RTOC's uncanonical standing

Full English translation
posted November 1, 2008 on revniteli.livejournal

RTOC hierarchy (which claims to be the catacomb church) was inordinately critical when two catacomb bishops decided to join ROCA instead of them.  They made a lot of noise about it, saying that the catacomb bishops were false.  Two questions arise:

1. Why does RTOC care so much and make so much noise over this?  What do they care if we (ROCA) accept bogus bishops, I mean, – don't they say all our bishops are bogus already anyway? 
2. What is their opinion worth anyway, I mean, – who are they to judge us?  

Our ROCA Fr. Victor explains RTOC's uncanonical standing:

On the matter of the canonical standing
of the catacomb episcopate
of the Tikhon-Pozdeev-Sekach branch
of the true RTOC.
Fr. Victor Dobroff,
Secretary of the Diocesan Regional Council
of the North American Diocese of ROCA
The joy of the faithful members of the Church Abroad at the acceptance of the catacomb bishops of the Russian TOC (True Orthodox Church), Bishop Ioann (Zaitsev) and Bishop Afanasiy (Savitsky), into the body of the Council of Russian Eminences under the omofor of the ROCA was overshadowed by those who are opposed to unity in the Church and who fool others, who are not informed of Church matters.  These people initiated a broad campaign of innuendo even claiming that the ROCA PSEA and its episcopate has lost its canonicity by entering into union with a "dubious" episcopate that is without apostolic succession.

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.
 2.                          establish their canonical status  in the cases of self-ordained episcopates, that is where apostolic succession is not present, the ordained individuals do not possess a sort of canonical status. To establish it, that is to correct the canonical status, is possible only when it exists and needs to be completed through chirotesia. Therefore, the ROCA Synod Determination of 1990 does not deny the presence of a certain canonical status in the bishops of the Pozdeev-Sekachev TOC.
 It then becomes apparent that the ROCA Synod Determination of 1990 requires that the "sekachevtsevs" need to be accepted through chirotesia. That how this ROCA Synod Determination was understood at the September session of the ROCA PSEA.

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).

Seraphim (Pozdeev)
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.

Gennadiy (Sekach)
Schema-Metropolitan of the Russian Catacomb Church
Grigoriy Yakovlevich Sekach (his secular name) was born in 1897 in the village of Akulino in Belarus to a merchant's family.  His uncle, Anfim, was a hieromonk in a nearby monastery.  Grigoriy was only three, when his father died.  After the mother died, there were 8 children left.  Grigoriy was taken in by his aunt, Hegumena Pavla and he lived with her in a monastery until he was 20 years old.  When he was 11, he became ill with tuberculosis of the bone in his right leg and spent nine years bed-ridden.  After he recovered in 1917, he visited the Pochaev Lavra, where a starets foretold that he would become a bishop.  He traveled about the country.  In 1924, he hid Bishop Simeon Mozyrsky and several other monks who were escaping from the Renovationists in his basement.  He was arrested in 1929 and sentenced to 10 years in a work camp.  He was sent to the Solovetsky Prison Camp, and later, transferred to the city of Kirovsk in the Murmansk oblast to build a power plant.  He escaped in 1938, returned to Belarus, and lived under an assumed name.  He visited Schema-Archbishop Antoniy (Abashadze) in Kiev and received a blessing from him to marry.  He married Anna and had three children.  He was arrested again in 1939 and sent to the Gomel prison, where he met Bishop Seraphim (Pozdeev) for the first time.  He was later released.  During WWII, he found himself in territory occupied by the Germans and joined the Ukrainian Autonomous Church.  In 1943, he was ordained a deacon, and in the same year, he was made a priest on the Feast of Annunciation by the bishop of Zhitomir, Bishop Leonty Fillipov (who became a ROCA bishop later) in the city of Mozyr.  After the war, he openly served in an active church in the village of Novoropsk in the Bryansk oblast.  He served in the jurisdiction of the MP Metropolitan of Minsk and Slutsk, Pitirim (Sviridov) (who died in 1963).  In 1958, his clergy permit was revoked and he was dismissed from the MP for teaching religion to children.  He went to Chernigov, where he visited starets-schema-archimandrite Lavrenty of Chernigov (Proskuro), who recommended that he become a novice (and it seems he tonsured him himself).  He established a monastery with about 30 novices and a house church in the city of Shchors in the Chernigov oblast.  In 1962, he left for New Athos and established several hidden male and female monasteries in the mountains.  He opened several house churches in houses bought specifically for that purpose in the city of Tkvarcheli and opened an illegal school of theology. Along with his two assistants, Fr. Grigoriy and Fr. Feodosiy, he traveled all over the USSR, gathering up young people with an interest in religion and bringing them to Abkhazia as acolytes.  In 1967, he was arrested again, imprisoned, and later released on amnesty.  He then returned to New Athos.  In 1969, he was chased out of there by the authorities and moved to Tkvarcheli.  In May 1971, he arrived in Buzuluk to see Bishop Seraphim (Pozdeev) (Schema-Bishop Antoniy) three days before his death and Bishop Seraphim ordained him a bishop without designating his cathedra (which was done routinely for catacomb clergy, though others accuse the "sekachevtsevs" of violating the canons by doing this!)  Friends of Gennadiy insist that he received a "confirmation certificate" by mail (ie. approval of his ordination) signed by Bishops Aleksandr of Pruzhansk, Germogen (Golubev), Alfeya of Barnaulsk, and Gabriel of Chimkentsk, all long-standing, verified catacomb bishops.  Unfortunately, no copies of the certificate exist, which was also used by Bishop Lazarus (Zhurbenko) in an attempt to discredit Bishop Gennadiy, implying there was no apostolic succession present.  Upon his return to Abkhazia, Bishop Gennadiy continued to establish secret religious groups and monasteries.  In the 1970's, he founded 3 monasteries in Ukraine, 4 in Belarus, and 2 in the Kuban region.  Together with Bishop Alfeya of Barnaulsk, who was also a disciple and confidante of Bishop Seraphim Pozdeev, Bishop Gennadiy performed the initial bishop ordinations.  This proves the existence of at least one "confirmation certificate" of Bishop Gennadiy's ordination by Bishop Seraphim Pozdeev and the proof of the lawfulness of Gennadiy Sekach's bishop's ordination, since Bishop Alfeya would not have agreed to perform ordinations with a self-ordained bishop.  At least 12 bishops were ordained by the two of them.  Bishop Gennadiy continued to serve in the Caucasus region, bribing the local authorities to avoid persecution.  Like the startsy of the past, he traveled with a coffin.  In 1975, he was arrested once again at the age of 78 and sentenced to 4 years in prison.  He was sent to the prison hospital in Tbilisi.  He was later transferred to the prison in the city of Kutaisi.  On Pascha in 1977, he was elevated through a second ordination in prison to metropolitan by Met. Malkhas of Kutaisi, who was a nephew of Bishop Simeon Mozyrsky (whom Bishop Gennadiy had hid in his basement many years before), and two other archbishops of the Georgian Catacomb Church   Archbishop Guramey and someone else, both of whom were in prison for 30 years already.  By all accounts, this is verified, but there is no certificate to prove that this second ordination, which remedied his ordination by one bishop, Bishop Seraphim, took place.  All the participants have since passed away, which would explain why the ROCA Synod of Bishops issued their Decision of how the "sekachev" clergy can be accepted, and on that basis, compelled the ROCA PSEA to accept the bishops of the Tikhon-Pozdeev-Sekach branch of the Catacomb Church only by chirotesia to confirm their ordinations.  In October, 1977, a starets of 80 by then, he was released and returned to the Caucases.  From 1978, he lived in Elista.  In 1978, he was arrested in Elista, but then released.  He then moved to Belarus.  Sometime in 1979-1980, he received the schema.  He actively brought believers from the MP under his omofor, and did not reject the idea that Grace worked among the MP.  Catacomb believers attest to a number of miracles and healings from him.  Together with his two assistants, Met. Grigoriy and Met. Feodosiy, he created the so-called "Mobile Synod," in which Gennadiy had the deciding vote.  In his remaining years, the illness in his legs plagued him and he lived together with Met. Grigoriy and Met. Feodosiy in northern Caucasus in the city of Mostavaya in the Krasnodar region, from where they led the catacomb church and performed new ordinations.  Schema-Metropolitan Gennadiy died on April 19\May2, 1987.  Today, the "sekachev" diocese includes 15 archbishops, ministering to a flock of almost 500,000 people. They do not have titles or cathedras, and during the ordinations, they are simply proclaimed bishops, since the future fate of those involved is not known.

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.

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