Letter to the faithful in South America
2 August, 2004
The Holy Prophet Elijah
Reverend fathers and dear brothers and sisters in Christ!
I thank you all for your love and holy prayers for my recuperation!
Not long ago, I finished the last course of chemotherapy for the treatment of my cancer. Last week, after a thorough examination, no signs of the cancer or other tumors were found. Glory to God that this extremely difficult treatment ended well.
The only thing that now disturbs me is pain that arises from time to time in the region of my intestines from which the cancerous tumor was surgically removed. The doctors suppose that this is either a pinched muscle or a nerve that has grown together incorrectly. The doctors hope that in the near future they will eliminate the cause of the pain or that after some time it will go away by itself.
Now, with the help of God, I am gradually rebuilding my strength, more frequently serving in church and becoming more active. However, in the time ahead I must still pay attention to my health, and every three months I must have an examination in the hospital to be sure that malignant new growths have not arisen.
Therefore this year I will be able to make only one or, in need, two short trips to South America. I hope to make longer trips to the diocese next year. I thank you all for your understanding and patience!
Now I will say a few words about events that are happening in the Church. First, I ask you all to be in peace and concord. Nothing threatens our Church, and all is going well and correctly.
I am joyful for the discussions and meetings that are now happening between our commission and the corresponding commission of the Moscow Patriarchate on the question of the coming closer of our Churches. These talks are being conducted with complete seriousness, in an atmosphere that is businesslike and friendly.
One of the participants in the talks, Archimandrite Luke, expressed himself in this way about them:
"[In these discussions] there were absolutely no attempts made to smooth over or black out the complicated questions of the relations of the Russian Church Outside of Russia with the Moscow Patriarchate, including the questions of Sergianism, ecumenism, and other matters of vital concern. The commission of the Moscow Patriarchate expressed its position on the appointed questions openly and, in important characteristics, we often came to the same opinion . . . The general atmosphere of the talks both in Germany and in Moscow was an atmosphere of seriousness and sobriety. Never was there seen to be a desire to decide questions hurriedly for the sake of [some] benefit."
Therefore, the apprehension of several of our clergy and laymen with regard to the discussions being conducted now is without foundation, although for me it is very understandable. Fear in the context of the communism that ruled our much-suffering motherland and mistrust toward the once-imprisoned Church are things we drank with the milk of our mothers. But, glory to God, the godless power has fallen and has scattered, like dust in the face of the wind.
I personally think that at the present time, conversations about complete reunification with the Moscow Patriarchate are premature. In the situation that has taken shape, our Church Abroad should preserve her administrative independence and her fully uncompromising attitude in questions of principle. The talks should concentrate on the area of the coming closer of our Churches, an end to any kind of enmity, and the establishment of eucharistic communion. This is not only desirable, but it is also necessary.
It will be sinful from our side to ignore that unprecedented spiritual uplift, that general revival, that can be observed now in Russia. Still worse would it be to actively oppose the spiritual coming together of two branches of a once single Russian Church and to insist on a continuation of "war to the last drop of blood." Such a hostile relationship is completely unjustified also because at each service we pray for "the unity of the holy churches of God." With whom, please, it may be asked, is it for us to come together and to work together if not with our brothers by blood and faith?!
In truth, that which is happening now in Russia — this is a miracle of almighty God, for which we have prayed over the course of the eighty years of our exile. Observing the changes taking place in Russia, I am convinced that not for nothing did our new martyrs pour out their own blood. It became, in the words of a very early defender of the Christian faith, the seed of the birth of new Christians.
Therefore, my dear ones, I ask you to throw off unnecessary anxieties being heaped up by the enemy of the race of man, which ever-vigilantly searches for a way in which to divide us and to anger one with the other. We will pray that the discussions between our churches serve the glory of God and the strengthening of our Church.
I think that the spiritual situation now is more than ripe for the coming together of our Churches, and therefore it is necessary to apply all our forces for the establishment of friendly relations — that is our holy duty. The time has come to heal the wounds inflicted on the Church by the godless regime.
In conclusion I ask the rectors of the diocese of South America and the active parishioners to distribute my letter as widely as possible.
You will find more information about what is happening regarding this area in the two communications attached.
May God bless you all!
With love in Christ,
+ Bishop Alexander
of Buenos Aires and South America
Report by Archimandrite Luke (Murianka) on the
First Meeting of the Negotiating Committees of the
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the Moscow Patriarchate
In June, 2004, a preliminary meeting of the Committee of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia was held in Munich. Over the course of three days, we discussed and agreed upon our position. Archbishop Mark expressed the wish that we arrive in Moscow having coordinated our views on important church matters which were formulated in the mandate imparted to our Committee by the hierarchy of our Church; for example, on the relationship of the state and the Church, ecumenism, the ROCOR churches in Russia. This was achieved in Munich. Although the discussions were not easy, but thanks to them we formulated a common position for further discussions.
On Monday, June 8/21, we arrived in Moscow and soon began our work. The discussions were held in the building of the Office of External Church Affairs in Danilov Monastery. Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk opened the meetings with an address, but did not participate in further discussions. We handed the members of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Committee an outline of our documents and commenced discussing the mandate.
I wish to share my personal impressions of the Committees’ work.
There were absolutely no attempts made to smooth over or black out the complicated matters of the relationship between the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the Moscow Patriarchate, including Sergianism, ecumenism and other vital, burning questions.
The Committee of the Moscow Patriarchate frankly expressed its position on the matters in question, and in a general sense we often reached a common opinion. Still, there were difficult areas which need mutual understanding both on our part and on theirs. Of course, we did not cover all the difficult topics during these negotiations. It is necessary to take into consideration the life experience of our Churches. For example, the membership of the Moscow Patriarchate in the World Council of Churches is not at the present time caused by the desire to promote the false teaching of ecumenism, but is dictated by the desire to protect the interests of the Russian Orthodox Church. Since our Church Abroad has no communion with the Local Churches, it is difficult for us to understand those constant problems which exist in the area of inter-Church relations. Although we understood the difficulties of the positions of the Moscow Patriarchate, we still expressed our opinion on how Orthodoxy should be defended and what sacrifices must be made to achieve that goal.
Naturally, as one might expect, there were disagreements that arose during the discussions, which demand a great deal of consideration and the exchange of opinion. In those areas where we appeared to reach a dead end, we agreed to leave those questions for future discussions, but not to obscure or ignore them, but in order not to harm the existing dialog. We always felt the virtual presence of our flock, whose expectations we tried to take into consideration. One often heard from the members of our delegation: ТThis disturbs our flockЙУ or ТOur flock thinks thatЙУ The sense of alarm felt by a portion of our flock with regard to these negotiations was openly discussed. Even members of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Committee expressed their complete understanding of our complicated position, the sensitivity of the topics discussed, and offered advice not to hurry into anything. I personally noted that the members of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Committee were prepared to listen to us and to learn from the experience of the Church Abroad.
The general atmosphere of the discussions in Germany and Moscow was that of seriousness and sobriety. Never was there felt a desire to hastily resolve problems for gain. Our goal is difficult, for in such negotiations, clarity and precision in conclusions drawn and terminology used is necessary. The work was intense; it was performed as an obedience, with a sense of responsibility before God and our flock. We were greeted hospitably, but we did not gather for a vacation, but for work, which was more than once emphasized by Vladyka Mark. The next joint session of the Committees is scheduled for the fall of this year.
In conclusion, I wish to say a few words about the fact that after the work of the Committees, I visited Orthodox holy sites, mainly around Moscow. My last visit to Russia was 32 years ago, and, without a doubt, I saw a great change. I do not wish to speak of the external flourishing and renascence of churches and monasteries, but must state briefly—I was deeply movedЙ Besides, I also was able to have contact with the widest range of representatives of lay and Orthodox society in Russia: from professors of Moscow State University, official church representatives, to monastics, members of the Church Abroad, Catacomb Christians living in remote parts of Russia. If it is God’s will, I wish once again to return soon for a pilgrimage to our much-suffering Fatherland.
Jordanville, July 2/15, 2004
“We See the Need to Continue the Work of the Two Committees We Created”:
Interview of His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus with Russkiy Vestnik
1. Your Eminence, it is known that you visited Russia more than once. Now this is your first official visit to Russia in your capacity as First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. What are your feelings with regard to this visit to Russia?
I was pleased and joyful that I could openly visit the holy places. Before it was different, I had to come quietly, venerate the holy relics and leave. Now everything is different. I could not imagine how much I would see and feel, how I would be a witness of such unforgettable events. During the consecration of the Church of the Life-Giving Trinity, built in honor of the 1000th anniversary of the baptism of Russia, there were a great many people, everything was performed with great solemnity. But particularly exciting was the participation of our delegation in the ceremony of the laying of the foundation of the church in honor of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia in Butovo, where divine liturgy was served by Patriarch Alexy II with a host of bishops and priests.
2. Your visit is one of the first steps on the path to the possible unification of the Churches. What meaning could this process have for ROCOR?
Our Church Abroad waited for long years in the hope that the time would come when we could reunite and be together in Russia, with the Russian people, that we would pray together, serve together. But it did not happen. We did not live in peace, we spoke out with accusations against each other. But recently, stronger and stronger voices were heard within the bosom of the Church Abroad on the need for some kind of action in terms of dialog. The same began to occur in Russia. And so, President V.V. Putin, during his visit to America, passed on an invitation to us from Patriarch Alexy II to visit Russia. Such a step required a response. Maybe it is providential that we came to Russia on the eve of the laying of the foundation of an important church, dedicated to the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia on the grounds of the Butovo Polygon, the site of the martyric end of a multitude of clergymen and faithful Orthodox Christians who gave their lives for their faith in Christ.
3. You held discussions with Patriarch Alexy II. Were the goals set for the delegation of ROCOR achieved? What were your impressions of your conversations with His Holiness? What concrete steps could be taken in the future?
Our conversations, our participation in divine services, our acquaintance with monastery and parish life all made a very good impression on us. We have seen the need to continue the work of the two committees we created. Each of them can, at their own meetings, discuss those problems which arise over the course of negotiations, then they will have joint sessions for working out mutual statements. These statements will be discussed at sessions of the Synods and Councils. It is possible that our Church will then convene an All-Diaspora Council. I do not exclude the possibility that the Moscow Patriarchate will hold an All-Russian Council. After this, if need be, a joint All-Russian Council can be held.
Copyright ©2001 "Russkiy Vestnik"
Round-table on the Relationship Between the ROCOR and the ROC/MP
On Tuesday, June 29, after lunch, a round-table discussion was held on the present state of the Russian Church.
Protopriest Sergei Kotar began by recounting the history of the changes of his view of the Moscow Patriarchate. Fr. Sergei himself always grieved over the problems of the Russian Church and the Russian people. He considers himself a member of that group of Russian ОmigrОs who "lived on their suitcases," that is, attentively followed events in the Soviet Union, reacted to them, and was ready to move there if the conditions of Bolshevik terror changed. For this reason, Fr. Sergei participated for many years in the "Ochag" [hearth, breeding ground] project, which worked on reprinting and sending banned literature to the USSR. His many years of contact with Archbishop Anthony (Medvedeff) of blessed memory, who always displayed a great love and understanding for all the needy, helped Fr. Sergei to look upon his suffering compatriots in the homeland without prejudice. On the other hand, travels and contact with church dissidents at the very beginning of perestroika caused him some consternation, especially when it was apparent that these dissidents did not attempt to cooperate in their opposition to the existing political and ecclesiastical order, but actually competed with one another. This created the impression that dissidents were not interested in church or political issues, but in their own glory. Finally, in December 2003, Fr. Sergei went to the Expanded Clergy Conference in Nyack, NY, with an open mind, and eager to learn about the actual state of affairs. Listening to the representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate, and also to those who were in the extreme, and often illogical expressions of the opposition, Fr. Sergey understood that the time has come to leave the past behind, and to begin to work towards overcoming differences.
After the morning lecture of Protopriest Maksim Kozlov, "To be Orthodox in Russia Today," Fr. Sergei clearly saw that the problems in Russia and abroad are analogous: we, Orthodox, are in the minority, living in fact within a pagan (or post-Christian) world. Fort his reason, in order to overcome these problems with the aim of leading souls towards salvation in Christ, it is necessary to apply all our efforts for the elimination of disagreements in the Russian Church.
Then, Protopriest Maksim spoke of the feelings of many faithful who were born in the USSR. Such believers hoped that the time would come when it would be possible to be openly faithful, to attend church freely, and not fear losing their jobs or residency documents. At the same time, these people did not dare hope that they would see such a time come in their lifetimes. Fr. Maksim had never met anyone from the Catacomb Church, had no contact with them, and no one from among his acquaintances had any, either. But the Church Abroad was known, some knew of it well, others not so well. But it was clear to all that after the fall of communism, the unity of the Russian Church was an obvious necessity. After the fast-paced processes which began in the Moscow Patriarchate after the celebration of the Millennium of the Baptism of Russia, many were bewildered as to why unification had not occurred. It was especially painful to see the opening of parishes of the Church Abroad in Russia, and the scandals which often accompanied the opening of these parishes. For the Moscow Patriarchate, the Church Abroad must return in the capacity of the preserver of the untainted tradition and conservatism.
At the conclusion, Protopriest Peter Perekrestov expressed the notion that there are times when one must hold the fort, and times to do constructive work. Now, thinks Fr. Peter, is the time of leaving behind old walls and concentrate all our efforts in joint construction, the exchange of experience, and the guiding of the souls of our flock, wherever they may be, inside the walls of the Church of Christ.
After the speeches, a lively discussion ensued, in which the youth showed an interest and concern in this matter. Questions touched upon ecumenism, spiritual life and administration. Fr. Sergei also explained that in the event that Eucharistic communion is reestablished, the administration of the Church Abroad will remain the same as it is now.
Protopriest Yaroslav Belikoff