my own conscience aside and follow, blindly as a sheep the shepherd. Had I been able to do that earlier in my life, I would never have become Orthodox - and I cannot do so now.

Begging your prayers...

In Christ Jesus,
Fr. Gregory Williams

Metropolitan Laurus shall enter history as an extremely negative figure

19 March 2008

Number 812: Interview P.N. Koltypina about Laura
 "In the history of Metropolitan Laurus will enter as a person extremely negative"
PETER Koltypin - Wallowski
Member of the Supreme Council of the Russian Imperial Union - Order (RISO)
*ROCA under omophorion Bishop of Odessa and the Tauride Agafangel (Pashkovsky)

Alex Feoktistov
What comes immediately to your mind concerning Metropolitan Laurus?

Pyotr Koltypin-Vallovskoy
I knew him for no less than 20 years. He listened much, but, he spoke little. Although he preached sermons, I believe that he was an uneducated man. However, this in no way means that Mr. Skurla did not know how to rule. He required obedience and he knew how to use force. He shall enter history as an extremely negative person, as a traitor. Furthermore, he must give an answer to God for his treachery.

Alex Feoktistov
How do you account for the fact that Metropolitan Laurus died on the Feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy?

Pyotr Koltypin-Vallovskoy
As one of our parishioners said, the Lord removed the traitor so that he could not profane the day.

Alex Feoktistov
Are there going to be pannikhidas celebrated in your Church for the memory of Metropolitan Laurus?

Pyotr Koltypin-Vallovskoy
How can one celebrate a pannikhida for a Judas?  Of course, there shall be those who shall pray for his soul because of personal friendship or former acquaintance.

Alex Feoktistov
Why do you think that Metropolitan Laurus felt it was so important for the ROCOR to be united with the Moscow Patriarchate?

Pyotr Koltypin-Vallovskoy
It is a great mystery to me. Certainly, some money changed hands… in any case; Mr. Skurla had long spoken of such reconciliation with Moscow.

Alex Feoktistov
What shall now happen to the ROCOR/MP?

Pyotr Koltypin-Vallovskoy
Most probably, some more parishes and faithful shall leave the group. Indeed, Metropolitan Laurus allowed a clergyman the privilege of not mentioning the name of Patriarch Alex in services ... perhaps, he shall leave the ROCOR/MP now.

Alex Feoktistov
In your opinion, who shall become the new primate of the ROCOR/MP?

Pyotr Koltypin-Vallovskoy
Most likely, the new head shall be Bishop Hilarion. Then again, it is well-known that he has fallen in love with the flock of his Australian diocese and many believe that he does not wish to leave them.  Maybe Bishop Mark; however, he is German, although he speaks Russian fluently and well.  Nevertheless… he is German. A very improbable choice would be Archbishop Gabriel.

Alex Feoktistov
What was the cause of Metropolitan Laurus’ death?

Pyotr Koltypin-Vallovskoy
No public announcement has been made of this. Many say that it shall always be unknown. There shall not be an autopsy, for such is usually not allowed in the case of a death of a monastic. However, he had been feeling very poorly for quite some time, and such was noticeable to all about him.

Alex Feoktistov
But didn’t Metropolitan Laurus visit Russia recently and appear quite well?

Pyotr Koltypin-Vallovskoy
Everyone knows that today there are modern medications that help to sustain one’s health temporarily.

Interviewed by Alex Feoktistov
for " Portal -Credo.Ru"

19 March 2008
As cited in EL Mager’s Journal

Met. Laurus dies

Daniel hands down a brief account of Met. Laurus' death:

"...He was 80 years old, not in the best of health for years now, and he just had returned from a very tiring GRAND-tour through Russia, at one after another of staged propaganda happenings ...awards/medals/banquets/speeches/endless & long church-services in many places, etc. So he was truly physically worn out by the time he recently returned to Jordanville, only about a week ago or so. The latest report said that he was not feeling well this past Saturday, and did not attend Sat. eve Vigil or their evening meal, and he told everyone that he would not serve Sunday liturgy either. But before he went to rest in his "dacha" (a large house of his own), he left instructions: "For the Sunday of Orthodoxy Service, do NOT do...the Anathemas against 'that is not the liturgical practice of the Mother Church'" (i.e. the MP!) He was checked upon twice, the first time he was....seemingly....alright, but the second time.....I the middle of the "night" (actually, EARLY Sunday-morning, March 16)....he was found his bed..."



Here are a few of my favorite comments from sbn-nathanael.livejournal on Met. Laurus' death:


(Anonymous) on March 23rd, 2008 06:18 pm (UTC)
Some heard, the electronic-bells @SF-Novi Sobor "rang"-
Yes, I too have been told that a few people, who live near Novi Sobor on Geary Blvd. in SF believe that they heard the (electronic) simulated-"bells" ring,(which are activated by a button on the wall near the candle-desk) at the very time that Met. Lavr was dying at Jordanville. Though we who were not there, cannot deny what those people think they heard, ...of what possible other-worldly meaning could that have, ...if it happened-? Could it have been, the death-bell tolling for ROCOR, which that man, has killed? Otherwise, it could have been an electric short-circuit. It has happened before.
Regardless, we now have to see and hear all sorts of fantastic, "proofs of his saintliness" from his starry and glassy-eyed
devotees, about a very flawed hierarch, one who RAN JORDANVILLE DOWN under his long administration of it....and then the entire ROCOR, even before he handed it over to the Kremlin. Laurus Shkurla, who has just accomplished the total Judas-like betrayal of his formerly free church, now submitted by him to it's enemies in Moscow. For that, yes, all bells should ring the funeral tolling. Vechnaya Pamyat! to ROCOR.


OK, at last someone with serious knowledge is taking up that painful topic of Metr Laurus' shabby dismissal of his predecessor by two's incorruption! It's not as though Met Laurus told a few people "hey I just couldn't stand the man" - that would be horribly in itself, regarding the sanctity of Met Philaret. But he did blaspheme. Not just in his comments, which by the way have been replaying like a tape recorder in my mind ever since Laurus' own burial. This is a very reliable story by the way, from my perspective. A Jordanville hieromonk (i have to check which one) heard it with his own ears, and a source I trust learned about it firsthand, I believe, from the monk. It's not a piece of gossip which originated somewhere indistinct and made the rounds, being added to each time, like many tales do everywhere in the world. It's TRUE! You are wise to make the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit assessment. The circulating version quoting him as having said "put him [the Revered Metropolitan] in a damper part of the earth so he will rot like the rest" is in my estimation, dubious. The Met's relics were taken out and examined owing to their transferral to a marble tomb; so why would that have more moisture than the cemetery Assumption chapel where he had been all those years?


Pravoslavnik, there is one important correction which I think sheds light on the nefarious inner world of Met Lavr: he snapped (not just made an offhand comment) "Put him back and let him rot like the rest of 'US'" - u see, right there, Lavr let his facade down for once, so upset was he that this man who he no doubt hated while he was alive for his manifest saintliness, had turned up incorrupt. This was incontrovertible evidence that the Saint had been found by God to be better than his sometimes silent, but nevertheless, seething internally, adversaries. THAT was how Lavr perceived it: as an affront, even a clear rebuke to himself. Hence the "us" at the end.


This is very helpful to read. I also recall reading in a hagiography that St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco venerated blessed Metropolitan Philaret (Vosnesensky) in an unusual manner when he took leave of him for the last time (prior to St. John being murdered by the MP/KGB in Seattle.)


Yes, all those long years of many many prayers/fasts/good deads/kissing holy icons/giving holy sermons/many personal kindnesses to many people, and all the rest!
Yet! the end period of his life, Mr. Lavr Shkurla.......sold out his church to our enemies, like Judas handed over Christ to Pilate. So, you tell me, WHAT GOOD DID ALL HIS PREVIOUS.....GOOD him, or us??? To some, his life is more an example of....maybe.....why NOT to be an Orthodox Christian! (because if the Orthodox
life and religion did not work for Lavr Shkurla, why should it WORK for....anybody?)
But then, that is what the KGB folks in the Kremlin want us to conclude, to be cynical of all religion, because ALL-Russian Orthodoxy is false and evil and enslaved to ANY Ceasars of this world, even the "post-Soviet" ones in Moscow. Who can we trust? -

To: ROCOR Refugees From: Daniel
Subject: FW: Metropolitan Laurus and the Bells of San Francisco
Date: Thu, 27 Mar 2008 22:44:49 -0600
SHARING....just for your interest:

Email from SIR Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna, Calif....about the...supposed...supernatural-ringing of the SF Novi-Sobor the time-frame that..Laurus Shkurla was dying in his room at Jordanville, etc.
Read the Archbishop's...kindly assessment (some might say, too-kindly), and then the original email which he is responding to. To me, to evaluate the bells some sort of...proof that that man is a "saint" and thus...the terrible-"union" which he helped to also..."holy", is beyond....pathetic. Because, we KNOW that that "union" is a massive betrayal and a terrible evil. No one, though, "knows" where that man's soul is, however, as that is of course in God's it will be for each of us. But this is just my personal take on these matters.

May God have mercy upon that man's soul!....and upon us! who must, somehow, survive the immense destruction which he has done to our church, our families, and to our very souls!...for whatever his reasons were..................which God alone knows for sure. - Reader Daniel in Oregon

Date: Thu, 27 Mar 2008 19:14:26 -0700
Subject: Re: Fwd: Metropolitan Laurus and the Bells of San Francisco

Dear xxx:

May God bless you.

With no disrespect whatsoever meant to Metropolitan Laurus, about whose repose I have already sent out a message to our clergy and faithful, stories such as these, when their intent is to honor good people whom we admire and appreciate, should be accepted in a pious spirit. If these bells were also heard by non-Orthodox, or by the many hundreds of individuals within hearing distance of the Cathedral, then this is certainly a striking event. But it well could be that there are other explanations for what was heard (bells from a distant place, sounds that appeared to be bells, etc.). Whatever the case, whether the ringing was a miracle or perfectly natural, if it leads us to pray for Metropolitan Laurus, any decent Christian should appreciate this.

However, we must keep in mind that not every sign or wonder (things which we are warned not to seek) signifies sanctity or holiness. Even the deaths of simple, good Christians, who have lived their lives in an exemplary way and who have inspired us, are often marked, in God's love for those who believe in Him, by supernatural events. This does not necessarily make them Saints. Nor does it mean that everything that they did in their lives was correct or holy.

In the case of Metropolitan Laurus, time will tell whether his endorsement of union with Moscow was of God or was an error. We must not think that his personal virtues made this endorsement somehow infallibly correct. At the same time, we must not, in following our consciences, think that we are somehow infallibly correct in opposing the union. In my mind, his actions were wrong, whatever his motivations, and our resistance is correct. Ultimately, however, God will make that judgment. The virtue and goodness of those on either side of this debate are actually neither here nor there. Virtuous people can make errors.

The personal attributes of Metropolitan Laurus and the reported miracle below should not be taken, therefore, as proof that the union of the ROCA with Moscow was correct, as some have argued. This would no more validate the union than claims, from those opposed to it, that the corrupt and inauspicious death of someone in favor of the union proves it evil and wrong. Time, God's Grace, and careful circumspection alone can tell one whether signs and wonders are true, whether they are a sign of Divine affirmation, a demonic ruse, or simply the product of natural events wrongly taken as supernatural occurrences. We should not be engaged in these kinds of arguments.

Taken as it is, this report prompts one to pious reflection and joy at the hope that Metropolitan Laurus rests in the bosom of Abraham. This hope we must have for all people. All of the animosity and theatrics with which some have approached this report, condemning those who reject it, in some cases, glorifying those who accept it, in others, and thus sowing the seeds of divisiveness and ill feelings between people who were not long ago brothers in the Faith, are a disservice to Metropolitan Laurus, are rather immature, and do little to quell dissent and nastiness, which should not exist among us as Christians who may, temporarily, disagree on Church matters.

Such is my humble opinion, for what it is worth.

Least Among Monks,

+ Archbishop Chrysostomos


From: xxx
Date: Tue, Mar 25, 2008 at 9:33 AM
Subject: Metropolitan Laurus and the Bells of San Francisco
To: xxx
Metropolitan Laurus and the Bells of San Francisco
(The following was written by Mr. David Jepson,
Dean of High School St John's Academy.)
On Saturday night (March 15th) I got home from choir practice rather late, and stayed up much later than normal as I had a very late dinner. I had finished eating and was reading a book at about 11:30 p.m. when my roommate came in and asked if I knew why the Cathedral bells were ringing. He had been in his bedroom, which like mine faces the street and has a view of the Cathedral a block away. In the kitchen, a couple of rooms away, I couldn't hear the bells, but I agreed that it seemed strange for them to be ringing at that time of night. I went to bed about a half hour later and thought nothing more about it.
At church on Sunday, we were all shocked to hear that Metropolitan Laurus, the leader of the Russian Church Outside Russia, had reposed. Our priest got a telephone call from a former parishioner just before the service started at 9.00 a.m.
We heard about the chronology of events later on Sunday from the matushka of one of the Cathedral priests, whose son is at the Seminary in NY. Sometime on Sunday morning, when Metropolitan Laurus was noticed to be absent, someone went to his house and discovered that he had reposed in his sleep. The police were called etc., and people there began notifying the rest of the world. No one here in SF knew about it until 8.00 or so on Sunday morning (11.00 a.m. New York time). As the day went on, word about his death continued to spread. People here were discussing going to the funeral in NY on Friday.
As we talked about these events, the issue of the bells came up. Others living near the Cathedral had heard the bells ringing late on Saturday night. When they came to the early service at the Cathedral (it starts at 7.30 a.m.), they found the bells tied up in the normal way, which seemed puzzling. Someone had to have gotten into the locked place where the bells are untied them, rung them (very beautifully, my roommate said), and tied them back up, all in the darkness of near midnight. No one in the group I was talking to, which included the wives of both Cathedral priests, knew who could have done it.
But then as we were talking, we also learned that the NY police estimated that Metropolitan Laurus had died between 2.00 and 3.00 a.m. That's between 11.00 p.m. and 12.00 midnight here. And then everything seemed obvious.
I attest that I had just begun reading the pre-communion canons when I heard bells....Orthodox Bells...ringing with the melodies familiar to us at the Cathedral. I first thought it was my CD player...when I checked, I found that it was off. David was reading in the kitchen and I went and asked him if he was playing music. We weren't. Others in the vicinity heard the bells at the same time, roughly the time when Vladyka Metropolitan passed away. (Note the bells are behind two locked security gates and everyone who has access and who knows how to properly ring the bells have all sworn that they did not ring them).
Epistle of Vladyka Andronik, on the Death of Met. Laurus, English:

A Letter of Condolence from His Eminence Bishop Andronik on the passing of Metropolitan Lavr (ROCOR (MP))

The death of anyone is always an occurrence that evokes particular feelings and thoughts in all of us.† The death of the last ROCOR metropolitan, Metropolitan Lavr, a name which we commemorated in the holy altars not so long ago, causes us to feel doubly sad.

A year has not even passed since the Church Abroad, under his pastoral omofor, split into two parts.† God in His wisdom made the circumstances of the passing of His Eminence Met. Lavr especially noteworthy, in that it occurred on the day when Christians celebrate the Triumph of Orthodoxy.† This compels us to seriously consider once again the division in the Church Abroad and evaluate it from an Orthodox standpoint.† The spiritual life of every Christian and cleric of the Church of Christ should be ruled by the Holy Canons and by Truth.† This is what governed the actions of those ROCA faithful who remained within their Church, and we hope, also ruled the actions of those who decided to merge with Moscow.

What should we say in regard to the passing of the newly-reposed Metropolitan Lavr?† That he was a monk since childhood and unique in his capacity as a bishop?† What words are really important now to the soul of the reposed?† Certainly, they are the words of our prayers for the salvation of his soul.

We send our sincerest condolences to everyone who shares our sorrow and we hope that the ROCOR (MP) episcopate, its clergy and laypeople find in themselves the spiritual strength to overcome the spiritual inertia that has been created in their part of the Church Abroad and return to be one with us, their brothers and sisters within the original ROCA.

Bishop of Richmond Hill and New York

MP Is Not "Mother"

Lest we forget what we used to know, what we were taught...
Gregory found this worthwhile epistle:

THE NATIVITY EPISTLE Of His Eminence VALENTIN, Metropolitan of Suzdal and Vladimir, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church
To All Faithful Children of the Church of Christ, in the Fatherland and in the Diaspora

'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace,
good will among men.' (Lk. 2:14)

Beloved in the Lord, my dear brethren-Archpastors, zealous Pastors and Servants before the Altar of the Lord, Reverend Monks and Nuns, Brothers and Sisters, Faithful Children of the Church of Christ!

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 1:3) I make bold to address you with this sacred Apostolic greeting in this 'chosen and holy day' of the great feast of the Lord's Nativity. Reliving this great event yet again, and contemplating it with the eyes of the spirit, this event that has become the central point of all human history, we are filled with reverent trepidation and holy joy. With trepidation-because the great mystery of God's incarnation is unfathomable; with joy-because we are no longer alone in the face of death and evil, 'for God is with us!'

I would remind you, beloved, of the words that the Angel of God pronounced-that bright herald of heavenly mysteries-almost two thousand years ago. These words were directed to all people, but firstly to Christians, that is, to you and to me. 'I announce to you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people; for a Savior, Who is Christ the Lord, was born to you today in the city of David. And this shall be a sign to you: Ye shall find the newborn Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in the manger.' (Lk. 2:10-12) The first to hear these words were the pious shepherds of Bethlehem, who with contrite hearts entered into the humble cave of Bethlehem and worshiped the Divine Infant. But how much more blessed are we, who not only worship our incarnate Lord and Savior, but also commune His honorable Body and Blood, becoming one flesh with Him! Here, in this holy temple, in this dwelling place of God's glory, on the holy altar table, surrounded by the bodiless powers who are unseen by the eyes of flesh, as once in the cave of Bethlehem, lies the very King of Glory-He Who created the heavens and the earth, Who gifted us with life, even unto eternity. 'For verily I say to you that many prophets and righteous ones desired to see what ye see, and saw not, and to hear what ye hear, and heard not. (Mt. 13:17)

Can it be that we 'who are burdened by our abundant sins' are to be found more worthy than the great prophets and righteous saints of the Old Testament with whom God conversed 'face to face?' Of course not! The closer that we come to the end of time, we see that lawlessness only increases in the world and this dramatic process cannot but involve us as well. Without question, the prophets and the righteous of the Old Testament lead incomparably holier lives than we do, and were incomparably more worthy of the grace of the New Testament, the fulfillment of which is the Divine mystery of the Eucharist. But the judgments of God are inscrutable-in His limitless mercy, the Lord has arranged things in such a way that it has been given to us, with all of our sins and vices, with all of our weaknesses and passions, to venerate His Nativity, His Resurrection, and even to unite with Him in the most intimate way through the reception of His Body and Blood. Think for a moment about how enormous and limitless our gratitude to God should be for this! Even if we should dedicate the entire remaining portion of our lives to the fervent service of God, spending it in fasting and unceasing prayer, it would seem too meager a sacrifice in comparison with the sacrifice which was offered on Golgotha for the sins of all people. We should always remember this and never consider ourselves worthy of communing with the Divine and abiding within the confines of the Church of Christ which receives us with the loving care of a parent, even with all of our vices.

We meet the present feast alarmed by thoughts about our brothers who once dwelt together with us within the confines of the saving Church, who once communed with us from one chalice, but who are now rushing headlong into the abyss of heresy and of apostasy. Sad tidings have reached us this Nativity Fast from America where the bishops and priests of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, once famed for their unassailable Orthodoxy, seem to have decided to unite with the Moscow Patriarchate, which they have now begun to refer to as no less than the 'Church in Russia.' It was not so very long ago that this very Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia helped many of us, the Orthodox in Russia, and in other countries of the world, to open our eyes to the fact that the Moscow Patriarchate is not the true Church of Christ. The God-inspired writings of the great fathers of the Russian diaspora, whose assembly is now headed by our Father among the Saints Philaret, Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York, a wonderworker, were and remain for us a pure source of the Truth of the Church. And the truth is that, in the twentieth century, a time during which godless atheism raged over the unfortunate land of Russia, the Russian Church was forcibly divided and almost completely destroyed as a result of seventy years of bloody persecutions. During the Second World War, specifically in 1943, in pursuit of his political aims, the bloody tyrant, Stalin, who had annihilated millions of people, including the New Martyrs of Russia, took a handful of surviving clergymen-frightened and unwilling-and founded his false church which began to pretend to be the Russian Orthodox Church. The real Russian Church went underground, into the catacombs, and the persecution waged against her neither ceased nor decreased over the course of the entire Soviet period, in spite of several 'thaws' and reforms. And this tragic division was always witnessed to by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, which in its synodal documents confessed spiritual unity with the Catacomb Church, but labeled the Moscow Patriarchate as the 'church of evil doers' and as a heretical organization.

The heresy of the Moscow Patriarchate became especially evident to the Orthodox people of the Russian diaspora when in 1961 it (the MP) joined the World Council of Churches-an organization uniting every conceivable kind of heretic, and having as its aim the foundation of 'one Christian Church,' into which would be incorporated all of the ancient and newest heresies and false teachings. Not being content to wait for the establishment of this 'universal church,' the members of the World Council of Churches began to pray together and even to perform so-called 'sacraments,' which things are strictly forbidden by the holy Apostles and the Ecumenical Councils. Thus, the 'Orthodox' members of the World Council of Churches, including the Moscow Patriarchate, clearly severed their ties to the holy Apostles and the Ecumenical Councils, and thereby to Orthodoxy. This is exactly what was taught by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, which in 1983, on the initiative of St. Philaret, anathematized ecumenism, i.e., gave over to ecclesiastical condemnation and excommunication all who took part in the World Council of Churches and the ecumenical movement. Until this day the Moscow Patriarchate remains a member of the World Council of Churches, and some of her hierarchs and priests make up the leadership of that heretical organization. And the present day Russian Church Abroad-more correctly that part of her which is headed by Met. Laurus-without formally abrogating the anathema against ecumenism, has announced its approaching unification with the ecumenists. Is this not a classic example of what is called in the Order of the Mystery of Confession 'falling under one's own anathema?' In their blindness, the leaders of the Russian Church Abroad 'didn't notice' that at the same time that their delegation was meeting in Moscow, an ecumenical 'theological conference' was also being held which had been opened by the patriarch. Similarly, the leaders of the Russian Church Abroad are now ready to 'swallow' any apostasy of the Moscow Patriarchate. And this means that despite the hopes of the 'zealots' within the Moscow Patriarchate itself, after uniting with her, the hierarchs of the Church Abroad will become some of the most submissive and silent, in relation to the betrayals of Orthodoxy.

For more than seventy years, the Russian Church Abroad was the custodian of the pure repository of the true Orthodox Faith, and the whole Orthodox world looked up to her with respect and hope. How sad she appears now after her rejection of her great inheritance, in her role as a humiliated petitioner for mercy from the likes of the Moscow Patriarchate. It makes your heart bleed when you look upon such an 'abomination of desolation,:standing in the holy place' (Mt. 24:15). Indeed, the fall of the Church Abroad is a phenomenon more tragic and-I would even say-apocalyptic, than the fall of the Moscow Patriarchate, which from its inception in 1943, was 'conceived in iniquities' and 'born in sins.' The Russian Church Abroad, for almost all of the twentieth century, shone like a torch of Orthodoxy, and for this reason the satanic crime which her present day 'blind leaders' are committing is frightening and unforgivable. Metropolitan Laurus, Archbishop Mark, Archbishop Hilarion, Bishop Kyril-having kissed the hand of the impostor-patriarch Alexis-give the impression of people who have lost their sight, hearing, and have lost all common sense, not to mention their Orthodox Faith. They have likened themselves to the people who were reproached by the prophet Jeremiah, when he said: 'Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not' (Jer. 5:21). Hear now, O hierarchs and clergy of the Russian Church Abroad, not our lowly voice, which for a long time now has meant nothing to you, but the trumpet blast of your own fathers. Hear how your first First Hierarch, the blessed Metropolitan Anthony, implored by the Living God the founder of the Moscow Patriarchate, Sergius (Stragorodsky) to follow the path of the New Martyrs and not betray the Church into the hands of the atheists. Read the sacred lines of the spiritual last will and testament of your second First Hierarch, Metropolitan Anastassy, who forbade not only prayerful, but even simple everyday communion with the false church, founded by Stalin. Behold the incorrupt relics of the great zealot for Orthodoxy St. Metropolitan Philaret, whom you sacrilegiously buried in the crypt of the cathedral church of the monastery in Jordanville! Do you think that you will escape hearing his ominous anathema when you stand before the throne of the King of Heaven where this great God-pleaser now stands pouring out bitter tears over your inglorious end?

Look into the eyes of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia-both those who were 'glorified' hypocritically by the Moscow Patriarchate without first repenting, and those whom they continue to blaspheme. What do you expect to hear from that 'Divine Army,' the many millions of Saints 'of whom the whole world was not worthy' when you try to justify your treachery? For now you are about to cross the threshold of that same Moscow Patriarchate, for which many bishops, priests, and lay people, the salt of the Russian land, because they refused to recognize her, were summarily shot, without any trial or due process. You kiss the cold hand of the successor of that same Sergius who once openly, before the entire world, renounced the New Martyrs and blasphemed them saying that they were political criminals, and that the Church distances itself from them. And this at the same moment when these New Martyrs were witnessing to their fidelity to Christ and His Church by incredible sufferings!

You, the unworthy successor to the former glory of the Russian Church Abroad, sing Hosanna and Many Years to the so-called 'most holy patriarch' who not only has never uttered a word of repentance for directly collaborating with the KGB (formerly the NKVD), but has increased his apostasies since the fall of the Soviet authorities. In 1990, none other than the present leader of the Moscow Patriarchate announced, while speaking before a group of rabbis in New York, that he and the followers of the Talmud have but 'one father.' But was it not the Lord Himself Who said to the Jews who rejected Him that their father was the devil? Under Alexis II, the Moscow Patriarchate signed two unions: the Chambesy Union with the Monophysites, and the Balamand Union with the Catholics. This is the same false patriarch Alexis who covers over all of the transgressions of the post-Soviet authorities, because of which a large portion of the Russian people continue to suffer.

And finally, you, the church of Met. Laurus, are betraying your own flock in Russia, which trusted you and which now, it seems, is not even worthy of being called 'the Church in Russia!' What will become of this admittedly little flock which consciously chose to depart from the unrighteousness of the Moscow Patriarchate, but has now suddenly found itself to be unneeded and even a 'liability' for its own church leaders? At the Last Judgment, each pastor must give an answer for every soul that has been destroyed and betrayed by him, for the entire world is not worth even one human soul.

The spiritual essence of what is now taking place with the Russian Church Abroad is clear-it is part of the process of the worldwide apostasy from the Truth which will precede the glorious Second Coming of Christ. The Savior forewarned us about this saying: 'When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find the Faith on the earth?' (Lk. 18:8) Alas, it is already the case in this imperfect world, which reposeth in evil, that the 'little flock' of true Orthodox Christians is getting smaller and smaller, and it is becoming more and more difficult for it to survive under these conditions of universal apostasy. Nevertheless, besides the spiritual aspect, the process of unification between the Russian Church Abroad and the Moscow Patriarchate has another, purely secular, mercantile side to it. Apparently, this secular concern controls the activities of the hierarchs of the synod of Met. Laurus, which from a spiritual point of view, appear completely absurd and unnatural. The secular aspect of this process results in the fact that over the course of the past few years, the Russian Church Abroad has consistently been losing its properties and flocks abroad. This may be explained by the fact that the major portion of the Russian emigration is now comprised of people who have emigrated recently from Russia, where they were raised and educated under the Soviet regime. For the majority of these people, those ideals which were insisted upon in the past by the Russian Church Abroad, have no meaning, and the Church for them now is simply a 'link to the motherland.' Besides this, the Moscow Patriarchate is also very actively opening new parishes abroad, and snatching away the properties of the Russian Church Abroad. Thus the leadership of the Russian Church Abroad is compelled to 'capitulate' in order not to lose the latter. This means that the underlying stimuli for the 'reunification' that is taking place are not spiritual, theological, canonical, or even patriotic ones, but purely economic and financial ones. And this imparts a certain cynicism to the betrayal that is being carried out, and to the self destruction of the Russian Church Abroad.

The fatal mistake of the leadership of the Russian Church Abroad was made in 1994, when it actually pushed away its faithful children in Russia who were then joining her in droves. After the fall of the Soviet regime, the future of the Russian Church Abroad was only in Russia whither she was to have returned the unspoiled repository of Orthodoxy which she had been keeping. And the process of this return had already been begun-in just a few short years there appeared hundreds of Orthodox parishes and communities which had renounced the heretical Moscow Patriarchate and had joined themselves to the Russian Church Abroad. Such a development of events, threatening the Moscow Patriarchate itself with ruin, frightened many of those in power-both in the church and in the government. With the help of various provocations and slanders, the seeds of mistrust between the parts of the Church in the Russian homeland and abroad were sown, and soon afterward, the Church abroad set out on the course of compromise and rapprochement with the Moscow Patriarchate, which had never been an acceptable possibility for the part of the Church in the Russian homeland from the beginning. But in any case, the Russian Church Abroad did manage to return the repository of unspoiled Orthodoxy to the Russian homeland, even if only at the last moment. Canonical episcopal consecrations were performed, and the living bearer of the great tradition of the Russian Church Abroad-the ever-memorable Bishop Gregory (Grabbe)-not long before his repose, bound to a wheelchair, visited Suzdal, where he blessed the path of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church. Thus, the thread of succession, stretching from Apostolic times, through the pre-revolutionary Russian Church, through the Church of the New Martyrs and the Russian Church Abroad, was transferred to us. The repository was returned to the homeland, and the historical mission of the Russian Church Abroad was accomplished.

Many of the great Churches of the past fell away into heresy or ceased to exist. Before the end of time, only the Universal Church of Christ will survive, but independent Local Churches can come and go. Now that the Russian Church Abroad has fallen from Orthodoxy, an especially providential mission has been placed upon us, dear hierarchs, fathers, brothers and sisters. We should do everything possible, and everything that is not possible, in order to preserve the true Orthodox Faith without any distortions, modernizations, and false interpretations. And if it is ordained that Russia should experience a renaissance, then this will only happen on the foundation of true Orthodoxy which our Church confesses and preaches. However, our preaching should not be confined by the traditional territorial borders of the Russian Church. Now, when the official local churches have fallen away from Orthodoxy, our preaching should resound across the entire world, 'from the rising of the sun to the setting thereof.' And we note with joy the increasing numbers of our flocks abroad-in places like America, Western Europe, Bulgaria, Korea, etc. We should be prepared for the task that the Lord has assigned to our Church in particular-to continue the service of the Russian Church Abroad, even beyond the borders of our homeland.

I call upon you, beloved brethren and children, to increase your prayers for the salvation of all true Orthodox believers, who for one reason or another continue to remain aboard the sinking ship that is the Russian Church Abroad. It is necessary to serve special moliebens to ask God's help for those people in their imminent search for the path which leads to the true Church. May the Lord enlighten our brothers abroad so that we might one day again, with one mouth and with one heart, glorify Christ our Savior with the words of the angelic doxology of the feast of the Nativity: 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill amongst men.'

Beloved in the Lord children of the Church of Christ!

Once again, I sincerely and heartily greet you with the light-bearing and saving feast of the Nativity of Christ! With all of my soul, I wish all of you good health, the salvation of your souls, perseverance and courage, and also spiritual discretion which is the mother of all virtues!

With enormous love and care for your salvation,

Lowly Valentine,
Metropolitan of Suzdal and Vladimir,
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church

Suzdal, Nativity 2003(2004)

ROCA Parishes In USSR

Orthodox America, June 1990 issue

The Church Abroad In Russia

Last winter, in interviewing Metropolitan Vitaly for Voice of America, Fr. Victor Potapov asked him to address a question of concern to believers in the Soviet Union: "What is the position of the Russian Church Abroad regarding the establishment of parishes under its jurisdiction on the territory of the Soviet Union?" The Metropolitan replied:

"...For us what is important is not to have parishes there belonging to us, but that the Moscow Patriarchate change its course, that it renounce 'Sergianism,' that it recognize all the New Martyrs of Russia whom we have already glorified... This is what we are waiting for, not to set up parishes. If this should happen it would be a major event of a spiritual nature. The Moscow Patriarchate would stand on its lawful path, and then there would be no question of setting up parishes; all would be one. This is what we want, what we desire, what we pray for."

Clearly, this era of glasnost has seen a number of positive developments with regard to church life in the Soviet Union--the return of churches and monasteries, the opening of seminaries, the freedom to attend services and to participate in the Church's Sacraments without fear of reprisal, a greater vitality on the local level, a much more visible, more active presence in society... Nevertheless, contrary to popular demand that the Moscow Patriarchate dissociate itself completely from State interference, the present hierarchy shows no intention of liberating itself from its "sweet captivity".

It seemed, therefore, increasingly probable that the Church Abroad would, in fact, establish its jurisdiction in Russia, where a number of priests have long urged such a move, having already recognized Metropolitan Vitaly as their lawful ecclesiastical authority. But while many anticipated this move as a healthy challenge to the Sergianist dominated Moscow Patriarchate and vital to Russia's spiritual interests, others voiced grave concerns over the effect such a move might have. In analyzing the situation, one believer from the Soviet Union wrote:

"...Today there is nothing more terrifying for Russia and for its church people than schism. The country today stands on the verge of becoming (civil) dismembered. Only the one Orthodox Church can, even in the most tragic external circumstances, as it did in the time of Patriarch Hermogenes and in the era of appenaged princes, save the people and the country from historic ruin.

For Orthodox people today the need for spiritual unity between the Church in Russia and abroad is evident. From your uncompromising Christian spirit, from the truth about the history of the Church which you have preserved, the people draw strength for their standing for the faith on their native soil. It's possible that in this attitude towards the Church Abroad there is an element of idealism. But this doesn't matter: the ideal moves one towards spiritual growth and perfection. The tragedy, a real tragedy, will begin then when powers within, as well as evil powers without, begin to destroy this ideal. And this will be a tragedy not only for the Church Abroad, but also for church activity in Russia, where Orthodox people will be deprived of that support which for decades was provided by the high moral authority of the Church Abroad. /.../

"in Khrushchev's time, for the purpose of discrediting the Russian Orthodox Church on Mount Athos, the Council for Religious Affairs sent to St. Panteleimon's Monastery monks who suffered either from drunkenness or from some other shameful vice. There are serious grounds for suggesting that a similar practice will be renewed today. Among those trying to enter the Church Abroad there will inevitably be people who were unwilling to find themselves a place on the way of the cross of pastoral service to' the Russian Orthtodox people. More, there Will be those who unknowingly oriented towards the Church Abroad by certain powers, will discredit her by their sinful behavior and morals.

“In any case, the aims of the antichristian 'democrats' and destroyers of Russia is schism, the removal of the sole unifying spiritual institution--the Church. /.../

"What real help can Russia expect today from the Church Abroad? A few months ago, in the newspaper, Literaturnaya Gazeta, there appeared a letter by Metropolitan Vitaly to the young people of Russia. [To appear in the next issue of Orthodox America] It is difficult to exaggerate its significance. The letter was copied; it was read at youth meetings, at gatherings of crowds of people; it was quoted in many publications. Such a word, coming from the preservers of the Church and Orthodox Faith abroad, a word of uncompromising service to the Saviour-this is the most vital act in the transfiguration of the sick and suffering church community.

Don't members of the Synod [of the Moscow Patriarchate] know that the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad is part of the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia ? That borders between states, ideological doctrines and systems cannot cause divisions and splits between parts of the same Orthodox Church which is one in spirit, faith and dogmas? -- Zoya Krakhmalnikova Moscow News, May 27 - June 3, 1990

Such a word, addressed also to the hierarchs, and to clergy and to laymen, cannot but move the hearts of millions of Orthodox believers.

"Parallel with the official Church, it is likely that only the Catacomb Church, historically formed within the country, can develop to be beneficial. (Her hierarchs and clergy are familiar with the situation in the country from within, and it's easier for them to correctly evaluate those entering the Church.) In the many years of its existence it has not caused a ruinous schism, and now its very existence can stimulate the return to health of the whole Church..."

Two documents issued by the Synod of Bishops at its recent Council (May 2-8 n.s.) would indicate that the decision to establish parishes in Russia was motivated by a desire to encourage such a healing. Furthermore, they make it clear that in making such a move the Church Abroad is not acting as a "foreign body," inasmuch as it has always considered itself part of the one Russian Church and has always maintained spiritual ties with the Catacomb Church. It is chiefly at the urging of catacomb clergy that the Church Abroad is extending to them its omophorion, providing them with a canonical hierarchy and enabling them to function openly and freely. This move, then, does not constitute any more of a schism than that which has existed between the Catacomb Church and the Moscow Patriarchate ever since Metropolitan Sergius issued his Declaration in 1927. In an Epistle addressed to the faithful, the Council of Bishops explains:

'The canons of the Church the decisions of the All-Russia Council of 1917-1918 and the 1920 decree of His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon form the foundation of the portion of the Church of Russia which is abroad. Supreme authority belongs to the Council of Bishops, who govern the Church independently. But this temporary autonomy has not rent apart the seamless robe of the Body of Christ. The Russian pastors and flock abroad have always remained a branch not sundered from and spiritually united with the Mother Church, which has been crucified by the minions of Antichrist who have risen up against Christ and His Church./.../ : .

“ One after another, His Holiness [Patriarch Tikhon] ,and even. Metropolitan Sergius considered us their own and wrote to us abroad.

'"Yet Metropolitan Sergius, while only the deputy of the locum tenens, unexpectedly exalted his own authority, violated the episcopate's oneness of mind, and, contrary to the opinions of the overwhelming majority of the hierarchs and without consulting with them, issued his own declaration on the unity of the interests of the Church and the atheist government. The senior hierarchs, Metropolitan Peter and Cyril of Kazan', condemned this act and severed communion with Metropolitan Sergius

'"The portion of the Church of Russia abroad followed their example. The Council of Bishops, in their encyclical dated September 9, 1927, declared: 'The free portion of the Church of Russia is terminating administrative relations with the ecclesiastical administration in Moscow [i.e., with Metropolitan Sergius and his synod], in view of the fact that normal relations with it are impossible and because of its enslavement by the atheist regime, which is depriving it of freedom to act according to its own will and of freedom to govern the Church in accordance with the canons.'

'Thus, it was Metropolitan Sergius who created the schism within the episcopate of the Church of Russia... /.../

"We believe and confess that in those churches of the Patriarchate of Moscow where the priest fervently believes and sincerely prays, showing himself to be not only a 'minister of the cult', but also a good shepherd who loves his sheep, who approach him with faith, the grace of salvation is accessible in the mysteries. Such churches are few in number on the immense territory of the Russian land.

'The churches of the catacomb Christians, our brethren, in which the divine services are celebrated by priests who have preserved canonical succession from those who received the crown of martyrdom, the true archpastors of the Church, are even fewer in number and inaccessible to the vast mass of believers.

"This is why priests and believers from Russia are appealing to us to cover them with our omophorion, to impart grace to them. Our pastoral conscience tells us that we not only can, but we must help them, investigating in each case the reasons which impel them to turn to us. However, we are approaching this our new ministry with great caution, trusting in the help of God, for what is impossible for man is possible for God. We still do not know how far the Soviet regime has become democratic and to what extent perestroika is real. /../

"No one knows what still awaits our homeland, what changes will occur in her life even in the near future. While there is a crack open, possibly only temporarily, we must take advantage of it. The rest is in God's hands; for our God is the God Who works wonders. May His holy will be done!" (full text in Orthodox Life 1990, #3, and Living Orthodoxy #67)

The second document defines the status of parishes of the Free Russian Orthodox Church (i.e., those in Russia under the jurisdiction of the ROCA), it outlines the fundamental rules by which they are to be guided, and offers a "possible form for the appeal of clergymen who wish to withdraw from the errors of the Moscow Patriarchate." Listed among the "fundamental errors of the Moscow Patriarchate after the Declaration of 1927" are:

The casting out of hierarchs, clergymen, monastics and laity who would not accept the Declaration;

The reviling of the memory of the New Martyrs and Confessors

Neglect of the spreading of the Word of God;

Participation in the ecumenical movement;

Submission to secular, atheistic authorities and permitting them to take part in the governing of the inner life of the Church, even to the point of allowing them to proceed with the eradication of the Faith;

The widespread moral depravity and avarice of clergy.

In addition to those priests already under the jurisdiction of Bishop Lazarus, several others have offered repentance and have been received into the FROC This summer Bishop Hilarion of Manhattan and Bishop Mark of Germany concelebrated with Bishop Lazarus in St. Constantine's Church in Suzdal, whose rector, Archimandrite Valentine (Rusantsev), together with two priests, a deacon and the parishioners, asked to be received by Metropolitan Vitaly several months ago after Archimandrite Valentine was chastised by his superior for his refusal to inform the authorities about foreign visitors at his church. The service attracted an estimated 5,000 faithful. There are likewise a number of clergy (two hegumens, several priests and a deacon) from the Siberian city of Omsk who have entered the fold of the FROC. From Voronezh a community of catacomb believers, spiritual children of Fr. Michael Rozhdestvensky (+1988), asked to be received by Bishop Lazarus. And there are many others who have expressed interest. It is anticipated that by this winter the FROC will have its own church in St. Petersburg.

It should be pointed out that the majority of catacomb believers are not with Bishop Lazarus, nor do they possess a recognized canonical episcopate. Many of them categorically deny that the Moscow Patriarchate has grace, while others, accustomed to extreme caution, are adopting a wait-and-see attitude. One should pray particularly for those priests within the Moscow Patriarchate who are sympathetic to the Church Abroad; the choice they now face is very difficult and will no doubt be painful for many of them. Lest this give cause for a hardened attitude of separation or harsh judgment--as too often happens between members of jurisdictions which are not in communion--the Council of Bishops has included in its guidelines for members of the FROC:

"Clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate must be treated as brethren who have fallen away and gone into error. They cannot be received into fellowship, since they are, as it were, under suspensions 'until they repent'; this must not, however, occasion haughty or arrogant behavior. One's attitude toward laymen must be tolerant, as toward those who have departed from true Orthodoxy not of their own will, but because of circumstances beyond their control.

"Offering up its prayers 'for the union of ail', the Russian Orthodox parishes hope for the repentance of the Moscow Patriarchate....The parishes pray and hope for the speedy unification of all the children of the Russian Orthodox Church both in Russia and in the diaispora, which will be an occasion of great joy.”


Fr. Peter Perekrestov Flip-Flop

Recently, (early 2007) an article entitled "The Church's Helmsman, Both Then and Now, is the Almighty Spirit of God," by (pro-union) Archpriest Peter Perekrestov, has appeared on the internet and has been circulated by email.


This article, in the form of a series of questions and answers, deals with various aspects of the impending union of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad with the Moscow Patriarchate. Other views on this important subject certainly exist, but because of the lengthiness and comprehensiveness of Father Peter's article, comparable responses may take a while to appear. As an interim measure, the below article is presented for consideration. It addresses many of the same points, but from different perspective. It is important that this perspective be considered, not only by those for whom the fate of the Russian Church Abroad is important, but also by anyone having an interest in Russian Church affairs.

Some of us know Daniel Olson, who here suggests that Fr. Peter's OWN WORDS are the best answer to his 25 Questions. Although the article below was originally written twelve years ago, it is remarkably topical. Beyond that, some of the author's observations have proved to be prescient, or even prophetic. The text below has been taken from the November-December 1994 issue of "Orthodox Life" (Volume 44, Number 6) published by Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, New York, and is presented as it appeared therein. The author is the very same Archpriest Peter Perekrestov.


The following is a letter by Archpriest Peter Perekrestov to the Council of Bishops recently held at the Convent of the Mother of God of Lesna in France (November 1994). Father Peter offers his thoughts on some important questions concerning relations between the Russian Church Abroad and the Moscow Patriarchate. Father Peter is a graduate of Holy Trinity Seminary and currently serves at the Cathedral of Our Lady Joy of All who Sorrow in San Francisco. The original letter has been edited by the author.

Why is the question of talks with the Moscow Patriarchate being raised at the present time?

This has mainly occurred under the influence of the Russian community in the diaspora which loves Russia very much and considers that our church divisions are weakening Russia in these troubled times in her history. Unfortunately the overwhelming majority of these people are guided more by emotional than by spiritual and ecclesiastical criteria. The questions of "talks" has also been raised now due to the difficulties which have arisen in connection with the establishment of the Free Russian Church, i.e. the Church in Russia which consists of catacomb communities, parishes which have left the Moscow Patriarchate and newly founded parishes - all under the spiritual and administrative jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. Besides the above reasons, some of the clergy which remains in the bosom of our Church but are not in agreement (or never where) with the Church's principles, or who suffer from an inferiority complex due in part to the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad's small size, are drawing our Church
vessel towards union with the Moscow Patriarchate. In conversations one has with these people, everything ultimately boils down to personalities, to comments or statements made by someone to somebody (comments which cannot be proven or refuted) frequently by people who have reposed and have not left any written testaments on their positions regarding certain church issues. As a rule, ideals and principles are absent.

Why could a Church council resolution regarding "talks" be dangerous?

There is little doubt that such a resolution, especially if it is not clearly stipulated, would elicit confusion among the flock in the diaspora, as well as among the clergy and faithful in the Free Russian Church in Russia. No matter what is meant under the heading of "talks," it will be perceived by many as capitulation and compromise. Such a resolution would be especially painful for the catacomb faithful in Russia. They will feel that they have been betrayed. One should especially fear this - betrayal of one¹s brothers. Some people will interpret "talks" as unofficial meetings with representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate. Others will see a resolution as a signal to take part in conferences, dialogue, celebrations, joint projects, exchanges - everything short of liturgical concelebration.

One should also keep in mind that the translations from "talks" to "negotiations" can be instantaneous. For example, at the Council of Bishops in San Francisco in July the possibility of some type of "talks" with the Moscow Patriarchate was brought up, but on the list of questions sent to all members of the Council in France the following question: "What is the goal of the proposed negotiations with the Moscow Patriarchate?" was posed. And in the widely circulated Assur-Zelenin-Rahr-Holodny "Address" it was announced that: "The long awaited day for the establishment of canonical unity of the Russian Church Abroad with the Mother Church has arrived?"!

What separates us from the Moscow Patriarchate?

It seems to me that before the questions of talks with the Moscow Patriarchate can be raised we ourselves must clearly, from a spiritual and church perspective, clarify those issues which divide us. Sergianism. What is Sergianism? We do not have one definition of it. For some it is the voluntary/involuntary collaboration of the Church with the godless authorities. For others it is a spiritual state, a spiritual condition, a spiritual illness in which a person is unable to confess the Faith. There are other definitions of Sergianism: the legalized worship of Mammon; the ecclesiastical justification of lies (the classic Jesuit "the end justifies the means"); the teaching that the first responsibility of the Orthodox Church is in the preservation of the outward, organization church structure as opposed to faithfulness to Christ and to the true Spirit of Orthodoxy, at whatever cost. The late Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko) wrote:

"They say that the Patriarchate has not changed anything in dogmas, in the services, in the rites. No, we answer, - the Patriarchate has destroyed the essence of the Dogma of the Church of Christ, it has rejected her essential purpose - to serve for the renewal of the people, and replaced it with what is unnatural for the Church, serving the godless goals of Communism. This apostasy is worse than all previous Arianisms, Nestorianisms, Iconoclasms and others. This is not the personal sin of one or another hierarch, but rather the deep rooted sin of the Patriarchate, which is confirmed, proclaimed by them, bound by them before the whole world, what one might call dogmatized apostasy" (Themes of my Life, p. 25).
In the official, what one might call leading, ranks of the Moscow Patriarchate not only has the principle of Sergianism not been rejected (the principle, as opposed to the person of Metropolitan Sergius), but conversely, as of late, it is being theologically justified (see for example an article by Igumen Innokenty (Pavlov) entitled "Concerning Metropolitan Sergius's Declaration" or Deacon Andrei Lorgus's "Render to Caesar the Things that are Caesar's" in a recent issue of the official periodical "The Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate," or the article by E. Polischuk, the editor of "The Official Chronicle of the Moscow Patriarchate," in the Paris based "Vestnik"). Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany paid particular attention to this new trend in an interview published in the Moscow journal "Vertograd."

When some people refer to that fact that Patriarch Alexis II "repented" of Sergianism in one of his numerous interviews ("Golos" No. 33, p. 11), this is misleading. Firstly, official ecclesiastical positions and policy are made by the highest church authority, i.e., by a council of bishops, not by one hierarch in a newspaper interview, even if it is the chief hierarch.

Secondly, Patriarch Alexis did not repent of Sergianism, but rather declared:
"I do not renounce it [i.e., the Declaration of Metropolitan Sergius], for it is impossible to renounce one's own history. I think that in the present year we [the Church, i.e., the Moscow Patriarchate] have been able to withdraw from under the state's trivial [sic!] charge and, therefore, we have the moral right to affirm the fact that Metropolitan Sergius's Declaration is a fact belonging to the past, and we no longer are guided by it. At the same time, however, this does not mean that we are against the government. The hierarchs of the Church took upon their souls certain sins: the sin of silence, the sin of lying for the good of the people, lying in order that they themselves should not disappear completely from real life. It happened that I, too, whether heading a diocese or administrating the affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate would, while I stood my ground on one thing, I would give in on another. I ask forgiveness, understanding, and prayers, not only before God, but before all those people to whom these compromises, silence, forced passivity, or displays of loyalty on the part of the hierarchy of this period inflicted pain. I say to them: Forgive me, dear ones, forgive me, my children."

Undoubtedly, there are healthy elements in the Moscow Patriarchate, mainly in the lower ranks. For example, there is a well-known priest in the Moscow Patriarchate, Archpriest Vladislav Sveshnikov, who, although not in agreement with the "opening" of parishes under the Church Abroad in Russia (in fact, not one parish has been opened by our Synod, parishes have been only been received), not long ago wrote an essay titled "The Psychology of Neo-Sergianism" in which he states that the most damaging consequence of Metropolitan Sergius's politics was the extreme distortion of Church consciousness. This distortion also manifested itself in acts of collaboration with certain government agencies and in "a lie, an extensive, evil lie which entered into the life of the Church after the Church was legalized. The evil of this consists foremost in the fact that we say one thing, but a completely different meaning stands behind it." The same author writes: "How good and valuable it would be if, by some council of the Russian Church, a resolution was approved in which all the wounds, sins, and defects of the recent past of our Church would be exposed honestly, seriously, with utter frankness and without compromise. What a joyful sigh would resound from a multitude of hearts. What a final, living and pure unity in love this would lead to in the Church in all its fullness."

Father Vladislav further writes about the distinguishing features of contemporary neo-Sergianism. They are the following:

1) The task of neo-Sergiansim is to justify Sergianism, to not only search for theological and historical interpretations for it, but to glorify Sergianism.

2) The lack of desire to see or know the historical truth.

3) The loss of Christianity, properly speaking, as a moral religion.

4) The Church's mystical life takes on an exclusively psychological dimension.

5) Instead of repentance, justification, if not of the sin, then the motive for the sin ‹ giving it a lofty sacrificial appearance.

6) Due to the above, Father Vladislav concludes, many young people now are indifferent to martyrs. Thus, Sergianism, or neo-Sergianism, is alive.

The most aware and sensitive pastors in the bosom of the Moscow Patriarchate sense this; the masses, as a rule, do not.


The subject of ecumenism is also complex. It is certain that ecumenism is unacceptable to the Russian Orthodox people (see, for example, numerous articles attesting to the this in such publications as "Russkiy Vestnik," "Rus' Derzhavnaya," "Literaturnyi Irkutsk"). As a rule, the Moscow Patriarchate's ecumenical activities take place behind the scenes, i.e., on the highest level, behind closed doors, or abroad. Not only the people, but the majority of the clergy do not even suspect what is happening. The publications which report "ecumenical contacts," "peacemaking activities" and conferences on "the holy gift of life," are generally accessible to a very small percentage of parishioners, mainly to the ones in Moscow and St. Petersburg. When evaluating ecumenism, it is very important to keep in mind that, at its inception, the ecumenical movement was inspired by genuine and sincere motives - the desire to find a common language among Christian denominations. But this initial motive quickly evolved and a demand for participation in common prayer, acceptance of common theological statements, the recognition of one another as "sister churches" and the establishment of a "new religious world order" took over. Therefore, one cannot compare the ecumenical movement of the 1920's, or even the 1940's and 1950's with ecumenism in the late 1960's to the present. A representative of the Moscow Patriarchate signed the document which achieved union with the Monophysites at Balamand, but this Unia has not yet been ratified by a council of the Moscow Patriarchate. Many outstanding theologians have expressed their alarm regarding contemporary ecumenism: a faithful son of the Church Abroad, Fr. Seraphim Rose, Archimandrite Justin (Popovich) of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Archimandrite Seraphim (Alexiev) of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. This alarm is not the "politics" of some "party" of bishops of our Church, but an awareness of the soul-destructive element of this "pan-heresy." Few have paid heed to one very important ecumenical event in the life of the Moscow Patriarchate, perhaps because the activities of the Moscow Patriarchate in the World Council of Churches are more obvious. This event was the spiritual and moral rapprochement of Patriarch Alexis with Judaism.

In 1991 he met with New York rabbis, presented them with a bowl (not liturgical) and delivered his famous speech "Your Prophets are Our Prophets." Later, despite the outcry of a significant part of the clergy in Russia, Patriarch Alexis did not renounce his address, but in one of his interviews he even referred to this meeting as an example of the absence of anti-Semitism in the Moscow Patriarchate ("Trud" Nov. 29, 1991). In the fall of 1993, Patriarch Alexis was honored by the Appeals of Conscience Foundation in New York and the president of the Fund, Rabbi Arthur Schneier presented him with an award for his "leadership in the strengthening of the spiritual renaissance of the Russian people." One is hard-pressed not to ask the question: why is a rabbi thanking an Orthodox patriarch for his spiritual activities?

The new politics of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Previously, active, idealistic or outstanding pastors were worrisome to the hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate. Now the attitude of the Patriarchate has changed. In part, this is thanks to parishes under the jurisdiction of the Church Abroad in Russia. The Moscow Patriarchate hierarchs are simply afraid to take any measures against many of these priests, for fear that the latter will leave the Patriarchate and join the Free Russian Church. In fact one authoritative archpriest of the Moscow Patriarchate has recently written a letter to one of our bishops thanking God that parishes of the Free Russian Church exist openly in Russia, otherwise it would be very difficult for him and other priests of like mind with him.

But the new politics of the Moscow Patriarchate really stem from the fact that it has no firm principles. The key question for them is one of power. It is not important to them whether a priest is involved in shady business dealings or purely church activities; whether he is a democrat or a monarchist; whether an ecumenist or zealot; whether he wants to serve Vigil for six hours or one; whether the priest serves a panikhida for the victims who defended the White House or a moleben for those who sided with Yeltsin; whether the priest wants to baptize by immersion or by sprinkling; whether he serves in the catacombs or openly; whether he venerates the Royal Martyrs or not; whether he serves according to the New or Orthodox Calendar - it really doesn¹t matter. The main thing is to commemorate Patriarch Alexis. Let the Church Abroad have its autonomy, let it even speak out, express itself as in the past, but only under one condition: commemorate Patriarch Alexis. This is a form of Papism - let the priests be married, let them serve according to the Eastern rite - it makes no difference, what is important is that they commemorate the Pope of Rome.

Therefore one can in all sincerity say that the Moscow Patriarchate is disassociating itself from ecumenism and venerates the New Martyrs - this is true. But one can, with equal reason, say that the Moscow Patriarchate is renovationist and hates the Tsar Martyr - and this is also true.

Patriarch Alexis's position constantly changes, depending on the circumstances. For example, in 1990 he prayed for the unity of the communist party; during the putsch of 1991 he played a waiting game; after the putsch he blessed Yeltsin's presidency. In an interview Patriarch Alexis explained ("We are Saved by Our Own Labors," "Trud," Nov. 29, 1991) that his blessing "clearly shows that we [the Church] support the forces of democracy which, as you [i.e., the correspondent for the newspaper "Trud"] have correctly stated, are personified in the president of Russia." After the assault on the Parliament in October of 1993, the Patriarch took no clear stand.

In 1994, submitting to the pressure of "traditionalist" Moscow clergy, the Patriarch removed the "renovationist" priest, George Kochetkov, from his parish, yet shortly after he sent Father George, together with Father Vladimir Vorobiev, to the Fifth International Theological Schools Consultation held in Halki - both in the capacity of representatives of Moscow Patriarchate theological schools: Father George from the liberal Father Alexander Men University and Father Vladimir from the conservative St. Tikhon¹s Theological Institute in Moscow. In the introduction to one article ("In the Catacombs," "Sovershenno Sekretno," No. 7, 1991) Patriarch Alexis wrote the following: "I believe that our martyrs and righteous ones, regardless of whether they followed Metropolitan Sergius or did not agree with his position, pray together for us." At the same time, in the weekly, "Nedelya," No. 2, 1/92, the same Patriarch Alexis states tht the Russian Church Abroad is a schismatic church, and adds: "Equally uncanonical is the so-called Catacomb Church." In other words, he recognizes the martyrs of the Catacomb Church (many of whom were betrayed to the godless authorities by Metropolitan Sergius's church organization, and to their death (at the hands of these authorities) refused to recognize Metropolitan Sergius as the head of the Church of Russia), and at the same time declares that these martyrs are schismatic and uncanonical.

Why are talks with the Moscow Patriarchate dangerous at the present time?

They may provoke a deep division among our clergy and flock, both in Russia and abroad. Archpriest Lev Lebedev of Kursk considers the moral decay among the Moscow Patriarchate¹s episcopate to have penetrated too deeply. They lack any true sincerity. The priest Timothy Alferov, while still in the Moscow Patriarchate, warned our Church that dialogue with the hierarchy of the Moscow Patriarchate is impossible. I. Lapkin, the well-known missionary of Siberia, warns that the Russian Church will meets its end when "The Moscow Patriarchate will agree to all the demands of the Free Russian Church, renounce the Declaration of Metropolitan Sergius, canonize the New Martyrs, leave the World Council of Churches, stop all ecumenical activity - all this without any corresponding inner rebirth. All this good may be done as a political move and then the Russian Church Abroad will have not reason not to sit down at the negotiating table. Then, by majority vote, the truth will be suppressed" ("ZN," No. 12, 1993).

For some reason we sometimes do not hearken to the voice of our clergy in Russia, in particular to those priests who have sacrificed everything in order to be with us. Have they been asked what they think of the present situation in Russia and the possibility of "talks" with the Moscow Patriarchate? Those clergy may feel that they have been cast aside and be overcome by a feeling of abandonment.

In 1993, when I was in Russia, I met with many priests of the Moscow Patriarchate. I asked one Dean: "Of the bishops you know, who can we pin our hopes on, which ones can be trusted?" The Dean, who remains in the Moscow Patriarchate, hung his head and replied: "Not one of them." I asked another priest, a professor at one of the theological academies, what were the ideological reasons for the recent expulsion of the rectors (Archbishop Alexander of Dmitrov and Archpriest Vladimir Sorokin) of the academies in Sergiev Posad and St. Petersburg. The priest began to laugh and I did not understand why. He explained to me that I was very naïve: "What kind of talk can there be of principles? If you dare to look the wrong way at some bishop's secretary, you can be removed from you position." This priest told me that there is a gradual purge going on. There were opponents to Patriarch Alexis's election and now, little by little, reprisals are taking place. This may explain why Metropolitan Pitirim of Volokolamsk is being pushed into the background and is threatened with removal from the Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate.

It is not rare that the Moscow Patriarchate in the persons of its hierarchs says one thing and acts completely to the contrary. In the Russian press and before representatives of Russian emigre organizations they call us to love and unity, while at the same time, in Germany for example, they are making every effort to take away our church property, a fact that Archbishop Mark can readily attest to. After the beginning of "talks," pressure to conduct "negotiations" will noticeably increase.

What would we lose by striving for unity with the Moscow Patriarchate?

Our final goal in Russia should not be unity with the Moscow Patriarchate, but the triumph of Truth. Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose) warned us that administrative, external unity is easily achieved, but inner, spiritual unity is difficult to come by. It is my conviction that if we pray, if we strive for the Truth and for a pure confession of Faith, and if in Russia the faithful do likewise, we will invariably get closer and our unity will be organic, natural and truly ecclesiological. Any unity achieved at round tables and "high level dialogue" and secured by all types of "declarations" will not be sound.

Unity with the Moscow Patriarchate at this time is dangerous. We will lose our freedom. Even if we are autonomous, we will be bound and become participants, although indirectly, of all the activities of the hierarchy in Russia. We will be forced to indiscriminately receive into our diocese abroad all the bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate and to serve with them.

The Moscow Patriarchate is closely tied with some apostate churches and also heterodox confessions. The latter pay little attention to us now, but if we become a part of the Moscow Patriarchate the Patriarchate will be pressured to force us to be silent - we will lose the ability to be the free voice of Orthodoxy. We will also lose our spiritual succession and unity with part of the Heavenly Church - the assembly of New Martyrs of Russia who rejected Metropolitan Sergius and his successors. In the Moscow Patriarchate we will simply "dissolve." "Talks" can become the beginning of this process. There yet remains one point of no small importance: the criminal-mafia essence of both the government and business apparatus in Russia. There is a reason to assume that a considerable number of hierarchs in the Moscow Patriarchate have maintained close ties with their former "benefactors," some of whom are not part of a mafia structure. For example, the British weekly, "The Economist," recently published an article about crime in the former U.S.S.R. The article mentioned that one Volodya Pudel (Vladimir Petrovich Podatev) now controls the city of Vladivostok. In the past he spent 17 years in prison for criminal acts, and now he has his own political party, his own television station and a "letter from the Patriarch of the Orthodox blessing his charitable work."

Why does the Moscow Patriarchate yearn for union with us?

1) As long as our Church exists the Moscow Patriarchate will not rest. Even if only one parish of our Church openly existed in Russia, it would give the Moscow Patriarchate no peace. In the province of Novgorod one parish came under the omophorion of our Church. A Dean of the Moscow Patriarchate sought to evict our community out of the church building. Our priest and parishioners began to offer alternatives regarding usage of the church. They spoke of freedom of conscience, of the possibility of coexisting communities and finally of a court process to resolve the property dispute. There was only one answer: "You must not exist."

2) The Moscow Patriarchate needs legitimacy. As the new "democratic" authorities in the Russian Federation needed the West's recognition, so the Moscow Patriarchate needs the recognition of our Church for the sake of legitimacy. The fact that we are not in communion with the Moscow Patriarchate is based not only on Metropolitan Sergius's Declaration, but also on the fact that Metropolitan Sergius usurped Church authority. It is precisely for this reason that so many of the hierarchs, future New Martyrs, opposed Metropolitan Sergius. The Moscow Patriarchate is subconsciously aware of this. This is a very important matter.

3) There is among the Moscow Patriarchate an element which sincerely desires unity, but which does not have a true ecclesiological consciousness.

What should we do?

A few facts must be established.

1) Our goals in relation to Russia have not been clearly formulated. If we do not have clear goals, it is difficult to know where and how to direct our efforts.

2) Our Church's position has at times been expressed in a manner which is perceived as "super-correct." This has had an adverse effect on the Russian people, including the flock in the diaspora.

3) It seems to me that we should consistently strive to follow the middle "royal" path. On the one hand, we have the emotional, purely nationalistic position held by some Russian patriots and Russian organizations abroad - this is unacceptable, for Russia, not Christ, is central here. On the other hand, there exists a blind position which can find nothing positive in contemporary church life in Russia is possible. Its constant scolding of the Moscow Patriarchate is unacceptable. It lacks both love and compassion. It is also a sign of weakness and ultimately a lack of faith in the power of Truth.

Concretely, what can be proposed?

1) If the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad finds it imperative to meet with representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate, this can be done without being formally stated, i.e., each bishop may decide how, when and with whom to meet. If our Church is invited to participate in a conference or symposium in Russia, then a suitable representative should be sent to uncompromisingly state the position of our Church on the subject of the meeting.

2) There are positive forces in Russia, including among ranks of the Moscow Patriarchate. It seems to me that the majority of clergy in this category are usually in the country, away from the biggest cities. Moscow clergy are often very bound. The positive church forces in the ranks of the Moscow Patriarchate deserve our support. It would be beneficial to concretely approach these people, ask them what kind of support they need and even inquire how we might positively influence the course of church life in Russia. We should make contacts and show support only on the lower levels: parish clergy, monastics and faithful. In this way we will not be supporting the Moscow Patriarchate per se, but rather only the positive elements in their ranks.

3) The tone of our epistles should be softened. Russia needs tenderness, love and compassion. In our epistles this spirit should come across. If we are to speak of helping the Church in Russia and the Russian people then we must first strive for a peaceful coexistence. We must be completely free of any malice. Even if we notice apostasy, our intolerance must be directed towards the apostasy itself, not toward people. We should strive for a ³good² division and avoid a "treacherous" union (according to St. Gregory the Theologion). We must be ready to account for our faith.

4) We should examine ourselves. Are we consistent in our actions, in the confession of our Faith? Are we faithful to the canons, to the principle of conciliarity and proper church order? Are our pastors and parish life worthy of emulation?

5) Create a commission to work our various theological and canonical questions (including Sergianism) and also to formulate our goals in Russia.

6) Perhaps the time has come to convene a IVth Council of the whole Russian Orthodox Church Abroad with the participation of clergy and faithful from around the world, including Russia. Possibly, someone from among the positive element of the Moscow Patriarchate can be invited in the capacity of an observer, or maybe a speaker. It would probably be more appropriate to call this Council simply a Russian Orthodox Council. Before such a Council convenes diocesan assemblies would be held in all dioceses in order to choose representatives and to discuss the main questions on the Council¹s agenda, including our relations with the Moscow Patriarchate, the possibility of closer contact with the Catacomb Church and our goals in Russia. Thus conciliar discussions concerning these important issues will take place. This will give us time for spiritual preparation and to unhurriedly consider many questions which stand before us. Often, when steps and decisions are taken in haste, we regret them later.

Days of fasting and repentance should be set aside before the opening of this Russian Orthodox Council. These days should be strictly observed. Measures should be taken so that the faithful in Russia might also take part in this fast (if the Moscow Patriarchate desires, it can summon its flock to do so).

I think that such a period of preparation and such a Council will demonstrate both to our flock and to the faithful in Russian that we are striving in a conciliar manner to outline our Church¹s direction and to do God's will. This will also show that we are taking the initiative. If we hope for a future All-Russian council, we must first prepare ourselves for it. Perhaps then we will be made worthy of God¹s mercy and a miracle. I think that such an approach will not be rejected by anyone.

Sincerely asking for your archpastoral blessing and prayers,

Archpriest Peter Perekrestov