Address of Bishop Daniel

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28-03-2006 19:28

Address of Bishop Daniel of Erie vicar of the Chairman of the Synod of bishops, servicing old-rite believers. To the Clergy, Monastics and Parishioners of The ROCA on the Threshhold of the IV th Pan-abroad Sobor 2006 in San Francisco

Speaking:  Bishop Daniel, Vicar of the First Hierarch of the Church Abroad on Old-Believers Affairs.

I wish to address you and share some of my thoughts on matters which are troubling us, which I had written down a year ago, yet have not lost their significance at the current time.

Dear Vladika's, Fathers, Brothers and Sisters in the Lord!

At one time I had addressed you in connection with the dialogue which is being conducted between our Church Abroad and the Moscow Patriarchate.  I feared that this dialogue would lead to the unification of our Churches under the authority of the Moscow Patriarchate, and subsequently, to the complete annihilation of our independence, which we have had for more than eighty years now.

I was reassured that the issue was not unification of the Churches, and not our subordination to Moscow, but merely  improving relations between our Churches.

I have nothing against that, and allowed myself to be persuaded that nothing threatens the existence of our Church as self-sufficient and independent.

Then I received an entire package of documents from our Church's Synod of Bishops on these matters and it took me quite a while to read them and think them over.

Therefore, I find it indispensable to address you again, since the documents that were sent to me far surpass my worst fears, and I will unlikely be able to personally be present in conciliar discussion of these issues.

In the beginning much is said about mutual relations between the Church and the state, about ecumenism from an Orthodox point of view, and we can only rejoice at this, since in the recent past, or "yesterday" on a historical scale, the Moscow Patriarchate was under full and unequivocal submission to the godless, communist authority, which seized our Fatherland and would have belonged to any organization on  instructions from that authority.

Our Church never was in a union with the godless authority and never belonged to any ecumenical organizations, therefore none of this has any direct relationship to us.  One can only hope that the Moscow Patriarchate will not elude these principles.

All the talk that  unification or subordination to the Moscow Patriarchate is not being conjectured is absolutely unsubstantiated.

At first nothing is mentioned about commemorating the first hierarch, probably so as not to aggravate the flock abroad, but then it turns out that the election of the First Hierarch of the Church Abroad is subject to confirmation by the Patriarch and the Synod of Bishops of  the Moscow Patriarchate, and the name of the First Hierarch will be commemorated only after the name of the Patriarch; a commemoration which hitherto had not been mentioned.

The Patriarch together with his bishops is given the right to ratify, and consequently not ratify, i.e., the right to veto all important decisions on leadership within our Church, including election of bishops.

Is this not the union of the Churches and is this not the subordination of our Church unto Moscow?

What is this?

According to the candid admission of the Patriarchate, our Church must become one of its self-governing parts - similar to the Churches of Latvia or Estonia.  To say thereby, that no unification or subordination is presumed, as it is done in the draft letter to Metropolitan Kiprian, simply means to consciously lead people into delusion, i.e. to deceive them.

In becoming dependent on the Patriarch et al, our Church will no longer remain independent, i.e., autocephalous de facto, as it had been and continues to be now more than eighty years, having something greater than autonomy, namely independence.  Our Church has no need for any autonomy, no matter how alluring this autonomy may seem to poorly informed people.

It is revealing that the word "independence", which precisely defines our position as of today, is painstakingly avoided by the compilers of the documents under review, with reference to the Church Abroad, and it is quite clear why the Moscow Patriarchate wishes to deprive us of this self-sufficiency and independence and make us subordinate unto itself, using any kinds of truths or falsehoods.

In view of the fact that it has become clear where further talks with the  Moscow Patriarchate are leading:  to unification with it, under the power of the Patriarch of Moscow, it appears to me to be advisable to cease further talks with the Moscow Patriarchate until such time that their position on this matter is clarified.

If they agree to recognize our independence, then we may have discussions with them on equal grounds, about improving relations between our two independent Churches, even to the point of Eucharistic communion, but if not, we can continue our independent existence with no need of Moscow's blessing.

The compilers of the documents under review omit from view the fact  that religion and patriotism are different subjects.  Orthodoxy and the Moscow Patriarchate are not one and the same.  One may be Russian and still be Orthodox, and not belong to the Moscow Patriarchate.

Ethnic Greeks belong to various autocephalous Churches, such as Alexandria, Antioch an others.  Their adherence to these Churches does not make them Orthodox to greater or lesser degrees than others, and they do not cease being Greeks.

Our common descent from Russian ancestors does not oblige us to submit to the Patriarch of Moscow,  particularly since he and the majority of his circle were appointees of the soviet regime, hostile to Russia, yet now they create the impression that nothing extraordinary happened, and that we must submit to their authority.

We must decidedly set this aside!

If we were to submit to the Patriarch's authority, not only would we lose our self-sufficiency and independence, but also the many thousands of our flock, descendants of those Russian refugees for the fulfillment of whose spiritual needs our Church was established, as well as the majority of our clergy and a part of the hierarchy.

All church rules have as their only, if not sole purpose,  the spiritual benefit of the flock.  If our Church joins now with the Moscow Patriarchate, then many thousands of these people will be left without a Church.  Who needs that?

Can it be that our pastoral conscience will permit this to happen?

Many thousands of people belong to our Church.  If they have a desire to be under the authority of the Moscow Patriarchate, they can join it at any time, but they are not doing that.  That means, they prefer to be in a Church which is independent of it, and they do this consciously and not by happenstance.  Can it be that the majority of people who belong to our Church belong to it through misunderstanding?  It is ridiculous to even imagine this!

If we were to join Moscow now, then we would betray our brethren who trusted us.  This would be an act of the self-anihilation of our Church, in other words, suicide.

What would we receive in return?  Decidedly nothing! We would not become Orthodox, since we never ceased being Orthodox. If there is not one but two independent Russian Churches, then what is wrong with that? There are many Greek Churches. The number of independent Orthodox Churches was never a subject in the teaching of the faith.

Also, important questions such as to be or not to be with certain Churches cannot be decided by a simple majority of votes.  In this case unanimity is necessary, or an almost unanimous decision by all the members of a given Church.  It's doubtful that we have unanimity in this matter of interest to us. Therefore, it is better for us to adhere to our old status quo and set aside unification with the Moscow Patriarchate as a frivolous fancy.

This interview with His Eminence Bishop Daniel was recorded live by G. Soldatow.
The video and taperecording of this address are in the editorial office of"Fidelity".
March, 2006

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