Bishop ALEXANDER (Mileant)
Sept. 12 / August 30, 2004
The Blessed Prince Alexander Nevsky
Reverend fathers, dear ones in the Lord,
Orthodox Christians of the diocese of South America!
I rush to address you with this letter in connection with the disturbing news that in the group at Mansonville (the "Russian Orthodox Church in Exile" — "ROCiE") there has been "consecrated" a "bishop" Anthony for South America (previously a cleric of the diocese of Western America, the priest Nikita Orlov, having walked away from his obedience to his spiritual superior, Archbishop Kyrill).
The consecration of "bishop" Anthony is uncanonical, unlawful, and therefore without effect. This means that all his ecclesiastical acts are without grace, and those clergy serving with him are in danger of losing their own priestly blessing.
The Orthodox Church has always strictly adhered to the preservation of the apostolic succession (the unbroken passing on of episcopal grace, beginning from apostolic times) and for this instituted rigid rules of consecration. Among these rules I point out the following:
Violation of any of the above-listed conditions makes an episcopal consecration ineffective. The rules of consecration are strictly observed in the Orthodox Church, for once a link in the chain of the apostolic succession is broken, it cannot be renewed, and all the following consecrations deriving their origin from uncanonical bishops become graceless and fall away from the Universal Church.
Russian Orthodox Christians should know that ALL of the above-listed conditions of a canonical consecration were violated by the Mansonville group ("ROCiE"), and therefore ALL of its "bishops" consecrated within it are uncanonical and without grace. Let us remember that going out into schism, the Mansonville group did not receive the support of the episcopacy of the Russian Church Abroad and, therefore, hastily began to ordain even inappropriate individuals, if only to fill the ranks of its "episcopacy," so that in the eyes of the people it would look like a "real Church."
The first "ordination" was performed by the defrocked vicar bishop of Cannes, Varnava, (in November of 2001) in the presence of Metropolitan Vitaly (standing in his mantia, unable to serve because of the disability of old age, being left alone at his own request). In this way the unlawful vicar bishop Varnava single-handedly "ordained" as a bishop archimandrite Sergii (Kindyakov), who had been prohibited from serving as a priest. Soon this "bishop" Sergii took part in the ordination of other "bishops" of the Mansonville group. The new South-American "bishop" likewise appears as a creation of this unlawful group, and this means, is an unlawful bishop (see more details in the addendum).
Now it is asked: why has this so-called bishop taken to himself the title "of South America" when the Sobor of the Russian Church Abroad appointed a lawful bishop for this cathedra already six years ago? — It's clear that "bishop" Anthony intends to bring this sedition among the parishes of the diocese of South America.
Therefore, my call to you, faithful children of the Russian Church Abroad: beware of "bishop" Anthony and don't let him into our parishes!
Here it is necessary to recognize that, unfortunately, our materially suffering flock of South America appears, seemingly, to be poorly informed about the course of church affairs in our fatherland. Truly, many of our parishioners in South America, particularly people of the older generation, completely sincerely think that with the change of structure in Russia, little changed in reality, and do not quite picture to themselves what kind of changes have occurred there and how these changes affect the church life of the Russian people.
Relatively few of our parishioners or pastors have had the opportunity to visit present-day Russia. Church news arrives in South America with great delay and often in a very limited or even distorted form. (The Russian flock in California, which is relatively well informed, at the same time presents a great contrast. This is why the question of the drawing together of our churches is peacefully received in the diocese of Western America.)
The newspaper Nasha Strana (Our Country) shows itself to be another negative influence in South America on the question of the convergence of our Church with the Church of Russia. This patriotic paper, having honorably fought against Communism more than sixty years, found itself, with the fall of Communism, suddenly without a particular enemy. What remains for its editors and others who work there to do? To close the paper? — A pity! Therefore, in the spirit of its earlier irreconcilability to Communism, the newspaper has directed all its strengths at the "exposure" of the current ecclesiastical and political administrators of Russia. The spirit of the paper has become gloomy and embittered.
It's natural that the South American flock, among whom this newspaper is published, acquires a negative relation to all that is coming out of Russia. A few faithful people fear that, using the rapprochement of the churches, agents of the KGB will make short work of our emigration. And the Mansonville group strengthens these fears.
But, fortunately, people are beginning to understand the essence of what is happening, and for the past two years the authority of the Mansonville group has noticeably fallen. Even in Canada, for example, where the center of the Mansonville group is found, their followers are scattering. In the United States, the quantity of those of one mind with them is very meager. In Russia and in France their group has split into two and continues to break up. Only far-off South America gives them hope, where almost no one knows them personally. And here, to attract new members in South America, they have put forward a new "bishop" — Anthony (Orlov).
It is comforting that, by the mercy of God, the fundamental mass of believers is on our side — the side of truth —, and the Mansonville group is gradually coming to nothing, like any schismatic association.
From the time of the fall of Communism, very much in Russia has changed for the better — I have in mind, first of all, in the spiritual plane. If anyone doubts my assertion, then I advise him to go to Russia himself, to be in the churches himself, to visit the monasteries and the bookstores in which spiritual literature is sold, and to associate with the clergy and the believing people. Then it will become clear that Russia is transforming as our saints foretold.
I personally try to look on the question of the drawing together of the churches in the historic plane and ask myself: with whom and why are we attempting to come closer? — We talk about drawing together with all the Russian Church, with which we were always one, but from whom the God-fighting authorities separated us. It follows, to be more exact, that this discourse is going on precisely about convergence but not at all about "fusion," "assimilation," or "absorption," as our opponents stubbornly call this. Now the Russian Church is composed of millions of believing people, a throng of clergy and monastics. The grace of God breaths abundantly in this Church; miracles are occurring; miracle-producing icons are appearing. . . . Oh, if only there were with us, living secure and satisfied abroad, such a spiritual fervor as there is with those believers who fill the Russian churches until the dismissal at the end of the service! And so the goal of our drawing closer reveals itself as the desire for spiritual unity with our people in the fatherland.
I have already written, and again repeat, that we should be joyful at the miracle of the beginning spiritual rebirth of Russia. It is a matter of the mercy of God, for which we must thank the Lord without ceasing. It grieved me that after the fall of the Communist regime we everywhere abroad did not serve moliebens, prayer services, of thanksgiving and did not institute a day of thanks in like manner as our "day of irreconcilability" but continued to read at the Liturgy that prayer for the salvation of Russia that was read in the years of the most ferocious persecutions of the Church — without one phrase of thanks to God for the miracle accomplished! Besides this, in the periodicals published abroad, both ecclesiastic and secular, we similarly wrote about the defects in Russia and the Russian Church, and as if we didn't notice the good events there. It's natural that, having absorbed such one-sided information, the Russian emigrants doubted in the positive changes happening in Russia.
The spiritual renewal in Russia is a case of the mercy of God. But, unfortunately, not all among us see it. Let it not happen with us what happened to the Jewish people when the Messiah promised by the prophets came and many of them did not know Him. . . .
. . . And so, about what convergence is this discourse going on? Naturally, with the administration of the Moscow Patriarchate, as the official representation of the Russian Church, we should conduct talks. But, in fact, we are searching for a convergence of the disordered parts of a once united and mighty Russian Church. In time, also the present Patriarch will depart into another world, and the other hierarchs of the MP, and we will depart there too. And what will remain after us? A single Russian Orthodox Church should remain, to stand against the onslaught of the powers of Antichrist!
We argue much: is it for us to converge or not to converge . . . But we ponder, what really unites and what separates us, quarreling and being angry one with another.
Our Orthodox faith unites us, first of all — then, our love for historic Russia: her glorious past, her God-pleasing saints, her language, her great culture . . . We are all agreed that to work with a Godless power is evil and that the ecumenical movement contradicts the Orthodox teaching about the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. With these most important principal questions all are agreed — not only we living abroad but also those living there in the motherland.
About what then do we argue, and from what come the quarrels? From personalities: that one is a Communist, and this one, an ecumenist. . . . But the heart of a man only God knows. And to Him we leave judgment. In what is the main thing, we are all principally agreed. Let this be what is important, and let it be what is the basis in the question of convergence. The arguments about this question are, in themselves, timely and useful for an objective solution. It is a pity only that sometimes they, by the slanders of the enemy of the race of man, are changed by enmity and division. It is necessary for us all not to lose our mutual respect, not to offend each other and not to quarrel. The Lord said: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."
The duty of each of us is to become a peacemaker. All our concern should be directed at that which will preserve ecclesiastical unity and not at that which will brake up into a multitude of church groupings showing enmity toward each other, like the Greek old-calendarists, who with every year start up a new "truest and only-correct" church, making war to the death with the other "churches" similar to it. The Apostle Paul warns: "But if you bite and devour one another, take heed that you are not consumed by one another" (Gal. 5:15).
Let us remember the words of the Lord: "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35). Love — and not enmity and division! I believe in the almighty grace of God, "healing the infirm and replenishing the exhausted." I believe in the wise paths of God's Providence.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all!
+ Bishop Alexander
1. Appeal of Metropolitan Vitaly on his Retirement
In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Dear Brethren Archpastors!
In accordance with my announcement at the last Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in 27 June/10 July 2001, I now reiterate before all of you, before the entire Council of Bishops, that I am retiring. And I ask the holy prayers of all of your, brethren archpastors.
I also pray for all of you and now let us pray and beseech the Head Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, that He help our Council of Bishops to elect a new president of our much-suffering Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. On my part, I call on all of you to unite around our Council’s electee and for all of us together to concern ourselves with the reestablishment of peace and unity among us and our flock. Only in unity is our strength and we, with God’s help, will be able to resist all the intrigues of our enemies, both seen and unseen. Amen.
I ask all of you, dear brethren, for your holy prayers and forgiveness.
October 10/23 2001
After his retirement, Metropolitan Vitaly did not retain the right to return from his retirement and assume the occupied position of First Hierarch. For, in accordance with par. 14 of the Regulations of the ROCOR, with his knowledge and consent, an extraordinary Council of Bishops was convened, the election of the new First Hierarch was conducted and Metropolitan Vitaly himself, after the election, congratulated Metropolitan Lavr with his election as First Hierarch and promised his support.
In fact, the above document is the very last document that can be confirmed as having been signed by Vladyka Vitaly. His signature can be attested to by a large group of witnesses. Later, when Metropolitan Vitaly found himself in Mansonville, none of the bishops was able to freely meet with him, speak with him without outside eavesdroppers, and not only document bearing the signature of Metropolitan Vitaly has been received under anything but the most hostile circumstances. It is even unknown whether Vl. Vitaly himself knows of the existence of the documents over his signature published by Mansonville.
2. Act of the Election of Metropolitan Laurus
On Wednesday, 11/24 October 2001, the day of the commemoration of the holy Apostle Philip of the Seventy and the Venerable Theophanes the Confessor, having assembled in the city of New York at the Synodal Cathedral of Our Lady of the Sign, in honor of her Kursk-Root Icon, at an open extraordinary session of our Council, praying after the Divine Liturgy, and having served a panikhida for the ever-memorable Metropolitans Anthony, Anastasy and Philaret and a service of supplication to the Mother of God before her miraculous Kursk-Root Icon, and also to the holy hierarchs Tikhon the Patriarch and John of Shanghai of San Francisco, the wonderworker, and having invoked the gracious aid of the Holy Spirit, we, the hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, proceeded to the election of a new First Hierarch of the ROCOR, after this cathedra became vacant on the decision of His Eminence, Metropolitan Vitaly, to go into retirement.
There were eighteen hierarchal electors, of whom six were not present but sent in their votes in writing.
At the first ballot, the votes of Their Graces were distributed as follows: Archbishop Laurus - 12 votes; Archbishop Mark - 1 vote; Archbishop Hilarion - 1 vote; Bishop Benjamin - 1 vote; and three hierarchs abstained. Thus, the Right Reverend Laurus, having received 2/3 of the votes on the first ballot was, in accordance with the Order for the Election of the First Hierarch, elected the fifth First Hierarch of the ROCOR.
We beseech Almighty God to send down His blessing upon the further ministry of our First Hi-erarch, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus. Amen.
[handwritten:] I give thanks, accept and say nought against it
3. Statement of the Synod Chancery
As has become known from publications in the internet, anti-ecclesiastical acts were performed at Holy Transfiguration Skete in Mansonville, Canada—the "consecration" of two suspended clergymen. On November 3 of this year, the retired Metropolitan Vitaly and the defrocked former Bishop of Cannes Varnava (Prokofiev) "consecrated into the episcopacy" Archimandrite Sergius (Kindjakov) who was suspended from his priestly functions.
The following day, a similar "consecration" was performed over Archimandrite Bartholomew (Vorobiev), who was suspended from his priestly functions [note: in fact, Archim. Bartholomew was "consecrated" a week later—Bp. Alexander]. The Council’s decision on his defrockment was delivered to former Bishop Varnava in the presence of three witnesses, on the very day of the first consecration at 9 am, that is, before the beginning of the service.
For this reason, both of these "consecrations" must, in full accordance with the Holy Canons, be considered invalid.
We also with to remind everyone that Vladyka Vitaly was hardly in any condition to perform a "consecration" properly, since he has not performed divine liturgy for three years now. It is noteworthy that at one of the meetings of the last Council of Bishops, on 16/29 October, 2001, both of the mentioned clergymen (Archim. Sergius and Archim. Bartholomew) were removed as candidates, having been several years earlier proposed as possible candidates by the Council of Bishops several years earlier.
So, these false consecrations were yet further evidence that the wicked earthly forces that for long have tried to destroy our Church are attempting to exploit all possible human failings and passions to introduce schism into the walls of the church.
For this reason, we appeal to the faithful clergy and God-loving flock of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia with the warning not to recognize these unlawful acts and not to suc-cumb to the calls of those who have fallen to temptation, possessed by the spirit of schism, who know not what they do, tearing the seamless Garment of Christ and in their madness participating in the destruction of that very Church which they ostensible try to defend.
+ Bishop Gabriel Secretary, Synod of Bishops
23 October/5 November 2001
A chronology of events:
Archimandrite Sergius (Kindjakov) is "consecrated" on November 3, 2001 with the par-ticipation of Vladyka Vitaly and the suspended/defrocked Vicar Bishop Varnava, who was unilaterally "restored" by Vl. Vitaly;
Hieromonk Vladimir (Tselishcheff) was "consecrated" on November 6, 2001, by "Bp. Sergius" and the defrocked Bp. Varnava;
Archimandrite Bartholomew (Vorobiev) is consecrated on November 11, 2001 by Vladyka Vitaly, "Bishop Sergius" and "Bishop Vladimir."
4. The “ROCiE” (Mansonville group) Suspends Bishop Varnava
from his Priestly Functions (Again!) on June 25/July 8, 2004
25 June/ 8 July 2004
The Venerable Virgin-Martyr Fevronia
We heard:the Report concerning the destructive activities of Archbishop Varnava and, in part, concerning his refusal to recognize the decisions of the Sobor, the majority of which he himself signed, as well as his spreading of false information regarding the handling of affairs by the Synod of Bishops.
The following charges are brought against Archbishop Varnava:
We have resolved:
In view of the above-indicated violations, which clearly bear witness to Archbishop Varnava's refusal to submit to the Supreme Ecclesiastical Authority, regarding an entire array of vital issues dealing with the ecclesiastical well-being and moral arrangement of church life, and taking into account the written responses of all the Hierarchs:
To prohibit Archbishop Varnava from conducting any further sacred services until such time as he repents.
To remind Archbishop Varnava that one who dares to conduct Divine Services while under ban is deprived of his priestly rank.
+Metropolitan Vitaly, First-Hierarch of ROCiE
Mitred Proto-priest Veniamin Joukoff, Secretary of the Synod of Bishops
P.S. My note: Please note that those "consecrated" by Bishop Varnava themselves were finally forced to suspend their "spiritual father"— and for the very same violations for which he had previously been defrocked by the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia! —Bishop Alexander.