of the catacomb episcopate
of the Tikhon-Pozdeev-Sekach branch
of the true RTOC.
Secretary of the Diocesan Regional Council
of the North American Diocese of ROCA
It must be stated that the PSEA did not enter into a union with a "dubious" episcopate of some minor jurisdiction."ROCA has always and will continue to consider itself a part of the Russian Local Orthodox Church and one with the Catacomb Church." To avoid any temptation, the two genuine bishops of the Russian TOC were accepted through chirotesia and the PSEA clearly accepted under its omofor Orthodox bishops who belong, just like the ROCA episcopate, to the same Russian Local Church of Patriarch-Confessor Tikhon.
The matter of the canonical status of the two bishops was thoroughly examined and their acceptance into communion with the PSEA was not the result of a hasty decision, as it is being portrayed by some. The Most Reverend Soforniy (Musienko), at the behest of the PSEA, researched the canonical status of the Tikhon-Pozdeev-Sekach branch of the Catacomb Church in Russia for almost an entire year before the canonical acceptance of the "Sekachevtsevs" took place.
The possibility of joining with the "Sekachevtsevs" was discussed within the ROCA before and not just once. In point of fact, the fourth ROCA hierarch, Metropolitan Vitaly of Blessed Memory, was prepared in 1990 to enter into Eucharistic communion with the Pozdeev-Sekach branch of the TOC without any preconditions; while at the same time, others, who were under the influence of the unsubstantiated claims of Bishop Lazarus (Zhurbenko), considered it absolutely necessary to remedy the status of the catacomb ordinations through chirotesia.
As regards the ways in which the "Sekachevtsevs" were accepted into union with the ROCA, there are two Decisions -- one from a Sobor and one from a Synod.
In May, 1990, the ROCA Sobor of Bishops considered the proposal to enter into communion with the "Sekachev" episcopate in their existing clergy rank (ie. without chirotesia) and Decided that based on the archival information available to the ROCA Synod, they cannot categorically recognize the canonicity of the "Sekachev group."
This decision at the Sobor was made due to the scant information available in the archives of the Synod and before the archives of the KGB were opened and made possible the determination that the Pozdeev-Sekach branch of the Catacomb Church in Russia can be traced back to Patriarch St. Tikhon. The decision of the Sobor was also influenced by the declaration of Bishop Hilarion (Kapral), the secretary of the ROCA Synod at the time, that he had documents somewhere that proved conclusively that the "Sekachevtsevs" were not canonical. As it turned out later, these "documents" of Bishop Hilarion was a letter he received from "catacomb" Bishop Lazarus (Zhurbenko).
As a result, the lack of official documentation of their ordination, such as an authorized certificate (the existence of such a certificate in the USSR, if found, would have threatened its owner if not with a death sentence, then at least many years in prison; which is why such certificates were not issued in the catacombs), and the anti-Sekachev efforts of Bishop Lazarus (Zhurbenko), halted the natural union of one of the most populated Russian catacomb branches of the TOC with the ROCA, due to doubts of canonicity from the side of the ROCA.
An explanation and clarification of the ROCA Sobor Decision of May, 1990, regarding the way in which the Pozdeev-Sekachevtsevs could be brought into communion was provided for in the Determination of the August session of the ROCA Synod later in 1990, which said:
"the ROCA Synod of Bishops cannot determine the validity of the apostolic succession and the canonical ordination of these underground bishops in light of the absence of (or not provided by them) legitimate proof (ie. authorized certificates - ed.) As a result, the ROCA Synod of Bishops declares that the clerics with the ordination specified above who desire to enter into communion with the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad must establish their canonical status by the laying on of hands from bishops recognized by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad."
It is not by chance that the Synod Determination says:
1. the clerics with the ordination specified above you do not call people clerics and ordained that do not have apostolic succession, but only those who have it, but may yet have to be confirmed completely. Such an instance occurred when a ROCA bishop, Bishop Varnava (Prokofiev), secretly ordained as a bishop in the USSR (without an authorized certificate, I believe) the future founder of the schismatic RTOC, Lazarus (Zhurbenko). His ordination was not proper from a canonical standpoint, and to complete it, a chirotesia needed to be performed, which was done to Lazarus much later, in the Synod Cathedral in New York during his first visit in the US.
Therefore, the acceptance into the body of the Council of Russian Eminences of the ROCA jurisdiction of the "sekachev" bishops Ioann (Zaitsev) and Afansiy (Savitsky) enacted by the PSEA in September, 2008, through a conciliar chirotesia performed by the entire ROCA episcopate adheres strictly to the letter and spirit of the Sobor and Synod Determinations of ROCA from May and July of 1990.
Many years have passed since the ROCA Synod Determination of 1990 and certain important facts regarding the origins of the "sekachev" episcopate which were not known earlier in ROCA or were cast in doubt by the adherents of the lazarus schism have now become known.
We can now say without a shadow of a doubt that the "sekachevtsevs" trace their apostolic succession and origins through Bishop Seraphim (Pozdeev) back to Holy Patriarch of All Russia Tikhon.
Interesting facts about how Bishop Seraphim (Pozdeev) became the lawful head of the Russian TOC after his release from the Solovetsky camps, and the bishop ordination by him of Gennady Sekachev, even though it was done by him alone due to the circumstances, was performed with the agreement of other catacomb bishops, and that Metropolitan Gennady Sekach had close contact with the ROCA episcopate when he was ordained a priest by a future bishop of the ROCA, Bishop Leonty (Filipov), and other matters of interest may be gleaned from the short biographies provided below of Schema-bishop Seraphim (Pozdeev) and Metropolitan Gennady (Sekach).
Bishop of Smolensk
Vicar-Bishop of All-Russia Patriarch Tikhon
Schema-Bishop of the Russian Catacomb Church
Mikhail Aleksandrovich Pozdeev (his secular name) was born in 1874 to an ancient aristocratic family. He refused to emigrate after the Revolution, became close to Patriarch Tikhon, and with his blessing, became a novice. On April 5, 1925, he was secretly ordained by the Patriarch to be the Vicar-Bishop of the Smolensk diocese There was no documentary proof of this ordination, which led it to be cast in doubt by Bishop Lazarus (Zhurbenko) and the ROCA Sobor of Bishops in 19990, but it was later confirmed by opened archives of the Smolensk KGB. (Apparently, this doubt was the primary basis for the ROCA Sobor and Synod to question whether apostolic succession existed in the Pozdeev-Sekachev episcopate.) Two or three months after his chirotonia (ordination), he was arrested before he could reach the city where he was to serve. From then on until1946, he spent 21 years in the prisons and camps of the Soviet Union; first in the Kemerov prison, where he was imprisoned until 1939; then in the Gomel prison on death row; then he was sent to Moscow to the Butirsky prison, where the chekists tried to recruit him; and from there he was sent to the Kemerov prison camp. In 1935, as related by his spiritual children, he saw an angel while in a fever and the angel said he will be "released from prison and do much good for the Church." At the end of 1939, Bishop Seraphim was in the Solovetsky prison camp with other bishops. There they made a promise that whoever will be released will be led by God to head the Russian True Orthodox Church, and that turned out to be Bishop Seraphim. From 1946, he lived in exile in the Orenburg oblast. He was arrested again in 1952 and sentenced to prison for 25 years. This imprisonment was spent in one of the prisons in Central Asia. There he became acquainted with Bishop Gavriil Chimkentsky and Bishop Aleksandr Pruzhansky. In 1956, at the age of 82, he was released, because of the condition of his health. He lived in Buzuluk in the home of Vasiliy and Olga Dimitiriev. There he was visited by the future proponent of schism and founder of the "RTOC,: F. I. Zhurbenko, who asked to be ordained a priest. Bishop Seraphim declared that F. I. Zhurbenko was a sodomite and told him to leave. (All the catacomb bishops who were asked to ordain F. I. Zhurbenko refused, as they were concerned that he was a "rat" and a sodomite. This forced him to be ordained by MP Bishop Veniamin Novitsky, instead of by catacomb bishops.) Bishop Seraphim died on May 3\16, 1971, at the age of 91. He is buried at the cemetery in Buzuluk. Before he died, he received the schema and was named Antoniy. The fact that Bishop Seraphim was released in 1956 because of his health has been falsely portrayed by the vengeful F. I. Zhurbenko, and later by his followers, as a betrayal of the church and that he was released only after he cooperated with the government, which has not been substantiated by the archival documents of the KGB.
Schema-Metropolitan of the Russian Catacomb Church
P.S. I hope that this information eases the doubts of those who, because of the dearth of verified facts about the Tikhon-Pozdeev-Sekach branch of the Russian TOC, chose to believe rumors spread by enemies of the Church Abroad and having joined with them in their opinions, tempted the faithful and brought ruin to our Church from within.