5. RUSSIA: FROM HITLER TO BREZHNEV (1939-1970)
If My People had heard Me, if Israel had walked in My ways,
quickly would I have humbled their enemies,
and upon their oppressors would I have laid My hand.
Psalm 80. 12-13
From the middle thirties a certain slackening in the fury of the atheist onslaught on Russia became discernible – until the Great Purge of 1937-38 produced its unprecedented roll-call of martyrs. The 1936 Constitution restored to the clergy and their families equal “rights” with the rest of the population, so that, for example, after five years of “productive and socially useful work” a former priest could receive the right to vote – though this was dependent, of course, on his demonstrating loyalty to the régime. In 1937, however, the Politburo ordered the raising of “all taxes on priests as persons receiving unearned income”, and the churches and monasteries were in addition taxed in kind – grain, potatoes – as though they were private farms.
The Persecution in Poland
These concessions may have been caused by the perceived failure of the anti-religious campaign to wipe out faith in God – in 1937 a poll established that one-third of city-dwellers and two-thirds of country-dwellers were still prepared to confess that they believed. Or they may have been linked to the rise of Hitler’s National Socialism, persuading Stalin, who greatly admired Hitler, to permit a little more nationalism in his “socialism in one country”. In any case, the first real alleviation given, if not to religion in general, at any rate to the Moscow Patriarchate, was certainly linked to the Hitler-Stalin pact of 1939 and the events that followed it.
Thus Alexeyev and Stavrou write: “To the Soviet Union [in accordance with the pact] went significant portions of the Western Ukraine and Belorussia, and soon after them the three Baltic republics – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. From what used to be Poland alone there passed to the U.S.S.R. territories inhabited by a population of 4 million, with 1200 Orthodox churches, a theological seminary in Kremenets and 4 bishops. This immediately doubled the number of ruling bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate, increased the number of open churches by about 40% and again raised the question of the relationship of the authorities to religious education.
“Usually Soviet border zones were very thoroughly communised. The churches there were closed. When a part of Poland became Soviet territory and a border zone, Soviet power was forced to review its usual policy. It was too risky to start large-scale religious persecutions and arouse the displeasure of the populace in the presence of the German army on the other side of the border. It was necessary to take into account the fact – which was beneficial in the given circumstances for Soviet power – of the Polish authorities’ discrimination against the Orthodox Church. Before the beginning of the Second World War the Poles had closed hundreds of Orthodox churches on their territory on the grounds that the Tsarist government had in 1875 returned theses churches from the unia to Orthodoxy. The Polish government considered the return of the uniates to Orthodoxy an act of violence, and they in their own way restored justice by means of violence, which, needless to say, elicited protests even from the Catholic and Uniate churches.
“The results of these measures of the Polish government were such that, for example, in the region of Kholm out of 393 Orthodox churches existing in 1914, by 1938 there remained 227, by 1939 – 176, and by the beginning of the war – 53 in all. Particularly disturbing was the fact that, of the cult buildings taken away from the Orthodox, 130 churches, 10 houses of prayer and 2 monasteries were simply destroyed. Naturally, such measures elicited the displeasure of the Orthodox population of Poland and created good soil for Communist propaganda and the growth of sympathy towards the U.S.S.R. In these conditions it was particularly difficult for the Soviet government in 1939 to begin large-scale persecutions and close the churches which had not yet been closed by the Poles. It preferred a more cautious policy: the submission of the Orthodox hierarchy and the Orthodox parishes of what used to be Poland to the Moscow Patriarchate, which was well controlled by the government. In other words, this was the first occasion on which the Soviet government used the Moscow Patriarchate for the spread of its influence over newly acquired territory. Thus it did not suit Stalin to snuff out the Moscow Patriarchate at this time.!
However, it was difficult for the wolf to look like a sheep for long; so while it suited Stalin temporarily to play the part of defender of Orthodoxy against Catholicism, it was not long before the familiar pattern re-emerged. Thus all church property in the newly-occupied territories was nationalized in October, 1939; heavy taxes were laid on the clergy, the seminary in Kremenets was closed, and Archbishop Alexis (Gromadsky) of Kremenets was arrested. By June, 1941, 53 priests had been arrested, of whom 37 disappeared and 6 were shot; and the monks at the famous Pochaev Lavra had been reduced from 300 to 80, while two Soviet monks were imported into the monastery to see that the remainder stayed loyal to Soviet power. Archbishop Pantaleimon (Rozhnevsky), formerly of Pinsk, who had refused to accept the granting of autocephaly to the Polish Church by Constantinople in 1924, was designated exarch of Western Ukraine and Belorussia in October, 1939. But in July, 1940, he was “retired” to the Zhirovitsky monastery and Archbishop Nicholas (Yarushevich) of Novgorod was sent from Moscow to take his place, until he was forced to retreat before the advancing German forces to Moscow.
Stalin and the Baltic Orthodox Churches
In 1939 the Moscow Patriarchate sent Archbishop Sergius (Voskresensky) of Dmitrov to Riga as the patriarchal exarch in the occupied Baltic States. In 1940 he received the Churches of Latvia and Estonia, which had been granted autocephaly by Constantinople, into the patriarchate. Then, in March, 1941, he took control of the see of Vilnius and Lithuania.
“Rule over the new diocesan provinces,” writes Volkogonov, “was established, naturally, by means of the secret services. As an illustration of the process, the following report was received by Stalin in March, 1941 from B. Merkulov, People’s Commissar for State Security of the USSR:
“’There are at present in the territories of the Latvian, Estonian and Lithuanian republics autocephalous [autonomous] Orthodox churches, headed by local metropolitans who are placemen of the bourgeois governments.
“’In the Latvian SSR there are 175,000 Orthodox parishioners. Anti-Soviet elements, former members of the Fascist organization ‘Perkanirust’, are grouped around the head of the Synod, Augustin.
“’In the Estonian SSR there are 40,000 Orthodox. The head of the eparchy has died. Archbishop Fedosi Fedoseev, who heads an anti-Soviet group of churchmen, is trying to grab the job.
“’The NKVD has prepared the following measures:
“’1) Through an NKVD agency we will get the Moscow patriarchate to issue a resolution on the subordination of the Orthodox churches of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania to itself, using a declaration from local rank and file clergy and believers for the purpose.
“’2) By a decision of the Moscow patriarchate we shall appoint as eparch Archbishop Dmitri Nikolayevich Voskresensky (an agent of the NKGB of the USSR), using for the purpose appropriate requests from the local clergy, which are to be found in the Moscow patriarchate.”
It is striking how openly Merkulov talks about using the Moscow patriarchate for purely political purposes here. “Archbishop Dmitri Voskresensky” is probably a mistake for “Archbishop Sergius Voskresensky of Dmitrov”. The fact that he was an agent of the NKGB probably means that his three fellow metropolitans who were still in freedom – Sergius (Stragorodsky), Nicholas and Alexis – were also agents.
It also demonstrates, as Volkogonov writes, “the reasons behind Lenin’s confident assertion that ‘our victory over the clergy is fully assured’. So complete, indeed, was that victory that even Stalin and his accomplices were at times at a loss to know if someone was a priest or an NKGB agent in a cassock. While boasting loudly of freedom of conscience and quoting copiously from Lenin’s hypocritical statements on how humanely socialism treated religion, the Bolshevik regime, through the widespread use of violence, had turned the dwelling-place of the spirit and faith into a den of thought-police.”
However, the Soviets’ successful invasion of East Poland and the Baltic States, and less successful invasion of Finland, was soon to be avenged. On June 22, 1941, the feast of All Saints of Russia, the Nazis invaded Russia.
The Nazis were in general greeted with ecstatic joy. Thus Solzhenitsyn writes: “Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia gave the Germans a jubilant welcome. Belorussia, the Western Ukraine, and the first occupied Russian territories followed suit. But the mood of the people was demonstrated most graphically of all by the Red Army: before the eyes of the whole world it retreated along a 2,000-kilometre front, on foot, but every bit as fast as motorized units. Nothing could possibly be more convincing than the way these men, soldiers in their prime, voted with their feet. Numerical superiority was entirely with the Red Army, they had excellent artillery and a strong tank force, yet back they rolled, a rout without compare, unprecedented in the annals of Russian and world history. In the first few months some three million officers and men had fallen into enemy hands!
“That is what the popular mood was like – the mood of peoples some of whom had lived through twenty-four years of communism and others but a single year. For them the whole point of this latest war was to cast off the scourge of communism. Naturally enough, each people was primarily bent not on resolving any European problem but on its own national task – liberation from communism…”
With the permission of the Germans, churches were opened everywhere. Even in fully Sovietized regions such as Pskov and the Eastern Ukraine, 95% of the population, according to German reports, flooded into the newly-opened churches. This meant that Orthodoxy became an important political factor which neither the Germans nor the Soviets could ignore.
The invasion of the Germans at this time had been prophesied by Elder Aristocles of Moscow in August, 1918. As he said to Mother Barbara (Tsvetkova): “You will hear about it in that country where you will be at that time, you will hear that the Germans are rattling their sabres on the borders of Russia… Only don’t rejoice yet. Many Russians will think that the Germans will save Russia from the Bolshevik power, but it will not be so. True, the Germans will enter Russia and will do much, but they will depart, for the time of salvation will not be yet. That will be later, later… Germany will suffer her punishment in her own land. She will be divided…”
The religious revival made possible by the German invasion was only partly directed by the Moscow Patriarchate. Even in the Baltic States, where its control was strongest, the patriarchal exarch, Metropolitan Sergius (Voskresensky), who had refused to be evacuated eastwards with the Red Army, had to admit the power of underground Orthodoxy – although he misleadingly represented this as an underground layer of the Patriarchate rather than a completely separate church organization. Thus in 1941 he submitted a memorandum to the German authorities, saying: “It should be noted that the forcible disbanding of the socially recognized leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate would call into existence a secret leadership of the Patriarchate, which would significantly increase the difficulties of police supervision. In general there has existed in Russia a very lively secret religious life (secret priests and monks; secret places for prayer; secret Divine services; christenings; confessions; communions; marriages; secret theological studies; secret possession of the Sacred Scriptures, liturgical vessels, icons, sacred books; secret relations between communities, bishoprics and the leadership of the Patriarchate, etc.). If they were to conceive the desire of annihilating also a secret leadership by the Patriarchate, then they would have to punish all the bishops, - and among them the secret ones, who in case of such necessity would be consecrated one after the other. And if we consider the improbable possibility that they would at some time succeed in annihilating the church hierarchy completely, then religion would still remain, while atheist propaganda would not make a single step forward. The Soviet government understood this, and therefore preferred that the leadership of the Patriarchate should continue in existence.”
The patriarchal exarch blessed the formation of an “Orthodox mission in the liberated regions of Russia”, otherwise known as the “Pskov Orthodox Mission”, whose official aim was the restoration of church life “destroyed by Soviet power”. This mission included within its jurisdiction parts of the Leningrad and Kalinin regions, as well as the Pskov and Novgorod regions, with a population of about two million people. Its head was Cyril Zaits, whose activity, according to Vasilyeva, “suited both the exarch and the occupation authorities. The mission supplied its own material needs, supplementing its resources from the profits of its economic section (which included a candle factory, a shop for church utensils and an icon studio) and from 10% of the deductions coming from the parishes. Its monthly profits of 3-5000 marks covered the expenses of the administration, while the remaining money of the mission went on providing for theological courses in Vilnius.
“Priests were needed to restore church life in a number of parishes. And as he accompanied the missionaries [who were graduates of a theological seminary in Western Europe],.. the exarch said: ‘Don’t forget that you have come to a country where in the course of more than twenty years religion has been poisoned and persecuted in the most pitiless manner, where the people are frightened, humiliated, harried and depersonalised. You will have not only to restore church life, but also to arouse the people to new life from its hibernation of many years, explaining and pointing out to them the advantages and merits of the new life which is opening up for them.’”
At the beginning the mission had only two open churches, one in Pskov and one in Gdov. By 1944 there were 200 parishes and 175 priests. Lectures were read on Pskov radio, help was given to Soviet prisoners of war, and a children’s home was created in the church of St. Demetrius in Pskov.
The region, on the insistence of Metropolitan Sergius (Voskresensky), remained ecclesiastically part of the Leningrad diocese under Metropolitan Alexis (Simansky), whose name was commemorated in each service, until anti-German leaflets signed by Alexis were dropped by the Soviet air force on the territory. However, the name of Sergius (Stragorodsky) continued to be commemorated, not as diocesan bishop, but as locum tenens, and then Patriarch. While remaining formally within the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Sergius (Voskresensky) carried out the commands of the Germans. For example, in the summer of 1943 he ordered that a thanksgiving service with the participation of all the clergy should take place in Pskov to mark the Germans’ handing back of the land into the hands of the peasantry. However, shortly after being elected Patriarch, in an encyclical dated October 14, 1943, Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky) threatened all the clergy who were cooperating with the Germans with an ecclesiastical trial. The Germans countered by confronting Metropolitan Sergius (Voskresensky) with the acts of the Vienna conference of the ROCA, which condemned Sergius’ election as uncanonical, and demanded that he approve of them. On April 28 or 29, 1944, Metropolitan Sergius (Voskresensky) was ambushed and shot. No one knows who did it, but there are good reasons for believing that the act was done by Soviets dressed in German uniforms and that the leader of the murderers was Dr. Aschach, local head of German counter-intelligence.
In Belorussia, the Germans tried to create an autocephalous Belorussian Orthodox Church which would be independent of both Great Russian and Polish influence (Catholic Poland was doing a lot of missionary work in the region). To this end Archbishop Pantaleimon (Rozhnevsky) was brought out of retirement and given the metropolitan see of Minsk, and a group of thirty Belorussian nationalists were brought in from Poland and Austria to rekindle Belorussian nationalism. However, neither the metropolitan nor the majority of the Orthodox in Belorussia were willing to break ties with the Russian Church, and at a Council in Minsk in 1942 the Synod of what we may call the Belorussian Autonomous Church insisted that the autocephaly of their Church would have to be approved by the other Autocephalous Churches. This displeased the Germans, who appointed Bishop Philotheus of Slutsk in his place..
“In August-September 1942,” writes Michael Woerl, “under pressure from both the Germans and their Belorussian nationalist cohorts, Archbishop Philotheus summoned a council of the Belorussian Church with the blessing of Metropolitan Panteleimon, but only he, Bishop Athanasius, and Bishop Stefan (Sevbo)… were allowed to take part. On the question of the Belorussian Church declaring itself to be autocephalous, the bishops stated that this could not be done without the knowledge and agreement of the other local Churches, which they knew would be impossible because, among other things, a world war was in progress. However, a letter addressed to the heads of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches was signed by Metropolitan Panteleimon and given to the German authorities, but it was never sent.
“Archbishop Philotheus and his fellow hierarchs persistently sought the return of Metropolitan Panteleimon, who finally was allowed by the Germans to return to Minsk in April of 1943. In May of 1944, the council of bishops met, and rejected the idea of seeking the autocephaly that had been attempted by the nationalistic element.”
Throughout this period, the Belorussian Church not only had no contact with the Moscow Patriarchate: the Germans arrived forbade the commemoration of Sergius. So formally speaking the Belorussians were not part of the Moscow Patriarchate. Moreover, from October, 1943, when the Belorussian Church was represented by a bishop and a priest at a Council of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCA) in Vienna, it de facto entered into communion with the ROCA. At that council the election of Metropolitan Sergius as “Patriarch” was condemned as uncanonical, and a bishop, George, was consecrated for the see of Gomel and Mozyr by the ROCA. Further evidence for the genuine Orthodoxy of the Belorussian Church is provided by the fact that it had good relations with the Catacomb Christians in the region, and that the entire episcopate was received into the ROCA “in their existing rank” on April 23 / May 6, 1946.
In the Ukraine, the Germans allowed the creation of two Churches independent of the Moscow Patriarchate. The Ukrainian Autocephalous Church was in essence a reactivation of the Lypkivsky “self-consecrators’” schism, which had flourished in the Ukraine in the 1920s before being eliminated by Stalin. In December, 1941, Metropolitan Dionysius of Warsaw appointed Bishop Polycarp of Lutsk to administer the Ukrainian Church in the Ukraine. Into it, without reordination, poured the remnants of the Lypkivsky schism, which soon led this Church onto the path of extreme Ukrainian nationalism. About 40% of the Orthodox in the Ukraine were attracted into this Church, which was especially strong in the home of Ukrainian nationalism in the West; but it had no monastic life, and very soon departed from traditional Orthodoxy.
On August 18, 1941, a Council of Bishops meeting in the Pochaev monastery elected Metropolitan Alexis (Gromadsky) as leader of the Ukrainian Autonomous Church, which based her existence on the decision of the 1917-18 Local Council of the Russian Church granting the Ukrainian Church autonomy within the framework of the Russian Church. Although the Germans tended to favour the Autocephalous Church over the Autonomous Church, it was the latter which attracted the majority of believers (55%) and opened the most churches. It even attracted catacomb priests, such as Archimandrite Leontius (Filippovich), who after his consecration as Bishop of Zhitomir restored about 50% of the pre-revolutionary parishes in his diocese and ordained about two hundred priests, including the future leader of the “Seraphimo-Gennadiite” branch of the Catacomb Church, Gennadius Sekach, before he (Leontius) himself fled westwards with the Germans and joined the ROCA.
Also linked with the Autonomous Churches was the Georgian Schema-Archbishop Anthony (Abashidze), who lived in retirement in Kiev and may have taken part in the consecration of Bishop Theodosius.
Andrew Psarev writes: “The Ukrainian Autonomous Church was formally subject to the Moscow Patriarchate, insofar as her leading hierarchs considered that they did not have the canonical right to declare themselves an autocephaly. But since the Moscow Patriarchate was subject to the Bolsheviks, in her administrative decisions the Autonomous Church was completely independent, which is why her spiritual condition was different from that of the Moscow Patriarchate.”
However, some catacomb communities refrained from joining any of the official jurisdictions. In Kiev, Archimandrite Michael (Kostyuk), together with Schema-Abbess Michaela (Shelkina) directed a very large community of catacomb monks and nuns, and was able to build an above-ground church which had no relations with the Soviet bishops during the German occupation.
The Josephite branch of the Catacomb Church, whose centre was Leningrad, also continued to exist; and it is probably from this period that the following anathema attached to the Order for the Triumph of Orthodoxy in Josephite parishes dates: “To those who maintain the mindless renovationist heresy of sergianism; to those who teach that the earthly existence of the Church of God can be established by denying the truth of Christ; and to those who affirm that serving the God-fighting authorities and fulfilling their godless commands, which trample on the sacred canons, the patristic traditions and the Divine dogmas, and destroy the whole of Christianity, saves the Church of Christ; and to those who revere the Antichrist and his servants and forerunners, and all his minions, as a lawful power established by God; and to all those.. who blaspheme against the new confessors and martyrs (Sergius of Nizhni-Novgorod, Nicholas of Kiev and Alexis of Khutyn), and to.. the renovationists and the other heretics – anathema.”
“On the whole,” writes M.V. Shkvarovsky, “the Catacomb Church in North-West Russia preferred to remain underground. The point was that the ‘Pskov Orthodox Mission’ (1941-1943), which existed with the permission of the commanding officers of the army group ‘North’, was in canonical submission to the Moscow Patriarchate and tried to winkle out the secret communities. Schema-Bishop Macarius (Vasilyev), who settled in the Pskov-Caves monastery at the end of 1941, foretold the unsuccessful end of the war for Germany. Together with the secret Bishop of Pskov John (Lozhkov), he tried to enter into relations with Metropolitan Seraphim (Lyade) of Berlin and Germany, who belonged to the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. However, the hieromonk whom he sent, Nicephorus (Richter-Mellin), was detained in Konigsberg on a train and sent back.
“The well-known historian of the Catacomb Church I. Andreyev (Andreyevsky) wrote that in spite of the insistent demands of the exarch of the Baltic, Metropolitan Sergius (Voskresensky), the True Orthodox priests, who began to serve in some of the opened churches, refused to commemorate the patriarchal locum tenens. ‘Thus, for example, in the city of Soltsy in Novgorod diocese the mitre-bearing Protopriest Fr. V., former dean of the churches of the city of Minsk, who then became a catacomb priest, in spite of the very severe command of the dean of the Novgorod region Fr. Basil Rushanov, categorically refused to commemorate the Soviet Metropolitan Sergius. This was in 1942. And in 1943 and 1944 Fr. V. began to commemorate Metropolitan Anastasius [Gribanovsky], (head of the Russian Church Abroad).’
“The fact that most of the communities of the True Orthodox Christians in Leningrad region during the occupation remained underground allowed them to continue their activity even after the end of the war, in spite of the deaths of their leaders…
“In a series of other regions of the country the German High Command was more favourably disposed to the Catacomb Christians: in the Bryansk, Orel, Voronezh districts, and also in Belorussia, the Crimea and on the Don.”
Although this period of revival in the southern and western regions was brief, it had important consequences for the future of the Russian Church. First, many of the churches which were reopened in this period were not again closed by the Soviets when they returned, in view of the pact Stalin had come to with the patriarchate (about which more below). Secondly, some of those bishops and priests who could not, or chose not to, escape westwards after the war went underground and helped to keep the Catacomb Church alive in the post-war period. And thirdly, the ROCA received an injection of new bishops and priests from those who fled westwards to Germany in the closing stages of the war.
The Stalin-Sergius Pact
The war necessitated a certain reactivation of Russian patriotism by the Soviets. For, as Overy writes, “by 1942 it was evident that the Communist Party alone could not raise the energies of the people for a struggle of this depth and intensity. The war with Germany was not like the war against the kulaks, or the war for greater production in the 1930s, although the almost continuous state of popular mobilization which these campaigns produced in some ways prepared the population to respond to emergency and improvisation. During 1942 the war was presented as a war to save historic Russia, a nationalist war of revenge against a monstrous, almost mythical enemy. The words ‘Soviet Union’ and ‘Communism’ appeared less and less frequently in official publications. The words ‘Russia’ and ‘Motherland’ took their place. The ‘Internationale’, the anthem of the international socialist movement played on state occasions, was replaced with a new nationalist anthem. The habits of military egalitarianism ingrained in the Red Army were swept aside. New medals were struck commemorating the military heroes of Russia’s past; the Tsarist Nevsky Order was revived but could be won only by officers. Aleksandr Nevsky, the Muscovite prince who drove back the Teutonic Knights in the thirteenth century, was a singularly apt parallel. In 1938 Stalin had ordered Sergei Eisenstein to produce a film on Nevsky. He interfered with the script to make the message clear about the German threat (and the virtues of authoritarianism). In 1939 the film was withdrawn following the Nazi-Soviet pact, but in 1942 it again became essential viewing.
“The mobilization of tradition did not stop with past heroes. During 1942 the Russian Orthodox Church [Moscow Patriarchate]… was suddenly rehabilitated… Metropolitan Sergei… appealed to the faithful on the very day of the German invasion to do everything to bring about victory.”
Thus while the captive peoples of the Soviet Union were joyfully throwing off the yoke of the antichristian oppressor in the German-occupied West, the leader of the official Russian Orthodox Church – the “compatriarch”, as the Germans called him – was urging them to put it on again. Even after his evacuation to Ulyanovsk, Metropolitan Sergius continued his “patriotic” appeals (twenty-three in two years) – a patriotism that was entirely Soviet in nature, being directed against the interests of True and Holy Russia. At the same time he continued to proclaim the “saving” lie that religion was safe in the hands of the communists: “With complete objectivity we must declare that the Constitution, which guarantees complete freedom for the carrying out of religious worship, in no way constrains the religious life of believers and the Church in general…” Concerning the trials of clergy and believers, he said: “These were purely political trials which had nothing to do with the purely ecclesiastical life of religious organizations and the purely ecclesiastical work of individual clergy. No, the Church cannot complain about the authorities.” Sergius followed this up by announcing further huge contributions towards the outfitting of a tank unit in the name of Demetrius Donskoy.
Stalin could see that Metropolitan Sergius’ church, far from being any kind of threat to his regime, was actually proving very useful in channelling Russian patriotic and religious feeling into pro-Soviet and anti-German channels. He also noted that the German policy of granting religious freedom in the occupied territories had won them a large measure of sympathy from the native populations. And he realized that his own anti-religious policy, as well as alienating his own people, would continue to make the Western Allies lukewarm in their support for him, fighting, as they claimed to be, for freedom and democracy.
For these and other reasons Stalin decided to enter into an alliance of mutual benefit with Metropolitan Sergius’ church; and on September 4, 1943, Metropolitans Sergius, Nicholas and Alexis – who with Metropolitan Sergius (Voskresensky) constituted the whole hierarchy of the Moscow Patriarchate – were summoned to meet Stalin and Molotov in the Kremlin.
Anatolius Levitin-Krasnov has described this meeting as follows: “It was Molotov who began the conversation. He said that the Soviet government and Stalin personally would like to know the needs of the Church. While the other metropolitans remained silent, Metropolitan Sergius suddenly spoke up… The metropolitan pointed out the need for the mass re-opening of churches.. for the convocation of a church council and the election of a patriarch… for the general opening of seminaries, because there was a complete lack of clergy. Here Stalin suddenly broke his silence. ‘And why don’t you have cadres? Where have they disappeared?’ he said… looking at the bishops point blank… Everybody knew that ‘the cadres’ had perished in the camps. But Metropolitan Sergius… replied: ‘There are all sorts of reasons why we have no cadres. One of the reasons is that we train a person for the priesthood, and he becomes the Marshal of the Soviet Union.’ Stalin smiled with satisfaction: ‘Yes, of course. I am a seminarian…’ Stalin began to reminisce about his years at the seminary… The chat lasted until 3 a.m. It was during this chat that the future Statute of the Russian Orthodox Church and the conditions in which she would operate were [orally] drafted.”
As a result of this meeting, the Soviet church acquired a precarious, semi-legal existence – the right to open a bank account, to publish The Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate and a few booklets, to reopen some seminaries and churches, and, most important, to “elect” a new patriarch after the release from prison of some of the most malleable bishops. In return, it had to accept censorship and control of every aspect of its affairs by a newly constituted Council for Russian Orthodox Affairs.
This body, later renamed the Council for Religious Affairs, was headed by an NKVD colonel, G. Karpov. Radzinsky comments: “Karpov was also head of the Fifth Department of the NKVD, whose assignment was to combat ‘the counterrevolutionary clergy.’ In the NKVD Karpov’s duty was to fight the church, in the council [-] to assist it…”
At first, the council’s control was exercised downwards via the bishops in accordance with the Church’s rigidly centralized structure. From 1961, however, its control came to be exercised also from below, through the so-called dvadsatky, or parish councils of twenty laypeople each, who could hire and fire priests at will, regardless of the bishops. Thus for all its increased size and external power, the Moscow Patriarchate remained as much a puppet of Soviet power as ever.
As Vasilyeva and Knyshevsky write: “There is no doubt that Stalin’s ‘special organ’ and the government (to be more precise, the Stalin-Molotov duet) kept the patriarch under ‘eternal check’. Sergius understood this. And how could he not understand when, on November 1, 1943, the Council made it obligatory for all parishes to submit a monthly account with a detailed description of their activity in all its facets?”
“Patriarch” Alexis I
The first “patriarch” of the Soviet Church, Sergius, died soon after his enthronement, on May 2, 1944. In November, a council of bishops was convened to discuss the election of a new patriarch. Archbishop Luke (Voino-Yasenetsky) pointed out that according to the rules of the Council of 1917-18, the patriarch had to be elected by a secret ballot from a selection of candidates. However, his suggestion was rejected, and a single candidate, Metropolitan Alexis (Simansky) of Leningrad, the man who had annulled Metropolitan Benjamin’s anathema against the renovationist Vvedensky, was put forward. So in January he was duly “elected”, by 17 unanimous voices (Archbishop Luke was not invited to attend).
Some have seen in the behaviour of Archbishop Luke proof that the Moscow Patriarchate was not completely sovietized at this time, and that its hierarchy still contained some true bishops. Unfortunately, however, there is clear evidence that Archbishop Luke, like the other hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate, was infected by the Soviet bacillus to such an extent that he deviated from Orthodox teaching. Thus he wrote that Christ’s commandment to love one’s neighbour did not apply “to the German murderers… it is absolutely impossible to love them.” And again: “How shall we now preach the Gospel of love and brotherhood to those who do not know Christ, but who have seen the satanic face of the German who claims to be a Christian?” Such unchristian sentiments were possible only for one who allowed revolutionary morality to obscure the light of Christian truth. Indeed, Archbishop Luke (who has recently been canonized by the Moscow Patriarchate) is known to have said that if he had not been a priest he would have been a communist.
In the period from the Stalin-Sergius pact of September, 1943 to the enthronement of the new “patriarch” Alexis in January, 1945, the 19 bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate (they had been only four at the beginning of the war) were more than doubled to 41. Now the great majority, not only of the Catacomb, but also of the sergianist hierarchs, had perished in the prisons or the camps before the Second World War. So when Sergius became “patriarch”, he (or rather the OGPU) had only hierarchs of the most dubious quality to call on in order to fill up the ranks of the depleted Moscow Patriarchate. Therefore the newly consecrated bishops were enrolled almost entirely from “repentant renovationists”, who, being presented for ordination by the atheist authorities, were received with a minimum of formalities, without regard for the rules of the council of 1925 regarding the reception of renovationists. (That the Moscow Patriarchate received renovationists into the church without the repentance laid down by Patriarch Tikhon is witnessed even by patriarchal sources.) Of course, this did not trouble “Patriarch” Sergius, or his successor, “Patriarch” Alexis, who were both “repentant renovationists”. But it meant that the new, post-war generation of bishops was quite different from the pre-war generation in that they had already proved their heretical, renovationist cast of mind, and now returned to the neo-renovationist Moscow Patriarchate like a dog to his vomit (II Peter 2.22), forming a heretical core of bishops which controlled the patriarchate while being in complete obedience to the atheists.
The Catacomb Bishop “A.” (probably Anthony Galynsky-Mikhailovsky) wrote: “Very little time passed between September, 1943 and January, 1945. Therefore it is difficult to understand where 41 bishops came from instead of 19. In this respect our curiosity is satisfied by the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate for 1944. Looking through it, we see that the 19 bishops who existed in 1943, in 1944 rapidly gave birth to the rest, who became the members of the 1945 council.
“From the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate we learn that these hasty consecrations were carried out, in the overwhelming majority of cases, on renovationist protopriests.
“From September, 1943 to January, 1945, with a wave of a magic wand, all the renovationists suddenly repented before Metropolitan Sergius. The penitence was simplified, without the imposition of any demands on those who caused so much evil to the Holy Church. And in the shortest time the ‘penitent renovationists’ received a lofty dignity, places and ranks, in spite of the church canons and the decree about the reception of renovationists imposed [by Patriarch Tikhon] in 1925…
“As the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate informs us, the ‘episcopal’ consecrations before the ‘council’ of 1945 took place thus: the protopriest who had been recommended (undoubtedly by the civil authorities), and who was almost always from the ‘reunited’ renovationists or gregorians, was immediately tonsured into monasticism with a change in name and then, two or three days later, made a ‘hierarch of the Russian Church’.”
The way in which the renovationist-sergianist hierarchs sharply turned course at a nod from the higher-ups was illustrated, in the coming years, by the Moscow Patriarchate’s sharp change in attitude towards ecumenism, from strictly anti-ecumenist in 1948 to pro-ecumenist only ten years later.
These rapid transformations throughout the Church hierarchy were made possible by the fact that the Church, having meekly submitted to the rule of the totalitarian dictator Stalin, was now in effect a totalitarian organization itself. All decisions in the Church depended effectively on the single will of the patriarch, and through him, of Stalin. For, as Fr. Sergius Gordun has written: “For decades the position of the Church was such that the voice of the clergy and laity could not be heard. In accordance with the document accepted by the Local Council of 1945, in questions requiring the agreement of the government of the USSR, the patriarch would confer with the Council for the Affairs of the Orthodox Church attached to the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR. The Statute did not even sketchily outline the range of questions in which the patriarch was bound to agree with the Council, which gave the latter the ability to exert unlimited control over church life.”
Hieromonk Nectarius (Yashunsky) has described how Sergius introduced papism into the Moscow Patriarchate: “Metropolitan Sergius’ understanding of the Church (and therefore, of salvation) was heretical. He sincerely, it seems to us, believed that the Church was first of all an organization, an apparatus which could not function without administrative unity. Hence the striving to preserve her administrative unity at all costs, even at the cost of harming the truth contained in her.
“And this can be seen not only in the church politics he conducted, but also in the theology [he evolved] corresponding to it. In this context two of his works are especially indicative: ‘Is There a Vicar of Christ in the Church?’ (The Spiritual Heritage of Patriarch Sergius, Moscow, 1948) and ‘The Relationship of the Church to the Communities that have Separated from Her’ (Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate).
In the first, although Metropolitan Sergius gives a negative answer to the question (first of all in relation to the Pope), this negative answer is not so much a matter of principle as of empiricism. The Pope is not the head of the Universal Church only because he is a heretic. But in principle Metropolitan Sergius considers it possible and even desirable for the whole of the Universal Church to be headed by one person. Moreover, in difficult times in the life of the Church this person can assume such privileges even if he does not have the corresponding canonical rights. And although the metropolitan declares that this universal leader is not the vicar of Christ, this declaration does not look sincere in the context both of his other theological opinions and of his actions in accordance with this theology.”
In the second cited article, Metropolitan Sergius explained the differences in the reception of heretics and schismatics, not on the basis of their objective confession of faith, but on the subjective (and therefore changeable) relationship of the Church’s first-hierarch to them. Thus “we receive the Latins into the Church through repentance, but those from the Karlovtsy schism through chrismation”. And so for Sergius, concludes Fr. Nectarius, “for salvation it is not the truth of Holy Orthodoxy but belonging to a legal church-administrative organization that is necessary”!
This heretical transformation of the patriarchate into a western-style papacy has been described by Fr. Vyacheslav Polosin thus: “If Metropolitan Sergius was ruled, not by personal avarice, but by a mistaken understanding of what was for the benefit of the Church, then it was evident that the theological foundation of such an understanding was mistaken, and even constituted a heresy concerning the Church herself and her activity in the world. We may suppose that these ideas were very close to the idea of the Filioque: since the Spirit proceeds not only from the Father, but also from the Son, that means that the vicar of the Son… can dispose of the Spirit, so that the Spirit acts through Him ex opere operato.. It follows necessarily that he who performs the sacraments of the Church, ‘the minister of the sacrament’, must automatically be ‘infallible’, for it is the infallible Spirit of God Who works through him and is inseparable from him… However, this Latin schema of the Church is significantly inferior to the schema and structure created by Metropolitan Sergius. In his schema there is no Council, or it is replaced by a formal assembly for the confirmation of decisions that have already been taken – on the model of the congresses of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
“The place of the Council in his structure of the Church is taken by something that is lacking in the Latins’ scheme – Soviet power, loyalty to which becomes something in the nature of a dogma… This scheme became possible because it was prepared by Russian history. But if the Orthodox tsar and the Orthodox procurator to some extent constituted a ‘small Council’, which in its general direction did not contradict.. the mind-set of the majority of believers, with the change in the world-view of those came to the helm of Soviet power this scheme acquired a heretical character, since the decisions of the central ecclesiastical authorities, which were associated in the minds of the people with the will of the Spirit of God, came to be determined neither by a large nor by a small Council, but by the will of those who wanted to annihilate the very idea of God (the official aim of the second ‘godless’ five-year-plan was to make the people forget even the word ‘God’). Thus at the source of the Truth, instead of the revelation of the will of the Holy Spirit, a deadly poison was substituted… The Moscow Patriarchate, in entrusting itself to the evil, God-fighting will of the Bolsheviks instead of the conciliar will of the Spirit, showed itself to be image of the terrible deception of unbelief in the omnipotence and Divinity of Christ, Who alone can save and preserve the Church and Who gave the unlying promise that ‘the gates of hell will not overcome her… The substitution of this faith by the vain hope in one’s own human powers, which can save the Church in that the Spirit works through them, is not in accord with the canons and Tradition of the Church, but ex opere operato proceeds from the ‘infallible’ top of the hierarchical structure.”
The power over the Church that the 1945 council gave to the atheists was revealed in 1974 in a secret report to the Central Committee by the modern successor of the Council for Religious Affairs: “The Synod [of the Moscow Patriarchate] is under the control of the [Soviet government’s] Council for Religious Affairs. The question of the selection and placing of its permanent members was and remains completely in the hands of the Council, and the candidature of the non-permanent members is also agreed beforehand with responsible members of the Council. All issues which are to be discussed at the Synod are first discussed by Patriarch Pimen and the permanent members of the Synod with the leaders of the Council and in its departments, and the final ‘Decisions (Opredeleniya) of the Holy Synod’ are also agreed.”
After the enthronement of Alexis, writes Alexeyev, “Stalin laid upon the Council for the Affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church the duty of congratulating Alexis on his election in the name of the head of the government, and of giving him a commemorative present. The value of the gift was determined at 25-30,000 rubles. Stalin loved to give valuable presents. It was also decided to ‘show gratitude’ to the foreign bishops for their participation in the Council. The commissariat was told to hand over 42 objects from the depositories of the Moscow museums and 28 from the Zagorsk state museum – mainly objects used in Orthodox worship – which were used as gifts for the Eastern Patriarchs. Thus, for example, Patriarch Christopher of Alexandria was given a golden panagia with valuable stones… Naturally, the patriarchs were expected to reciprocate, and they hastened to express the main thing – praise… Patriarch Christopher of Alexandria said: “Marshal Stalin,… under whose leadership the military operations have been conducted on an unprecedented scale, has for this purpose an abundance of divine grace and blessing”.(!!!)”
The Soviet Offensive
After the 1945 council, the Soviet Church began a powerful diplomatic offensive designed to convince believers abroad of the legitimacy of the Soviet State and Church. Thus in 1945, while Metropolitan Nicholas was being feted in Britain, Patriarch Alexis visited the Middle East, where he acted like a secular representative of the Soviet government. For example, he intervened in the Greek civil war by calling on the Greek people to support the Communists and reject the Royalists and British Imperialists (Stalin himself adopted a more neutral stance).
The Soviet Church capitalized on the wave of pro-Soviet feeling following on the victories of the Red Army to split the Russian émigré communities in several countries, removing several dioceses from the jurisidiction of the Russian Church Abroad. Thus in Iran Bishop John of Urmia joined Moscow. In Palestine, the Soviets, supported by the new Israeli government, forcibly seized some ROCA churches. In China all the Russian bishops except one – the renowned wonderworker John (Maximovich) of Shanghai – accepted Soviet passports and returned to the Moscow Patriarchate. In Bulgaria, Archbishop Seraphim (Sobolev) did the same – although, according to his spiritual daughter, Abbess Seraphima (Lieven), he continued to call the Soviet power “satanic” and to oppose the infiltration of communist influence into the Bulgarian Church.
Archbishop Valentine of Suzdal and Vladimir writes: “I remember the year 1956, the Dormition men’s monastery in Odessa, where I was an unwilling witness as there returned from the camps and prisons, having served their terms, those hierarchs who returned to Russia after the war so as to unite with the ‘Mother Church’ at the call of Stalin’s government and the Moscow patriarchate: ‘the Homeland has forgiven you, the Homeland calls you!’ In 1946 they trustingly entered the USSR, and were all immediately caught and incarcerated for 10 years, while the ‘Mother Church’ was silent, not raising her voice in defence of those whom she had beckoned into the trap.
“In order to be ‘re-established’ in their hierarchical rank, they had to accept and chant hymns to Sergianism, and accept the Soviet patriarch. And what then? Some of them ended their lives under house arrest, others in monastery prisons, while others soon departed for eternity.”
In Western Europe the situation was no better. The Paris metropolia, or “Evlogians” (after their leader, Metropolitan Eulogius), had become infected with the heresy of sophiology, which led to a schism with the ROCA as early as 1927. For several years it could not make up its mind whether to join Moscow or Constantinople, but finally settled for Constantinople because the Greeks did not impose any political demands and were more tolerant of the Parisians’ heresies. In America, meanwhile, two bishops joined Moscow, and then, at the council of Cleveland in November, 1946, four out of the eight bishops of the American metropolia returned to the patriarchate before again separating (without returning to ROCA) when they saw what submission to the Moscow Patriarchate really meant.
“In preparation for the council,” writes Andreyev, “it was very interesting and characteristic that the same persons who fought for the Moscow jurisdiction and the split from the [ROCA] Synod and ‘helped’ Metropolitan Eulogius in Europe, moved from Paris to America and began to ‘help’ Metropolitan Theophilus [the leader of the American Metropolia]. With unusual knowledge of church matters, these professors of engineering and other fine arts began to state authoritatively that ‘the Moscow Patriarchate has not deviated from the dogmas, canons and rites of Orthodoxy in any way, and the politics conducted by its head, even though it is condemned today by many, cannot have a decisive influence on its canonical position.’ In this way the Cleveland council prepared itself by only a formal cooperation with the Synod Abroad, and then, completely backing down from its position, pronounced this resolution: ‘We are passing the resolution to request His Holiness, the Patriarch of Moscow, to reunite us to his bosom and be our spiritual father, under the stipulation that we preserve our full autonomy, which exists at the present time. Since the hierarchical authority of the patriarchate is incompatible with the hierarchical authority of the Synod Abroad of the Russian Orthodox Church, the American Church is continuing any administrative subordination to the Synod Abroad.”
However, in the confusion that took place in Europe after the end of the Second World War, many unworthy bishops and priests (some of them Soviet agents) succeeded in infiltrating themselves into the ROCA’s ranks. Already during the war, the renovationist “Bishops” Ignatius (Zhebrovsky) and Nicholas (Avtonomov) had been received, it appears, with the minimum of formalities, and appointed to the sees of Vienna and Munich, respectively, before being removed at the insistence of zealous laymen. And the former renovationist and leading ROCA hierarch in Western Europe during the war, Metropolitan Seraphim (Lyade) twice secretly petitioned to be received into the MP “in his existing rank” before his death in 1950 – but was refused. Another senior bishop, Metropolitan Seraphim (Lukyanov) joined to the MP, was received back in his existing orders, and then returned again for good in 1954. Again, among the twelve Belorussian and Ukrainian bishops who were received “in their existing rank” by the ROCA in 1946, at least one proved to be a Judas – Archbishop Panteleimon (Rudyk), whose immorality left a trail of destruction in various countries before he, too, returned to the MP.
In retrospect, it is easy to say that the ROCA hierarchs should have been stricter in checking the candidates to the episcopate, and stricter in their method of receiving those of renovationist or sergianist orders. But in the confusion prevailing after the war, when even the first hierarch, Metropolitan Anastasy, had to flee from Serbia at short notice without the Church’s files, that was easier said than done. The main task was to provide pastors for the vast numbers of Russian “D.P.s” who found themselves in the western zones of occupation; and it was only natural to take those hierarchs, true or false, who presented themselves.
Several local Orthodox Churches, such as the Serbian, the Bulgarian and the Romanian, were now brought within the Soviet Church’s orbit. The Uniate Church of Ukraine was forcibly incorporated into the Moscow Patriarchate at the “Reunion council” of Lvov in 1946, thus forcing those uniate bishops and priests who refused to join into an underground situation until the Gorbachev era. A little later the uniates of Czechoslovakia, too, were forced into the Moscow Patriarchate, and those of Romania into the Romanian Patriarchate.
This process was consolidated by the council held in Moscow in July, 1948, which was attended by representatives of the Constantinopolitan, Antiochian, Alexandrian, Greek, Serbian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Czechoslovak, Polish and Georgian Churches (the Georgian Church had been granted autocephaly by Moscow shortly after the Stalin-Sergius pact in 1943). Only the Jerusalem patriarchate, the Russian Church Abroad and the True Orthodox Churches of Russia, Greece, Cyprus and Romania were not represented. Here, the glorification of the Moscow Patriarchate went together with a denunciation of the Catholic and Protestant West and a condemnation of the ecumenical movement, which had received a new lease of life at the First General Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Amsterdam that year.
It is now known that all the decisions of the council were planned a year and a half before by the Central Committee of the Communist Party. Moreover, that the hierarchs’ special epistle clearly shows that their motives were purely political: “The world is going through a stormy time in which the irreconcilable differences between the Catholic and rationalist-Protestant West, on the one hand, and the Orthodox East, on the other, are clearly manifest… We servants of the Orthodox Church have been painfully impressed by the fact that those who are stirring up a new war are children of the Christian Catholic and Protestant world. We are deeply grieved that from the stronghold of Catholicism, the Vatican, and the nest of Protestantism, America, instead of the voice of peace and Christian love we hear blessing of a new war and hymns in praise of atomic bombs and such-like inventions, which are designed for the destruction of human life. All Christians, regardless of nation and creed, cannot help blaming the Vatican for this policy. We fervently beseech the Chief Pastor, our Lord Jesus Christ, that He enlighten the Catholic hierarchy with the light of His Divine teaching and help it to realize the abyss of its sinful fall.”
The Church Cult of Stalin
While chastising the West for its political sins, the patriarchate continued to glorify Stalin in the most shameful way, having truly become the State Church of the Bolshevik regime. Already during the war, the cult of Stalin, probably the greatest persecutor in the history of the Church, reached idolatrous proportions. He was “the protector of the Church”, “the new Constantine”. Thus Fr. Gleb Yakunin writes: “From the beginning of the war and the church ‘renaissance’ that followed it, the feeling became stronger in the leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate that a wonderful act of Divine Providence in the historical process had happened in Russia. God’s instrument in this process was, in their opinion, the ‘wise, God-established’, ‘God-given Supreme Leader’.”
Together with the cult of Stalin went the enthusiastic acceptance of communist ideology. Thus just after the war the MP expressed itself as follows concerning the elections to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR: “On this day in all the cathedrals, churches and monasteries of our country there will be offered the bloodless Sacrifice, whose beginning was laid by Him Who brought into the world the ideas of love, justice and equality. Deeply moved church-servers will come out onto the ambons and bless their children to hurry from the churches to the voting urns. They will bless them to cast their votes for the candidates of the bloc of communists… They themselves will cast their votes… The ideal of such a person is – Stalin…”
However, the apotheosis of the Moscow Patriarchate’s “cult of the personality” of Stalin came on the occasion of Stalin’s birthday in 1949, when a “Greeting to the Leader of the peoples of the USSR” was addressed to Stalin in the name of the whole Church and published in The Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate (1949, N 12). “Without the slightest hesitation,” write Fr. Gleb Yakunin and a group of Orthodox Christians, “we can call this address the most shameful document ever composed in the name of the Church in the whole history of the existence of Christianity and still more in the thousand-year history of Christianity in Rus’.”
Again, on the day after Stalin’s death in March, 1953, Patriarch Alexis wrote to the USSR Council of Ministers: “In my own name and in the name of the Russian Orthodox Church I express my deepest and sincerest condolences on the death of the unforgettable Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin, the great builder of the people’s happiness. His death is a heavy grief for our Fatherland and all the peoples who dwell in it. His death has been taken with deep grief by the whole of the Russian Orthodox Church, which will never forget his benevolent attitude towards the needs of the Church. His radiant memory will never be erased from our hearts. Our Church intones ‘eternal memory’ to him with a special feeling of unceasing love.”
Again, in 1955 he declared: “The Russian Orthodox Church supports the totally peaceful foreign policy of our government, not because the Church allegedly lacks freedom, but because Soviet policy is just and corresponds to the Christian ideals which the Church preaches.”
Contrary to what is often believed, Stalin never changed his basic hostility to the Church. In 1947 he wrote to Suslov: “Do not forget about atheistic propaganda among the people”. The bloodletting in the camps continued; and from 1947 to 1953 not one church was opened, while more than 700 were subject to closure…
In response to the MP’s description of Stalin as “the chosen one of the Lord, who leads our fatherland to prosperity and glory”, Metropolitan Anastasy, first-hierarch of the ROCA, wrote that this was the point “where the subservience of man borders already on blasphemy. Really – can one tolerate that a person stained with blood from head to foot, covered with crimes like leprosy and poisoned deeply with the poison of godlessness, should be named ‘the chosen of the Lord’, could be destined to lead our homeland ‘to prosperity and glory’? Does this not amount to casting slander and abuse on God the Most High Himself, Who, in such a case, would be responsible for all the evil that has been going on already for many years in our land ruled by the Bolsheviks headed by Stalin? The atom bomb, and all the other destructive means invented by modern technology, are indeed less dangerous than the moral disintegration which the highest representatives of the civil and church authorities have put into the Russian soul by their example. The breaking of the atom brings with it only physical devastation and destruction, whereas the corruption of the mind, heart and will entails the spiritual death of a whole nation, after which there is no resurrection.”
The Volte-Face on Ecumenism
Thus the ultimate intention of the authorities – the complete destruction of the Church – remained unchanged in the post-war period. This fact was forcibly re-imposed upon the consciousness of believers in 1959-64, when most of the seminaries and monasteries and 12-15,000 of the parish churches, were closed. The Khrushchev persecution demonstrated how fragile and one-sided was the State-Church accord, and how easily the State’s concessions could be retracted without compunction or compensation.
Victor Aksyuchits writes: “After the Stalinist epoch ideology was forced to abandon its policy of total attack within the country and change to a tactic combining concessions with single-minded regional conquests. Destalinisation and the Khrushchev thaw expressed the necessity of once more narrowing the sphere of ideological pressure for the sake of preserving the power of communism. The authorities tried by all means to parasitize on the newly liberated realities – the strictly regulated democratization of some spheres of life. But the laws of the preservation of communism demand, in proportion to the weakening of ideological control in separate spheres, an increase in pressure on the spiritual centre of reality: cruel persecutions began against the Church and Christians. Their plan was completely to annihilate religion, but the authorities were forced to stop once again in the face of the prospect of massive martyrdom, which in the new historical situation could have severely undermined its international prestige and the internal strength of the USSR. Communism was once again forced to change its tactics and the direction of its blows.
“In the Moscow Church the authorities introduced the 1961 reform of unhappy memory, which presented them with new possibilities for destroying the organism of the Church from within. The priests were completely separated from the economic and financial administration of the parishes, and were only hired by agreement as ‘servants of the cult’ for ‘the satisfaction of religious needs’. The diocesan organs of administration of the life of the parishes were suspended… Now the atheist authorities not only carried out the ‘registration’ of the priests and ‘the executive organs’, but also took complete control of the economy and finances of the parishes, appointing the wardens and treasurers, and using all their rights, naturally, to promote the atheists’ aim of destroying the Church.”
Patriarch Alexis cooperated both with the 1961 statute on the parishes and with other measures harmful to the Church during the Khrushchev persecution. However, the greatest service that the patriarchate rendered to the Soviets in the post-war period was probably its entrance into the ecumenical movement and the World Council of Churches in December, 1960.
We have seen that, as late as the Moscow council of 1948, the Moscow Patriarchate, in obedience to its communist masters, had adopted an anti-western and anti-ecumenical position. However, this position began to change in the late 1950s, and as Fr. Sergius Gordun has demonstrated on the basis of recently declassified documents from the Soviet Council of Religious Affairs, the patriarchate was pushed into joining the WCC by the atheist head of the Council for Religious Affairs.
Thus on January 16, 1958, Metropolitan Nicholas asked the Council how he was to reply to the suggestion of the WCC general secretary that he meet representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church. Comrade Karpov, head of the Council for Religious Affairs, said that he should reply that they in principle agreed to a meeting in June-July of that year. Another important meeting took place between the new head of the Council for Religious Affairs, Kuroyedov, and Patriarch Alexis on June 15, 1960. “Kuroyedov declared that he had carefully studied the external activities of the Patriarchate and he had come to conclusion that the situation was quite unsatisfactory. ‘In recent years the Patriarchate has not undertaken a single major initiative for the unification of the Orthodox Churches around the Russian Orthodox Church headed by the Moscow Patriarchate – initiatives, that is, aimed at exposing the reactionary activities of the Pope of Rome and the intensification of the struggle for peace. The Patriarchate is not using those huge opportunities which she enjoys; she has not undertaken a single major action abroad… The Russian Orthodox Church is not emerging as a unifying centre for the Orthodox Churches of the world, usually she adopts a passive stance and only weakly exposes the slanderous propaganda concerning the position of religion and the Church in our country… The Council recommended to Metropolitan Nicholas that he work out suggestions for intensifying external work. However, Metropolitan Nicholas has not fulfilled this request of the Council and has put forward suggestions which in no way correspond to the requirements discussed with the metropolitan in this regard.’ Then Kuroyedov suggested that Metropolitan Nicholas be released from his duties as president of the Department of Foreign Relations and that they be imposed on another, more fitting person.”
The “suggestion” was accepted, Metropolitan Nicholas suddenly died (presumed murdered), and the new foreign relations supremo turned out to be Archimandrite Nicodemus (Rotov), whom we now know to have been a KGB agent with the code-name “Adamant” and a secret Catholic bishop entrusted by the Pope with the leadership of all the Catholics in the USSR!
Fr. Sergius continues: “The personality of Archimandrite Nicodemus (Rotov), later Metropolitan of Leningrad and Novgorod, is linked with the change in the position of the Moscow Patriarchate in relation to the ecumenical movement. As is well known, the Conference of the heads and representatives of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches, which took place in Moscow in 1948, accepted a resolution declaring that ‘the aims of the ecumenical movement… do not correspond to the ideals of Christianity and the tasks of the Church of Christ as those are understood by the Orthodox Church’. In this connection particular mention was made of the ecumenical movement’s turn towards involvement in social and political life, which was not acceptable for Orthodoxy. This position was maintained by the Moscow Patriarchate until 1960. In a conversation which took place on April 2, 1959, his Holiness Patriarch Alexis informed the Council about the attitude of the Russian Church to the ecumenical movement, and declared that she intended gradually to increase her links with the World Council of Churches and to send her observers to its most important conferences, but would not become a member of this organization. However, a year and a half later this position changed. In the notes of a conversation which took place between Patriarch Alexis and V.A. Kuroyedov on September 15, 1960, there is the following phrase: ‘The Patriarch accepted the recommendation of the Council concerning the entry of the Russian Orthodox Church into the membership of the World Council of Churches and evaluated this as a major action of the Russian Orthodox Church in its activities abroad.’ What was the aim of the Council for the affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church in recommending that the Russian Church enter the World Council of Churches? To conceal, it would seem, the anti-ecclesiastical policy of the Soviet government. Having cornered the Church, the Council wanted to create the image of a free and active Russian Church abroad…”
The KGB-enforced entry of the Moscow Patriarchate into the WCC had an immediate and devastating effect on the Orthodox position. For the Soviets not only constituted numerically the largest single Church in the WCC; they also controlled, through the KGB, all the other delegates from behind the iron curtain.
Communism and Ecumenism therefore met in the unholy union of “Ecucommunism”. As Deacon Andrew Kurayev writes: “Sergianism and Ecumenism intertwined. It was precisely on the instructions of the authorities that our hierarchy conducted its ecumenical activity, and it was precisely in the course of their work abroad that clergy who had been enrolled into the KGB were checked out for loyalty.”
The patriarchate entered the WCC at the Fourth General Assembly in New Delhi in December, 1960. Three months before that, however, the Orthodox Churches in the WCC met on Rhodes to establish a catalogue of topics to be discussed at a future Pan-Orthodox Council. This was used by the Moscow Patriarchate as a way of ensuring that no topic which might prove embarrassing to the Soviet government would be discussed.
For, as Gordienko and Novikov write, “in the course of the debate on the catalogue, the Moscow Patriarchate’s delegation suggested the removal of some of the subjects (The Development of Internal and External Missionary Work, The Methods of Fighting Atheism and False Doctrines Like Theosophy, Spiritism, Freemasonry, etc.) and the addition of some others (Cooperation between the Local Orthodox Churches in the Realisation of the Christian Ideas of Peace, Fraternity and Love among Peoples, Orthodoxy and Racial Discrimination, Orthodoxy and the Tasks of Christians in Regions of Rapid Social Change)… Besides working out the topics for the future Pre-Council, the First Conference passed the decision ‘On the Study of Ways for Achieving Closer Contacts and Unity of Churches in a Pan-Orthodox Perspective’, envisaging the search for contacts with Ancient Eastern (non-Chalcedonian) Churches (Monophysites), the Old Catholic, Anglican, Catholic, and Protestant Churches, as well as the World Council of Churches.”
In other words, the Orthodox henceforth were to abandon the struggle against Atheism, Freemasonry and other false religions, and were to engage in dialogue towards union with all the Christian heretics – while at the same time persecuting the True Orthodox and using ecumenical forums to further the ends of Soviet foreign policy in its struggle with the Capitalist West!
This “Communist Christianity” again appeared in an encyclical of the patriarchate “in connection with the Great October Socialist Revolution”, which supposedly “turned into reality the dreams of many generations of people. It made all the natural riches of the land and means of production into the inheritance of the people. It changed the very essence of human relations, making all our citizens equal and excluding from our society any possibility of enmity between peoples of difference races and nationalities, of different persuasions, faiths and social conditions.”
The Church in the Catacombs
Meanwhile, the Catacomb Church continued to exist, albeit with extreme difficulty. On July 7, 1944, Beria wrote to Stalin asking permission for the deportation of 1,673 Catacomb Christians from the Ryazan, Voronezh and Orel regions to Siberia. He described the Catacomb Christians as “leading a parasitical way of life, not paying taxes, refusing to fulfil their obligations and service, and forbidding their children to go to school.”
According to Andreyev, “the Underground or Catacomb Church in Soviet Russia underwent her hardest trials after February 4th, 1945, that is, after the enthronement of the Soviet Patriarch Alexis. Those who did not recognize him were sentenced to new terms of imprisonment and were sometimes shot. Those who did recognize him and gave their signature to that effect were often liberated before their terms expired and received appointments… All secret priests detected in the Soviet zone of Germany were shot. All priests who did not recognize Patriarch Alexis were also shot…”
Towards the end of the war the NKVD GULAG administration made the following decisions: “1. To enrol qualified agents from among the prisoners who are churchmen and sectarians, ordering them to uncover the facts concerning the anti-Soviet activity of these prisoners. 2. In the process of the agents’ work on the prisoners, to uncover their illegal links with those in freedom and coordinate the work of these links with the corresponding organs of the NKVD.”
As a result of these instructions, many catacomb organizations among the prisoners were liquidated. For example, “in the Ukhtoizhemsky ITL an anti-Soviet group of churchmen prisoners was liquidated. One of the leaders of this group, the priest Ushakov, composed prayers and distributed them among the prisoners. It turned out that he had illegal links with a Bishop Galynsky [one of the most important Catacomb hierarchs]”
Some important Catacomb bishops, such as Athanasius (Sakharov) of Kovrov and the Leningrad Protopriest Basil Veryuzhsky, apostasised to the Soviet church at this time. Only in the central regions of Tambov, Lipetsk, Ryazan and Voronezh was there a certain increase in catacomb activity, which was remarkable also for the large number of young people who took leading positions in the movement. But a new wave of persecution in the early 1950s sharply reduced the numbers of Catacomb Christians active in these regions, too.
And so the True Christians retreated deeper and deeper into the catacombs, fearing false brethren and abandoning all hope of influencing the broad masses of the people in the near future. The greatest destroyers remained the patriarchal priests. Thus Archbishop Lazarus writes: “The catacomb believers feared the Moscow Patriarchate priests even more than the police. Whenever a priest came for some reason or other, he was met by a feeling of dread. The catacomb people would say, ‘A red detective has come.’ He was sent deliberately, and he was obliged to report everything to the authorities. Not infrequently, hierarchs and priests told the people outright, directly from the ambon, ‘Look around, Orthodox people. There are those who do not come to church. Find out who they are and report to us; these are enemies of the Soviet regime who stand in the way of the building of Socialism.’ We were very much afraid of these sergianist-oriented priests.”
However, in the 1950s there was still quite a large net of catacomb communities served by many wandering priests and a few holy bishops, such as Peter (Ladygin) (+1957) and Barnabas (Belyaev) (+1963).
The sufferings of the Catacomb priests and believers is illustrated by the life of a Catacomb priest from Vyatka province, who was on the run from the authorities for nearly fifty years: “Can a man living in freedom stand what a hunted man experiences…? It is hard for us to understand now how real and terrible that threat was. 40 people suffered for Fr. Nicetas at one time. Batyushka went from place to place, they couldn’t catch him, so they began to arrest his spiritual children. One woman was arrested just for giving him some cream. It seems that in her simplicity she didn’t think of hiding that from the persecutors. They tortured those whom they arrested, beat them, demanding the addresses where batyushka was hiding.
“Among those arrested was Matushka Catherine Golovanova. She was arrested twice. The first time they came and tried to torture her to reveal where Fr. Nicetas was; two policmen dressed in civil clothes took her to the house which they had under surveillance – an elderly man and his wife were living there. On seeing matushka, they rejoiced, and the wife, thinking that matushka was accompanied by her own people, started to talk joyfully. Matushka couldn’t stop her because the police were careful that she not give her any sign. The woman gave away the secret of Fr. Nicetas’ whereabouts: ‘O Matushka, dear one, how are you? You know, we accompanied Fr. Nicetas like this: we hung a bag full of shoes on him and he went…’ Matushka finally succeeded in winking at her, the woman stopped short. ‘Well, why have you stopped?’ asked the searchers. ‘I remember nothing…’ ‘We’ll lean on you now – you’ll remember.’ They took off their outer clothing, under which, as under a sheep skin, was the inner wolf – policeman’s uniforms and guns. But it was already late, and the exhausted police wanted to go to sleep. One was dozing at the table, the other was at the threshold – he was evidently guarding the door to prevent matushka running away. Matushka waited and waited, then she opened a window and ran away. She was on the run for half a year, and then they arrested her again. ‘Well, then,” they said, “how did you run away?’ ‘How? Well, they were sleeping and I thought: why should I simply sit here, I opened the window and left.’ ‘You did well,’ they said. But now they didn’t doze. They condemned all forty at one go (according to another source – thirty at the beginning). Matushka Golovanova was the chief culprit. They really gave it to her at the interrogation: many years later Matushka S. saw scars from the interrogations on her back.
“They tortured them so much that some of them couldn’t stand it and revealed the addresses where they could find Fr. Nicetas; but it seems that the pursuers had so despaired of catching Fr. Nicetas that they didn’t believe them even when they told them the truth.
“At the trial one woman in her simplicity said: ‘If you let me go, I’ll go to Fr. Nicetas again the same day.’ Not believing her, they said: ‘We’ve been looking for him for so many years without finding him, and you’ll find where he is in one day?!’
“They gave Fr. Nicetas’ parishioners sentences of many years in length. Matushka Golovanova was given twelve years, two of them in a lock-up…
“While Fr. Nicetas’ spiritual children were going to suffer, he himself had another thirty years of suffering and wanderings ahead of him. And he was surrounded by the sufferings of the people; the war tormented Russia, their own Russian people tormented the Russian people.”
Many Catacomb Christians were thrown out of their homes and forced to live in dug-outs eating grass and roots. Heavy extra taxes were imposed on them and they were forced to work on dangerous sites. In the war they had refused to join the Red Army, and after the war they sometimes refused even to use electricity and radio, considering it to be “Ilyich’s lamp” and “a gift of the Antichrist”. They refused to allow their children to be taught Marxism-Leninism or join the pioneer and komsomol movements, and so often had their children taken away from them.
By the beginning of the 1960s, however, the pressure was beginning to wane. Thus “when, in 1961,” writes Archbishop Lazarus, “the priests’ rights were taken away from them and given to the church council, they quieted down and it was easier for us; at least we could get to our priests and priests began more freely to come to us, to confess and commune us. From 1961 the Moscow Patriarchate calmed down in its attitude towards us. Of course, when foreigners asked representatives of the M.P., ‘Does a catacomb church exist?’ the answer was always ‘No’. That was a lie. There were catacomb believers all over Russia, just as there are today…”
The relaxation of pressure from the patriarchate was almost certainly a result of the fact that the patriarchate was now the object of persecution itself. Although the numbers of believers killed and imprisoned was only a fraction of the numbers in earlier persecutions, the Khrushchev persecution of 1959-64 closed some thousands of patriarchal churches and forced many patriarchal priests to serve illegally. These “pseudo-catacombs”, as one catacomb bishop has called them, did not merge with the True Orthodox Church and continued to commemorate the Soviet patriarch.
The Passportless Movement
However, another government measure of this period served to swell the numbers of the True Orthodox Church considerably. In 1961 new legislation against secret Christians was passed, of which the most important was the legislation on passports.
Now passportisation had been introduced into the Soviet Union only in 1932, and only for the most urbanized areas. Already then it was used as a means of winkling out Catacomb Christians. Thus Shkvarovsky writes: “Completing their liquidation of the Josephites, there was a meeting of regional inspectors for cultic matters on March 16, 1933, at a time when passportisation was being introduced. The meeting decided, on the orders of the OGPU, ‘not to give passports to servants of the cult of the Josephite confession of faith’, which meant automatic expulsion from Leningrad. Similar things happened in other major cities of the USSR.”
Catacomb hierarchs did not bless their spiritual children to take passports because in filling in the forms the social origins and record of Christians was revealed, making them liable to persecution. Also Catacomb Christians did not want to receive what they considered to be the seal of the Antichrist, or to declare themselves citizens of the antichristian kingdom.
In the 1930s the peasants had not been given passports but were chained to the land which they worked. They were herded into the collective farms and forced to do various things against their conscience, such as vote for the communist officials who had destroyed their way of life and their churches. Those who refused to do this – refusals were particularly common in the Lipetsk, Tambov and Voronezh areas – were rigorously persecuted, and often left to die of hunger. Thus passportisation in the cities and collectivisation in the countryside constituted two forms of the Bolsheviks’ struggle to force everyone in the country to accept the Soviet ideology.
On May 4, 1961, however, the Soviet government issued its decree on “parasitism” and introduced its campaign for general passportisation. In local papers throughout the country it was announced that, in order to receive a Soviet passport, a citizen of the USSR would have to recognize all the laws of Soviet power, past and present, beginning from Lenin’s decrees. Since this involved, in effect, a recognition of all the crimes of Soviet power, a movement arose to reject Soviet passports, a movement which was centred mainly in the country areas among those peasants and their families who had rejected collectivization in the 1930s.
E.A. Petrova writes: “Protests against general passportisation arose among Christians throughout the vast country. A huge number of secret Christians who had passports began to reject, destroy and burn them and loudly, for all to hear, renounce Soviet citizenship. Many Christians from the patriarchal church also gave in their passports. There were cases in which as many as 200 people at one time went up to the local soviet and gave in their passports. In one day the whole of a Christian community near Tashkent gave in 100 passports at once. Communities in Kemerovo and Novosibirsk provinces gave in their passports, and Christians in the Altai area burned their passports… Protests against general passportisation broke out in Belorussia, in the Ukraine, and in the Voronezh, Tambov and Ryazan provinces… Christians who renounced their Soviet passports began to be seized, imprisoned and exiled. But in spite of these repressions the movement of the passportless Christians grew and became stronger. It was precisely in these years that the Catacomb Church received a major influx from Christians of the patriarchal church who renounced Soviet passports and returned into the bosom of the True Orthodox Church.”
In the 1970s the detailed questionnaires required in order to receive passports were abandoned, but in 1974 it was made obligatory for all Soviet citizens to have a passport, and a new, red passport differing significantly from the old, green one was issued for everyone except prisoners and the hospitalized. Its cover had the words: “Passport of a citizen of the Soviet Socialist Republics”, together with a hammer and sickle, which was still unacceptable to the passportless, who therefore continued to be subject to prison, exile and hunger. Those who joined the Catacomb Church at this time often erased the word “citizen”, replacing it with the word “Christian”, so that they had a “Passport of a Christian of the Soviet Socialist Republics”.
The issue of passports is of greater theological and practical importance than might at first appear. In essence it comes down to the question whether the Soviet State can be considered “Caesar” to which “the things of Caesar” are due (payment of taxes, civic loyalty, army service), or “the collective Antichrist”, obedience to whom involves compromises that are unacceptable for the Christian conscience. Although the majority of members of the True Russian Church in this century have not made an issue of this, it remains debatable whether obedience to the 1918 anathema against the Bolsheviks does not in fact require rejection of the Soviet State, Soviet passports, Soviet army service, etc., in a way that only the passportless demonstrated. Since the fall of communism in 1991, as we shall see, the possession of passports has ceased to be such a burning issue (its place has been taken by that of the new identity cards with the number 666).
The ROCA Undecided
The situation in the ROCA began to stabilise after the Synod moved its headquarters to New York. With regard to the MP, on October 14/27, 1953, the Sobor decreed that “in cases where it is revealed that those who have received their rank from the hierarchy of the MP by the Communists with the intention of preaching in holy orders the Communist principles of atheism, such an ordination is recognized as neither grace-bearing nor legal.” And on October 27 / November 9, 1959 the Sobor decreed that in cases where doubts arise as to whether the clergyman applying to be received into the ROCA was “a conscious agent of the atheist government”, the ordination of such a clergyman was not to be recognized as valid and he was to be “received by public repentance and, moreover, a penance may be imposed on him under the supervision of the Diocesan Bishop.”
However, until Metropolitan Anastasy’s retirement in 1964, no major decision was taken as to the status, in the ROCA’s eyes, of “World Orthodoxy” – neither of the Moscow Patriarchate, nor of the other Local Churches which were in full communion with Moscow. Concelebrations continued intermittently with both the Greek new calendarists and with the Serbian and Jerusalem patriarchates (the ROCA owned several monasteries and other property in the Holy Land). New calendar dioceses of Bulgarians and Romanians, French and Dutch were formed under the aegis of the ROCA Synod (usually on the initiative of Archbishop John (Maximovich) of Western Europe). The ROCA was neither in official communion with World Orthodoxy nor clearly separated from it: it existed in a kind of canonical limbo, a Russian Church Outside Russia of almost global jurisdiction but claiming to be part of the Russian Church Inside Russia. The question was: which Russian Church inside Russia was it part of, which was the “Mother Church” – the Moscow Patriarchate or the Catacomb Church?
The answer to this question was left deliberately vague. On the one hand, there was clearly no communion with the hierarchy of the MP, which was seen to have compromised itself with communism and whose patriarch was considered to have been uncanonically elected. On the other hand, communion was said never to have been broken with the suffering people of Russia. But which people was being talked about? The Soviet people, or the True Orthodox Russians of the Catacombs?
Metropolitan Anastasy appears to have considered the “Mother Church” to have been the Moscow Patriarchate – although he was clearly not in communion with it. Thus he wrote to Metropolitan Theophilus of New York: “Your proposed union with the Patriarchate has not only a spiritual, but a canonical character, and binds you with the consequences. Such a union would be possible only if the Mother Church were completely free…”
Many Catacomb priests were commemorating Metropolitan Anastasy at this time. They would have been surprised – and shocked – to learn that he considered the “Mother Church” of Russia to be their deadly enemy, the Moscow Patriarchate. Nor would they have agreed with the idea that the only difference between the True Church and the false was the relative lack of freedom of the latter…
On other occasions, however, Metropolitan Anastasy showed that he had not forgotten the Catacomb Church. Thus in 1961 he declared, in the name of the whole Church Abroad: “We consider ourselves to be in spiritual unity precisely with the Secret Church, but not with the official administration of the Moscow Patriarchate led by Patriarch Alexis, which is permitted by the atheist government and carries out all its commands…”
This kind of ambiguity in relation to the Church in Russia was displayed by other leading hierarchs of the ROCA. Thus in 1955 Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko) of Jordanville made two diametrically opposed statements in one and the same book. First he wrote, in the spirit of the Catacomb Church: “The patriarchate has destroyed the essential dogma of the Church of Christ, and has rejected Her essential mission – to serve the regeneration of men, and has replaced it by the service of the godless aims of communism, which is unnatural for the Church. This falling away is more bitter than all the previous Arianisms, Nestorianisms, Iconoclasms, etc. And this is not the personal sin of one or another hierarch, but the root sin of the Moscow Patriarchate, confirmed, proclaimed and bound by an oath in front of the world. It is, so to speak, dogmatized apostasy…”
This is an inspired definition: dogmatized apostasy. Not simply apostasy in the face of overwhelming external force, “for fear of the Jews”, but dogmatized apostasy – that is, apostasy justified, sanctified, raised to the level of a dogma. When apostasy is justified in this way, it becomes deeper, more serious and more difficult to cure. It becomes an error of the mind as well as a disease of the will. For it is one thing for a churchman out of weakness to submit himself and his church to the power of the world and of the Antichrist. That is his personal tragedy, and the tragedy of those who follow him, but it is not heresy. It is quite another thing for the same churchman to make the same submission “not for wrath, but for conscience’s sake” (Romans 13.5) – to use the words of the apostle as perverted by Sergius in his declaration. For this shows that the churchman has in fact suppressed his conscience, both his personal consience and his Church consciousness. This is both heresy and apostasy.
However, only a few pages later, Archbishop Vitaly writes that the Providence of God had placed before the ROCA the duty “of not tearing itself away from the basic massif, the body, the root of the Mother Church: in the depths of this massif, which is now only suffocated by the weight of Bolshevism, there are even now preserved the spiritual treasures of Her millennial exploit. But we must not recognise Her contemporary official leaders, who have become the obedient instrument of the godless authorities.”
As V.K. justly comments: “In these words is contained a manifest incongruity. How did Archbishop Vitaly want, without recognising the official leadership of the MP, at the same time not to be torn away from its body? Is it possible ‘to preserve the spiritual treasures’ in a body whose head has become ‘the obedient instrument of the godless authorities’ (that is, the servants of satan and the antichrist), as he justly writes of the sergianist leaders?... The Holy Scriptures say: ‘If the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches’ (Romans 11.16). And on the other hand: ‘A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit’ (Matthew 7.18).”
A few pages later in the same book, Archbishop Vitaly writes that we must speak about “our great duty before the Mother Russian Church [i.e. the Moscow Patriarchate] “with complete love and devotion to Her, with profound reverence before the exploit of Patriarch Sergius…”! Unfortunately, as V.K. again justly points out, the archbishop did not succeeded in clarifying in what the great “exploit” of “Patriarch” Sergius – the greatest traitor in the history of the Russian Church – consisted.
Such ambiguity continued to be spoken and practised in the ROCA for decades to come. It gradually undermined her confessing stance, as became known also to the Catacomb Church at the fall of communism. However, it did not lead immediately to communion with the MP. And in his last will and testament Metropolitan Anastasy issued an important warning against any hasty union with the MP: “As regards the Moscow Patriarchate and its hierarchs, then, so long as they continue in close, active and benevolent cooperation with the Soviet Government, which openly professes its complete godlessness and strives to implant atheism in the entire Russian nation, then the Church Abroad, maintaining her purity, must not have any canonical, liturgical, or even simply external communion with them whatsoever, leaving each one of them at the same time to the final judgement of the Sobor of the future free Russian Church…”
Metropolitan Anastasy’s rule represents a “holding operation”, a preservation of the status quo in a very difficult period interrupted by the chaos of the Second World War. If it left certain important question unanswered – questions which would have to be answered unambiguously sooner or later, - it at any rate kept the voice of opposition to the MP alive in the West. But the bad seeds that had been sown by infiltrators were not uprooted; and in the 1960s, as Archbishop Averky of Syracuse remarked in a letter to the ROCA’s new chief-hierarch, Metropolitan Philaret, “a tendency has appeared among a small group of bishops to create ‘its own party’ and strive for all power in the Church, scandals have begun among us which, alas, are leading our Church to destruction, all the while broadening and deepening their activity from that time until now.”
As we shall see in more detail in the next chapter, the ROCA began to be forced to define its attitude to “World Orthodoxy” more precisely in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when the first contacts were made between the ROCA and the Greek Old Calendarist Church – first with the “Florinite” branch, and then also with the “Matthewites”. At this point two parties began to appear: the one in favour of retaining communion with “World Orthodoxy” and the new calendarists, which was led by Archbishop Anthony of Geneva, and the other opposed to such communion, which led by Archbishops Anthony of Los Angeles and Averky of Syracuse.
These more-or-less concealed divisions in the ROCA came to the surface again when Metropolitan Anastasius died in 1964. There was such animosity between the supporters of the two candidates for the vacant post of metropolitan, Archbishops Nicon and John Maximovich, that to avoid a schism Archbishop John withdrew his own candidature and put forward in his place the youngest bishop, Philaret (Voskresensky) of Brisbane. The suggestion was then universally accepted, and Bishop Philaret was enthroned as metropolitan in a service that used the ancient text for the enthroning of a metropolitan of Moscow for the first time in centuries.
The new metropolitan faced a daunting task. For he had, on the one hand, to lead his Church in decisively denouncing the apostasy of World Orthodoxy, communion with which could no longer be tolerated. And on the other, he had to preserve unity among the members of his own Synod, some of whom were in spirit closer to “World Orthodoxy” than True Orthodoxy…
Muscovite Ecumenism and the Metropolia
Meanwhile, the Moscow Patriarchate, under the leadership of the KGB general, Metropolitan of Leningrad and secret Catholic bishop Nicodemus (Rotov), was taking large strides in the international ecumenical forum. Thus in October, 1969, Metropolitan Nicodemus gave communion to Catholic students in the Russicum in Rome. This was followed, on December 16, by a decision of the Russian Holy Synod to give permission to Orthodox clergy to administer the sacraments to Old Believers and Catholics.
This decision created “amazement, sorrow and perplexity” in the Greek Church, and “a new and problematic situation, from the ecumenical, pastoral and theological standpoint”, according to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
And yet had not Athenagoras said that hierarchs and theologians should not stand in the way of the people’s path to intercommunion? It is difficult to regard this reaction of the Greek new calendarists as anything other than jealousy at the Russian Church’s jumping ahead in the ecumenical race. And it did not in any case lead to any decisive action.
More serious was the ruling of the Synod of the ROCA “to consider the decision of the Moscow Patriarchate granting Roman Catholics access to all the sacraments of the Orthodox Church as in violation of the holy canons and contrary to Orthodox dogmatical doctrines. Entering thus into communion with the heterodox, the Moscow Patriarchate estranges itself from the unity of the holy Fathers and Doctors of the Church. By its action it does not sanctify the heretics to whom it offers the sacraments, but it itself becomes part of their heresy.”
Archbishop Averky of the ROCA commented on this decision: “Now, even if some entertained some sort of doubts about how we should regard the contemporary Moscow Patriarchate, and whether we can consider it Orthodox after its intimate union with the enemies of God, the persecutors of the Faith and Christ’s Church, these doubts must now be completely dismissed: by the very fact that it has entered into liturgical communion with the Papists, it has fallen away from Orthodoxy [emphasis in the original] and can no longer be considered Orthodox…”
The decision of the Moscow Patriarchate to give communion to Catholics put the other Russian jurisdiction in North America, the Metropolia, into a difficult position; for in the early 1960s the Metropolia (a body in schism from the ROCA since 1946) had been, through Fathers John Meyendorff and Alexander Schmemann, among the most conservative participants in the ecumenical movement.
However, this Church had been secretly negotiating with the Moscow Patriarchate for a grant of autocephaly. According to the deal eventually agreed upon, the patriarchate was to declare the Metropolia to be the autocephalous Orthodox Church of America (OCA) in exchange for the Japanese parishes of the Metropolia coming within the jurisdiction of the patriarchate. This deal, which was recognized by none of the other Autocephalous Churches and was to the advantage, in the long run, only of the patriarchate and the KGB, was made public in December, 1969 – just at the moment that the patriarchate announced that it had entered into partial communion with the Catholics. Thus the former Metropolia found that it had been granted autocephaly by a Church that was now in communion with the Catholics.
Naturally, this dealt a death blow to such anti-ecumenist opinion as still existed in that Church, which left the Russian Church Abroad and the Greek Old Calendarists – including, in 1970, eleven out of the twenty monasteries on Mount Athos – as the only Churches still free from, and able to speak openly against, the heresy of Ecumenism.
In its judgement on the OCA’s autocephaly, the 1971 ROCA Council of Bishops passed over the heretical, ecumenist aspect of the matter, and concentrated on the illegality of the church that had given the autocephaly:-
“The Council of Bishops, having listened to the report of the Synod of Bishops concerning the so-called Metropolia’s having received autocephaly from the Patriarchate of Moscow, approves all the steps taken in due course by the Synod of Bishops to convince Metropolitan Irinei and his colleagues of the perniciousness of a step which deepens the division which was the result of the decision of the Cleveland Council of 1946 which broke away from the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
“The American Metropolia has received its autocephaly from the Patriarchate of Moscow, which has not possessed genuine canonical succession from His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon from the time when Metropolitan Sergii, who later called himself Patriarch, violated his oath with regard to Metropolitan Petr, the locum tenens of the patriarchal throne, and set out upon a path which was then condemned by the senior hierarchs of the Church of Russia. Submitting all the more to the commands of the atheistic, anti-Christian regime, the Patriarchate of Moscow has ceased to be that which expresses the voice of the Russian Orthodox Church. For this reason, as the Synod of Bishops has correctly declared, none of its acts, including the bestowal of autocephaly upon the American Metropolia, has legal force. Furthermore, apart from this, this act, which affects the rights of many Churches, has elicited definite protests on the part of a number of Orthodox Churches, who have even severed communion with the American Metropolia.
“Viewing this illicit act with sorrow, and acknowledging it to be null and void, the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, which has hitherto not abandoned hope for the restoration of ecclesiastical unity in America, sees in the declaration of American autocephaly a step which will lead the American Metropolia yet farther away from the ecclesiastical unity of the Church of Russia. Perceiving therein a great sin against the enslaved and suffering Church of Russia, the Council of Bishops DECIDES: henceforth, neither the clergy nor the laity [of the Russian Church Abroad] are to have communion in prayer or the divine services with the hierarchy or clergy of the American Metropolia.”
However, before leaving the ill-fated Metropolia, let us listen to its last Orthodox statement on Ecumenism, which was issued by the Great Council of the Russian Metropolia in March, 1969: “The basic goal of the ecumenical movement.. is the unity of all Christians in one single body of grace. And here the Orthodox Church firmly confesses that such a genuine unity is founded, above all, on the unity of faith, on the unanimous acceptance by all of the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Traditions as they are wholly and integrally preserved by the Church. Real love for brothers separated from us [sic – a misleading description of heretics, who are not our brothers in Christ] consists therefore not in silencing all that divides us, but in a courageous witness to the Truth, which alone can unite us all, and also in a common search for the ways to make that Truth evident to all. Only in this way did the Orthodox Church always understand her participation in the ecumenical movement…
“However, within the ecumenical movement there has always existed another understanding of unity. This other understanding seems to become more popular today. It recognizes virtually no importance at all in agreement in faith and doctrine, and is based on relativism, i.e., on the affirmation that the doctrinal or canonical teachings of the Church, being ‘relative’, are not obligatory for all. Unity is viewed as already existing, and nothing remains to be done except to express it and strengthen it through ecumenical manifestations or services. Such an approach is totally incompatible with the Orthodox concept of the ecumenical movement.
“The differences between these two approaches is nowhere better manifested than in the attitudes towards concelebration and intercommunion among divided Christians. According to the Orthodox doctrine, the prayers and the sacraments of the Church, especially the Divine Eucharist, are expressions of full unity – in faith, in life, in service of God and man – as given by God. This unity with other Christians we seek, but we have not reached it yet. Therefore in the Orthodox understanding, no form of concelebration, i.e., no joint participation in liturgical prayer or the sacraments, with those who do not belong to the Orthodox Church can be permitted, for it would imply a unity which in reality does not exist. It would imply deceiving ourselves, deceiving others, and creating the impression that the Orthodox Church acknowledges that which in fact she does not acknowledge.”
6. GREECE AND THE BALKANS: ONSLAUGHT FROM THE WEST (1939-1970)
He shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant;
but the people who know their God shall stand firm.
The Genocide of the Serbian Orthodox
The kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes had been formed after the First World War. In accordance with the plan of the major world powers, it was a centralized State ruled by a Serbian Orthodox king and a parliament. The Catholic Croats resented the power of the Serbs, and tension between the two communities was high throughout the inter-war period. In 1934 King Alexander was assassinated in Marseilles by the Croat terrorist organization, the Ustashi. Then in 1935 a concordat was signed between the Yugoslav government and the Vatican, which was passed by parliament but opposed by the Serbian Orthodox Church because it seemed to offer the Catholic Church greater privileges than the Orthodox Church. On July 23, 1937, a protest demonstration led by bishops and priests was roughly dispersed by the police, as a result of which Patriarch Barnabas died on the same day. Although the prime minister refrained from sending the concordat to the Senate for ratification, and although an agreement reached in 1939 established an autonomous region of Croatia with Zagreb as its capital, the situation was still very grave at the time of the German invasion in April, 1941.
Deserted by the Croats, the Serbian resistance was soon crushed. The Germans arrested Patriarch Gabriel, but although the patriarch was to spend the whole war in prisons and concentration camps, he refused to collaborate. Meanwhile, the Bulgarians had occupied Yugoslav Macedonia and expelled Metropolitan Joseph of Skopje and Bishop Vincent of Zletovo-Strumica, together with many Serbian priests, to Serbia.
Metropolitan Joseph now took over the leadership of the crippled Church, which suffered terribly throughout the territory of Yugoslavia. Bishop Nicholas Velimirovich was interned in Dachau; Bishop Seraphim of Raska-Prizren died in prison in Tirana in 1945; seven priests and thousands of laity were killed by the Hungarians in Vojvodina; the Bulgarians expelled the Serbian clergy from Macedonia; and the Italians occupied Montenegro and Kosovo. But by far the worst atrocities were committed against the Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia by the Ustashi and the Catholic Church in the newly independent state of Croatia, which had been given de facto recognition by the Vatican.
On April 28, 1941, the Catholic Archbishop Stepinac of Zagreb issued an appeal rapturously praising the Ustashi regime of Ante Pavlevic and calling on all Catholic priests to collaborate with it. This was three days after the government had issued a series of decrees banning the Cyrillic script, closing all Orthodox schools, imposing a special tax on the patriarchate, forcing all Serbs to wear coloured armbands with the letter “P” (for Pravoslovac – Orthodox) and banning the use of the term “Serbian Orthodox religion”. On June 22 the minister of education said that one third of the Serbs in Croatia would be expelled, one third killed and one third converted to Catholicism.
In July the arrests of Serbs began. By the autumn over 15,000 Serbs had passed through the camps, and by 1943 there were 300,000 Serbia refugees from Croatia in Serbia. Metropolitan Dositheus of Zagreb, Bishop Sabbas of Karlovac, Bishop Plato of Banja Luka and Metropolitan Peter of Bosnia were all killed.
Joachim Wertz writes: “In many villages the massacres followed a certain pattern. The Ustashi would arrive and assemble all the Serbs. They would then order them to convert to Catholicism. Those who refused, as the majority did, were told to assemble in their local Orthodox parish church. They would then lock them in the church and set it ablaze. In this manner many Orthodox men, women and children perished in scores of Serbian settlements.”
According to Archbishop Stepinac’s report to the Pope on May 8, 1944, 240,000 Serbs apostasised to Catholicism. However, many of these returned to Orthodoxy after the war. Hundreds of churches were destroyed or desecrated, and vast amounts of property were confiscated from the Orthodox Serbs. According to German Nazi figures, about 750,000 Orthodox Serbs were killed, including five bishops and 177 other clergy. 200,000 of these perished in the notorious camp of Jasenovac alone in conditions of appalling brutality, 40,000 of them on the orders of the Franciscan Father Filipovich. Bishop Nicholas Velimirovich inscribed these martyrs into the Church calendar for August 31: “The 700,000 who suffered for the Orthodox faith at the hands of the Roman crusaders and Ustashi during the time of the Second World War. These are the New Serbian Martyrs.”
One of those martyred in Jasenovac was an old man called Vukashin. He was standing “in an aura of peace and joy, softly praying to Christ. The executioner was greatly angered by the old man’s peacefulness and saintly composure, and he ordered that he be dragged to the place of execution.
“St. Vukashin was given the usual charge, ‘Accept the Pope or die a most terrible death’.
“The old man signed himself with the honourable Cross and peacefully intoned, ‘Just do your job, my son’.
“The executioner trembled with anger. He brutally slashed off one of the saint’s ears, repeating his charge. The Holy Martyr again peacefully replied, ‘Just continue to do your job, my son.’ And so the irrational persecutor continued: first the other ear, then the nose, and the fingers one by one. Like a new James of Persia, St. Vukashin was ‘pruned as a sacred grapevine of God.’ With each grisly and bloody cut, the noble Vukashin, filled with peace and joy by the Holy Spirit, calmly replied, ‘Just continue to do your job, my son.’
“At length, the vicious torturer gouged out the eyes of the martyr, and the saint once more replied, ‘Just continue to do your job, my son.’ With that, the executioner flew into a rage and slew the holy martyr. Almost immediately, the executioner lost his mind and went completely mad.”
In February, 1942, Dr. Privislav Grisogno, a Catholic member of the former Yugoslav cabinet, wrote in protest to Archbishop Stepinac: “Our Catholic church has participated in these crimes, worse than pagan, in two ways. First, a large number of priests, friars and organized Catholic youth actively participated in all these crimes; but more terrible, Catholic priests became camp commanders and ordered or tolerated the horrible tortures, murders and massacres of a baptized people. One Catholic priest slit the throat of an Orthodox Serbian priest… The bishops gave their consent, by acquiescence at least… One bishop has decried the fate of the innocent Christian Serbs who have suffered more than the Jews of Germany. I write this to save my soul and leave it to you (Archbishop Stepinac) to find a way to save your soul.”
Although some have claimed that Stepinac tried to restrain the murderers, there can be no doubt about his fanatical hatred of Orthodoxy. Thus on March 27 and 28, 1941, he wrote in his diary: “The spirit of Byzantium – that is, of the Eastern Orthodox Church – is something so terrible that only the Omnipotent and Omniscient God could tolerate it… The schism of the Eastern Orthodox Church is the greatest curse in Europe, almost worse than Protestantism.”
In 1946 Stepinac was tried by the communist government, found guilty of treason to the State and the murder of Serbs, and imprisoned for five years. On coming out of prison he was awarded a cardinal’s hat by the Vatican, and is now a candidate for canonization!…
“Altogether it has been estimated that up to 250,000 people [of all the nations of Yugoslavia] were killed by Tito’s mass shootings, forced death marches and concentration camps in the period 1945-6.”
Among these was the leader of the royalist chetnik resistance to the partisans, Draza Mikhailovic, who was executed by the communists on July 4/17, 1946, and is venerated as a new martyr by the Free Serbs of America (who have now returned to the patriarchate).
However, after a few years of resistance most of the Church leadership allowed itself to be drawn into the communist orbit. Serbian hierarchs were present at the false Moscow councils of 1945 and 1948; and so-called associations of priests controlled by the communists were infiltrated into the Church of Serbia, as into the Church of neighbouring Bulgaria.
The Free Serbs write: “A report dated October 18, 1961 and prepared by the United States Senate’s Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and Other Internal Security Laws of the Committee on the Judiciary, traces the way in which the hierarchy of the Mother Church passed under the control of the atheist government of Communist Yugoslavia: ‘… After the liberation of Yugoslavia, the Communists began persecuting all religions. Immediately after the war, the Orthodox Metropolitan of Montenegro, Joanikije Lipovac, and 70 of his priests were killed. A number of Orthodox priests were put in jails and, in 1947, American-born Bishop Barnabas Nastic was sentenced to 11 years in prison [where he died in mysterious circumstances]. Patriarch Gabriel died in 1950. After his death, the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church wanted to elect as the new patriarch a strong man, Metropolitan Joseph Cvijovic, of Skopje. To prevent this, the regime ordered his arrest. Then it made certain that the new patriarch would be a ‘cooperative’ one, and forced the election of a weak man, Bishop Vikentije Prodanov, who became a manageable tool of communist propaganda.’”
The Bulgarian Church suffered a similar fate at this time; and in Bulgaria, as in Russia and Serbia, the downfall of the Church was preceded by the downfall of her protector, the Orthodox monarchy. During the war, King Boris III, probably the last truly Orthodox monarch, had tried to preserve his country’s neutrality between Hitler and Stalin, and had refused to allow the Bulgarian Jews to be taken to Hitler’s death-camps; for which he was killed in 1943. Then his brother, Prince Cyril, became regent and continued the same policy; but after the Soviet troops entered Bulgaria he was arrested and shot on “Bloody Thursday”, February 3, 1945.
“After assuming power, the communists began to destroy the clergy: a third of the 2000 members of the clergy was killed. Then they began to act in a different way: Vladykas appointed ‘from above’ ordained obedient priests…”
The Romanians Acquire a Hierarchy
In Romania, meanwhile, as Metropolitan Cyprian writes, “with the end of the war, the work of building churches was begun anew, since all of those formerly built had been demolished. In as short an interval of time, between the end of the war and 1950, almost all of the razed churches, as well as the ruins of the Monastery of Dobru, had been rebuilt. Between 1947 and 1948, the large Monastery of Slatioara (for men) was constructed, along with the monasteries of Bradatel Neamt and Bradatel Suceava (both for women).”
Metropolitan Blaise writes: “In 1947 some people from our village went to Archimandrite Glycerius and said: something like freedom has come. The point was that the communists at first tried to win over the people to their side. They told them that they could come out of the woods and build a monastery. And in 1947 they built the monastery of Slatioara – the spiritual centre of our Church.
“It is difficult to say whether our position got worse under the communists or not. But essentially things remained the same – the persecutions continued. The communists destroyed only eight of our churches – not all of them. They were comparatively moderate.
“Before the war the Church was almost completely annihilated. Before the coming of the communists in 1944 we were accused of being Bolsheviks because we had the same calendar as the ‘Russians’. Under the communists, after 1944, they called us followers of Antonescu, Iron Guardists, fascists, enemies of the people. In fact we took part in no political movements or parties. We entered into agreements neither with the civil authorities, nor with the monarchy, nor with the Iron Guardists, nor with the communists, nor with the Masons…
“1947-52 was a period of comparative freedom. The communist authorities even compelled the official church to return to us the icons, iconostases, bells and church utensils which they had removed. But in 1952, at two o’clock in the night of February 1st to 2nd, two lorries loaded with security police came to the monastery and arrested almost all the young monks together with the igumen, sparing only the very aged. They were sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. Four of them died in camp.
“The next important date in the history of our Church is April 5, 1955, when Bishop Galacteon, who was at that time already a metropolitan, returned to our Church. He was forbidden from serving by the patriarchate and lost all his titles. But he laid the beginning of the hierarchy of our Church, because until then there were no bishops in our Church.”
Thus was fulfilled a prophetic vision that Hieromonk Glycherie had had during the war, while in a forest being pursued by enemies: “It was night. Before him, he saw a beautiful Church. Metropolitan Galacteon (Cordun)… appeared. Vladica was holding Icons and a Cross in his hands, and he was giving each believer in the Church an Icon. When he reached the pious Father Glycherie, he gave him the Cross.”
Not only in established Orthodox countries, such as Serbia and Romania, but also in missionary territories such as Czechoslovakia, the blood of Orthodox martyrs flowed. One of these was Bishop Gorazd of Moravia-Silesia, a convert to Orthodoxy from Catholicism who since his consecration in 1921 had been waging a noble battle in returning the Czech lands to the faith of Saints Cyril and Methodius. At the beginning of the Second World War, after the Serbian Patriarchate, to which he was canonically subject, had been cut off by war, he turned to Metropolitan Seraphim (Lyade) of the Russian Church Abroad in Berlin, asking to take his diocese under his protection. Metropolitan Seraphim gave him holy chrism and antimensia and helped to strengthen his position in Bohemia and Moravia. In 1942 saboteurs killed the Nazi Gauleiter Heidrich in Prague. They were given refuge in the crypt of the Orthodox cathedral of Saints. Cyril and Methodius in Prague. When Bishop Gorazd heard about this some days later, he was very disturbed, knowing that if the Germans discovered this hiding-place, then the whole of the Czech Orthodox Church would be subjected to repressions. Before going to Berlin, where Metropolitan Seraphim had invited him to participate in the consecration of a bishop, he asked for the saboteurs to be removed to another hiding-place as soon as possible. Soon the Nazis discovered the hiding-place and on July 18 seven of the saboteurs were killed. Two of the cathedral’s priests and other Orthodox were arrested (the priests were later shot). Bishop Gorazd did not try to save his own life, but took the whole responsibility upon himself. He wrote to the authorities: “I place myself at the disposal of the corresponding authorities and am ready to accept any punishment, including the death penalty.” On July 27 he was arrested, and on September 4, after being tortured, he was shot. The Orthodox Church in Bohemia and Moravia was shut down and its priests sent to camps in Germany.
The Greek Church and the Communists
The 1940s were a time of great distress and physical hardship for the Greek people. The Italian invasion was repelled only to be followed by the German occupation. This then passed into the civil war between the royalists and the communists, during which both the State Church and the True Orthodox Church suffered greatly at the hands of ELAS, ELAM and other communist guerrilla organizations.
It was at this time that the two major struggles of the Orthodox Church in this century – against Communism in Russia and Eastern Europe, and against newcalendarist ecumenism in Greece, Romania and the West – began to merge. Thus the Greeks discovered by experience the horrors of Communism, while the new calendarist and Balkan hierarchs were called (in February, 1945) to travel to Moscow and legitimise the “election” of Stalin’s puppet, “Patriarch” Alexis of Moscow. And a few years later, the tentacles of Ecumenism would begin to be felt in the communist world, too.
Among the hieromartyrs of this period was Hieromonk Joseph Antoniou, whose biography as a True Orthodox priest is very illustrative of the sufferings of that period.
Fr. Joseph joined the True Orthodox Church from the State Church in 1933, and was assigned to the parish in Carystos on the island of Euboea. He immediately came into conflict with the fierce Metropolitan Pantaleimon of Carystia and Skyros, who had already shown his antipathy to the True Orthodox by throwing the 80-year-old Fr. George Antoniou into prison in Chalkis, where he died. Fr. Joseph’s vigorous missionary activity, combined with his charity and healing gifts, only increased the wrath of the new calendarist hierarch, who succeeded in getting Fr. Joseph’s church sealed. Once Fr. Joseph, like a new John the Baptist, publicly denounced the metropolitan for celebrating an uncanonical marriage and having no pity on the couple who would suffer as a result (two years later, they were burned to death in a car accident). Finally, Fr. Joseph had to flee in order to escape arrest, and was assigned to another parish in Dombrana, near Thebes.
On August 4, 1936 the democratic regime was replaced by a royal dictatorship with John Metaxas as Prime Minister. Metaxas was very liberal in relation to the True Orthodox, but in 1938 the Minister of Public Order, egged on by Archbishop Chrysostom Papadopoulos, gave an order for the arrest of True Orthodox priests and the sealing of their churches. Although this order was soon repealed, Metropolitan Pantaleimon used it to urge the authorities in Thebes to arrest Fr. Joseph and seal his churches. Fr. Joseph was cast into prison in Chalkis, deposed and forcibly shaved. On his release he was sent by Metropolitan Germanus to Xylocastron, near Corinth. Once installed in Xylocastron, he brought his parents there and continued his apostolic activity.
During the German occupation, communist guerillas entered the area and occupied several of the villages. Fr. Joseph fearlessly denounced their false teaching and terrible cruelties against the people. Two or three times they warned Fr. Joseph to stop speaking against them. But he replied: “You are waging the anti-Christian communist struggle, but I am waging the opposite struggle, the Christian struggle.” Soon the decision was taken by the communists to execute the troublesome priest.
Shortly after Pascha, 1944, an unknown old man entered the church where Fr. Joseph was serving, and told him that throughout the service he had seen blood flowing from under this cassock. From that time, Fr. Joseph prepared himself for martyrdom. Attacks on priests were increasing at this time. Only three months before Fr. Joseph was killed, he invited Bishop Germanus of the Cyclades to baptize the son of his spiritual son John Motsis. The local communist chief ordered the bishop to leave immediately.
On July 20 Fr. Joseph celebrated the Liturgy in the village of Laliotis. Then the communists entered the house where he was staying, arrested him and threw him into prison, where he was tortured. On July 22, he was taken out of prison with another young man by three guerillas. On seeing the youth of the executioners, Fr. Joseph sadly shook his head and urged them not to commit the crime. The communists forced their victims to dig their own graves, killed the young man, and then turned to Fr. Joseph.
He was allowed to sing his own funeral service. Then one thrust a knife into his back, but the blade broke. While another knife was being fetched, the executioners smoked and watched Fr. Joseph’s death agony. He said: “I will be the last victim of this knife, but the one who kills me will be the first to die from this knife.” After killing the martyr, as the executioners were returning, they quarrelled and the one who had killed Fr. Joseph was killed by his comrades, while the first one was later executed by the Germans.
In September, 1945, Fr. Joseph’s father and brother, with the help of his donkey, found and exhumed his body. It was fragrant. A heavenly light was often seen over the tomb of the hieromartyr during the evenings.
Further Divisions in the Greek Church
During this period, while the True Orthodox profited from the lessening of persecution from the new calendarists to increase their number, the divisions among them continued and intensified. Metropolitan Chrysostom continued to argue that the new calendarists were potentially rather than actually schismatics. Moreover, in an article in the newspaper Eleutheria on November 14, 1945, he said that he would never consecrate bishops because the Old Calendarists did not constitute a Church but a “guard” against the heterodoxies of the State Church. At the same time, he issued two encyclicals – on March 11 and July 12, 1946 – which forbade any concelebration with or for the new calendarists.
“In 1947,” writes the Matthewite Jelena Petrovic, Metropolitan Chrysostom “published his ‘Memorandum for the Future Panorthodox Council’, [in which] he wrote: ‘The triumph of Christ's Church [in the USSR] has been achieved by the almighty power of Christ, Who as his means and organ used the eminent leader Stalin and his glorious collaborators, politicians and generals. That is ‘a change wrought by the right hand of the Most High’. This was written in the middle of the Greek civil war - as Bishop Matthew put it, "at a time when the accursed and godless Communist Party of Greece (KKE) was shedding Greek blood. It is a panegyric to the archslaughterer of mankind. During the period of 14 years [in which,] as they claim, they have partaken in the holy struggle, they haven't written even a single tiny article or booklet, nor have they even said in the church anything about godless communism; while we, foreseeing the danger from the beginning, have been writing and confessing and preaching against traitorous and anti-patriotic communism."
To make things worse, in 1943 Metropolitan Germanus applied to join the new calendarists, and although his request was not granted, Metropolitan Chrysostom was forced to break communion with him. Some have doubted whether Germanus ever made this application, but in any case, when he died in 1944 he was buried by the new calendarists. To add to the distress of the True Orthodox, another division took place between Bishops Germanus and Matthew in 1943.
However, in 1945 Bishops Christopher of Megara and Polycarp of Diauleia again broke communion with the State Church and were received by Metropolitan Chrysostom. So at the end of the war the True Orthodox were divided into three groups: Metropolitan Chrysostom with Bishops Christopher and Polycarp, Bishop Germanus of the Cyclades, and Bishop Matthew of Bresthena.
On August 26, 1948, an assembly of Bishop Matthew’s Church made a decision which was on the face of it uncanonical, and which served to deepen the divisions in the True Orthodox Church. They decided “that our most Reverend Bishop Matthew of Bresthena should proceed to the consecration of new bishops, insofar as the other pseudo-bishops of the True Orthodox Christians neither understand nor confess Orthodoxy, nor unite with us, nor even agree to make consecrations. We grant him the authority to proceed both to the election of people and to their immediate consecration, in accordance with the divine and sacred canons and the opinions of our canon law experts, and in accordance with the practice of the whole Church of Christ, which has accepted, in case of necessity (as is the case today) such a dispensation [oikonomia], as we have just heard from our Protosynkellos, Protopriest Eugene Tombros, who explained the validity of the consecration of one Bishop by one Bishop in accordance with the law of our Orthodox Church.” In September, Matthew consecrated the following bishops: Spyridon of Trimithun (Cyprus), and then, with Spyridon, Demetrius of Thessalonica, Callistus of Corinth and Andrew of Patras.
Metropolitan Calliopius writes: “The ‘consecrations’ by a single bishop were decided upon for the beginning of November, 1944. Eugene Tombros [a married priest and the chancellor of the Matthewite Church] and Mother Miriam [the abbess of the Monastery of Keratea] contrived to persuade the old man of Vresthena [Bishop Matthew] to proceed to carry out the consecrations on his own. They first proposed Hieromonk Basil Baltsakis. The project was scuppered thanks to the objections of the Fathers of the Monastery of the Transfiguration, notably Fathers Gregory, Climis, Xenophon and Eugene. Hieromonk Anthony Thanas, the abbot of the monastery (and today metropolitan of Attica) had received Bishop Matthew’s declaration ‘that he would prefer to have his hands cut off rather than proceed to consecrations.’ Four years later, however, when the Fathers had left the monastery, Eugene Tombros and Mother Miriam attained their end and Bishop Matthew proceeded to the consecration of four bishops on his own…”
Now the consecration of a bishop by one bishop only is contrary to the First Apostolic Canon, which decrees a minimum of two or three consecrators, as well as to other sacred Canons. However, V.K. writes that consecration of a bishop by one bishop only “is allowed by the canons in exceptional circumstances”, “and we have numerous witnesses to this from the history of the Orthodox Church.”
The question is: were the circumstances exceptional in the case of Bishop Matthew? In this case it was possible to argue that a dispensation could be invoked only on the conditions: (a) that Bishop Matthew had tried and failed to obtain co-consecrators from abroad, and (b) that he was the only true bishop in Greece at the time, or (c) that no other bishop was able, or agreed to consecrate bishops with him.
With regard to (a), Archbishop Andrew (one of the priests consecrated by Bishop Matthew) writes that three archimandrites and Fr. Eugene Tombros asked Matthew to go ahead with the consecrations as early as November 28, 1945 (just after Metropolitan Chrysostom’s statement in Eleutheria), and that requests for assistance in the consecration of bishops were made to various bishops (presumably foreign ones), but without success.
But was Bishop Matthew really the only true bishop in Greece at that time (condition (b))? That could be maintained only on the assumption that all the other Old Calendarist bishops had fallen away from Holy Orthodoxy. That would have been very difficult to prove with regard to Bishop Germanus, at any rate. As for Metropolitan Chrysostom, although he had clearly erred in softening the full force of the Confession of 1935, this did not make him automatically an apostate from Orthodoxy, without even a synodical trial. As St. Nicodemus the Hagiorite explains in his commentary on the 30th Apostolic Canon: “The Canons ordain that a synod of living bishops should defrock priests, or excommunicate or anathematize laymen, when they transgress the Canons. However, if the synod does not put into practical effect the defrocking of the priests, or the excommunication or anathematization of the laymen, these priests and laymen are neither defrocked nor excommunicated nor anathematized in actuality [energeia]. However, they are subject to defrocking and excommunication here, and to the wrath of God there.”
Many have asserted that the protosynkellos of the Matthewite Synod, Fr. Eugene Tombros, together with Abbess Miriam of Keratea, pushed Bishop Matthew into making the fateful consecrations, exploiting his simplicity. Be that as it may, it is known that Fr. Eugene had a mistaken ecclesiology according to which any break in communion between groups of bishops inevitably entails the loss of the grace of sacraments in one group. Evidently he was unaware of the many times in Church history in which divisions have taken place that did not constitute full schisms.
With regard to the third condition (c), there is indisputable evidence that Metropolitan Chrysostomos did not want to consecrate bishops for the Old Calendarists. While this can hardly be called “betrayal” – after all, there is no canon which compels a bishop to consecrate other bishops, - it was certainly not the act of a man who believed in the real autocephaly of the Old Calendar Church of Greece. As for the other bishop who might have assisted in the consecrations, Bishop Germanus, he was asserted to have been in prison by the Matthewites – but would hardly have assisted Matthew in any case, since even before his release from prison he had come to the belief that Metropolitan Chrysostomos had returned to the Orthodox confession. For, in a pastoral letter dated 29 October, 1948, Metropolitan Chrysostom returned unambiguously to his confession of 1935, declaring that the new calendarists had “separated themselves from the Unique Body of Orthodoxy… We consider and believe that the official Church of Greece is schismatic and that the services celebrated by its clergy are deprived of Divine grace.” This encouraged Bishop Germanus, who had been imprisoned in 1948 for ordaining priests, to reconsider his position, and in January, 1950, on being released from prison, he re-entered communion with Metropolitan Chrysostom.
“Although Bishop Matthew’s integrity, personal virtue and asceticism were admitted by all,” write the monks Holy Transfiguration Monastery, “his course of action only widened the division between the ‘Matthewites’ and ‘Florinites’.
“The ‘Florinites’ and the ‘Matthewites’ made many attempts at reconciliation, but all were unsuccessful. Stavros Karamitsos, a theologian and author of the book, The Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, describes as an eye-witness the two instances in which Metropolitan Chrysostom of Florina personally attempted to meet with Bishop Matthew. Unfortunately, on both occasions – the first, which had been planned to take place on January 19, 1950, at the Matthewite Convent in Keratea at the invitation of [the Matthewite] Bishop Spirydon of Trimythus, and the second, which actually did take place at the Athens Metochion of the Keratea Convent – the abbess and senior nuns of that convent, at the prompting of the Matthewite protopresbyter Eugene Tombros, intervened and would not allow Metropolitan Chrysostom to speak with Bishop Matthew. On the second occasion, in May of 1950, when Bishop Matthew was on his deathbed and had been unconscious for three days, Metropolitan Chrysostom arrived at Bishop Matthew’s quarters and approached his bedside. Standing at his side, Metropolitan Chrysostom bowed down and quietly asked him, ‘My holy brother, how are you feeling?’ To the astonishment of all present, Bishop Matthew regained consciousness and opened his eyes. When he saw the Metropolitan, he sought to sit up out of deference and began to whisper something faintly. At that very moment, the Abbess Mariam of the Convent of Keratea entered the room with several other sisters and demanded that all the visitors leave. Only a few days later, on May 14[/27], 1959, Bishop Matthew died.”
On May 26, 1950, Metropolitan Chrysostom and Bishop Germanus issued the following encyclical: “In the year of our Saviour 1935 we proclaimed the Church of the innovating new calendarists to be schismatic. We reiterate this proclamation and in consequence ordain the enforcement of the First Canon of St. Basil the Great that the sacraments celebrated by the new calendarists, in that the latter are schismatics, are deprived of sanctifying grace.
“Therefore no new calendarist must be received into the bosom of our Most Holy Church or be served without a prior confession by which he condemns the innovation of the new calendarists and proclaims their Church schismatic. As regards those who have been baptized by the innovators, they should be chrismated with Holy Chrism of Orthodox origin, such as is found in abundance with us.
“We take this opportunity to address a last appeal to all the True Orthodox Christians, calling on them in a paternal manner to come into union with us, which would further our sacred struggle for patristic piety and would satisfy our fervent desire.
“In calling on you, we remove the scandals which have been created by us through our fault, and to that end recall and retract everything written and said by us since 1937, whether in announcements, clarifications, publications or encyclicals, which was contrary and opposed to the Principles of the Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ and the sacred struggle for Orthodoxy conducted by us, as proclaimed in the encyclical published by the Holy Synod in 1935, without any addition or subtraction, and including the scientific definition ‘Potentiality and Actuality’.”
This humble and thoroughly Orthodox statement persuaded a large number of Matthewites to rejoin Metropolitan Chrysostom. However, it did not satisfy the Matthewite hardliners. What disappointed them was that while Chrysostom returned to the 1935 Confession and admitted his guilt in the intervening years, he did not also confess that he was a schismatic and turn to the Matthewites to be readmitted into the Church, but rather called on them to be reunited with him. In any case, they did not want to be subject to a hierarch who refused to act as the head of an autocephalous Church and consecrate bishops, thereby threatening the survival of the Church.
However, there was no good reason why Chrysostom should have confessed to being a schismatic. He had not returned to the new calendarists, nor had he been tried or defrocked by any canonical Synod. And he still retained the support of the majority of the bishops and clergy, 850 parishes and about a million laypeople. Although he had wavered on the question of grace, this was neither heresy nor schism, and certainly not automatic apostasy. For, as Metropolitan Macarius (Nevsky), the holy metropolitan of Moscow at the time of the February revolution, who was himself unlawfully removed from his see, said: “The Holy Church cannot allow an incorrect attitude towards its first-hierarchs, she cannot remove them from their sees without a trial and an investigation.”
The extreme Matthewite position leads to the following reductio ad absurdum. Let us suppose that Chrysostom was automatically defrocked in 1937 for calling schismatics Orthodox. It follows that all the bishops in the history of the Orthodox Church who transgressed in the same way were also automatically defrocked. Therefore Metropolitan Dorotheus and the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate were also automatically defrocked in 1920 for embracing the western heretics. Moreover, all those who remained in communion with Dorotheus were also automatically defrocked. But that included the Eastern Patriarchs, the Patriarchs of Russia and Serbia and in general the whole of the Orthodox Church! But then we must conclude, in accordance with strict Matthewite reasoning, that the Church of Christ ceased to exist in 1920! But, of course, the Matthewites do not draw this logical conclusion from their own premises. Therefore their reasoning must be considered to be inconsistent. Tragically, the Greek Old Calendarists remain split over this issue to the present day.
Persecutions in Greece and Cyprus
In any case, the new calendarists made no distinction between “Florinites” and “Matthewites” in their determination to wipe out the True Orthodox Church. Thus on the “Florinite” side, Bishop Germanos of the Cyclades died in prison in 1951. And on the “Matthewite” side, Abbess Miriam suffered torture in the Averov prison in Athens before dying on November 8, 1954. And it is this community in persecution for the sake of Church Tradition which is the strongest argument, after the canonical ones, that both factions communed of the True Body and Blood of Christ. On being asked which faction he belonged to, Hieromonk Jerome of Aegina replied: “I am with all the factions!” And we may presume that Christ the Lord was with both factions of the True Orthodox.
Thus in 1949, writes Hieromonk (now Bishop) Ambrose, “the State Church elected Archbishop Spirydon to the primacy; he was to prove the fiercest persecutor yet of the Old Calendarists. Immediately after his election, he required his Bishops to submit details about Old Calendar clergy, parishes, and monasteries in their dioceses. The theological schools were forbidden in the future to accept Old Calendarist students (this order is still in effect, though heretics of various persuasions are not debarred). Finally, on January 3, 1951, at the request of the Holy Synod of the State Church, a decree was issued by the Council of Ministers as follows: ‘… It is decided that: 1) Old Calendarist clergy who do not have canonical ordination by canonical Bishops of our Orthodox Church, and who wear clerical dress, should be deprived thereof; 2) monks and nuns following the Old Calendar should be arrested and confined to monasteries, and those who bear the monastic dress uncanonically should be deprived thereof and prosecuted; 3) the Churches which have been illegally seized by the Old Calendarists should be returned to the official Church, as also the monasteries they possess illegally and capriciously; 4) the execution of the above be entrusted to the Ministries of Public Order, Justice, Religion, and Education.’
“The above plan was put into immediate effect. In a short while, the basement of the Archdiocese in Athens and other towns was filled with the clerical robes of the True Orthodox clergy who were taken there, shaved, often beaten, and then cast out into the street in civil dress; many Priests underwent this process a number of times, while others were arrested and sent into exile. One aged Priest, Father Plato, was beaten to death by the police in Patras, and then hastily buried in a field to cover up the crime. All the Churches in Athens were sealed and their vessels taken, and a few Churches in other parts of Greece were even demolished. Soon no True Orthodox Priest could circulate undisguised, and even monks and nuns were not immune to these profane attacks. The first victim was Bishop Germanus of the Cyclades, who died in the greatest grief when under house arrest on March 24, 1951, and was buried by the Faithful; by the personal order of Archbishop Spirydon, they were not permitted to take the body to a Church, and no Priest was allowed to assist; even so, many were arrested at the cemetery. Soon the orphanage of the TOC was seized by the State Church. There is no space here, unfortunately, to describe all the heroic struggles of the Old Calendarists at this time, the demonstrations attended by thousands in the squares of Athens, the catacomb Church services and so forth, which are the glory of our Church.
“The eighty-one-year-old Metropolitan Chrysostom was arrested in February, 1951, and after repeated attempts to change his views, was exiled to the Monastery of St. John in Lesbos, situated on a remote 2,500-foot crag, where he was to remain for over a year. The monks of the monastery behaved sympathetically, but conditions were very hard for an infirm, elderly man. The Metropolitan, however, constantly expressed his joy at being found worthy to suffer for his Faith, and his satisfaction at the resistance and perseverance of the Faithful in the face of persecution. We have a precious proof of his holiness from this bitter time: the police officer whose duty it was to guard him, looked into the Bishop’s cell one evening and, to his amazement, saw him standing in prayer with his hands raised, surrounded by a blinding heavenly light. The guard fell at his feet to ask forgiveness and subsequently became one of his most faithful spiritual children.
“Passion Week of 1952 saw fearful scenes of impiety perpetrated on the TOC, but it was rapidly becoming clear to all that the persecution was producing merely public disorder and complaint, and was achieving nothing in the way of ‘re-uniting’ the Faithful to the State Church; indeed, rather the opposite. Finally, in June, 1952, through the intervention of the new Prime Minister, Plastiras, Metropolitan Chrysostom and the other Bishops were released. Slowly the pressure was relaxed, much aided by the constant protests of Patriarch Christopher of Alexandria, a supporter of the Old Calendarists from the beginning, and eventually two Churches were permitted to function in the city of Athens…. However, it was not until 1954 that the violent measures finally came to an end and the Churches could be safely re-opened.”
Some words should be said at this point about the sacred struggle of the True Orthodox Christians on the island of Cyprus. In 1924 the great majority of the Orthodox on Cyprus had accepted the calendar innovation. However, the leading innovator, Archbishop Cyril, had a vision of angels on his deathbed which convinced him that he had committed a fatal error…
The centre of resistance to the innovation was the ancient monastery of Stavrovouni, where Hieromonk Cyprian and a few disciples continued to follow the Orthodox Calendar even after the abbot accepted the innovation. In 1944, the authorities at Stavrovouni expelled this small group of True Orthodox, who scattered round the island and founded some hermitages which later became monasteries. In 1946 Bishop Matthew sent five monks to Cyprus, and a little later, the protosynkellos of his Church, Fr. Eugene Tombros. In 1948, as we have seen, he consecrated Bishop Spirydon, a Greek, for the True Orthodox of Cyprus.
Galactotrophousa monastery, near Larnaka, was the first monastery of the True Orthodox and had been built with the direct encouragement of the Mother of God. Monk Paul of Cyprus tells the story: “When the monastery was being built – in a poor way, like all the monasteries of the True Orthodox Christians, with mud bricks and straw – one of the monk-builders, a pious and very simple man, but ‘a bird of passage’, was thinking of going elsewhere. While he was relaxing under a tree at midday, the All Holy [Mother of God] appeared to him in majesty, as he told the story, and said: ‘Don’t go.’ He said to her: ‘Why are you standing in the sun? Go into the shade.’ But she said to him again: ‘Stay and build a church and cells for me, and I will bring my treasures here and will live here because they are persecuting me from all sides with their new calendar.’ And then she disappeared.”
Bishop Spirydon, after only nine months on Cyprus, was imprisoned and sent back to Greece by the British at the instigation of the new calendarists. While in prison, he told Abbot Chrysostom of Galactotrophousa monastery to go with him to Greece, where he would be consecrated bishop in his stead. However, the authorities denied him a visa, which meant that the True Orthodox of Cyprus were deprived of a bishop until 1957, when Monk Epiphanius was consecrated Bishop of Kition – which consecration, however, was not recognised by Bishop Spirydon.
Ecumenism Gathers Speed
It is perhaps no accident that this persecution took place when the Greek civil war and the great political turmoil of the previous decade had come to an end. Freed from external enemies, the State Church could now return to “the enemy within”. Even some former communist hierarchs were re-employed in the struggle against the True Orthodox, such as Metropolitan Anthony of Elia, who joined the party in 1944 and was deposed in 1946, but returned to his see after the amnesty of 1952. Moreover, the influence of the Americans was increasing, and with it pressure to make another major step towards the ecumenist goal beloved of the Americans – the union of the Churches. Therefore the anti-ecumenist True Orthodox had to be neutralized.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate had participated in several ecumenical conferences with the Protestants since its official espousing of Ecumenism in 1920 and up to the founding congress of the World Council of Churches in Amsterdam in 1948. A.V. Soldatov has chronicled the progressive weakening in the Orthodox position during these years: “At the conference [of Faith and Order] in Geneva in 1920 the spirit of extreme Protestant liberalism gained the upper hand. It came to the point that when the Orthodox Metropolitan Stephen of Sophia noted in his report: ‘The Church is only there where the hierarchy has apostolic succession, and without such a hierarchy there are only religious communities’, the majority of the delegates of the conference left the hall as a sign of protest. At the next conference on Faith and Order [in Lausanne] in 1927, victory again went to the extreme left Protestants. The Orthodox delegation, experiencing psychological pressure at this conference, was forced to issue the following declaration: ‘in accordance with the views of the Orthodox Church, no compromises in relation to the teaching of the faith and religious convictions can be permitted. No Orthodox can hope that a reunion based on disputed formulae can be strong and positive… The Orthodox Church considers that any union must be based exclusively on the teaching of the faith and confession of the ancient undivided Church, on the seven Ecumenical Councils and other decisions of the first eight centuries.’ But the numerous speeches of the Orthodox explaining the teaching of the Church on the unity of the Church seemed only to still further increase the incomprehension or unwillingness to comprehend them on the part of the Protestant leaders of Ecumenism. This tendency was consistently pursued by the Protestants at the conferences in 1937 in Oxford and Edinburgh. Summing up this ‘dialogue’ at the beginning of the century, Fr. Metrophanes Znosko-Borovsky remarks: ‘The Orthodox delegates at Edinburgh were forced with sorrow to accept the existence of basic, irreconcilable differences in viewpoint on many subjects of faith between the Orthodox East and the Protestant West.’
“After the Second World War, the World Council of Churches was created. It is necessary to point out that the movements ‘Faith and Order’ and ‘the Christian Council of Life and Work’ were viewed by their organizers as preparatory stages in the seeking of possible modes of integration of ‘the Christian world’. The World Council of Churches differed from them in principle. It set out on the path of ‘practical Ecumenism’ for the first time in world history, declaring that it was the embryo of a new type of universal church. The first, so to speak founding conference of the WCC in Amsterdam chose as its motto the words: ‘Human disorder and God’s house-building’. At it, as Archbishop Vitaly remarks, ‘every effort was made to destroy the teaching on the One, True, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church’. The leading theological minds of the Protestant world made a series of reports at the Amsterdam conference, in which they focussed with particular clarity the whole depth of the dogmatic and theological disintegration of the Protestant faith and, in particular, ecclesiology. The conclusion of the report of Gustav Aulen became the basic, single dogma of the organization being created: ‘The Church is as it were a synthesis of all churches.’ Another speaker, Clarence Craig, somewhat deepened the arguments of his colleague with the help of a suggested variant translation of the word ‘catholic’ (or ‘conciliar’ in the Slavonic translation of the Symbol of Faith) as ‘integral’. But of particular interest for us was the speech at this conference of the Orthodox priest, noted theologian and Church historian [of the Ecumenical Patriarchate], Fr. George Florovsky. Having noted that ‘the Bible, dogmatics, catechesis, Church discipline, Liturgy, preaching and sacrament have become museum exhibits’, Fr. George concluded: ‘the only salvation in the work of reviving the Church is in the ecumenical movement’. He affirmed that ‘the Church has not yet defined herself, has not worked out her own theological school definition, does not have her own definition, has not yet recognized herself.’”
An applicant to the WCC must satisfy the following criteria to be eligible for membership:
a) A church must be able to take the decision to apply for membership without obtaining the permission of any other body or person.
b) A church must produce evidence of sustained independent life and organization.
c) A church must recognize the essential interdependence of the churches, particularly those of the same confession, and must practise constructive ecumenical relations with other churches within its country or region. This will normally mean that the church is a member of the national council of churches or similar body and of the regional ecumenical organisation." (Rules of the WCC)
The "Basis" that is referred to, Article I of the WCC Constitution, reads:
"The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the scriptures (sic) and therefore seek to fulfil together their common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit."
Further, according to Section II of the WCC Rules, entitled Responsibilities of Membership,
"Membership in the World Council of Churches signifies faithfulness to the Basis of the Council, fellowship in the Council, participation in the life and work of the Council and commitment to the ecumenical movement as integral to the mission of the church.
Churches which are members of the World Council of Churches are expected to:
5. encourage participation in World Council programmes, activities and meetings, including:
a) proposing persons who could make a particular contribution to and/or participate in the Council's various committees, meetings and consultations, programmes, publications and staff;
b) establishing links between their own programme offices and the appropriate World Council programme offices; and
c) submitting materials for and promoting World Council communications resources: books, periodicals and other publications;
6. respond to decisions of the Central Committee which call for study, action or other follow-up by the member churches as well as respond to requests on matters referred by the Central or Executive Committee or the General Secretary for prayer, advice, information or opinion."
In accepting these terms the Orthodox churches that entered the WCC clearly accepted a Protestant ecclesiology. However, the strength of the True Orthodox Church prevented the official Greek Churches from going still further in an ecumenist direction for fear that many conservative new calendarists would leave and join the Old Calendarists.
Moreover, at a council in Moscow in 1948 attended by all the autocephalous Churches except Constantinople, Ecumenism had been condemned as an intrigue hatched by the Vatican and the Anglo-American imperialists. This hardly constituted an impressive theological reason for not participating in Ecumenism, but it was sufficient to put the brakes on for the time being, so that Constantinople was the only Orthodox jurisdiction present in any numbers at the Amsterdam conference of the WCC.
By 1949, however, the communist threat had receded and Greece was firmly back within the sphere of western influence. The time was ripe for the State Church to go forward – but only if its rear could be secured from snipers of the True Orthodox Church. Hence the significance of the election of the persecutor Archbishop Spyridon, who was entrusted with removing the main obstacle to the further of Ecumenism in the western world.
Meanwhile, the main theological initiative came, as in the 1920s, from Constantinople. In 1949 there flew into Constantinople – on President Truman’s plane – the second Meletius Metaxakis, the former Archbishop of North and South America Athenagoras, who in 1919 had been appointed secretary of the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece by Metaxakis himself. By an extraordinary coincidence Athenagoras was a former spiritual son of Metropolitan Chrysostom, so that the leaders of the opposing sides in the Church struggle in the early 1950s were, like David and Absalom, a holy father and his apostate son.
Maximus was forced into retirement on grounds of mental illness and the 33rd degree Mason Athenagoras took his place. In his enthronement speech he went far beyond the bounds of the impious masonic encyclical of 1920 and proclaimed the dogma of ‘Pan-religion’, declaring: “We are in error and sin if we think that the Orthodox Faith came down from heaven and that the other dogmas [i.e. religions] are unworthy. Three hundred million men have chosen Mohammedanism as the way to God and further hundreds of millions are Protestants, Catholics and Buddhists. The aim of every religion is to make man better.”
This astonishing apostasy from the Orthodox Faith roused hardly a murmur of protest from the autocephalous Orthodox Churches…
Metropolitan Chrysostom of Florina
In this period, unfortunately, Metropolitan Chrysostom again wavered in relation to the new calendarists. He explained that the True Orthodox had condemned the State Church as schismatic “to defend ourselves against [the State Church] which was the first to declare us schismatic”. Such an inadequate defence of the position of the True Orthodox Church, which was based on much stronger and more canonical foundations, was bound to undermine the determination of the three bishops; and on November 6, 1952, they resigned from their pastoral duties “until a final resolution of the calendar question by a Pan-Orthodox Council”. Metropolitan Chrysostom immediately withdrew his resignation; but Bishops Christopher and Polycarp remained as simple lay members of the True Orthodox Church until February, 1954. Then they returned to, and were received as bishops by, the State Church.
“As a result of this, Chrysostom of Florina remained alone as the head of the larger group of the True Orthodox Church until his death. Several candidates for the episcopacy were presented to him. Bishop Nikolaj (Velimirovic) of the Serbian Church, who was then residing in the United States, offered to help him consecrate new bishops. However, although he could have done so had he chosen, Metropolitan Chrysostom declined to consecrate any of the candidates. In answer to the pleas of his flock for bishops, he directed that they come to terms with the bishops Matthew had consecrated and have them somehow regularized according to the canons.”
“The death of the Metropolitan, which occurred on the Feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God, September 8, 1955 (old style), again permits us to glimpse his sanctity behind the veil of great modesty and privacy which he always maintained in his contacts even with his closest assistants. The Bishop, foreseeing his death, summoned his confessor, the Athonite Archimandrite John, on the night before, and made an hour-long general confession. Returning home that evening, he instructed his attendant to spread his bed with new white sheets and coverings. In the morning he was found with his hands crossed on his chest, reposed in the Lord, with no sign of illness. His will reveals that he had no money or possessions to dispose of. The funeral, held in the Church of the Transfiguration at Kypselli, Athens, was attended by tens of thousands who came in grief to venerate the body of their leader, which according to Byzantine tradition was seated in the center of the Church during the funeral; afterwards, the police had to drive back the crowds to permit the body to be taken to the place of burial, the Dormition Convent on Mount Parnes. By a curious coincidence, the bells of all the Churches in Greece were ringing mournfully as he went to his place of rest – the Synod of the State Church having so ordered as a sign of grief at the recent anti-Greek riots in Constantinople. When after six years, as is the custom in Greece, the bones of the Metropolitan were exhumed, the fragrance they produced filled the entire convent for several days, and is still often perceptible.”
It cannot be denied that Metropolitan Chrysostom’s inconsistencies caused serious damage to the Church. However, he never entered into communion with the new calendarists. And there are other proofs of his Orthodoxy and even holiness. Thus Abbess Euthymia of the Dormition Convent writes: “When we buried the ever-memorable hierarch Chrysostom, since he was buried in our Monastery, the whole place was fragrant and the builders who were building the foundation of the church came down from there and asked our elder: ‘Father, what is this fragrance which we can smell where we’re working?’ And they saw the exhumation and understood. I was the one who washed the bones of his Beatitude, and my hands were fragrant the whole night. And this fragrance was perceptible in our Monastery for forty days.
“One nun who had been in the Monastery since the age of seven.. said that she had not been baptized.. When the Bishop of Florina fell asleep, she sat for forty days at his tomb and besought him to enlighten the elder so that he would baptize her. And then in her sleep she saw him sitting on a throne, and he told her that she was unbaptized and that the elder should look at the holy Rudder. And indeed they found that when there are doubts people should be baptized. And there was another consumptive girl.. who came and took some oil from the lamp of the tomb and smeared her breast with it and was healed.”
If asked to summarise the discords between the bishops in this period in the history of the Greek Old Calendarists, we could do no better than turn to the words of the Athonite Elder Damascene, who shared a cell with Bishop Matthew in the 1920s but joined the “Florinites” in 1982: “The three ever-memorable Hierarchs Chrysostom of Florina, Germanus of the Cyclades and Matthew of Bresthena struggled for the traditions of the Fathers. But as men wearing flesh and living in the world they fell into error while in this life. However, the three finished their lives in the good Confession and passed away in repentance. And if someone wishes to represent one or other of the three as having been quite without reproach, and that he alone held the truth without any deviation, that man is, in the words of the divine Chrysostom, an erring scoffer, a deceiver and a base flatterer. That is, when he praises everything, both the good and the bad.”
The World Council of Churches
Until the late 1950s, and in spite of such ardent ecumenists as Patriarchs Meletius and Athenagoras, the participation of the Orthodox Churches in the Ecumenical movement had been hesitant and strained.
The reasons for this were obvious. “Orthodoxy” means “right belief” or “right worship”, which implies that all other faiths contain a greater or lesser admixture of error. Moreover, the genocide that the Orthodox Serbs had suffered at the hands of the Catholics prevented the Serbian Church, in particular, from entering wholeheartedly into the ecumenical movement until the late 1960s (although it remained in communion with the ecumenist Orthodox). A similar fear of being overwhelmed by the Catholics and the Protestants also restrained the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. But from the late 1950s the other Orthodox Churches began to shed their scruples. They felt – wrongly, as we shall see – that they could hold the fire of heresy in their bosom and not be burned.
Before then, although the Protestant ecclesiology of the WCC, which required the mutual recognition of all participants as equal members of the Church, had been evident as early as Amsterdam (1948), in the rules of the WCC quoted above, the Orthodox tried to claim that they had not committed themselves to accepting it. Thus in an encyclical issued in 1952, Patriarch Athenagoras laid down fairly strict guidelines for Orthodox participation in the WCC – guidelines which he was himself to break with impunity, but which served to reassure the more conservative Orthodox. Again, at the Second General Assembly at Evanston (1954) the Orthodox delegates declared: “We are bound to declare our profound conviction that the Holy Orthodox Church alone has preserved in full and intact the Faith once delivered to the saints.” Again, at the Faith and Order conference at Oberlin (1957), which was centred on the theme, “The Unity we Seek”, the Orthodox declared: “’The Unity we Seek’ is for us a given Unity which has never been lost, and, as a Divine gift and an essential mark of Christian existence, could not have been lost… For us, this Unity is embodied in the Orthodox Church.”
However, pressure was building up from various quarters for a more “positive” contribution from the Orthodox. First, the Catholics, who were not represented on the WCC, announced the convening of a Second Vatican Council, as a result of which informal contacts took place between Orthodox and Catholics. Vatican II – as the Second Vatican Council came to be called – was to open the floodgates to Ecumenism in the western world in a way that was to overwhelm both Orthodox and Protestants and was to carry them beyond questions of strictly inter-Christian reunification.
Thus Malachi Martin writes: “Before the end of the fourth and final session of Vatican II – presided over by Pope John’s successor, Paul VI – some bishops and Vatican personnel had already adopted entirely new and innovative meanings for the idea of ecumenism. The powerful Augustin Cardinal Bea, for example, was a leading figure at the Council and a close adviser to Paul VI, as he had been to Pope John. Bea was seen as the Vatican’s own spearhead in what came to be nothing less than an ecumenical revolution. The Cardinal organized ‘ecumenical gatherings’ that included not only Roman Catholics and Protestants as usual, but Jews and Muslims as well. In time, as was only logical, Buddhists, Shintoists, animist and a host of other non-Christian and even non-religious groups would find a place in the poorly and broadly defined new ‘ecumenism’.”
Secondly, the Protestants began to exert direct pressure on the Orthodox. Thus in 1955 the Faith and Order Working Committee of the WCC proposed an Orthodox consultation with the ultimate aim that, as Dr. M. Spinka put it, “at some future time of the hoped-for spiritual ‘Big Thaw’, when these communions have had a chance to think it over in a repentant or chastened mood, they might perhaps join us!” In other words, the Orthodox had to “repent” of their Orthodoxy, their insistence that the Orthodox Church is the Church, in order to become worthy of entering the new pseudo-Church with the Protestants! The proposed consultation took place in Kifissia, near Athens, in 1959. The Soviet Metropolitan Nicholas of Krutitsa took part in this consultation, which indicated that the communists had changed their minds about ecumenism, and decided that the Russian Church’s participation in it would further the communist cause.
That the Orthodox position was shifting under these pressures was shown in April, 1961, when the Greek-American Archbishop James said: “We have tried to rend the seamless robe of the Lord – and then we cast ‘arguments’ and ‘pseudo-documents’ to prove – that ours is the Christ, and ours is the Church… Living together and praying together without any walls of partition raised, either by racial or religious prejudices, is the only way that can lead surely to unity.”
What could these “pseudo-documents” and “religious prejudices” be if not the sacred Canons which forbid the Orthodox from praying together with heretics?
The Romanians Consolidate
During this period the True Orthodox in Romania were consolidating the position of their Church within the Communist State. As we have seen, they had only a very few priests (Hieromonk Glycerius and two priests who had left the State Church) until 1955, when they acquired a hierarchy through Metropolitan Galacteon (Kordun), the former secretary of the new calendarist patriarchate. On April 13, he made a public confession of his return to the Old Calendar, whereupon he was forcibly detained in the monastery of St. Callinus of Cernica near Bucharest. However, with the aid of some Old Calendarist laity, he escaped and went to Moldavia, where he ordained a number of priests and deacons.
“In November, 1955,” writes Metropolitan Blaise, “Metropolitan Galacteon was arrested together with Hieromonk Glycerius. Fr. Glycerius was sentenced to 10 years in the camps, while Metropolitan Galacteon was sent to a new calendarist monastery [Caldaruseni], where he was confined in prison. He was abducted from there. My brother – he is now the parish priest Fr. Paul – came there with another of our believers [George Hincu]. They called themselves agents of the security police and took the metropolitan with them. When, two or three hours later, the patriarch phoned to find out what the metropolitan was doing, they told him that two officers of the security police had taken him. The patriarch shouted: I didn’t send any officers! But the metropolitan was already far away.
“When he had consecrated Bishop Eulogius [Ota] and then with him – Bishop Methodius, he was again arrested and again abducted. After this, during the night November 17, 1956, Archimandrite Glycerius, who had been abducted from his forced labour, was secretly consecrated a bishop. Then they hid in our monastery, where every day ordinations took place. A year later they were again arrested.”
After being abducted from captivity, Metropolitan Galacteon “returned to Slatioara, where he was so weighed down with his sufferings that he was unable to serve the Divine Liturgy, and died in 1957. The majority of the clergy who had been ordained were however arrested, and were not finally liberated until the amnesty of 1963, when Ceaucescu came to power. In 1958, the Romanian authorities ordered that all the monks under 60 and all the nuns under 55 should leave their monasteries, but, as always in these cases, the order had to be given through the local Metropolitans. Those of the new calendar complied (with one exception) and thousands of monks and nuns found themselves on the streets after a lifelong in their monasteries; the authorities, however, met with an absolute refusal from Saint Glicherie, who declared himself happy to return to prison rather than betray those under his care. Before this, the authorities bowed, though harrassment of the monasteries continued, and several monasteries were closed by force…”
One of those who suffered at this time was Father (now Bishop) Demosthenes (Ionita): “In 1957 Metropolitan Glycerius ordained him to the priesthood. Within a month after his ordination, Fr. Demosthenes went to Bucharest to assist Bishop Eulogius who was in hiding. There he was betrayed by an Old Calendar priest and arrested. The authorities demanded that Fr. Demosthenes reveal the whereabouts of the bishop, which he refused to do.
“On July 23, 1958, Fr. Demosthenes was again arrested. He, with a group of chanters, had served a funeral for his cousin in a closed church. A New Calendar priest reported this to the authorities, which resulted in his and the chanters’ arrest. Six officers took Fr. Demosthenes to the city Tirgu-Mures. Upon his arrival, he was led to a room where several guards took off his clothes, and later shaved off his hair and bear. His prison cell had a cement bed with no covers. For five months the civil authorities investigated and interrogated Fr. Demosthenes in an attempt to find some excuse to have him sentenced. The first round of questioning went along these lines:
“Interrogator: What activity does Glicerius have in this country? What measures does he plan against the Communists?
“Fr. Demosthenes: The Metropolitan teaches us to work, pray, and obey the laws of the state.
“Interrogator: Where are you hiding your guns?
“Fr. Demosthenes: Our guns are our church books.
“Chief Interrogator: Why doesn’t he tell us where the guns are? Hang him!
“At this point Fr. Demosthenes lost consciousness and fell to the floor. When he awoke, he found himself in his cell with a doctor. The doctor asked where he hurt and why he had fallen. Fr. Demosthenes responded, ‘I don’t remember.’ The doctor kicked him and responded, ‘This is our medicine for Old Calendarists who want to kill Communists.’
“Fr. Demosthenes spent the next seven years in concentration camps. His experience could comprise a chapter of Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago. The prisoners were starved, tortured, and denied any form of comfort. At one point Fr. Demosthenes was so exhausted that he could not even remember the Lord’s Prayer. In 1959 the authorities promised all religious prisoners from his camp freedom if they signed a declaration of apostasy. Out of 2,000 prisoners only 90 agreed to sign. In the prison camp in Salcia, Fr. Demosthenes saw prisoners being trampled by horses as he and others worked on building canals and other projects in the freezing winter. Many years later, Fr. Demosthenes met one of the prison guards of Salcia, who informed him that it was indeed a miracle he had survived, for the guards had orders that no one was to leave that camp alive.
“In 1964 Fr. Demosthenes was freed from prison. When his mother saw him for the first time in seven years, she asked, ‘Why did they release you, did you compromise the faith?’ His mother was relieved to hear that her son had not betrayed the Church; this was her main concern. After three weeks he was again under house arrest. Fr. Demosthenes fled to the forests and lived in hiding for five more years.”
Similarly appalling conditions prevailed in Bulgaria at this time. Many priests and monks were held in the approximately 30 death camps, where prisoners were brought up one by one to be slaughtered. God alone knows how many of those who perished in the communist camps of Romania and Bulgaria are counted by Him among His true martyrs.
The True Orthodox Church of Greece, meanwhile, had entered upon a more peaceful phase of her history.
The Chrysostomites Acquire a Hierarchy
In 1957, the Matthewites were able to consecrate a Cypriot monk, Epiphanius, as archimandrite and then bishop for the Cypriot flock in place of the exiled Bishop Spyridon – who however, bitterly contested the act’s canonicity.
After the death of Metropolitan Chrysostom of Florina in 1955, his followers established a twelve-member Commission to administer the Church, and began to search for a way of restoring their hierarchy. During Metropolitan Chrysostom’s lifetime, the Serbian Bishop Nicholas Velimirovich, who was living in America, had offered to help him consecrate new bishops; but Chrysostom had been unwilling. Now the question was urgent.
In 1956 Archimandrite Chrysostom (Kiousis) was elected general secretary of the Commission. And in April, 1957 a clergy-laity congress including about one hundred clergy elected three archimandrites as suitable candidates for the episcopate, in the following order: Acacius Pappas (the elder), who became a bishop in 1960, Chrysostom Kiouses, who had to wait until 1971 before being consecrated and is the present archbishop, and Chrysostom Naslimes, consecrated in 1963.
The “Florinites” finally succeeded in re-establishing their hierarchy through the ROCA. (The True Orthodox had made a similar appeal to the Church Abroad in 1934, and Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky is reported to have been favourable to their request. But nothing came of it at that time.) The story was as follows. The first approach to the Russians was made by Archimandrites Acacius Pappas (the nephew of Acacius the elder) and Chrysostom Kiouses. They travelled to Brussels, where Archbishop John Maximovich, the famous wonderworker, looked favourably on their request, but said that they would need to obtain the blessing of the ROCA Synod in New York. The Florinites sent Archimandrite Acacius to Metropolitan Anastasius in New York. But Metropolitan Anastasius refused to consecrate him. At the end of 1960 Archimandrite Acacius again arrived at the Synod of the ROCA with his nephew, and was again refused. According to the account given to the present author by Acacius the younger, Metropolitan Anastasius, the president of the Synod of the ROCA, refused to participate himself in the consecration of Acacius the elder for fear of upsetting the Ecumenical Patriarchate, but did not discourage the consecration in another city and at the hands of other bishops. And on December 9/22, 1960, Archimandrite Acacius Pappas was consecrated as Bishop of Talantion in Detroit, USA, by Archbishop Seraphim of Chicago and the Romanian Bishop Theophilus of Detroit. Later, however, Archbishop Seraphim was reprimanded and punished by the Russian Synod of Bishops.
The Matthewites bitterly contested the canonicity of this act, saying that Acacius the elder had bribed Seraphim. But this accusation is firmly rejected by Acacius the younger, who accompanied his uncle throughout the trip. The Matthewites also asserted that Theophilus was a new calendarist, having been appointed to look after the new calendarist Romanian parishes which had joined the Russian Synod. This was true, but did not necessarily make the consecration invalid because he was a member of a Synod which followed the Orthodox Calendar. In other words, his following the new calendar was uncanonical, but insofar as he was a member of a True Orthodox Synod which, for reasons of pastoral condescension, tolerated it for a certain group, he was to be considered a true bishop. A more serious problem was the fact that Bishop Theophilus later denied that he had taken part in the consecration. However, his participation was witnessed both by Archbishop Seraphim, and by the then Archimandrites Peter and Acacius the younger (according to Seraphim, Theophilus had personal reasons for keeping the whole matter secret).
On returning to Greece, Bishop Acacius undertook the administration of the Church with the aid of one of the Commission’s archimandrites. In May, 1962, Bishop Acacius and the Commission invited Archbishop Leontius of Chile, a member of the Synod of the Russian Church Abroad. These two bishops then consecrated: Parthenius (Skurlis) as Bishop of the Cyclades, Auxentius (Pastras) as Bishop of Gardikion, Acacius the younger as Bishop of Diauleia and Gerontius (Margiolis) as Bishop of Salamis. It was also decreed that the newly consecrated bishops should consecrate Archimandrites Chrysostom (Naslimes) and Chrysostom (Kiousis). Chrysostom (Naslimis) was duly consecrated the next year, but for some reason unknown to the present author, Chrysostom Kiousis, who had been elected as second candidate for the episcopate by the 1957 conference, was passed over.
As George Lardas writes, “Archbishop Leontius’ involvement with the Old Calendarists did not end there. Together with the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad’s Bishop Seraphim of Caracas, he secretly consecrated Archimandrite Peter Astifides as bishop of Astoria in Peter’ church of St. Marcella in Astoria, New York [in November, 1962]. This, too, was done without the knowledge or consent of either the Synod or Metropolitan Anastasius. Later Archbishop Leontius ordained Acacius Mouskou a priest in New York. This Acacius was a subdeacon of Archbishop Vitaly of Montreal, and he was ordained without Archbishop Vitaly’s consent. Later he returned to Montreal where he set up a Greek Old Calendar parish independent of Archbishop Vitaly.”
For some years the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad did not recognize the consecrations of Greek Old Calendarists carried out by Archbishops Seraphim and Leontius. An interesting point of view on this controversy was expressed by Archbishop Averky of Syracuse during the session of the Hierarchical Council of the Russian Church Abroad on November 17/30, 1962: “I myself would not have decided to carry out the consecration of the Greek Old Calendarists. But at the same time, in the depths of my soul, I cannot help being delighted at the boldness with which Archbishop Leontius carried out this act to which his conscience called him.
“We emphasize that we do not recognize Patriarch Alexis, while all the patriarchs recognize him. We talk about communion with these patriarchs, and, in this way, we turn out paradoxically to be in communion with Moscow. A vicious circle is the result. In view of this irrational position, it is especially important for us to stand on a firm canonical foundation, preserving the essence, and not the letter, which can lead to the worship of Satan…
“He [Vladyka Leontius] carried out a courageous act of assistance to a fraternal Church, which is now the closest to us in spirit. The Greek Church is now attacked and persecuted. It was a great mistake that we in our time were too condescending to the introduction of the new style, for its aim was to introduce schism into the Orthodox Church. It was the work of the enemies of the Church of Christ. Its fruits are already evident. Even in America there are Greek clergy whose conscience torments them for accepting the new style. The keeping of various traditions in various spheres is bound up with following the old style. With the expulsion of the old style from the church the ascetic principle is also expelled. The Old Calendarists are the closest to us in spirit. The only ‘but’ in the action of Archbishop Leontius consists in the fact that he acted as it were in a non-fraternal manner, contrary to the decision of the council, although from good motives.”
At the same session Archbishop John Maximovich noted: “… The Old Calendarists have been knocking on our doors for six years. The Hierarchical Council cannot take the decision upon itself, since it recognizes that this is an internal matter of the Greeks. We must accept Archbishop Leontius’ explanation [that the Greek Church is persecuted in the same way that the Catacomb Church is in Russia, so we must support it] as satisfactory, and with that bring our arguments to an end.”
Vladyka John also remembered that in the past century there had been similar disturbances in the Antiochian Church. At that time the Constantinopolitan Church had intervened. In the same way the Greek Church had helped the Church of Cyprus.
The Council expressed its regret to Archbishop Leontius with regard to his participation in the consecrations of the bishops for the Greek Old Calendarists. Archbishop Leontius, in his turn, expressed his regret that he had not been able to ask Metropolitan Anastasius.
In 1964, about one year after the death of Archbishop Acacius (the elder), Bishops Gerontius and Acacius (the younger) elected Auxentius to the rank of archbishop – but without the agreement of Bishop Chrysostom (Naslimes), whose fears about the fitness of Auxentius for the archbishopric were soon to prove tragically justified…
On December 18/31, 1969, Metropolitan Philaret, the new First-Hierarch of the ROCA, together with his Synod officially recognized the validity of the consecrations of Bishops Acacius and the other “Florinite” bishops, which dispelled any lingering doubts there may have been – at any rate, outside the Matthewite camp – about the canonicity of the Florinite Synod.
The Synod wrote to Archbishop Auxentius: “The many trials which the Orthodox Church has endured from the beginning of its history are especially great in our evil times, and consequently, this especially requires unity among those who are truly devoted to the Faith of the Fathers. With these sentiments we wish to inform you that the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad recognizes the validity of the episcopal consecrations of your predecessor of blessed memory, the reposed Archbishop Acacius, and the consequent ordinations of your Holy Church. Hence, taking into account also various other circumstances, our hierarchical Synod esteems your hierarchy as brothers in Christ in full communion with us.”
The Matthewites continued to denounce the Florinites as schismatics, but for the rest of the Orthodox world this act by the ROCA’s Synod dispelled any lingering doubts about their canonicity. “By 1973, the Auxentian Synod had ten bishops, 123 churches in Greece, thirty-nine monasteries and convents, several charitable organizations, numerous periodicals, and most of the traditional Orthodox faithful in Greece.”
The Lifting of the Anathemas
It was the Congress of the WCC in New Delhi in 1961 which marked the decisive break between “World Orthodoxy” and True Orthodoxy. If, until then, it could be argued, albeit unconvincingly, that the new calendarists had not apostasised, and that only a few of their leaders were ecumenist heretics, this could no longer be maintained after the summary statement signed by all the delegates at New Delhi, which declared, among other things: “we consider that the work of creating the One, Universal Church must unfailingly be accompanied by the destruction and disappearance of certain outmoded, traditional forms of worship”.
This was an outright challenge delivered to the Holy Tradition of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church! And, having delivered it, the Orthodox delegates seemed to lose all restraint. After the New Delhi congress, convened, appropriately enough, in the centre of the Hindu world, the ecumenical movement climbed into a higher gear, and even, within a decade or two, into the realm of “Super-ecumenism” – relations with non-Christian religions.
Thus in April, 1963, Archbishop James said: “It would be utterly foolish for the true believer to pretend or to insist that the whole truth has been revealed only to them, and they alone possess it. Such a claim would be both unbiblical and untheological… Christ did not specify the date nor the place that the Church would suddenly take full possession of the truth.”
This statement, which more or less denied that the Church is, as the Apostle Paul said, “the pillar and ground of the Truth” (I Timothy. 3.15), caused uproar in Greece and on Mount Athos. However, Athenagoras supported James, calling his position “Orthodox”. From this time on, the two Masons went steadily ahead making ever more flagrantly anti-Orthodox statements. As we shall see, there was some opposition from more conservative elements in the autocephalous Churches; but the opposition was never large or determined enough to stop them…
At a meeting of the Faith and Order movement in Montreal in 1963, a memorandum on “Councils of Churches in the Purpose of God” declared: “The Council [WCC] has provided a new sense of the fullness of the Church in its unity, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity. These marks of the Church can no longer be simply applied to our divided churches, therefore.”
Although this memorandum was not accepted in the end (Fr. George Florovsky objected to it in the plenary session), it showed how the WCC was encroaching on the Orthodox Church’s understanding of herself as the One Church. Indeed, it could be argued that the Orthodox participants had already abandoned this dogma. For as early as the Toronto, 1950 statement of the WCC’s Central Committee, it had been agreed that an underlying assumption of the WCC was that the member-churches “believe that the Church of Christ is more inclusive than the membership of their own body”.
At the Second Pan-Orthodox Conference in Rhodes, in September, 1963, it was unanimously agreed that the Orthodox should enter into dialogue with the Catholics, provided it was “on equal terms”. In practice, this meant that the Catholics should abandon their eastern-rite missions in Orthodox territories. The Catholics have never shown much signs of wishing to oblige in this, but they did help to make a dialogue easier by redefining the Orthodox, in Vatican II’s decree on Ecumenism, as “separated brethren” rather than “schismatics”.
On January 5 and 6, 1964, Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras met in Jerusalem and prayed together. This was a clear transgression of the canons concerning relations with heretics (Apostolic canon 45). Archbishop Chrysostom of Athens was reported as saying that “while the Pope is going to the Holy Land to kneel before the Saviour’s sepulchre, you (Athenagoras) are going to kneel before the Pope and bury Orthodoxy.”
The calendar question again reared its head during this period. Thus during the Second Pan-Orthodox Conference, the Church of Greece had threatened to boycott the meeting if the calendar question were raised. “But the representatives of the Jerusalem Patriarchate,” writes Bishop Ephraim, “insisted that the calendar be placed upon the agenda for discussion, and with good reason. The Jerusalem Patriarchate is especially interested in settling the calendar issue because of its position as a place of pilgrimage. When Athenagoras met Pope Paul in Jerusalem, he went afterwards to Bethlehem to attend the service for Christmas (which, of course, is celebrated there according to the Old Calendar). In the meantime, the new calendarists were celebrating Epiphany in Constantinople. By the time Athenagoras returned to Istanbul, Epiphany had already been celebrated. In other words, Athenagoras himself, because of this calendar confusion, celebrated two Christmases but did not celebrate Epiphany that year. Also, many pious pilgrims came from Greece to celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem, not knowing that the Jerusalem Patriarchate follows the Old Calendar… They arrive in Bethlehem and discover that it is only St. Spyridon’s day and that Christmas is two weeks away. They have only arranged to stay for a few days, and few are those who have made the provisions or have the money to wait for two weeks. In their dismay, they beg the priests there to chant a few Christmas troparia and, of course, the priests refuse, because not only is it not Christmas according to their reckoning, but they are also in the midst of the fast. The pilgrims return to Greece confused and disheartened since they did not get to celebrate Christmas, even in Bethlehem, and Christmas has already been celebrated in Greece. Therefore, that year they do not celebrate Christmas anywhere. This happens annually there – hence Jerusalem’s concern.”
“Immediately after the Holy Land meeting,” writes Fr. George Macris, “a proclamation of the whole monastic community of Mount Athos to ‘the pious Orthodox Greek people and the whole of the Orthodox Church’ denounced the ‘pro-uniate actions and statements’ of the Patriarch and his co-workers.”
At this point the Turks increased their harrassment of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople, which led some to speculate that the Patriarch’s rapprochement with the Pope was elicited by his need to find powerful friends to support him in the West – just as in 1274 and 1439. Thus in April, 1965, Archbishop James pleaded with the Pope to help the Patriarch. The Pope promised his support, whereupon the two hierarchs prayed together.
Further intense activity led, on December 7, 1965, to the “lifting of the anathemas” of 1054 between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches. The announcement was made simultaneously in Rome and Constantinople. It included the following words: “Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I with his synod, in common agreement, declare that: a. They regret the offensive words, the reproaches without foundation, and the reprehensible gestures which, on both sides, have marked or accompanied the sad events of this period [viz. In the 11th century]. B. They likewise regret and remove both from memory and from the midst of the Church the sentences of excommunication which followed these events, the memory of which has influenced actions up to our day and has hindered closer relations in charity; and they commit these excommunications to oblivion.”
It should be pointed out, first, that in saying that the schism of 1054 was based on “reproaches without foundation”, the Patriarch was in effect saying that the Papacy was not, or never had been, heretical – although the Papacy had renounced none of its heresies, and Pope Paul VI had reasserted papal infallibility as recently as Vatican II. Secondly, while relations with excommunicated individuals or Churches can be restored if those individuals or Churches repent, anathemas against heresies cannot be removed insofar as a heresy remains a heresy forever.
In the journal Ekklesia Archbishop Chrysostom of Athens denied that the Patriarch had the authority to act independently of the other Orthodox Churches. And he said: “I am convinced that no other Orthodox Church will copy the Ecumenical Patriarch’s action.” From this time, several monasteries and sketes on Mount Athos ceased to commemorate the Patriarch.
On December 15, 1965, Metropolitan Philaret, First-Hierarch of the ROCA, wrote to the Patriarch protesting against his action: “Your gesture puts a sign of equality between error and truth. For centuries all the Orthodox Churches believed with good reasons that it has violated no doctrine of the Holy Ecumenical Councils; whereas the Church of Rome has introduced a number of innovations in its dogmatic teaching. The more such innovations were introduced, the deeper was to become the separation between the East and the West. The doctrinal deviations of Rome in the eleventh century did not yet contain the errors that were added later. Therefore the cancellation of the mutual excommunication of 1054 could have been of meaning at that time, but now it is only evidence of indifference in regard to the most important errors, namely new doctrines foreign to the ancient Church, of which some, having been exposed by St. Mark of Ephesus, were the reason why the Church rejected the Union of Florence… No union of the Roman Church with us is possible until it renounces its new doctrines, and no communion in prayer can be restored with it without a decision of all the Churches, which, however, can hardly be possible before the liberation of the Church of Russia which at present has to live in the catacombs… A true dialogue implies an exchange of views with a possibility of persuading the participants to attain an agreement. As one can perceive from the Encyclical Ecclesiam Suam, Pope Paul VI understands the dialogue as a plan for our union with Rome with the help of some formula which would, however, leave unaltered its doctrines, and particularly its dogmatic doctrine about the position of the Pope in the Church. However, any compromise with error is foreign to the history of the Orthodox Church and to the essence of the Church. It could not bring a harmony in the confessions of the Faith, but only an illusory outward unity similar to the conciliation of dissident Protestant communities in the ecumenical movement.”
Tatiana Senina writes: “Metropolitan Philaret sent a similar address to another leader of the ecumenical movement – the American Archbishop James. However, the apostate hierarchs paid no attention to his exhortations. The ecumenical movement continued to gather speed. The holy Hierarch Philaret looked with sorrow on the falling away from the faith of the once Orthodox Churches. And he called the epistles which he sent to all the hierarchs of the Orthodox Church just that – ‘Sorrowful Epistles’. In his first Epistle, written in 1969, St. Philaret says that he has decided to turn to all the hierarchs, ‘some of whom occupy the oldest and most glorious sees’, because, in the words of St. Gregory the Theologian, ‘the truth is betrayed by silence’, and it is impossible to keep silent when you see a deviation from the purity of Orthodoxy – after all, every bishop at his ordination gives a promise to keep the Faith and the canons of the holy fathers and defend Orthodoxy from heresies. Vladyka quotes various ecumenist declarations of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and clearly shows, on the basis of the patristic teaching and the canons, that the position of the WCC has nothing in common with Orthodoxy, and consequently the Orthodox Churches must not participate in the work of this council. The holy Hierarch Philaret also emphasises that the voice of the MP is not the voice of the True Russian Church, which in the homeland is persecuted and hides in the catacombs. Vladyka calls on all the Orthodox hierarchs to stand up in defence of the purity of Orthodoxy.
“Vladyka Philaret wrote his second ‘Sorrowful Epistle’ on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, 1972. In it he noted that although in the last two years hierarchs had made declarations about the heterodoxy of the ecumenical movement, not one Orthodox Church had declared that it was leaving the WCC. Vladyka placed as the aim of his Second Epistle ‘to show that abyss of heresy against the very concept of the Church into which all the participants in the ecumenical movement are being drawn’. He recalled the threatening prophecy of the Apostle Paul that to those who will not receive ‘the love of the truth for salvation’ the Lord will send ‘strong delusion, that they should believe a lie. That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness’ (II Thessalonians 2.10-12). St. Philaret’s third Epistle was devote to the so-called ‘Thyateira Confession’ of Metropolitan Athenagoras [of Thyateira and Great Britain], the exarch of the Constantinopolitan Patriarchate in Europe – a document written in a completely heretical spirit, but which did not elicit any reaction from the leaders of the ‘official churches’. Evidently Vladyka Philaret hoped at the beginning that at any rate one of the bishops of ‘World Orthodoxy’ might listen to his words, which is why he addressed them in his epistles as true Archpastors of the Church. Besides, attempts at exhortation corresponded to the apostolic command: ‘A man that is a heretic after the first and second admonition reject, knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself’ (Titus 3. 10-11). It was fitting, before accepting an anathema against the apostates, to try and convert them from their error. Alas, no conversion took place, and the ecumenical impiety continued to pour out. Vladyka addressed his word not only to bishops, but also to their flock, untiringly explaining the danger of the new heresy. While telling about the zeal of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, who slapped the face of Arius when he blasphemed against the Son of God, Vladyka said: ‘O how often we do not have enough of such zeal when it is really necessary to speak for the insulted and trodden-on truth! I want to tell you about one incident that took place not long ago and which it would have been difficult even to imagine several years ago – and now we are going further and further downhill all the time. One man came from Paris and said that the following incident had taken place at a so-called “ecumenical meeting’. Of course, you know what ecumenism is; it is the heresy of heresies. It wants to completely wipe out the concept of the Orthodox Church as the guardian of the Truth, and to create some kind of new, strange church. And so there took place this ‘ecumenical meeting’. Present were a so-called Orthodox protopriest from the Paris Theological (more exactly, heretical) Institute, a Jewish rabbi, a pastor and a Catholic priest. At first they sort of prayed, and then began the speeches. And then (forgive me for saying such things from the holy ambon, but I want to show you what we have come to) the Jewish rabbi said that the Lord Jesus Christ was the illegitimate son of a dissolute woman…
“’But that’s not the main horror. The Jewish people has opposed God for a long time… - so there’s nothing surprising in this. But the horror was that when he said this everyone was silent. Later, a man who had heard this terrible blasphemy asked the ‘Orthodox’ protopriest: ‘How could you keep silent?’ He replied: ‘I didn’t want to offend this Jew.’ It’s wrong to offend a Jew, but to insult the All-Pure Virgin Mary is permitted! Look at the state we have come to! How often does it happen to us all now that we do not have the zeal to stand up, when necessary, in defence of our holy things! The Orthodox cleric must zealously stand up against blasphemy, just as the holy Hierarch Nicholas stopped the mouth of the heretic… But now, unfortunately, we have become, as the saying goes, ‘shamefully indifferent to both the evil and the good’. And it is precisely in the soil of this indifference, of a kind of feeling of self-preservation, that the heresy of ecumenism has established itself – as also apostasy, that falling away which is becoming more and more evident… Let us remember, brethren, that Christian love embraces all in itself, is compassionate to to all, wishes that all be saved and is sorry for, and merciful to, and love every creature of God; but where it sees a conscious assault on the truth it turns into fiery zeal which cannot bear any such blasphemy… And so must it always be, because every Orthodox Christian must always be zealous for God.”
“Patriarch” Athenagoras expressed, perhaps better than any contemporary church leader, what ecumenism really means for its adherents. As Basil (now Hieromonk Gregory) Lourié writes: “Athenagoras loved the Latins and did not consider them to be heretics. But his denial of their hereticalness was not the manifestation of a special love for them: Athenagoras did not recognise the existence of heresy in general! On hearing of a certain man who saw heresy everywhere, Athenagoras said: ‘I don’t see them anywhere! I see only truths, partial truths, reduced truths, truths that are sometimes out of place…’
“The teaching of the Church, of the Holy Fathers, is based on the rock of the confession of the fullness of the Truth incarnate in Christ, which is organically incapable of being mixed with lies. The ecumenists consciously choose the sand of ‘partial truths’ cemented by the lie of the denial of Christ as the true Son and Word of God.
“Why can Athenagoras and people like him, who are characterised by their own kind of deep faith, asceticism and even capacity for sacrifice, completely consciously go against, not simply individual Fathers, but even all of them taken together? Why have they come to the decision that certain decrees of the Fathers in relation to the Church and the dogmas may supposedly have lost their force in our time? There can only be one answer: their Orthodox faith was been mixed with certain tares, which have grown up and suffocated the shoots of Truth. The tares are faith in something about which the Lord did not announce to the Church. This is what we read in this connection in Athenagoras himself: ‘Palestine has again become the centre of the world… We must pray and struggle that Jerusalem may again become a place of dialogue and peace. So that we may together prepare the way for the return of Jesus, the Mahdi of Islam, the Messiah of Israel, our Lord.’ ‘In Jerusalem Abraham met Melchizedek, a priest of the Mosg High God, a mystical foreshadowing of the Word which is present in all peoples and in all religions.’ (This is how Athenagoras explains why he and the Roman Pope Paul VI decided to meet in Jerusalem.) The union with the Latins was seen by Athenagoras in connection with this coming advent of the person he called Jesus: ‘Unity may be attained unexpectedly, as is the case with everything great. As can happen with the return of Christ, Who, as He said, will come as a thief. Catholicism is now in a vortex. Everything is possible.’ Neither Athenagoras nor the other ecumenists refer to any other positions based on Church Tradition. And not surprisingly. The teaching of the Church foresees the union of all peoples, not around Christ, but around him whom the Jews call the Messiah, and the Muslims Mahdi [the Antichrist]. ‘When the Son of Man comes will He find faith on the earth?’ (Luke 18.8).
“But this Tradition of the Church has ceased to be of interest to them because they have accepted another: faith that some special age has dawned precisely now. If all the people of this age understand its content, they will turn out to be much more closely united with each other than with their co-religionists of previous ages. The people of this age are united by certain ‘pan-human’, as they put it, values of their own, values which are much more important to them than the heritage of the past, which disunites them. This is that age of which the bearers of the so-called ‘Russian religious philosopy’ (particularly Soloviev, Berdyaev, Florensky and Bulgakov) became the heralds throughout the world. These people expressed in a pseudo-Christian language the idea of the coming of a ‘new age’ – the age of some new, post-New Testament ‘revelation of the Holy Spirit’, which would be given in the last times, and which they borrowed from occult teachings. (See, for example, the letter on the Holy Spirit in Florensky’s ‘The Pillar and Ground of the Truth’.) For these people there exists some kind of special ‘age of the Fathers’, which is already completely past. With it have also gone into the past the canons of the Fathers. In our time, instead of the Fathers there are those who have received the new revelation of the new age. And so for the Orthodox Church today ecumenism is not a particular problem which might pass some countries by. But at the same time it is only a particular case of a more widespread phenomenon – the placing of the whole of contemporary civilisation on a new principle of unity. It is on this principle that the universal religion which Hieromonk Seraphim Rose of blessed memory (+1982) called ‘the religion of the future’, the religion of the Antichrist, is being created at the present time.
“This principle is much more clearly formulated in various movements of the ‘New Age’ and Masonry type, while ecumenism is called to carry out only one particular task: force the entry into this new unity of such people as would wish to preserve their unity with traditional forms of religion. The Antichrist will have to satisfy everyone…”
The Fall of the Serbian and Bulgarian Churches
Improved relations with the Catholics did not preclude improved relations with the other heretics. In September, 1966, two inter-Orthodox Commissions were established in Belgrade to negotiate with the Anglicans and the Old Catholics.
This siting sealed the entry of the last of the major autocephalous Churches, the Serbian, into the ecumenical movement. The “conversion” of the Serbian Church to Ecumenism had been made possible by the “election” of a puppet patriarch, Germanus, on the death of the weak Patriarch Vincent in July, 1958.
“All of his opponents were eliminated beforehand. Bishop Basil, at that time Bishop of Banja Luka, was arrested in Belgrade and threatened by the UDBA (the Yugoslav Secret Police) to be returned to Banja Luka and be tried by the ‘People’s Court’ for his alleged ‘counter-revolutionary activities’, if he did not endorse Bishop Germanus’ candidacy for patriarch. Once he endorsed Germanus’ candidacy he was released, through Bishop Germanus’ ‘gracious’ intervention.
“Father Macarius, abbot of the famed Dechani Monastery, was given 200,000 dinars ($650) as payment for his coerced vote for Germanus. He came back to his monastery after the election and threw the money at his monks, telling them that he ‘felt like Judas’.
“Many delegates to the Electorate were given a special pen and paper on which they were to cast their ballots, in order to show whether they had kept their promise to the agents of the Secret Police. (Two sworn statements by witnesses).”
According to witnesses who were in the patriarch’s house, he had a party card. And when he was once accused of embezzling a very large sum of money and was threatened with a court trial, the Serbian KGB saved him and paid the money themselves. Thereafter he was, of course, completely “their man”.
In 1960 Archimandrite Justin Popovich, who has been called “the conscience of the Serbian Church”, wrote: “… The atheist dictatorship has so far elected two patriarchs… And in this way it has cynically trampled on the holy rights of the Church, and thereby also on the holy dogmas.”
It was during this period that zealous hierarchs within the ROCA began to urge a change in the ROCA’s formerly friendly relationship with the Serbian Patriarchate. Thus Archbishop Averky of Jordanville wrote to Metropolitan Philaret, the first-hierarch of the ROCA: “With regard to the question of the Serbian Church, whose Patriarch German is a stooge of the communist Tito, as the Serbs themselves are convinced, calling him ‘the red patriarch’. We have heard this from many clergy and laity who have fled from Serbia. How can we recognize, and have communion in prayer with, ‘the red patriarch’, who maintains the closest friendly relations with red Moscow? Cannot our Hierarchical Council make erroneous decisions? Do we in the Orthodox Church have a doctrine about the infallibility of every Council of Bishops?”
However, Archbishop Averky’s attitude to the Serbs was not commonly accepted in the ROCA. Many hierarchs and priests of the ROCA had been brought up and educated in Serbia, and out of gratitude for the hospitality the Serbs had given them between the two world wars it was felt that condemnations of them should not be issued and communion with them should not be broken. To what extent this attitude was truly motivated by gratitude, and to what extent simply by fear of the ROCA’s losing its last friends in “World Orthodoxy”, is a moot point. In any case, it was contrary to the canons of the Church, which require the breaking of communion with all those in communion with heresy, as well as to the spirit of true Christian love. For true love for the Serbs dictated that it should be pointed out into what an abyss their ecumenism was leading them, an exhortation which would have acquired greater weight by a full break in communion…
Having secured their own man as patriarch, the ecucommunists proceeded to use him against their most dangerous opponent outside Serbia – Bishop Dionysius of the American-Canadian diocese. In 1963 Germanus and his Synod started to manufacture charges against Dionysius. An investigating committee was sent from Belgrade which initiated a mock investigation and uncanonical defrocking of Dionysius. Then three eminently unsuitable pro-Belgrade priests were consecrated in his place. Dionysius and his supporters refused to recognize these acts, for which the patriarchate condemned them as graceless schismatics.
Cast out in this way, three dioceses and about forty parishes of the Free Serbs, as they now called themselves, applied to join the ROCA, but were rebuffed. Then they came briefly into communion first with two Ukrainian bishops of the Polish Orthodox Church and then with the Patriarchate of Alexandria. Fleeing the Ecumenism of the latter, they briefly found refuge with the “Florinite” Greek Old Calendarists led by Archbishop Auxentios (on September 11/24, 1981). In 1991, however, communion was restored between the Serbian Patriarchate and the Free Serbs.
The communists were now in complete control of the Serbian Patriarchal Church. The result was predictable: “an alarming tendency on the part of the hierarchy of the ‘Mother Church’ to abandon true Orthodoxy and embrace heresy. For soon after the Belgrade bishops severed communion with Bishop Dionysius and us, the true Serbian Orthodox Christians in the Free World who remained loyal to him, they plunged with both feet into the murky waters of the worst heresy that has ever assaulted the Orthodox Church – the heresy of ‘ecumenism’.”
Archimandrite Justin Popovich wrote on the catastrophic situation of East European Orthodoxy at this time: “The Church is being gradually destroyed from within and without, ideologically and organisationally. All means are being used: known and unknown, open and secret, the most subtle and the most crude.. And all this is skilfully dissolved, but in fact it is the most deadly of poisons with a sugar coating… The most elementary and rudimentary logic demonstrates and proves: cooperation with open atheists, the cursed enemies of Christ and the Orthodox Church of Christ, is illogical and anti-logical. We ask those who seek such cooperation, or already cooperate, or – terrible thought! – compel others to cooperate, with the words of Christ: “’What communion can there be between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what is there in common between light and darkness? What agreement can there be between Christ and Belial?’ (II Corinthians 6.14-15). Do you not hear the Christ-bearing Apostle, who thunders: ‘If we, or an angel from heaven begins to preach to you that which we have not preached to you, let him be anathema!’ (Galatians 1.8). Or have you, in the frenzy of the atheist dictatorship, gone completely deaf to the Divine truth and commandment of Christ: ‘You cannot serve God and Mammon’ (Matthew 6.24)?”
Patriarch Germanus led his Church into the WCC in 1965, and become one of its presidents in 1968. At the same time he was edging closer to the Catholics, also. Thus in 1967 he said to the Roman Catholic bishop of Mostar: “The times are such that our sister Churches have to lean on each other, to turn away from that which divided us and to concentrate on all that we have in common.” The next year he recognized Catholic marriages.
Germanus liked to justify his Ecumenism by quoting the Serbian proverb: Drvo se na drvo naslanja; a covek na coveka – “Tree leans on tree and man on man.” But the Free Serbs had an answer to this. “We can also quote the proverbs of our people: S’kim si, onaki si. – ‘You are like those with whom you associate.’ If you find your fellowship with heretics, you begin to share their erroneous thinking and eventually become a heretic. As an American proverb goes: ‘Birds of a feather flock together.’”
Commenting on the decision of the Orthodox Churches to become “organic members” of the WCC, Fr. Justin wrote: “Every true Orthodox Christian, who is instructed under the guidance of the Holy Fathers, is overcome with shame when he reads that the Orthodox members of the Fifth Pan-Orthodox Conference in Geneva [in June, 1968]… on the question of the participation of the Orthodox in the work of the World Council of Churches, considered it necessary ‘to declare that the Orthodox Church considers itself to be an organic part of the World Council of Churches.’
“This assertion is apocalyptically horrifying in its un-orthodoxy and anti-orthodoxy. Was it necessary for the Orthodox Church, that most holy Body of the God-Man Christ, to become so debased to such a pitiful degree that its theological representatives – some of whom were Serbian bishops – have begun to beg for ‘organic’ participation and membership in the World Council of Churches, which will supposedly become a new ‘Body’ and a new ‘Church’, which will stand above all other churches, in which the Orthodox Churches and the non-orthodox churches will appear only as parts. God forbid! Never before has there been such a betrayal and abandonment of our holy Faith!
“We are renouncing the Orthodox Faith of the God-Man Christ, and organic ties with the God-Man and His Most Holy Body: we are repudiating the Orthodox Church of the holy apostles, the Fathers, and the Ecumenical Councils – and we wish to become ‘organic members’ of a heretical, humanistic, humanized and man-worshipping club, which consists of 263 heresies – every one of which is a spiritual death.
“As Orthodox Christians we are ‘members of Christ.’ ‘Shall I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute?’ (I Corinthians 6.15). We are doing this by our organic union with the World Council of Churches, which is nothing other than the rebirth of atheistic man, of pagan idolatry.
“The time has finally come for the patristic Orthodox Church of Saint Sabbas, the Church of the holy apostles and Fathers, of the holy confessors, martyrs and new-martyrs, to stop mingling ecclesiastically and hierarchically with the so-called ‘World Council of Churches’, and to cast off forever any participation in joint prayer or services, and to renounce general participation in any ecclesiastical dealings whatsoever, which are not self-contained and do not express the unique and unchangeable character of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church – the Orthodox Church – the only true Church that has ever existed.”
In 1971, Archimandrite Justin broke communion with the Serbian patriarch, while retaining contacts with the other bishops.
The ecucommunists scored another victory in 1968, when the Bulgarian Church adopted the new calendar. The change was imposed, according to one account, at the insistence of the World Council of Churches, which in 1965-66 had sent letters on the subject to the churches; but according to another account – on orders from the Moscow Patriarchate, which wished to see how the people reacted to the change in Bulgaria before proceeding with the same innovation in Russia. In the event, only the Russian Women’s Monastery of the Protecting Veil in Sophia refused to accept the change.
Bishop Photius of Triaditza, who is now the only Old Calendarist bishop living in Bulgaria, writes: “For some months before the introduction of the reform, Tserkoven Vestnik informed the astonished believing people that the reform was being carried out ‘in accordance with the ecumenist striving of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church…’
“The Bulgarian clergy and even episcopate were completely unprepared to resist the calendar innovation, while the people, suspecting something amiss, began to grumble. The calendar reform was introduced skilfully and with lightning suddenness by Patriarch Cyril – an ardent modernist and ‘heartfelt’ friend of the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras! Everyone knew that the patriarch was on good terms with the communist authorities (for his ‘services’ to it he received the title of ‘academic’ – member of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences!) Everyone also knew of his despotic temperament: he did all he could to persecute and annihilate his ideological opponents.”
“The Heresy of Heresies”
In the second half of the 1960s opposition to Ecumenism, not only in the Slavic Churches, but also in the other Autocephalous Churches, was gradually suppressed. Some conservative hierarchs died, such as Patriarch Christopher of Alexandria (in 1967); others were more forcibly removed or replaced, such as Archbishop Chrysostom of Athens and the leaders of some of the Athonite monasteries. Others were effectively silenced by bribery, such as the Orthodox Church of America.
The Greek State Church was worn down by a mixture of bribes and political arm-twisting. The bribes came from the Vatican in the form of the return of the relics of Saints Andrew, Titus and Isidore to the Greek Church (and of St. Sabbas to the Jerusalem Patriarchate). It was very difficult for Archbishop Chrysostom on the one hand to welcome and give thanks for the return of these relics, and on the other hand to put up a firm resistance to the lifting of the anathemas against Rome.
Another clever move on the part of the Vatican was to allow 3000 Catholics in Corfu and on the Ionian islands to celebrate Pascha in 1967 on 30 April, the Orthodox date. As the journal Ekklesia pointed out: “The decision evokes natural suspicion that fundamentally this is a propaganda move and an attempt to proselytize the Orthodox population of Corfu.” As full union beckoned, it became less important to the papists on which day they and the Orthodox celebrated the feasts as long as it was the same day.
There is other evidence that the Pope was attempting to force the pace in this year. Thus in May the Catholic Ecumenical Directory was published, which allowed Catholics to take communion in Orthodox churches if they were isolated or could not receive Catholic sacraments for a long period. And yet in March Patriarch Athenagoras had said that Orthodox could not (yet) receive “sacramental grace from a priest who is not himself Orthodox”. Then in July the Pope travelled to Constantinople, where he prayed together with the Patriarch. This visit was returned in October, when Athenagoras visited Rome, and the two prelates sat on equal and identical thrones – “an event which must be unprecedented in the annals of papal Rome, and for which there was certainly no parallel at the Council of Florence in 1438-9.”
This exchange of visits was made easier by the fact that on April 21 a military coup had taken place in Greece. The newly established government immediately promulgated a “compulsory law” on May 10 which dismissed the Holy Synod, replaced it by a Synod chosen by the government and retired Archbishop Chrysostom as being too old to hold office, and replaced him with Archbishop Jerome, who had been a member of the central committee of the World Council of Churches since 1954. This act was very reminiscent of the way in which the revolutionary government chose Chrysostom Papadopoulos in 1922 and must be presumed to have had the same aim – the replacement of the existing incumbent by one more closely identified with the West and Ecumenism.
The new, uncanonically elected archbishop quickly showed his credentials by coming to “full agreement” with the Ecumenical Patriarchate and issuing the following statement in his enthronement address: “Our relations with non-Orthodox confessions must be marked by Christian love and by mutual respect, so as to foster friendship; but at the same time we must preserve our dignity and our firm adherence to the Orthodox faith and teaching. As a pre-condition for any closer relations, we must insist on the condemnation of proselytism.”
The only problem about this seemingly conservative statement was that “firm adherence to the Orthodox faith” and “the condemnation of proselytism” are incompatible, in that if we believe that the Orthodox Faith is the True Faith we are bound to hope and work for the conversion of people from other faiths. We condemn proselytism among the Orthodox, not because it is “unfair” and goes against some kind of ecclesiastical non-aggression pact, but because it takes people away from the saving ark of the One True Church. By the same token we support Orthodox missionary work among the heterodox because it brings the heterodox to salvation, in fulfilment of the Saviour’s words: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28.19).
There were other, more political reasons for the coup in the Church. Athenagoras was favoured by the Americans as being the man best able, on the one hand, to effect a rapprochement between Turkey and Greece, and, on the other, to resist the influence of the Soviet-dominated Moscow Patriarchate. So his opponents in the Greek Church had to be removed.
The hierarchy of the Greek Church had been silenced (or rather, removed); but the majority of the monks on Mount Athos were still fiercely opposed to the lifting of the anathemas. Therefore in November, 1967, an exarchate consisting of three bishops of the newly constituted Greek Church was sent to Athos to try and reconcile the monks and bring those monasteries who had broken communion with the ecumenists, especially Dionysiou, back into obedience to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In this mission, however, they failed – for the time being.
In 1968 the Fourth General Assembly of the WCC took place in Uppsala. Patriarch German of Serbia was one of the six presidents, and remained in that post for the next ten years. In view of the above, it will seem surprising that the Greek Church refused to take part in the Assembly. But the motive for this was political – the negative attitude of the Swedish government and the WCC to the Greek junta.
Uppsala considerably furthered the ecumenical movement, with the Orthodox, as the new general secretary Carson Blake joyfully pointed out, taking full part in all the sections and committees and not, as often in the past, issuing separate statements disagreeing with the majority Protestant view. Now only the ROCA, the Russian Catacomb Church and the Greek and Romanian Old Calendarists stood in the way of the complete triumph of Ecumenism. It was time for this last remnant of the True Church of Christ to renounce all hesitations, all false hopes, all temptations to compromise in the face of the completely unambiguous apostasy of the official churches of “World Orthodoxy”. It was time to declare that Ecumenism was not simply an uncanonical activity, but heresy, and not simply heresy, but “the heresy of heresies”.
This definition came in a report that Archbishop Vitaly (Ustinov) of Canada gave to the Synod of the ROCA on the Uppsala Assembly of the WCC: “At the opening of the Assembly an ecumenical prayer was read in the name of all those assembles: ‘O God our Father, You can create everything anew. We entrust ourselves to You, help us to live for others, for Your love extends over all people, and to search for the Truth, which we have not known…’ How could the Orthodox listen to these last words? It would have been interesting to look at that moment at the faces of the Orthodox hierarchs who had declared for all to hear that they, too, did not know the Truth. Every batyushka of ours in the remotest little village knows the Truth by experience, as he stands before the throne of God and prays to God in spirit and in truth. Even The Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate, which is completely subject to the censorship of the communist party, in citing the words of the prayer in its account of this conference, did not dare to translate the English ‘truth’ by the word ‘istina’, but translated it as ‘pravda’ [‘righteousness’]. Of course, everyone very well understood that in the given case the text of the prayer was speaking without the slightest ambiguity about the Truth. Perhaps the Orthodox hierarchs have resorted, in the conference, to the old Jesuit practice of reservatio mentalis, but in that case if all these delegates do not repent of the sin of communion in prayer with heretics, then we must consider them to be on the completely false path of apostasy from the Truth of Orthodoxy… Ecumenism is the heresy of heresies because until now each heresy in the history of the Church has striven to take the place of the true Church, but the ecumenical movement, in uniting all the heresies, invites all of them together to consider themselves the one true Church.”
7. THE ZENITH OF ECUMENISM AND THE FALL OF COMMUNISM (1970-1990)
Come out from her, My people, lest you share in her sins,
And lest you receive of her plagues.
The appeals issued by the True Orthodox to the “World Orthodox” were not, in general, heeded; and the history of official, “World Orthodoxy” since 1970 has been that of a continuing slide into ever-deepening alienation from God and subjection to
Mammon. There have been bright spots in the prevailing gloom, such as the temporary union of the True Orthodox in 1971 and the fall of communism in 1989-91. But in general ecucommunism, having breached the last defences of the official churches during the 1960s, has been allowed to continue its devastation. By 1970 all the local Orthodox Churches had entered the World Council of Churches; and this fact, together with the increasing porousness of the Iron Curtain separating the Churches in East and West, makes the division of our history into that of the Russian Church, on the one hand, and the Greek and Balkan Churches, on the other, increasingly artificial. From now on, we can talk about a single bloc composed of the churches of apostate “World Orthodoxy”, which all, to a greater or lesser degree, espouse the “pan-heresy” of ecumenism, and which are opposed by a number of True Orthodox Churches struggling to achieve unity in the face of the common enemy.
A Failed Attempt at Union
By 1970, the Autocephalous Churches were more or less united in their drive for union with the Catholics and Protestants. By 1971, the True Orthodox of Greece and Cyprus and the Russian Church Abroad (ROCA) were also united – temporarily. But tragically this union, which could have been of such benefit to the struggle of the True Orthodox Christians, fell through.
As we have seen, in 1969 the ROCA officially recognized the Florinite hierarchy led by Archbishop Auxentius. This strengthened the position of the Florinites and correspondingly weakened that of the Matthewites. So on September 1/14, 1971, an exarchate of the Matthewite Synod, consisting of Metropolitans Callistus of Corinth and Epiphanius of Kition (Cyprus) and the Chancellor, Protopriest Eugene Tombros, travelled to the Synod of the Russian Church Abroad in New York.
They went, as the Matthewites wrote to the Russians some years later, “in order to come into contact with your Synod and regularize spiritual communion with you for the strengthening of the Holy Struggle of Orthodoxy”. Or, as Metropolitan Epiphanius put it in a letter to Metropolitan Philaret, “I went to carry out with you a common duty 48 years late. I went with the conviction that, through human weakness, we carried out in 1971 what we should have done in 1924… I believed that in entering into sacramental communion with you I became with you the same Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.”
However, the Matthewites did not immediately seek communion in prayer with the Russians. First they asked what the Russians’ attitude to the new calendarists was. The Russians replied that the introduction of the new calendar was a mistake, and promised, in the person of Archbishop Philotheus of Hamburg, that they would not henceforth concelebrate with the new calendarists. However, they did not say whether they regarded the new calendarists as having sacraments. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Russians also resolved at this time that all Catholics and Protestants seeking to become Orthodox should first be baptized with full threefold immersion.
Apparently satisfied with this reply, the Matthewites asked for the Russians to pass judgement on their own canonical situation.
Having examined the Matthewite case, on September 15/28, the Russians presented, in writing, a dogmatic-canonical examination of the case of consecrations by one bishop only. The Matthewites claimed that this report vindicated Matthew’s actions, but this is a misrepresentation of the text. In fact, although the language they used was conciliatory, the Russians concluded that the Matthewites had sinned, “not against the dogmas of Orthodoxy, but since, in their zeal to preserve it they transgressed against the hierarchical order when Bishop Matthew consecrated a bishop on his own. A simple recognition of their consecrations could become a cause of scandal as being in disregard of fixed canons: the First of the Apostles, the Fourth of the First Ecumenical Council, and the Third of the Seventh Ecumenical Council. At the same time it is clear from other canons and examples that economy can be applied on the basis of the Eighth of the First Ecumenical Council and the Sixty-Sixth of the Council of Carthage…”
So it was decided that two Russian bishops should lay hands on Metropolitans Callistus and Epiphanius, that these two must perform the same on their brother hierarchs, and the hierarchs on the clergy, and that Bishops Callistus and Epiphanius should “do everything so that their Hierarchy, clergy and people should be united with those who are led by his Beatitude Archbishop Auxentius.”
The laying on of hands duly took place; but there was much controversy over its precise meaning. The Matthewites claimed that the sacrament, being a ceiroqesia (laying on of hands) and not a ceirotonia (ordination or consecration) did not imply that Matthew’s consecrations had been invalid, but rather implied a recognition of them as valid. And in support of their claim, they cited: (a) the words of the Act, in which the word ceiroqesia and its Russian equivalent and not ceirotonia and its Russian equivalent are used, and (b) the English text of a letter sent by Metropolitan Philaret to Metropolitan Epiphanius, in which the sacrament was described as no more than “a prayer of absolution” – presumably the removal of the stain attaching to the Matthewite orders because of their derivation from one bishop only.
Against this, however, are the facts: (a) that the Russians in their text of September 15/28 explicitly stated that they were not simply going to recognize the Matthewite orders, (b) that the Russians in the same text explained that in the history of the Church the clergy of certain graceless schismatics, such as the Katharoi, were received into the clergy of the Orthodox by ceiroqesia and not by reordination, which was an exercise of economy but by no means a recognition of the schismatics’ ordinations, and (c) that, as Bishop Laurus, the secretary of the Russian Synod pointed out on a trip to Greece, the ceiroqesias on Metropolitans Callistos and Epiphanius were carried out, not on the same, but on successive days, which clearly implied that they were equivalent to consecrations.
On returning to Greece, Metropolitans Callistus and Epiphanius duly performed the same sacrament on their brother hierarchs; and it appears that the Matthewites at first welcomed this resolution of their canonical anomaly. But then many of the clergy objected, because they did not want to accept any sacrament that might imply that Bishop Matthew’s consecrations and ordinations had been invalid. Moreover, they objected to any union in the sacraments with the “Florinites”, and were doubtful about the Orthodoxy of the Russians, too. The result was that the Matthewite bishops did not lay their hands on their clergy; and after a short period during which the Matthewites and Florinites did call each other “brothers in Christ”, on December 20, 1972 the Matthewites again declared that the Florinites were without grace. Moreover, in 1976 the Matthewites broke communion with the Russians, too, because, they claimed, the Russians had broken their promise to give them a written confession that the new calendarists were without grace, and were continuing, in the person of Archbishop Anthony of Geneva, to have communion with the new calendarists. And in 1982 they denied that any c e i r o q e s i a had taken place, saying that the Russians had done nothing except recognize their own bishops as Orthodox and canonical.
Russian Dissidents and Ecumenists
In the Russian Church, meanwhile, the first signs were beginning to be seen of a weakening of the power of communism, if not in the free countries of the West and Greece, where intellectual opinion was still predominantly leftish, at any rate in its homeland – the Soviet Union, where Khrushchev’s secret speech exposing Stalin at the 20th Party Congress, followed by the spineless performance of the official church during the persecution of 1959-64, elicited the first murmurings of what came to be known as dissidentstvo, the dissident movement.
Now it is fashionable to belittle the dissident movement as a basically political movement having little to do with the Church. And it must be admitted that none of the leading dissidents, such as Yeshliman, Dudko and Solzhenitsyn, were members of the True Church, and were all, to a greater or lesser extent, infected with heretical western ideas such as ecumenism. Nevertheless, the dissidents undoubtedly had a historical significance in indicating a return of courage to the Soviet intelligentsia and parts of the Soviet church, while the arguments that raged over their significance in the Russian Church Abroad had an important effect on the history of that Church.
Two main streams were discernible in the movement, which may be called, recalling the debates of the nineteenth-century intelligentsia, the westernisers and the Slavophiles. The Westernisers were mainly concerned to correct abuses within the Church, to re-establish freedom of conscience and freedom of expression. They sought and received much support in the West, and were in turn much influenced by modern western modes of thought, especially – and in this they departed from traditionally Orthodox modes of thought – Ecumenism. The Slavophiles were less well received and understood in the West. Their main emphasis was on the restoration of traditional Russianness – Russian religion, Russian art and architecture, Russian culture in all its forms, which Soviet culture had so damaged and distorted.
The two streams were not always sharply differentiated and could fuse together in the thought and activity of a single man. Thus Alexander Solzhenitsyn, though usually considered to be a Slavophile, nevertheless shared many of the characteristics of the westernizing dissidents, not only in his human rights activity, but also in his Ecumenism. And, purified of their heterodox elements, both streams could be said to tend (unconsciously as yet) towards the True Orthodox Church, which remained more radical and still more courageous in Her confession than the dissidents and more truly representative of the best of Old Russia than the Slavophiles.
The dissident movement within the Church began, among the clergy, with the 1965 open letter of the Priests Nicholas Yeshliman and Gleb Yakunin to President Podgorny, in which they protested against the subservience of the Church to the State, particularly in not resisting the Khrushchev persecution, in giving control of the parishes to the State-controlled dvadsatsky, in the handing over of lists of those baptized to the local authorities, in not letting children and adolescents under 18 participate in church life, and in ordaining only those candidates to the episcopate and priesthood who were pleasing to the Council for Religious Affairs. This letter was ignored by the patriarchate, which became the general pattern for such protests. In 1966 both priests were forbidden from serving.
Among the laity, the most significant dissident was the philosopher Boris Talantov, who was imprisoned for leading a group of Kirov believers in exposing the nefarious activities of the local Bishop John in the closing of churches and suppression of believers. He, too, received no support from the patriarchate, being slandered publicly on the BBC by Metropolitan Nicodemus of Leningrad, and was eventually sent to prison in Kirov, where he died in 1971. Talantov denounced Metropolitan Sergius’ 1927 declaration as a betrayal of the Church, and openly called the Moscow Patriarchate “a secret agent of world-wide antichristianity”.
In 1972, Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote an open “Lenten Letter” to Patriarch Pimen, describing the patriarchate as being “ruled dictatorially by atheists – a sight never before seen in two millenia!” “The Russian Church,” he wrote, “expresses its concern about any evil in distant Africa, while it never has anything at all to say about things which are wrong here at home,” And he went on: “By what reasoning is it possible to convince oneself that the planned destruction of the spirit and body of the church under the guidance of atheists is the best way of preserving it? Preserving it for whom? Certainly not for Christ. Preserving it by what means? By falsehood? But after the falsehood by whose hands are the holy sacraments to be celebrated?”
Solzhenitsyn’s appeal “not to live by the lie” was seen by some (whether he himself saw it in this light or not) to lead logically to the adoption of a catacomb existence for the Church. Thus Fr. Sergius Zheludkov replied: “What are we to do in such a situation? Should we say: all or nothing? Should we try to go underground, which in the present system is unthinkable? Or should we try somehow to accept the system and for the present use those opportunities that are permitted?”
A few years later, another dissident priest, Fr. Demetrius Dudko, wrote: “We all recognize Patriarch Tikhon and we look on Patriarch Sergius’ [acts] as a betrayal of the Church’s interests to please the authorities. The following (Patriarchs) – Alexis and the present Pimen – only go on the road already opened. We have no other hierarchy. The Catacomb Church would be good – but where is it? The True Orthodox Church – these are good people, morally steadfast; but they have almost no priesthood, and you simply can’t find them, while there are many who are thirsting. And one has to be ministered to by the hierarchy we do have. Immediately the question arises: are they ministering to us? Basically, they are the puppets of the atheists. And another question: at least, are they believers? Who will answer this question? I fear to answer…”
In 1974, the ROCA held her Third All-Diaspora Council at Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, U.S.A. Just as the First Diaspora Council, held at Karlovtsy in 1921, had defined the relationship of the ROCA to the Bolshevik regime and the restoration of the Romanov dynasty; and the Second Council, held in Belgrade in 1938, defined her relationship to the Catacomb Church; so the Third Council defined – or tried to define – her relationship to the dissident movement. A substantial part of the Council, led by Archbishop Anthony of Geneva, wanted the ROCA to give her unqualified support to the dissidents, in spite of the fact that the dissidents were all members of the Moscow Patriarchate and that their ecumenist ideology was alien to the spirit and teaching of the ROCA. However, a traditionalist remnant, led by Archbishop Anthony of Los Angeles, while respecting the courage of the dissidents, objected to a recognition that would give a wrong signal to the believers in Russia, devaluing the witness of the true catacomb confessors by giving the impression that it is possible to be a true confessor from within a heretical church organization.
The Council’s Epistle fudged the issue, declaring: “The boundary between preservation of the Church and seductive self-preservation was drawn by his Holiness Patriarch Tikhon, his lawful locum tenens Metropolitan Peter, Metropolitan Cyril of Kazan, Metropolitan Joseph of Petrograd and the Solovki confessors headed by Archbishop Hilarion (Troitsky).
“In recent years, this boundary has again been clearly drawn by Archbishop Hermogenes [of the Moscow Patriarchate], several priest, among them Nicholas Gainov and Demetrius Dudko, the laypeople of Vyatka led by Boris Talantov, the defenders of the Pochayev Lavra such as Theodosia Kuzminichna Varavva, and many others. This boundary has also been drawn by Solzhenitsyn in his appeal ‘Do not live by the lie!’ Not to live by the lie and to honour the memory of the holy martyrs and confessors of our Church – this is the boundary separating the true Tikhonites from ‘the sergianist leaven of Herod’, as wrote Boris Talantov, the rebukers of the present leaders of the patriarchate who died in prison.
“In our unceasing prayers for each other, in our love for the Lord Jesus, in our faithfulness to the ideal of the past and future Orthodox Russia, the faithful archpastors, pastors, monks and laymen on both sides of the iron curtain are united. Together they constitute the Holy Church of Russia, which is indivisible just as the seamless robe of Christ is indivisible.”
This was a serious distortion: to place the confessors of the Catacomb Church on the same level as the sergianists, albeit “dissident” sergianists. A case could be made for considering that Boris Talantov was a true martyr, since he denounced the MP in terms identical to those employed by the Catacomb Church and may well have died out of communion with the MP. But Dudko and Solzhenitsyn in no way shared the convictions of the Catacomb Church – Solzhenitsyn even denied its existence – and to this day they continue to belong to the MP.
Voices were heard at the Council arguing for union between the ROCA and the schismatic Paris and American Metropolia jurisdictions. Love, they said, should unite us, and we should not emphasize our differences. But these voices were silenced when the first hierarch of the ROCA, Metropolitan Philaret, pointed out that love which does not wish to disturb our neighbour by pointing out his errors is not love but hatred!
He might have quoted St. Maximus the Confessor in this connection: “I want and pray you to be wholly harsh and implacable with the heretics only in regard to cooperating with them or in any way whatever supporting their deranged belief. For I reckon it misanthropy and a departure from Divine love to lend support to error, that those previously seized by it might be even more greatly corrupted.”
In 1976 the Hierarchical Synod of the ROCA deepened its error of 1974, publishing an Epistle to the Russian people which, after declaring its unity with the Catacomb Church, went on to declare to members of the MP: “We also kiss the cross that you have taken upon yourselves, O pastors who have found in yourselves the courage and strength of spirit to be open reproachers of the weakness of spirit of your hierarchs, who have surrendered before the atheists… We know of your exploit, we pray for you and ask your prayers for our flock that is in the diaspora. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!”
In the later 1970s, as détente in the political sphere developed, so did “dissident fever” in the ROCA. This evoked disquiet among traditionalist members of the ROCA, especially those of non-Russian descent, many of whom joined one or another of the Greek Old Calendarist jurisdictions. However, it was also in these years that Metropolitan Philaret, accepted under his omophorion fourteen hieromonks of the Catacomb Church who had been orphaned since the repose of their hierarch, Archbishop Anthony Galynsky-Mikhailovsky (+1976).
“Metropolitan” Nicodemus of Leningrad
As we have seen, the leading ideologist of the MP, and the head of its Department of External Relations, since the early 1960s had been the KGB general, Metropolitan Nicodemus (Rotov) of Leningrad. Since writing his master’s thesis on Pope John XXIII, the man who led the Catholic Church onto the ecumenical scene, Metropolitan Nicodemus had been trying to do the same for the Moscow Patriarchate.
Hierodeacon Theophanes writes: “Metropolitan Nicodemus begins his exposition of his ecumenist faith with an Orthodox thesis on the unity of the whole human race in Adam: ‘Mankind, the whole Adam (in the expression of St. Macarius the Great) is united by means of the Incarnation, Cross and Resurrection of the last Adam (I Cor. 14.45), the second Man, the Lord Who “for us men” came down from the heavens (I Cor. 15.47), and, having tasted “death for us all by the grace of God” (Heb. 2.9), “is the Saviour of all men” (I Tim. 4.10)… We all, in accordance with the ineffable wisdom of God, have been bound from the beginning with the bonds of unity and brotherhood’. But further on Metropolitan Nicodemus reveals his understanding of this unity: ‘Christ died for all men, and, as the new Adam, he laid the beginning for a new humanity… The fullness of the grace-filled gifts are communicated to people by the Holy Spirit in the Church of Christ. However, it would be a dangerous error to consider that Christ, the Redeemer of the whole world, does not extend His saving influence on the whole of humanity.’ This saving influence consists, according to Metropolitan Nicodemus, ‘in faith in Christ Jesus, acting through love in each separate person, as in the whole of humanity, with which we are united by our common human nature. God redeemed us into an undivided, indivisible, unchanging and unconfused union with this nature through the incarnation of the Only-Begotten Son.’ ‘By taking on and deifying our nature in the Divine Incarnation the Chief and Accomplisher of our faith (Heb. 12.2) and of eternal salvation (Heb. 5.9), our Lord Jesus Christ reconciled, united and related the whole of humanity with God, and all people with each other’. ‘The Church as the Kingdom of God is likened to leaven which penetrates into all the parts of the whole that is humanity, into the whole world, and acts with that measure of power which corresponds to the moral level of the bearers of Christ’s truth. And although far from all people actively and consciously abide in the Church, the Church abides in all through the love of Christ, for this love is not limited by any part of humanity, but is distributed to all people.’ Hence ‘the activity of the Spirit of God is not limited by confessional limits. His manifestation is completely and, above all, unconditionally revealed in the Church, but the traces of His presence are evident everywhere where there are the fruits of spiritual life: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness…’ Therefore all people, the whole Body of humanity (Adam), is invisibly united with God and is a certain ‘invisible Church’. The organization of the Church is understood by Nicodemus as ‘the visible Church’, in which ‘baptism defines the visible belonging to Christ’. Metropolitan Nicodemus consciously confesses the ‘baptism’ of Protestants to be true, turning to his ‘brothers in Christ’, the Protestants, the members of the WCC: ‘Through the mystery of holy Baptism we are engrafted onto the saving Divine Vine…’ But the visible Church ‘is called to realize the fruits of the Incarnation and Redemption in the life of her immediate members.’
“And so, according to Metropolitan Nicodemus, all people are ‘Christians’, it is true that the Church of Christ, the Body of Christ, the New Adam, is one, but it is not yet united into one ecclesiastical organization under one leader. The aim of the ecumenists is to create this mediation, that is, one single visible ecclesiastical organization for all. In this way the ecumenical Church and the world become indistinguishable from each other. It is not difficult to find the primary source of this faith. It is sergianism – a heretical teaching that the Church, the Body of Christ, is a simple ecclesiastical organization, just like ordinary secular organizations, political parties, communities, commercial structures, etc.”
During the career of Metropolitan Nicodemus, and to a large extent because of him, Rome made great inroads into the Moscow Patriarchate. This is well illustrated by the career of Fr. Michael Havryliv, a Russian Orthodox priest who was secretly received into the Catholic Church in 1973. Fr. Serge Keleher writes: “The Capuchin priest told Havryliv that Metropolitan Nicodemus [of Leningrad] was secretly a Catholic bishop, recognized by Rome with jurisdiction from Pope Paul VI throughout Russia. This assertion is not impossible – but neither is it entirely proved.
“On September 6 1975 Havryliv made a sacramental general Confession before Metropolitan Nicodemus, who then accepted Havryliv’s monastic vows and profession of Faith to the Apostolic See and the Pope of Rome. Kyr Nicodemus commanded Havryliv to order his monastic life according to the Jesuit Constitutions, and presented him with a copy of this document in Russian. This was all done privately; four days later the Metropolitan tonsured Havryliv a monk. On 9 October Kyr Nicodemus ordained Havryliv to the priesthood, without requiring the oaths customary for Russian Orthodox candidates to Holy Orders.
“In 1977 Havryliv was reassigned to the Moscow Patriarchate’s archdiocese of L’viv and Ternopil… In Havryliv’s final interview with Kyr Nicodemus, the Metropolitan of Leningrad ‘blessed me and gave me instructions to keep my Catholic convictions and do everything possible for the growth of the Catholic cause, not only in Ukraine, but in Russia. The Metropolitan spoke of the practice of his predecessors – and also asked me to be prudent.”
This information proved that beneath the “eirenic” ecumenical activities of the Vatican, there was a steely determination to take over the Moscow Patriarchate without any respect for the latter as a church. Havryliv, though already a Russian Orthodox priest, was reordained by Nicodemus – a clear indication that Rome accepted the sacraments of the Orthodox for only as long as it suited her. When she had gained control, however, such recognition would no longer be forthcoming…
When Metropolitan Nicodemus died, appropriately enough, in the arms of Pope John-Paul I in 1978, his place both as chief ideologist of the MP and as Metropolitan of Leningrad was taken by his pupil, the future “Patriarch” Alexis II (Ridiger). Alexis, a KGB agent since 1958, had been an active ecumenist for almost as long as his mentor. He was a delegate to the Third General Assembly of the WCC in New Delhi in 1961, (with Metropolitans Nicodemus and Anthony (Bloom)), a member of the Central Committee of the WCC from 1961 to 1968, president of the World Conference, “The Church and Society” in Geneva in 1966, and a member of the Commission “Faith and Order” of the WCC from 1961 to 1968.
“Already in 1966,” writes Hierodeacon Theophanes, “in his speech before the delegation of the German Evangelical church at a conference in Moscow, the future head of the MP in the name of Christ Himself declared that ‘Jesus Christ considers His own, that is, as Christians, all those who believe in Him and obey Him, and this is more than the Orthodox Church.’ If we remember that, according to Orthodox teaching, Christ adopted people to Himself only in His Hypostasis, that is, in His Body which is the Orthodox Church, then it is obvious that the metropolitan is here confessing a christological heresy, considering as Christians those who are outside the Church – calling them ‘God’s’, that is, the Church’s.
“Alexis still more clearly confesses that all the non-Orthodox Christians are the Church of Christ in his report to the 8th General Assembly of the World Council of Churches, published in the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate in 1980 (nos. 1-3). Here, blasphemously mixing up and identifying the concepts of the presence of God in the world and His energies and presence in the Church, the metropolitan very distinctly reveals his heretical teaching on the “all-embracing and unconditional” Incarnation of Christ, which automatically turns the whole of humanity, all Christians, Muslims, pagans, and in general all ‘men of good will’ into members of the Body of Christ, that is, the Church! Metropolitan Alexis openly teaches that the same grace of the Holy Spirit acts in the non-Orthodox churches – the participants in the WCC – as in the Orthodox Church: ‘We (the CEC) have learned to pray together, to understand the spirit and depth of prayer for each other, to feel the breath of the grace of the Holy Spirit in joint prayer to the Lord … we must thank God for the joy of our communion in Christ, for the joy of the ever-increasing experience of brotherhood and sisterhood in Christ in our work.’ Thus it was precisely in joint prayers with heretics that the archpastor felt the breath of ‘the grace of the Holy Spirit’! We should note that ‘ecumenical prayer’ is a very important moment in the ecumenical dialogue, it not only witnesses to the presence among the ecumenists of some common ‘god’ to whom this prayer is raised, but it is also a practical recognition of the action of the Holy Spirit in heterodoxy, thereby aiding the aggiornamento of the churches. This is what the future head of the MP says on this subject: ‘The aggiornamento of the churches is attained in the first place by prayer and brotherly love; joint prayers create a special atmosphere, a spiritual mood; (he goes on to cite A.S. Khomyakov) prayer is the life of the Church and the voice of her love, the eternal breathing of the Spirit of God. We believe that through joint prayers the breathing of the Spirit of God jointly enriches us all.’
“According to Orthodox teaching, it is precisely the Holy Spirit that makes a man a member of the Church of Christ, a Christian. But Metropolitan Alexis recognises that the Holy Spirit works in heretics just as in the Orthodox Church, and therefore heretics, like Orthodox Christians, are the Church of Christ: ‘We believe that the Holy Spirit – visibly or invisibly – continues until now His saving activity in the world. You and I, dear brothers and sisters, representing various Churches and the human race, live by the same real and grace-filled power of Pentecost’. From this there follows an open admittance on the part of the metropolitan that the heretical communities are the Church and the Body of Christ: ‘We, the Orthodox, are lovingly disposed to our non-Orthodox brothers, for we have all been baptized in one Spirit, and we have all been made to drink into one Spirit (I Cor.12.13).’ Here the Apostle Paul’s eucharistic (even liturgical) terminology has not been used in vain, so as once more to emphasise: Orthodox and heretics are not simply a divided Church, but the Body of Christ, organically one in the Holy Spirit.
“The source of this teaching of Metropolitan Alexis on the Holy Spirit is a heretical Christology, whose essence consists in the assertion that ‘we all have been received into the nature of Jesus Christ the God-man as an integral nature. And this truth forces us to believe that every person striving towards goodness and righteousness does the work of Christ on earth, even if he intellectually has not known Christ or has even rejected Him. From the Godmanhood of Christ it follows that the path into the Kingdom of God has been opened to all men. Consequently, with the Incarnation of the Son of God the whole of humanity becomes His potential Church, and in this sense the boundaries of the Christian Ecumene (or the pan-human family) are far wider than the boundaries of the Christian world.’ Hence Metropolitan Alexis’ teaching becomes understandable: insofar as Christ has received into His Hypostasis the common nature of man, all people, that is, all human hypostases of all generations are saved and remain in Christ, that is, in the Church. In other words, Christ has saved the whole nature of man, and consequently, according to the thought of Metropolitan Alexis, all people.
“However, according to the Orthodox teaching, ‘God the Word, on becoming incarnate, did not take on the nature viewed as an abstraction in pure thought,… nor the nature contemplated in species (that is, viewed in all the hypostases of the human race – H. Th.), for He did not take on all the hypostases, but He took on that which received its existence in His Hypostasis’. That is, it is impossible to say that since God the Word became Man, all people are saved by virtue of being men. But Metropolitan Alexis affirms that in the humanity of Christ is contained all men’s hypostases. Such a teaching was confessed in the 11th century by the Monk Nilus of Calabria, who taught that all human hypostases are present or are contained in the humanity taken on by the Lord and are ‘co-deified’ together with Him. The Orthodox Church anathematized Nilus and his heresy: ‘If anyone dogmatises that all human hypostases are in the flesh taken on by the Lord and are co-deified with it, let him be anathema, for this is empty chatter, or, rather, manifest impiety.’ And although the metropolitan makes the qualification that humanity for him is only ‘the potential church’, nevertheless he later on unambiguously speaks of the whole of humanity as of the Church – the Body of Christ, the Temple of the Holy Spirit: ‘Christ redeemed, cleansed and recreated a common human nature for all, while the Holy Spirit morally transfigures each human personality, gives the Christian the fullness of grace, makes him a temple of God and dwells in him, raises the growth of spirituality in the mind and the heart, leads him to every truth and gives him spiritual gifts to his benefit: to one – the word of wisdom, to another – the word of knowledge, by the same Spirit… and other gifts (I Cor. 12.7-11), so that human talents should be revealed more fully.’ In this way, insofar as God the Word has been incarnate in a common human nature, His Body is the divided Christian Church in the combination of all its separate parts. However, the saving action of the Holy Spirit is poured out even beyond the bounds of the Body of Christ, penetrating into and deifying the body of the whole of humanity: ‘The all-embracing and most powerful force of the Holy Spirit is spread out onto the whole life of our world, transforming it in the course of the historical process of the struggle between good and evil.’
“And so, thanks to a clever substitution of concepts, the real difference between the grace of the Holy Spirit, by which God providentially preserves the world in existence and leads people to the Church, and the deifying mystical presence of the Holy Spirit in the Body of Christ, the Church, is destroyed, which completely abolishes the difference between the Church and the world: now ‘the cultural efflorescence of European and world Christianity’ is declared to be an action of the Holy Spirit, and even the Salt-2 treaty between Brezhnev and Carter concerning the limiting of strategic offensive weapons is also ‘a manifestation of the invisible power of the Holy Spirit acting in the world for the good of the whole of humanity.’
“The consequences of this ‘pan-human Pentecost’ are expressed by the metropolitan mainly in the terms of humanism and peace-making: ‘Christian concern for questions of social justice’, ‘the elements of the movement for peace’, Christians’ service to people and their ‘involvement in all the complexity of the real life of the world’. In this way the life of grace in the Body of Christ is substituted by a humanistic ‘serving the affairs of the world’.
“It is understandable that this ‘theology of peace’ should be very convenient for the dialogue not only with any heretical Christian communities, but also with any religions, even with utopian teachings like communism.
“But how is such a faith compatible with the Orthodox teaching on the uniqueness and singleness of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church? Yes, admits Metropolitan Alexis, ‘the oneness and unity of the Church is an ecclesiological axiom’, but in actual fact ‘an invisible unity as the unity of Christ and the Holy Spirit lives in the visible multitude of Churches, each of which has its particular face’, affirms the metropolitan, citing his brother in ecumenism, Professor Archbishop Vladimir (Sabodan). Before us here is the classical ecumenist ecclesiology – ‘the branch theory’, which was invented by Archbishop Stylianos of Australia (Constantinopolitan patriarchate), or, using the language of Soviet theological thought, the ecclesiology of ‘the traumatized Body of Christ’, a fruit of the refined minds of the ‘ecumenist theologians’ of the MP – the main teacher and implanter of the ecumenist heresy in the MP was Metropolitan Nicodemus (Rotov).”
More Greek Divisions (1)
Meanwhile, Ecumenism was proceeding apace in the Greek Orthodox world. In 1971 Patriarch Athenagoras told a group of thirty American and five Greek priests: “And what is taking place today? A great spirit of love is spreading abroad over the Christians of the East and the West. Already we love one another… already in America you give communion to many from the holy chalice, and you do well! And I also here, when Catholics and Protestants come and ask to receive communion, I offer them the holy cup! And in Rome the same thing is happening, and in England, and in France. Already it is coming by itself!”
In July, 1972, Patriarch Athenagoras died. Hopes were immediately raised that his successor, Demetrius, would abandon his predecessor’s uniatism and return to Orthodoxy. However, these hopes were dashed when, at his enthronement speech on July 5/18, the new patriarch affirmed his commitment to Ecumenism and the WCC, and spoke about “the pressing need to initiate dialogues first of all with Islam, and then with the other great monotheistic religions.” Later that year Demetrius addressed the Mohammedans on the occasion of one of their feasts: “The great God whose children we all are, all of us who believe in and worship him, wishes us to be saved and to be brothers. He wishes this to be so even though we belong to different religions. In these religions, however, we have learned both to recognize the holy God as the beginning and end of all, to love each other and to think only good things – which things let us practise towards each other.”
This did not prevent the Sacred Community of the Holy Mountain from issuing an encyclical to the monasteries on July 8/21, instructing them to resume the commemoration of the Ecumenical Patriarch. “A new climate has been established between the Holy Mountain and the Ecumenical Patriarchate,” the encyclical stated. “With the death of Patriarch Athenagoras, the reasons which led certain holy monasteries to break off the commemoration of their bishop’s name now exist no longer.” Nevertheless, even after this statement and the visit to the Holy Mountain of an exarchate from the Ecumenical Patriarchate in September, seven monasteries still refused to commemorate the patriarch. And one of them, Esphigmenou, began to commemorate the Old Calendarist Archbishop Auxentius instead. In September, 1973, another exarchate arrived on the Holy Mountain. It condemned Esphigmenou’s rebellion and said that the Patriarch would make a final decision on the matter soon.
“On 11 March 1974 the Ecumenical Patriarch wrote to the Holy Community, announcing his decision. Penalties were imposed on thirteen monks. These included Archimandrite Athanasius, Abbot of Esphigmenou, the two epitropoi and the secretary of the monastery, who were to be expelled immediately from the Mountain,. Archimandrite Eudocimus, Abbot of Xenophontos, was to be deposed and expelled from his monastery, but permitted to live in some other Athonite House. The abbots of the two other communities – Archimandrites Dionysius of Grigoriou and Andrew of St. Paul’s – were to be deposed unless within two months they resumed the commemoration of the Patriarch’s name…
“On the arrival of the Patriarch’s letter, the police cut the telephone line to Esphigmenou and installed a guard outside the monastery. Meanwhile the monks kept the gates closed and hung from the walls a large black banner inscribed ‘Orthodoxy or Death’. They warned the civil governor that they would resist any attempt to effect a forcible entry. In a declaration smuggled to the outside world, they stated that they continued to regard themselves as canonically subject to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, but did not recognize the present occupant of the Patriarchal throne, since ‘he is an enemy of Orthodoxy’. As Holy Week approached, the monastery was entirely cut off, with no one entering or leaving.”
Although the Matthewites had broken communion with the Florinites in 1972, the Florinites tried hard to repair the breach. Thus in 1974 they reaffirmed in a synodical declaration that the new calendarists were schismatics with no grace of sacraments and should be received into the True Church by chrismation. Unfortunately, this did not have the desired effect of attracting the Matthewites back into union, and was followed only by further schisms.
Thus Bishop Peter of Astoria, a Greek Old Calendarist who had been consecrated by two Russian hierarchs without the permission of the Russian Synod, refused to sign the 1974 confession and was removed from his post as exarch of the Florinite Synod in America. In the following years Metropolitans Acacius of Diauleia, Gabriel of the Cyclades and Chrysostom (Kiousis) of Thessalonica broke communion with the Florinite Synod because, as they claimed, Archbishop Auxentius had consecrated several bishops who were unworthy and, moreover, without their consent. Although these three bishops had signed the exclusion of Petros, they now joined with him to form an independent Synod.
Sadly, the process of disintegration continued. In 1977, Metropolitan Callistus of Corinth, unhappy with the Matthewites’ break with the Russians, broke communion with the Matthewites and joined the Florinites. In 1978, a Portuguese priest of the ROCA, Joao Rocha, who was displeased at Archbishop Anthony’s refusal to create a diocese in Portugal, joined the Florinites. To the fury of the ROCA, Archbishop Auxentius baptised and reordained him to the priesthood (because he was a convert who had never had Orthodox baptism) before consecrating him Bishop Gabriel of Lisbon. This led the ROCA to break communion with the Florinites.
It also led a group of Florinites led by Metropolitan Callistus to break communion with the Florinites. For Callistus had been one of the bishops who had taken part in the consecration of Rocha, but claimed that Archbishop Auxentius had lied to him, saying that Rocha had a canonical release from Archbishop Anthony. He apologised to the ROCA Synod, but was not admitted back into communion with them.
In February, 1979, Callistus, together with Metropolitan Anthony of Megara, consecrated eight ex-Florinite archimandrites to the episcopate. In 1980 this “Callistite” Synod consecrated Holy Chrism, and enter into official communion with the Synod of the True Orthodox Church of Romania under the presidency of Metropolitan Glycerius.
Meanwhile, the Auxentiite Synod had split again, with one part following the leadership of Metropolitan Gerontius of Piraeus. By the mid-1980s the Callistite Synod had also split: Metropolitan Callistus broke with Metropolitan Anthony over ecclesiology, and then Anthony joined the Gerontius Synod. Callistus remained alone, and on his deathbed in 1985, he confessed his sins to the Matthewite Archimandrite Chrysostomos and was reunited with the Matthewites. His relics were found to be partially incorrupt and fragrant.
Another former Callistite hierarch, Metropolitans Cyprian of Oropos and Fili, together with Metropolitan Giovanni of Sardinia formed yet another independent Synod. The new Cyprianite Synod was the only one to remain in communion with the Romanians.
The Fall of Dissent
In spite of the ever-deepening apostasy of the MP, the ROCA continued to be ambiguous in its statements about the MP’s status, and in its treatment of patriarchal dissidents as members of the True Church. Thus in 1979, in response to a series of protests by Fr. Demetrius Dudko against what he saw as excessive strictness on the part of the ROCA towards the MP, the ROCA Archbishop Anthony of Geneva, breaking the rule imposed by Metropolitan Anastasy that ROCA members should have no contact, “even of an everyday nature”, with Soviet church clergy, wrote to Dudko: “I hasten to console you that the part of the Russian Church which lives in freedom beyond the bounds of the homeland, has never officially considered the Moscow Patriarchate, which is recognised in the USSR, as graceless…. We have never dared to deny the gracefilled nature of the official church, for we believe that the sacraments carried out by her clergy are sacraments. Therefore out bishops received your clergy into the Church Abroad in their existing rank… On the other hand, the representatives of the Catacomb Church in Russia accuse us of not wanting to recognise the Moscow Patriarchate as graceless.”
Here for the first time a senior hierarch openly expressed his agreement with the ecclesiology of a Soviet cleric and open disagreement with the ecclesiology of the Catacomb Church!
In the early 1980s, the dissident movement in the Soviet Union went into a sharp decline. For in 1980, Fr. Demetrius Dudko was arrested, which was closely followed by the arrest of his disciples Victor Kapitanchuk and Lev Regelson. Then Dudko issued a recantation on Soviet television in which he confessed that his “so-called struggle with godlessness” was in fact “a struggle with Soviet power”. Regelson confessed to having “criminal ties” with foreign correspondents and of mixing religious activity with politics, while Kapitanchuk also confessed to links with Western correspondents, saying that he had “inflicted damage on the Soviet state for which I am very sorry”. Both men implicated others in their “crimes”.
Metropolitan Philaret wrote that the tragedy of having to renounce his own beliefs had overtaken Dudko because his activity had taken place from within the Moscow Patriarchate – that is, “outside the True Church”. And he continued: “What is the ‘Soviet church’? Fr. Archimandrite Constantine has said often and insistently that the most terrible thing that the God-fighting authorities have done to Russia is the appearance of the ‘Soviet church’, which the Bolsheviks offered up to the people as the True Church, having driven the real Orthodox Church into the catacombs or the concentration camps. This false church has been twice anathematised. His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon and the All-Russian Church Council anathematised the communists and all their co-workers. This terrible anathema has not been lifted to this day and preserves its power, since it can be lifted only by an All-Russian Church Council, as being the canonically higher Church authority. And a terrible thing happened in 1927, when the leader of the Church, Metropolitan Sergius, by his shameful apostate declaration submitted the Russian Church to the Bolsheviks and declared that he was cooperating with them. In the most exact sense the expression of the prayer before confession was fulfilled: ‘fallen under his own anathema’! For in 1918 the Church anathematised all the co-workers of communism, and in 1927 she herself entered into the company of these co-workers and began to praise the red God-fighting authorities – to praise the red beast of which the Apocalypse speaks. And this is not all. When Metropolitan Sergius published his criminal declaration, the faithful children of the Church immediately separated from the Soviet church, and the Catacomb Church was created. And she in her turn anathematised the official church for her betrayal of Christ… We receive clergymen from Moscow not as ones possessing grace, but as ones receiving it by the very act of union. But to recognize the church of the evil-doers as the bearer and repository of grace – that we, of course, cannot do. For outside of Orthodoxy there is no grace; and the Soviet church has deprived itself of grace.”
Looking at this tragedy from a psychological point of view, we can see that Dudko’s vulnerability consisted, not so much in the fear of torture, as in the KGB’s ability (perhaps with the aid of certain State Church bishops) to induce in him a feeling of false guilt, guilt that he had objectively harmed the Soviet State, which, according to the official teaching of his Church, he was bound to support and pray for.
This tragedy exposed a fundamental and inescapable dilemma facing all the dissidents. For honest analysis could not avoid the conclusion that action to restore the freedom and dignity of the Church was necessarily antisoviet, insofar as the Soviet State and the Orthodox Church represented opposing and incompatible aims and ideologies. Therefore every committed campaigner for the freedom and dignity of the Church sooner or later had to confess to himself (whatever he confessed to the KGB) that he was working against Soviet power – if not by physical, at any rate by spiritual, means, and that he had to work outside the institutions of Soviet power, whether political or ecclesiastical. Thus the failure of the dissidents was the natural consequence of the refusal to obey the Apostle’s command: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers” (II Corinthians 6.14). It was the consequence of that pact between Metropolitan Sergius and the Communists which, in the words of a samizdat document dating from the early 1970s, “tied the Church hand and foot by imposing on her a loyalty not only to the State, but mainly to the communist ideology.”
It is instructive to compare the progress of the dissident movement in the Russian Church with that in the Georgian Church, which, though technically autocephalous, was no less completely under the control of the KGB. This is perfectly illustrated by the career of the present Patriarch-Catholicos, Ilia II. It has recently been revealed that he was recruited by the Georgian KGB Unit V in 1962, with the codename “Iverieli”. In spite of that, “there arose a kind of cult of the new Patriarch,” wrote Hieromonk Samson in 1993. “In a recently conducted poll in Georgia, ‘his Holiness’, as he is usually called, was named as the first of those who have done more than all others recently for his country and people….”
Georgia suffered from the anti-religious policies of Khrushchev in 1959-64, and again when Edward Shevardnadze became Georgian party First Secretary in 1972. This elicited the rise of a dissident movement among Orthodox Christians which combined concern for human rights and a campaign against Church servility and corruption, on the Russian model, with a strong emphasis on Georgian nationalism. In 1975-77, the leaders of this movement – Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Valentina Pailodze and Merab Kostava – were all arrested and given sentences in the camps. Gamsakhurdia, however, recanted on Soviet central television; and the reduction in his sentence to two years’ exile suggested that he had made a “deal” with the authorities.
Metropolitan Philaret and the Anathema against Ecumenism
Another, still more important factor demonstrating the impossibility of working with or within any of the “Churches” of “World Orthodoxy” was the transition that took place in the early 1980s between inter-Christian ecumenism to inter-faith ecumenism. Already in the WCC’s General Assembly at Nairobi in 1975, the Orthodox delegates, having signed an agreement to recognize the sacraments of the non-Orthodox delegates, had declared that “the Orthodox do not expect the other Christians to be converted to Orthodoxy in its historic and cultural reality of the past and the present and to become members of the Orthodox Church” – which gave the lie to their excuse that they were participating in the ecumenical movement “to witness to the non-Orthodox”. Again, in 1980, the Ecumenical Press Service had declared that the WCC was working on plans to unify all Christian denominations into a single new religion. Then, in 1982, an inter-denominational eucharistic service was composed at a conference in Lima, Peru, in which the Protestant and Orthodox representatives to the WCC agreed that the baptism, eucharist and ordinations of all denominations were valid and acceptable.
But the greatest shock came in 1983, at the Vancouver General Assembly of the WCC. This was attended by representatives of every existing religion and began with a pagan rite performed by local Indians. The participation of Orthodox hierarchs in religious services with representatives of all the world’s religions required a rebuke – and a rebuke was forthcoming.
First, the Greek Old Calendarist Metropolitan Gabriel of the Cyclades attempted to address the Vancouver Assembly. But he was not allowed to speak by the ecumenists, who thereby demonstrated that they are “tolerant” and “loving” to every kind of blasphemy, but not to the expression of True Christianity. Then the Synod of the ROCA, also meeting in Canada, anathematised ecumenism, declaring: “To those who attack the Church of Christ by teaching that Christ’s Church is divided into so-called ‘branches’ which differ in doctrine and way of life, or that the Church does not exist visibly, but will be formed in the future when all ‘branches’ or sects or denominations, and even religions will be united in one body; and who do not distinguish the priesthood and mysteries of the Church from those of the heretics, but say that the baptism and eucharist of heretics is effectual for salvation; therefore to those who knowingly have communion with these aforementioned heretics or advocate, disseminate , or defend their new heresy of Ecumenism under the pretext of brotherly love or the supposed unification of separated Christians, Anathema.”
The implication of this anathema was clear: since the Moscow Patriarchate was a fully participating member of the WCC, it was under anathema and deprived of the grace of sacraments. As I.M. has written: “There is no heresy without heretics and their practical activity. The WCC in its declarations says: The Church confesses, the Church teaches, the Church does this, the Church does that. In this way the WCC witnesses that it does not recognize itself to be simply a council of churches, but the one church. And all those who are members of the WCC are members of this one false church, this synagogue of satan. And by this participation in the WCC all the local Orthodox churches fall under the anathema of the ROCA of 1983 and fall away from the True Church. In their number is the Moscow Patriarchate…”
The anathema against ecumenism was signed by all the bishops and was entered into the Synodicon to be read on the Sunday of Orthodoxy each year. This was the achievement, within the Synod, especially of Metropolitan Philaret (Vozenesensky), who died on November 8/21, 1985. On November 8/21, 1998 the Metropolitan’s coffin was opened and his body was found to be completely incorrupt – a clear witness to the righteousness of his stand against ecumenism and the Moscow Patriarchate.
Metropolitan Philaret was the last leader of the ROCA with a clearly “catacomb” ecclesiology, who saw the Catacomb Church as the “Mother Church” of Russia, and rejected the MP as graceless. However, he found very little support among his fellow-bishops, and was only rarely able to impose his will, especially on the West European diocese under Archbishop Anthony of Geneva. Even with the more conservative hierarchs he sometimes had problems, as when he ordered the sprinkling of the church in the Monastery of the Holy Trinity, Jordanville, after Archbishop Averky had permitted Copts to serve there.
After his death, in spite of World Orthodoxy’s renewed commitment to inter-faith ecumenism at the famous Assisi meeting of religions in 1986, the confession of the ROCA began to roll backwards. The first clear sign of this was at Christmas, 1986/87, when Metropolitan Vitaly issued a dovish Nativity Epistle, declaring that the 1983 anathema was not of universal significance, but applied only to members of the ROCA who expressed ecumenist opinions. Of course, the anathema was issued by a Local Council, not an Ecumenical one, and in that sense was only of local significance. But this was not what the opponents of the anathema were trying to say. They were trying to say that the anathema in fact had no power over anyone outside the ROCA – which was equivalent, in effect, to annulling it.
The attack on the validity of the anathema against ecumenism has continued in recent decades. Thus the ROCA priest Alexander Lebedev called the idea that the anathema strikes down all ecumenists “the heresy of universal jurisdiction”. However, the tradition of the Church has always been that an anathema, if just – that is, if the heresy anathematised is really a heresy, - strikes down all those who confess that heresy, wherever they may be.
Thus the present writer replied to Fr. Alexander: “Thinking about your "heresy of universal jurisdiction", it seems to me that you confuse two things: the Church as an external organisation, and the Church as a mystical organism, to use the terminology of Hieromartyr Catacomb Bishop Mark (Novoselov) (+1938). It seems to me that you are right as regards the Church as an external organisation, but wrong as regards the Church as a mystical organism. Let me explain.
“An anathema excludes the person anathematised from the holy mysteries, from membership of the Holy Church. In the first place, of course, that applies to the local Church of which that person is a member. It applies to other Churches only to the extent that the leaders of those other Churches agree with the original anathema and "sign up to it", as it were. Thus the heretic Arius was originally anathematized by the Bishop of Alexandria, which meant that he was excluded from receiving the sacraments throughout the Church of Alexandria. However, not all the bishops of neighbouring Churches agreed with this anathema, so Arius was able to receive communion in other Local Churches. To this extent the anathema was only of local significance. It required the convening of the First Ecumenical Council before Arius was anathematized "universally" - and even then, the anathema was not universally received, as the history of the Church in the next fifty years demonstrates.
“It is a different matter when we consider an anathema sub specie aeternitatis, in its mystical, super-terrestrial significance. From that point of view, the anathematization of a heretic begins in the heavens. Thus even before Arius had been "locally" anathematized by St. Alexander of Alexandria, the Lord appeared to his predecessor, St. Peter, with a torn cloak, and in answer to St. Peter's question: "O Creator, who has torn Thy tunic?", replied: "The mindless Arius; he has separated from Me people whom I had obtained with My Blood" (St. Dmitri of Rostov, Lives of the Saints, November 25). So not only Arius, but all those who followed him, had been separated from the Church by the anathema of Her First Bishop, the Lord Jesus Christ, years (or rather, aeons) before even the first "local" anathema had been uttered. All heresies and heretics are anathematized "from all eternity" by the eternal Lord, for just as every truth is approved by the Truth Himself from all eternity, so is every lie condemned by Him from all eternity, being condemned with "the father of lies" to the gehenna of fire (Revelation 22.15).
“The task of hierarchs on earth is to discern the decisions of the heavenly Church, and then apply these eternal and heavenly decisions on earth, in space and time. As St. Bede the Venerable (+735) writes: "The keys of the Kingdom designate the actual knowledge and power of discerning who are worthy to be received into the Kingdom, and who should be excluded from it as being unworthy" (Sermon on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, P.L. 94, col. 219). From this point of view, it matters not a jot whether a heretic is anathematized locally or universally, since he has already been anathematized by the heavenly Church. Or rather, it matters in this sense: that if the heretic has been anathematized locally, but this anathema is not accepted by the rest of the Church, then the rest of the Church is under the grave danger of falling under this same anathema. For the local anathema, if it is just, is the reflection of a heavenly anathema; and the anathema of the heavenly Church is universal….
“This explains why, when local Churches anathematized a heresy, they never qualified the anathema (as you, Fr. Alexander, would like to qualify the ROCA's anathema against ecumenism) by saying: "but of course, this applies only to the heretics in our local Church". On the contrary: history shows that local Churches freely anathematized heretics, not only in their own Churches, but also in others. Thus Nestorius, a heretic of the Church of Constantinople, was first condemned by a local Synod of the Church of Rome under St. Celestine; the Monothelite heretics were first condemned by a local Synod, again, of the Church of Rome; and the Papist heretics were first condemned by a local Synod of the Church of Constantinople.
“Consider what St. Maximus said of the Monothelites: "In addition to having excommunicated themselves from the Church, they have been deposed and deprived of the priesthood at the local council which took place recently in Rome. What Mysteries, then, can they perform? Or what spirit will descend upon those who are ordained by them?" (The Life of our Holy Father Maximus the Confessor, Boston, 1982, p. 38). Note that the saint says that the heretics have excommunicated themselves; for as the Apostle Paul writes, "he that is such [a heretic] is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself" (Titus 3.11). But the heretics' self-condemnation and self-exclusion from the Church as a mystical organism must be followed by their exclusion from the Church as an external organization, lest others be infected with their heresy. Hence the need for councils of bishops to anathematize them, following the rule: "A heretic after the first and second admonition reject"
(Titus 3.10), and: "If he refuses to listen to the Church, let him be unto you as a heathen and a publican" (Matthew 18.17). And clearly St. Maximus considered that the anathema of the local Church of Rome had validity throughout the Ecumenical Church.
“Administrative matters and moral falls are the business of local Churches and councils. However, heresies of their very nature are of universal significance, having the potential to infect the whole Church. That is why the appearance of a heresy in one local Church is not the business only of that local Church, but of all the local Churches - and every local Church can and must anathematize it.
“Even the anathema of single bishopric or metropolitanate has universal power and validity if it is uttered in the Holy Spirit, in accordance with the eternal Truth. Thus in 1069 the bishops of the metropolitanate of York, in the north of England, solemnly anathematized both the Pope of Rome and his stooge, William the conqueror, the first papist king of England. All the evidence is that they did not know that the Church of Constantinople had already anathematized Rome in 1054. So they were not simply confirming the word of a higher authority. They did not need a higher authority. They were successors of the apostles, with the power to bind and to loose. And they used that power, not for personal gain (on the contrary: they paid for their boldness with their lives), even against the most senior bishop in Christendom…
“In the same way, in 1983 the Sobor of Bishops of the Russian Church Abroad, using the power to bind and to loose given them by the Bishop of bishops, the Lord Jesus Christ, translated onto earth, into space and time, the completely binding and universally applicable decision already arrived at from all eternity by the Council of the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Ecumenism is, was and always will be a heresy, indeed "the heresy of heresies", and the ecumenist heretics are, were and always will be outside the Church, the mystical Body of Christ. The decision of the ROCA Sobor in 1983, confirmed with no change to its universal wording in 1998, expelled these already self-condemned and Divinely condemned heretics also from the external organization of the Church - and woe to any man, of whatever Church, who despises that decision, for he will then surely fall
under the same anathema…”
More Greek Divisions (2)
In September, 1984, Archbishop Auxentius, head of the “Florinite” branch of the Greek Old Calendarists, consecrated two Portuguese and two Italian bishops and gave this new group a “Tome of Autonomy” without consulting part of his Synod. In 1987 this newly “autonomous” Church split up, with Metropolitan Eulogius of Milan being received into the Polish Orthodox Church. In 1990 Metropolitan Gabriel followed, claiming that he had not known that Archbishop Auxentius confessed that the new calendarists had no grace of sacraments, which Gavriel considered a “heretical opinion”. He took with him two bishops, 60 parishes and about 80,000 faithful. Soon this Portuguese church was practising a weird form of ecumenism. Meanwhile, the Italian bishops led by Eulogius, the so-called “Synod of Milan”, joined the Church of the Ukraine, and in 1993 were given a “Tome of Autonomy” by “Patriarch” Philaret of the Ukraine…
The creator of these false synods, Archbishop Auxentius, was finally brought to book in 1985, when he and four other bishops were defrocked by a Synod led by Metropolitan Gerontius and composed of seventeen Florinite and ex-Florinite bishops for the secret and illegal consecration of a certain highly disreputable episcopus vagans, Dorotheus Tsakos, for lying to the Synod and for creating a schism. These five bishops refused to accept this verdict and formed a new Synod, while the seventeen bishops invited Metropolitan Chrysostom (Kiousis) of Thessalonica to be the new Florinite archbishop.
As if this chaos were not bad enough, yet another schism of Greeks took place in 1986 – this time from within the ROCA…
Metropolitan Philaret’s struggle against ecumenism in the ROCA had been strongly supported, in the last years of his life, by the Greek-American Monastery of the Holy Transfiguration, Boston, led by Abbot Panteleimon (Mitropoulos). When Metropolitan Philaret died and was replaced by Metropolitan Vitaly (Ustinov), the Boston monastery immediately expressed its support for him. Thus on February 10, 1986, Archimandrite Panteleimon wrote: "The Synodal Church [the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad] is a real standard of Orthodoxy.... Therefore, discerning where the Truth is found, we remain in unity under our bishops in the midst of many trials and temptations...because grace abides in the Synod.... We uphold our Synod primarily and foremostly as a standard of Orthodoxy. All others have betrayed the Truth. This was demonstrated of late by the election of our new Metropolitan [Vitaly]…”
However, the same council which elected Metropolitan Vitaly also, writes Fr. Alexey Young, “appointed a special commission of two bishops to visit the Boston monastery and begin a private investigation into charges of sexual perversion. The commission presented its report at a meeting of the Synod on May 29, 1986, receiving testimony in person from four monks who had left the Holy Transfiguration Monastery. Fr. Panteleimon was present and denied the charges, but asked to be relieved of his position as abbot. The bishops granted his request, placing the monastery temporarily under Archbishop Antonii (Sinkevich) of Los Angeles and Southern California. The monks at the monastery in Boston, however, ignored this and elected one of their own – another monkm who had also been charged with immorality – as abbot.
“For the next several months, information and testimony continued to be gathered, with no predetermination of Panteleimon’s guilt or innocence. Looking back, the bishops may well feel that they should have hastened the investigation, for, during this period of time, an unprecedented explosion of protest erupted from the supporters of Fr. Panteleimon. The bishops were bombarded by hundreds of letters, petitions, phone calls, and personal visits – all of them protesting their ‘Elder’s’ innocence and the unfair, even ‘un-American’ way in which they believed his case was being handled.
“Simultaneously, Fr. Panteleimon began to make public his own list of grievances, announcing that the bishops were, practically speaking, abandoning the Anathema against Ecumenism and beginning to compromise the Faith. Secret plans and negotiations, he charged, were being worked out with the Moscow Patriarchate so that the Church Abroad could unite with the Mother Church by 1988 (the millennium of the Baptism of Russia). According to Panteleimon, this meant that the heresiarchs had become, or were in the process of becoming, heresiarchs, and that the faithful had better look to their souls! This was a complete reversal of his published views of only months before.
“On November 25, 1986, Metropolitan Vitalii was asked by the Synod of Bishops to suspend Fr. Panteleimon and the abbot who had been uncanonically elected to succeed him, pending a canonical trial. This was done on December 3; nine days later, Vitalii received a letter announcing that the monastery in Boston had left the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and was taking refuge under an unnamed Greek Old Calendar bishop. Synod headquarters immediately declared this action to be “’… a flagrant violation of the holy canons of the Church and… an attempt to avoid the consequences of any final decision a spiritual court might have made concerning the accusations [of immorality]… [This is an attempt] to flee from the spiritual authority of the Church’s hierarchy…’”
The Boston schismatics first fled to the independent Metropolitans Acacius and Gabriel, who had refused to follow Metropolitan Chrysostom in joining the reformed Florinite Synod. However, when Metropolitan Gabriel had second thoughts about receiving them and broke communion, the Bostonites, fearing to be left with only one bishop, left Metropolitan Acacius and joined Archbishop Auxentius. Before his death in 1994, Auxentius consecrated several bishops for this group, who now call themselves “The Holy Orthodox Church in North America” (HOCNA). Since they are in communion with no hierarch residing in Greece, the “Auxentiite” Synod may be said to be now defunct.
In 1986, Archbishop Chrysostom’s Synod proceeded to defrock Metropolitan Cyprian’s Synod for creating a schism, for giving communion to new calendarists and for preaching that the new calendarists have grace of sacraments. Needless to say, the Cyprianites rejected this verdict. There were now four major Greek Old Calendarist Synods: the Matthewites, the Chrysostomites, the Auxentiites and the Cyprianites, and a number of independent bishops. The first three Synods were united in considering that the new calendarists were schismatics without the grace of sacraments, but the Cyprianites refused to make this judgement, considering the ecumenist Orthodox Churches to be “errant but uncondemned” Mother-Churches. Most of the zealot monks of Mount Athos, led by the only zealot monastery, Esphigmenou, remained in communion with the Chrysostomites. The Romanian Old Calendarists, under their holy leader Metropolitan Glycerie, remained in communion with the Cyprianites. However, the Romanians appear to adhere to a stricter ecclesiology than the Cyprianites, chrismating the new calendarists who join them.
By the year 2000, after further splits in both the Matthewites and Florinite camps, there were no less than seven Synods claiming to be the leaders of the True Orthodox Church of Greece: that of Archbishop Andrew of Athens, that of Archbishop Chrysostom (Kiousis) of Athens, that of Archbishop Maximus (Vallianatos), that of Metropolitan Kallinikos (Khaniotes) of Lamia and Phthiotis, that of Metropolitan Hierotheus (Kindunis) of Piraeus, that of Metropolitan Gregory of Messenia and that of Metropolitan Cyprian of Fili and Orope.
Glasnost’ and Perestroika
By the second half of the 1980s communism in the Soviet Union was beginning to collapse as a result of Gorbachev’s policies of glasnost’ (free speech, openness) and perestroika (political liberalization). In 1985, the Soviets’ perception that they had to catch up with the United States in the economic and military fields propelled to the fore a leader, Gorbachev, who was prepared to take risks. (Or perhaps, as one hypothesis suggests, the real wielders of political power in the world were worried by the risk of a nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the West, and so moved to muzzle the dog (Communism) which had begun to bite its master (Judaeo-Masonry). The result was to increase the power of the western arm of the world antichristian conspiracy at the expense of the eastern arm.) By the Providence of God, his reforming efforts, though designed to modernize and strengthen the communist Soviet State, led to its downfall and the resurgence of religion – although not, in general, it must be admitted with sadness, true religion…
At the beginning of the Gorbachev period, the communists showed no sign of the liberalization with respect to religion that was to come. In November, 1986, Gorbachev told party officials in Tashkent that religious faith and party membership were incompatible (this was probably aimed at Muslim communists). And in 1987, his chief ideologist, the “liberal” Alexander Yakovlev, said concerning the following year’s millenium of the Baptism of Rus’: “To God what is God’s, to the Church what is the Church’s, but to us, the Marxists, belongs the fullness of truth. And on the basis of these positions any attempts to represent Christianity as the ‘mother’ of Russian culture must be decisively rejected. And if the Russian middle ages merit the attention of historians, such cannot be said of the 1000-year date of Orthodoxy.”
However, Gorbachev’s need to pass from what Hosking called “Mark 1” to “Mark 2” perestroika, dictated a change in policy towards the Church, too. For the success of perestroika required sincere believers in the new order from members of the Church, not just party hacks. But in March, 1988 Constantine Kharchev, the head of the Council for Religious Affairs, told representatives of the higher party school in Moscow: "We attained our greatest success in controlling religion and suppressing its initiative amidst the priests and bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church. At first this gave us joy, but now it threatens to bring unforeseen consequences in its train… It is easier for the party to make a sincere believer [in God] into a believer in communism, too… The task that presents itself before us is to educate a new type of priest; the selection and placing of a priest is the party’s business.”
The critical point came in April, 1988, when Gorbachev met the patriarch and the senior metropolitans and staked out a new Church-State concordat reminiscent of the one between Stalin and Sergius in 1943. This concordat, combined with the underlying growth in religious feeling that had now been going on for several years, and the recovery of courage made easier by glasnost and the release of most of the religious and political prisoners, made the millenial celebrations in June a truly pivotal event. Moreover, the very wide publicity given to the celebrations in the media gave a powerful further impulse to the movement of religious regeneration.
The fruits were soon evident for all to see. Most religious and political prisoners were freed; permission was given for the reopening of many hundreds of churches (1,830 in the first nine months of 1990); and religious societies and cooperatives of almost all denominations sprang up all over the country. Programmes on Orthodox art and architecture, and sermons by bearded clergy in cassocks, became commonplace on television; and commentators from right across the political spectrum began to praise the contribution of the Orthodox Church to Russian history and culture.
There were negative aspects to this process. The True Orthodox Church remained outlawed; resistance to the opening of churches by local officials continued in some areas, especially in the provinces; and religious activists objected to the adulterous mixing of religion and nationalism, and religion and humanist culture. Moreover, the suspicion continued to exist that the party’s new-found respect for religion was simply a tactical ploy, a case of reculer pour mieux sauter.
Such scepticism had some basis in reality. After all, no leading communist announced his conversion to Christianity (unlike in Georgia and Bulgaria two or three years later). Moreover, in April, 1988, the month in which Gorbachev met the patriarch, an unsigned article appeared in Kommunist which hinted that the real aim of Gorbachev’s rapprochement with the Church was to communize the Church rather than christianize the party.
And yet, if that was the party’s aim, it must be judged to have backfired. For unlike the concordat of 1943, which did indeed have the effect of communising the Church, the concordat of 1988 seems to have had the opposite effect of helping to free Orthodox Christians from bondage to Communist ideology and coercion. For if the Church hierarchs continued to pay lip-service to “Leninist norms”, this was emphatically not the case with many priests and laity, of whom Fr. Gleb Yakunin (liberated in 1987) was probably the most influential and best known.
This was most strikingly evident in the extraordinary spring of 1990. The March elections returned 300 clerics of various faiths as deputies at various levels, including 190 Russian Orthodox, while the Communist Party candidates in the major cities were routed. In April, the Christian Democratic Movement, led by RSFSR deputies Fr. Gleb Yakunin, Fr. Vyacheslav Polosin and philosopher Victor Aksyuchits, held its founding congress. Then, on May 19, the birthday of Tsar Nicholas II, the Orthodox Monarchist Order met in Moscow, with its spokesman, Sergius Englehardt-Yurkov, calling for the restoration of the senior member of the Romanov family, Grand-Duke Vladimir Kirillovich, to the throne of all the Russias. Grand-Duke Vladimir was a member of the ROCA, so his recognition by the monarchists inside Russia would have meant an enormous increase in prestige for the ROCA at the expense of the patriarchate. However, the Grand-Duke spared the patriarchate this embarrassment by apostasizing to it and then dying in November, 1991.
As communism began to collapse, we might have expected the MP to distance itself from communist ideology and the ecumenism that had been imposed upon it by the communists. Not so: the MP’s enthusiasm for ecumenism has continued unabated to the present day. As for communist party and the ideology of dialectical materialism, she renounced it only at the very last minute, when almost every other social force had already come out against it.
Thus as late as 1986 “Patriarch” Pimen publicly criticised Pope John-Paul II for criticising socialism and dialectical materialism. “We speak out,” he said, “for the cooperation of Christians, Marxists and all people of good will… which only increases our perplexity at those sections of the recent Encyclical of Pope John-Paul II, Dominum et vivificantam which are devoted to materialism and Marxist doctrine…. [The encyclical] contains elements directed towards the division and opposition of Christians and Marxists… In the encyclical an attempt is made to analyse the system of materialism… as an ideology… It is quite obvious that such a combined application of materialist doctrine to life can be found first of all in the socialist states and countries, which have chosen the socialist path of development… It is precisely in these countries that the creation of a new life by the efforts of believers and unbelievers working together is being realised… This reality, as we understand it, contradicts those positions of the encyclical in which it is affirmed that materialism as a system of thought has as its culmination – death… Insofar as ‘signs of death’ are indicated in relation ‘to the dark shadow of materialist civilisation’, the impression is created, in the context of a critique of Marxist doctrine, that in all this the states and people who follow the socialist path of development are guilty… It remains to express our profound sadness at such a position.”
Even in an age distinguished by unheard-of betrayals of the Orthodox Faith, this amazes one by its audacity. The leader of the Russian Orthodox Church officially defending the doctrine of materialism!!!
However, if the Pope did not touch “political” themes, the MP was all too happy to enter into union with him – and not only with him, but with representatives of every religion! Thus the “patriarch” responded “positively” to an invitation from the Pope that the MP should participate in common prayers for peace with representatives of various religions at Assisi in October, 1986. “On the joint prayers in Assisi (Italy) we have documentary films. How useful it would be to show them to the zealots of ‘Orthodoxy Soviet-style’! Behind the tribune there followed, one after the other, Catholics, Protestants, African idolaters in war-paint, Red Indians in feathers, an invoker of snakes, the Dalai Lama, who confesses himself to be a god, Metropolitan Philaret [Denisenko] of the Moscow Patriarchate, and many, many others, raising up prayers behind the tribune – each in his own style: the Red Indian smoked the pipe of peace, the invoker of snakes brought his cobra. And over all this there ruled, as the chief pagan priest, the Pope of Rome, whom the whole of this multi-coloured crowd in feathers, tattoos, loin-cloths and metropolitan mitres came up to greet in a luxurious, colourful and unending queue – over which there hovered, unseen, the “positive relationship” and blessing of Patriarch Pimen…”
And he continued to bless the most extreme ecumenism. Thus Archbishop Cyril of (Gundyayev) of Smolensk, head of the Department of Foreign Relations, pointedly refused to follow the initiative of the patriarch of Jerusalem, who left the ecumenical movement in 1989, and refrained (like all the hierarchs of “World Orthodoxy”) from criticizing Patriarch Parthenius of Alexandria, who recognized Mohammed to be an apostle of God! Again, at the Seventh General Assembly of the WCC in Canberra in 1991, in which Aboriginal pagans invited the participants to pass through a “cleansing cloud of smoke” uniting Aboriginal spirituality to Christian spirituality (!), he said that the WCC was “our common home and we want it to be the cradle of the one church”.
And yet even the patriarchate began to show signs of change under the influence of glasnost’. The first sign was at the church council in June, 1988, when the 1961 statute making priests subordinate to their parish councils was repealed. Then came the canonisation of Patriarch Tikhon in October, 1989. And then, on April 3, 1990 the Synod issued a declaration in which it (i) declared its neutrality with regard to different political systems and ideologies, (ii) admitted the existence of persecutions and pressures on the Church in the past, and (iii) tacitly admitted the justice of some of the criticism directed against it by the dissidents. Again, in May, Metropolitan Vladimir of Rostov, the head of a commission formed to gather material on priests and believers who had been persecuted, said that “up to now, the details of the repression of the Russian Orthodox Church have been ignored or falsified by official, state and even numerous Church figures in order to meet the accepted ideological stereotypes.”
The climax to this process was reached in June, when the polls revealed that the Church had now passed the Party, the Army and the KGB in popularity. At the same time a Council of the Russian Orthodox Church met to elect a new patriarch after the death of “Patriarch” Pimen. Orthodox dissidents fervently hoped that the new patriarch would not be a member of the Stalinist-Brezhnevian ecclesiastical nomenklatura which had ruled the Church since 1943, but would be a vigorous, canonically elected and uncompromised leader who would restore freedom to the Church and give moral and spiritual leadership to the people as a whole. They were to be sorely disappointed; for in June, 1990, the Moscow Patriarchate hastily elected Metropolitan Alexis (Ridiger) of Leningrad to the patriarchy, a man identified by the 1974 Furov report to the Central Committee as the most reliable bishop (from the anti-religious state’s point of view) after Pimen himself. Indeed, as late as December, 1985, Metropolitan Alexis was calling for closer links with the Soviet State, criticizing the “too harsh” position of the Church towards Soviet power in 1918 and the “constructive” attitude of the latter at that time! And it is now known from the archives of the KGB that, shortly before the council that elected Alexis, the head of the KGB Kryuchkov sent a coded message to all the Administrations of the KGB ordering them to help in the election of Alexis.
This gave believers a timely reminder that political liberalization is no substitute for real spiritual cleansing, and that whatever changes were taking place in the body politic, the official church remained firmly in the control of the Brezhnevian ecclesiastical nomenklatura. For the fact was that the Moscow Patriarchate, the State’s “second administration”, remained, with the KGB, the most unrestructured part of Soviet society, with its Brezhnevian nomenklatura hierarchy still in place, and still unrepentant of its betrayal of its flock over the last decades.
As Eugene Sokolov writes, “The Moscow Patriarchate is the only power structure of the former USSR that has not undergone any changes since the fall of communism in Russia; and the patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, Alexis II, according to the well-known report of Furov to the Soviet leadership, was one of the hierarchs who were most loyal to Soviet power. Moreover, as was revealed during a checking of the archives of the KGB, before access to them was closed again by Ruslan Khasbulatov, the present patriarch was also a KGB agent with the code-name “Drozdov” – a very active agent, moreover, if he was counted worthy of an honorary award of that organization [in 1986]. It is not known whether he then hung up this award in his icon corner with the icons, but he wore the order of the Red Banner next to his bishop’s panagia, which was just as blasphemous.”
That the new “patriarch” was determined to follow in the evil traditions of his Soviet predecessors was demonstrated as early as July 17, 1990 (the day of the Tsar’s martyrdom!), when he gave an interview to the official communist newspaper Pravda, in which he refused to blame the communist party for the “distortions of socialism” that had taken place in the country since 1917, and publicly expressed his anxiety about the “explosion” that was being directed against the party! “Our sick society stands on the threshold of a multiparty system. And this can created new difficulties, and strengthen political discord even within the Communist party itself. Will the voice of reason prevail? I very much hope and pray about this.”
“And so, on the day of the murder of the Holy Royal Martyrs, from the pages of the newspaper Pravda – the tribune of the Bolsheviks – the patriarch was confidentially informing people that he was praying that the discords within the communist party – the collective murderer of the Holy Martyr, his Majesty Nicholas II and his Family – should not be strengthened!”
“Nevertheless,” continued the patriarch, “I permit myself to return to the question of the communist party, its ideology. It seems to me that, in a form cleansed from dogmatical layers, it does not contradict Christian teaching. Even The Moral Codex of the Builder of Communism, which has imperceptibly disappeared from common use, is consonant with the Biblical commandments. It is not surprising. The whole of European civilisation has evolved on the moral principles of Christianity. The communist ideology also admitted them, taking much from the New Testament… It is possible that we would not have turned out to be the witnesses of such sad consequences if the conquering proletariat had not declared, in the very first post-revolutionary years, that its ideology was incompatible with religion. It was precisely then, it seems to me, that one of the tragic mistakes was made.”
“This means that the declaration of the conquering proletariat that its ideology was incompatible with religion was a tragic mistake?…”
Clearly, with such a man as the spiritual leader of the country, the regeneration of Russia from the abyss of communism was not going to be an easy task….
8. THE RETURN OF THE EXILES (1990-2000)
The sons of foreigners shall build up your walls,
And their kings shall minister unto you.
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing,
But inwardly they are ravening wolves.
The fall of communism posed a difficult problem of interpretation. Was the Antichrist really dead? If so, then had the end times, paradoxically, come to an end? Or was this only a temporary “breathing space” in which the Antichrist was preparing a new, more subtle, more universal and more deadly onslaught?
Liberation or Deception?
The signs were mixed. On the one hand, there can be no doubt that perestroika and the fall of communism came not a moment too soon for the beleaguered Catacomb Church, which was scattered and divided, and desperately short of bishops and priests of unquestioned Orthodoxy and apostolic succession. The fall of the iron curtain enabled the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad to enter Russia and regenerate the hierarchy of the True Church, while the introduction of freedom of speech and the press enabled millions of Soviet citizens to learn the truth about their state and church for the first time. On the basis of this knowledge, they could now seek entrance into the True Church without the fear of being sent to prison or the camps. In the wave of disillusion with post-Soviet democracy that followed in the mid-1990s, it was pointed out – rightly – that freedom is a two-edged weapon, which can destroy as well as give life, and that “freedom” had brought Russia poverty and crime as well as interesting newspapers. However, for the soul thirsting for truth there is no more precious gift than the freedom to seek and find; and that opportunity was now, at last, presented to the masses.
On the other hand, only a minority of Russians used this freedom to seek the truth that makes one truly, spiritually free. And so if the fall of communism in 1989-91 was a liberation, it was a liberation strangely lacking in joy. Orthodoxy was restored neither to the state nor to the official church, and the masses of the people remained unconverted. Ten years later, a priest of the Moscow Patriarchate could claim that “the regeneration of ecclesiastical life has become a clear manifestation of the miraculous transfiguration of Russia”. But behind the newly gilded cupolas reigned heresy and corruption on a frightening scale. Moreover, surveys have shown that the numbers of those confessing themselves to be Orthodox Christians has risen, although the depth of belief of these new Christians is open to question… It was as Bishop Theophan the Recluse had prophesied over a century before: “Although the Christian name will be heard everywhere, and everywhere will be visible churches and ecclesiastical ceremonies, all this will be just appearances, and within there will be true apostasy. On this soil the Antichrist will be born...”
As time has passed, the corrupting and divisive effects of Russian “democracy” have become more and more evident. Pornography and crime of all kinds have increased dramatically; and in the opinion of many it is now more difficult to bring up children in true Christian piety than it was in the Soviet period. The general level of culture has also declined; and the freedom given to religion has been more to the advantage of all kinds of sects and false religions than to True Orthodoxy.
One anonymous member of the Moscow Patriarchate has analyzed the situation as follows: “In spite of the liberation and a certain revival of Church life in recent years, her real situation has not really changed markedly for the better. What is the use of an increasing number of baptisms if out of a thousand baptized scarcely one or two can be found who want to become Christians in our sense of the word, but practically everyone considers themselves to be ‘believers’ (in whom?)? What is the use of a growing number of publications of spiritual literature when clearly anti-church and heretical literature is spread at a far faster rate? What is the use of mass weddings when the number of abortions and divorces grows much faster, not to speak of every other kind of sexual immorality? What is the use of transmitting Divine services on television when the great majority of observors of these programmes do not themselves want to pray in church, preferring to play the role of ‘fans’, while those who seriously live the life of the Church hardly watch television? What is the point of teaching the Law of God in schools when all the rest of the school programme remains atheist and a pupil of the sixth class ‘goes through’ the Bible stories in the section of the literature course entitled ‘fairytales’, and takes exams on the history of the ancient world and the sections on Christianity in accordance with exactly the same textbook as fifteen years ago? And even if there is a serious attitude towards the Law of God in the school, what is the point of it if the child’s atheist parents do not teach him Church life, confession and the sacraments, prayer and fasting? Will such learning profit him?
“We are not talking in detail here about the de facto fall of Orthodoxy in West Ukraine…, about the rapid growth and spread of Latinism, of Protestantism, of the special heresy [ecumenism] that strives to unite Christianity with Judaism, of Krishnaism, ‘non-traditional medicine’, astrology, sorcery and the most various kinds of satanism. We are also not talking here about the open campaign of moral corruption through all the means of mass communication, which are almost exclusively in the hands of the enemies of the Church and the fatherland.
“The main thing is that our Church [the Moscow Patriarchate] has practically renounced the ideals of Holy Russia and Orthodox Statehood as moral-dogmatic standards, but has become entwined in the rabble of democratic politicians, and while breathing a sigh of nostalgia for the Bolsheviks has begun in the persons of her hierarchs to bless all the initiatives of the new power. This has led to our present position of being unable to resist this concentrated and deeply positioned attack of the enemy forces against the Church, which, moreover, has to a significant degree allowed the enemy to enter the Church and sow his tares in her midst. For example, how can we resist the widely disseminated teaching of Protopriest Alexander Men, who departed far from Orthodoxy, but which has been condemned as a heresy by nobody? Only one small, albeit very well written brochure has appeared in a very limited edition. In the conditions of democracy everyone receives blessings for everything, and in the first place those who do evil are blessed for their evil activities. And we have to look on with horror as the flock of Christ is scattered by wolves before our very eyes…”
Of course, “all things work together for good for those who love God” (Romans 8.28). So we know that, however dispiriting the post-Soviet period has been, there have been lessons to be learned and advantages to be gained if only we have eyes to see them. Among the advantages must be counted the collapse of faith among most Russians in the idol “democracy”. As long as Russians denounced communism but praised democracy, without seeing the close historical and philosophical kinship between these two western heresies, it was impossible for them to understand the real roots and nature of the revolution and therefore return to True Orthodoxy. But now, we must hope, Orthodox Russians can see the evil and antichristian nature, not only of the October Bolshevik, but also of the February Democratic revolution…
That the return of democracy would not bring with it a real cleansing of political life was evident when it became clear that none of the communist persecutors of the previous seventy years, throughout the whole vast territory of eastern Europe and Russia, would be brought to trial for his crimes. The consequences have been all too evident. Thus one group of “repentant” communists, sensing the signs of the political times, seized power in 1991 in a “democratic” coup (see below) and immediately formed such close and dependent ties on its western allies that the formerly advanced (if inefficient) economy of Russia was transformed into a scrap-heap of obsolescent factories, on the one hand, and a source of cheap raw materials for the West, on the other. Another group, playing on the sense of betrayal felt by many, formed a nationalist opposition – but an opposition characterized by hatred, envy and negativism rather than a constructive understanding of the nation’s real spiritual needs and identity. Still others, using the contacts and dollars acquired in their communist days, went into “business” – that is, a mixture of crime, extortion and the worst practices of capitalism.
It is little wonder that in many churches the prayer to be delivered “from the bitter torment of atheist rule” continues to be chanted…
In the midst of this disorganized anarchy, many have begun to long nostalgically for the organized anarchy of the Soviet period, considering that the cheapness of Soviet sausages somehow outweighed the destruction of tens of millions of souls through Soviet violence and propaganda. Like the children of Israel who became disillusioned with the rigorous freedom of the desert, they have begun to long once more for the fleshpots of Egypt. But unlike the Israelites, the wanderers in the desert of post-Soviet Russia have had no Moses to urge them ever onwards to the Promised Land. True, they feel the need for such a leader; and if many still long for the return of a Stalin, there are many who prefer the image of Tsar Nicholas II, whose ever-increasing veneration must be considered one of the most encouraging phenomena of the 1990s. But veneration for the pre-revolutionary tsars will not bring forward the appearance of a post-revolutionary tsar unless that veneration is combined with repentance. Few understand that the people must become worthy of such a tsar by a return to the True Church and a life based on the commandments of God. Otherwise, if they continue to worship the golden calf, the new Moses, if such a one appears, will break the tablets of the new law before their eyes. And if they continue to follow the new Dathans and Abirams of the heretical Moscow Patriarchate, then under their feet, too, the earth will open – or they will be condemned to wander another forty years in the desert, dying before they reach the promised land of a cleansed and Holy Russia.
The August Coup
After the support he expressed for the communists in June, 1990, “Patriarch” Alexis quickly recovered his balance, his sense of which way the wind was blowing; and there was no further overt support of the Communist party. Perhaps the only exception was the attaching of his signature, in December, 1990, to a letter by 53 well-known political, academic and literary figures who urged Gorbachev to take urgent measures to deal with the state of crisis in the country, speaking of “… the destructive dictatorship of people who are shameless in their striving to take ownership of territory, resources, the intellectual wealth and labour forces of the country whose name is the USSR”. But the patriarch quickly disavowed his signature; and a few weeks later, after the deaths in Vilnius, he declared that the killings were “a great political mistake – in church language a sin”. Then, in May, he publicly disagreed with a prominent member of the hardline Soyuz bloc, who had said that the resources of the army and the clergy should be drawn on extensively to save the people and the homeland. In Alexis’ view, these words could be perceived as a statement of preparedness to use the Church for political purposes. The patriarch recalled his words of the previous autumn: the Church and the Faith should not be used as a truncheon. By June, the patriarch had completed his remarkable transformation from dyed-in-the-wool communist to enthusiastic democrat, saying to Yeltsin: “May God help you win the election”.
Still more striking was his apparent rejection of Sergianism. Thus in an interview granted to Izvestia on June 6 he said: “This year has freed us from the state’s supervision. Now we have the moral right to say that the Declaration of Metropolitan Sergius has disappeared into the past and no longer guides us… The metropolitan cooperated with criminal usurpers. This was his tragedy.”
And yet, in an interview given to Komsomolskaya Pravda only two months earlier, he had said: “The most important thing for the Church is to preserve itself for the people, so that they should be able to have access to the Chalice of Christ, to the Chalice of Communion… There is a rule when a Christian has to take on himself a sin in order to avoid a greater sin… There are situations in which a person, a Christian must sacrifice his personal purity, his personal perfection, so as to defend something greater… Thus in relation to Metropolitan Sergius and his successors in the leadership of the Church under Soviet power, they had to tell lies, they had to say that everything was normal with us. And yet the Church was being persecuted. Declarations of political loyalty were being made. The fullness of Christian life, charity, almsgiving, the Reigning icon of the Mother of God were also renounced. Compromises were made.” In other words, Sergianism, though sinful, was justified. It may have “disappeared into the past”, but if similar circumstances arise again, the “sacrifice” of personal purity can and should be made again!…
In another interview the patriarch said, referring to the Church in the time of Patriarch Tikhon: “The Church could not, did not have the right, to go into the catacombs. She remained together with the people and drank to the dregs the cup of sufferings that fell to its lot.”
Patriarch Alexis here forgot to mention that Patriarch Tikhon specifically blessed Michael Zhizhilenko, the future Hieromartyr Maximus of Serpukhov, to become a secret catacomb bishop if the pressure on the Church from the State became too great. As for his claim that the sergianists shared the cup of the people’s suffering, this must be counted as conscious hypocrisy. It is well known that the Soviet hierarchs lived a life of considerable luxury, while lifting not a finger for the Catacomb Christians and dissidents sent to torments and death in KGB prisons!
The patriarch showed that the poison of sergianism was in him still during the attempted coup of August, 1991. When the Russian vice-president, Alexander Rutskoy, approached him on the morning of the 19th, the patriarch, like several other leading political figures, pleaded “illness” and refused to see him. When he eventually did issue a declaration – on the evening of the 20th, and again in the early hours of the 21st – the impression made was, in Fr. Gleb Yakunin’s words, “rather weak”. He called on all sides to avoid bloodshed, but did not specifically condemn the plotters.
As Jane Ellis comments: “Though Patriarch Alexis II issued statements during the coup, they were bland and unspecific, and he was widely thought to have waited to see which way the wind was blowing before committing himself to issuing them. It was rather the priests in the White House – the Russian Parliament building – itself, such as the veteran campaigner for religious freedom, Fr. Gleb Yakunin, as well as the Christians among those manning the barricades outside, who helped to overthrow the Communist Party, the KGB and the Soviet system.”
(During the 1993 attack on parliament he showed a similar indecisiveness. “He promised to excommunicate the first person to fire a shot, but when shooting… thundered around the ‘White House’, he forgot about his promise.”)
It was not until Wednesday morning that the patriarch sent his representative, Deacon Andrew Kurayev, to the Russian parliament building, by which time several dissident priests were already established there. And it was two priests of the Russian Church Abroad, Fr. Nicholas Artemov from Munich and Fr. Victor Usachev from Moscow, who celebrated the first supplicatory service to the New Martyrs of Russia on the balcony of the White House. Not to be outdone, the patriarchate immediately responded with its own prayer service, and at some time during the same day the patriarch anathematized all those who had taken part in organizing the coup.
By these actions the patriarch appeared to have secured his position vis-à-vis Yeltsin’s government, and on August 27, Yeltsin attended a memorial service in the Assumption cathedral of the Kremlin, at which the patriarch hailed the failure of the coup, saying that “the wrath of God falls upon the children of disobedience”. So in the space of thirteen months, the patriarch had passed from a pro-communist, anti-democratic to an anti-communist, pro-democratic stance. This lack of principle should have surprised nobody; for the essence of sergianism, the root heresy of the Moscow Patriarchate, is adaptation to the world, and to whatever the world believes and praises.
Perhaps as a result of this new political orientation, and insofar as so many of the leaders of democracy in both the West and Russia are Jewish, the patriarch now made his boldest step yet in ecumenism, in his famous speech before the rabbis of New York on November 13, 1991, which began: “Dear brothers, shalom to you in the name of the God of love and peace!… We are all brothers, for we are all children of the Old Testament on Mount Sinai, which, as we Christians believe, was renewed by Christ… Your law is our law, your prophets are our prophets.”
As Hierodeacon Theophanes writes: “The patriarch openly, in the name of the Orthodox Church, confessed that “we are one with the Jews, without renouncing Christianity and not in spite of Christianity, but in the name of and by dint of Christianity, while the Jews are one with us not in spite of Judaism, but in the name of and by dint of true Judaism. We are separated from the Jews because we are not yet completely Christian, while the Jews are separated from us because they are not yet completely Jews. For the fullness of Christianity embraces both itself and Judaism, while the fullness of Judaism is Christianity… The Jewish people are near to us in faith. Your law is our law, your prophets are our prophets.” The patriarch called on the Jews to work together to build “the new world order”: “by our joint efforts we shall build a new society – a democratic, free, open, just society… where Jews would live with in security and peace, in an atmosphere of friendship, creative brotherhood and the brotherhood of the children of the one God, the Father of all, the God of your fathers and of ours.”
And the rabbis did not forget the reverence paid in their honour by the patriarch of Moscow: during the visit of Alexis II to the U.S.A. in 1993 the chief rabbi of New York, Schneier, presented him with the prize “The Call of Conscience”. And both in 1991 and in 1993 the patriarch was a guest of a Zionist organization of the same name; he visited synagogues and met Jewish religious leaders…”
The Ukrainian Schism
Two ecclesiastical movements whose leadership lived abroad began to pose a considerable threat to the Moscow Patriarchate towards the end of our period.
The first was a revival of the movement for Ukrainian ecclesiastical autocephaly. In order to understand this movement, it is necessary to go back to the council of Lvov in 1946, when Stalin integrated the Uniates (who are Catholic by faith, but Orthodox in ritual) into the Moscow Patriarchate, and forced those Uniates who did not want to become Orthodox to go underground. When Gorbachev came to power and initiated the policy of glasnost, the Uniates came out into the open and began agitating for the legalization of their Church.
They were supported especially, and surprisingly, by the chairman of the Council for Religious Affairs, Constantine Kharchev, who insisted that local authorities keep the law in their dealings with believers, had suggested the legalization of the Uniate or Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC), and had spoken in favour of the free election of bishops by the people. This aroused the Moscow Patriarchate to complain about Kharchev to the Supreme Soviet, which complaints were supported by members of the Ideology department of the Central Committee, including Politburo member Vadim Medvedev. As a result Kharchev was removed (in June, 1989); but in an interview he made a telling comment about those who had removed him: “I suspect that some members of the Synod, from force of habit, have counted more on the support of the authorities than on their own authority in the Church”.
The UGCC finally achieved legalization in January, 1990, just after Gorbachev had a meeting with the Pope in Rome. This represented the second major diplomatic triumph of the Vatican in the communist bloc (after the legalization of Solidarnost in Poland). And it marked the beginning of the re-establishment of Catholic power in Russia since all relations with the Soviets had been broken off in 1929.
However, even before they had recovered their freedom in law, the Uniates had started taking over a large number of churches in the Western Ukraine which they considered to be theirs by right. By December, 1991, 2167 nominally Orthodox parishes had joined the Uniates. Deprived of the help of the local authorities, who showed every sign of being on the side of the uniates, the Moscow Patriarchate seemed helpless to stop the rot.
Since the Moscow Patriarchate was considered to have discredited itself by its associations with communism, on the one hand, and Russian nationalism, on the other, a retired patriarchal bishop, Ioann Bondarchuk, announced the creation of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) in October, 1989. He was immediately placed under ban by the patriarchate. However, the patriarchate decided to make some concessions to Ukrainian nationalist feeling by creating, in January, 1990, a supposedly autonomous but pro-Moscow Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), led by Metropolitan Philaret (Denisenko) of Kiev.
Meanwhile, relations between the Orthodox and Catholics continued to deteriorate; and in March the Uniates withdrew from quadripartite discussions between Roman Catholics, Uniates, Russian Orthodox and the pro-Moscow UOC. Then, in June, the UOAC convened its first All-Ukrainian Council in Kiev, at which Mstyslav (Skrypnyk), who had been the leader of the Ukrainian autocephalists in the U.S.A., was enthroned as the first patriarch in Ukrainian history. The UOAC received a further significant boost after the Ukraine achieved independence at the end of 1991.
In general the Russian Orthodox were opposed to the separation of Russia from Ukraine, regarding the Russians, Ukrainians and Belorussians as essentially three parts of one Slavic race who should keep together on the basis of their closely related religion, culture and history. However, this was not the view of most Ukrainian believers – or, at any rate, of those living in the western regions. “The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church,” said Anatolius Krasikov, “is the expression of the resolute will of the Ukrainian people to finally liberate itself from the imperial [Russian] Orthodox Church which is an instrument of spiritual oppression against the Ukrainian people, aiming at its complete russification and enslavement.”
Most recently, in Constantinople in November, 2000, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople reached an agreement with the Ukrainian Orthodox (the UOAC and the “Kievan Patriarchate” led by Philaret (Denisensko), but excluding the UOC) on the formation of a united local church which would provide for “a cessation of mutual accusations” and a halt to the process of transfer of parishes from one jurisdiction to the other. A commission would oversee the organisational work, and this Commission would then present its conclusions to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, after which Constantinople would have to determine “the canonical questions and the status of bishops and clergy” of both churches. This invasion of the Patriarchate of Constantinople into the canonical territory of the Russian Church in the region exacerbated the already strained relations (because of the quarrel over Estonia, in particular) between the Moscow and Constantinople patriarchates.
The ROCA Returns to Russia
The second major ecclesiastical threat to the Moscow Patriarchate came from the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCA); and the single most important ecclesiastical event of the Gorbachev and Yeltsin years was the return to Russia of this Church. The ROCA had already had an important influence on life within the patriarchate by her canonization, in 1981, of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia. This act struck a chord in the hearts of many patriarchal believers; but the patriarchate has so far successfully resisted the pressure to canonize Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II and the major martyrs of the Catacomb Church – whom, of course, she labelled as “political criminals” only a few years before.
In 1982 the ROCA consecrated the monk Lazarus Zhurbenko, whom the dissident Soviet priest Demetrius Dudko had recommended but whom the whole of the Catacomb Church viewed with greatest distrust, as the first bishop of a new secret hierarchy in Russia parallel to that of the Catacomb Church.
On August 1/14, 1990, the ROCA decided to throw some light on this secret consecration by declaring: “In 1982 his Eminence Anthony, Archbishop of Geneva and Western Europe, together with his Eminence Mark, Bishop of Berlin and Germany, on the orders of the Hierarchical Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, secretly performed an episcopal consecration on Hieromonk Barnabas (Prokofiev), so that through the cooperation of these archpastors the Church life of the Catacomb Orthodox Church in Russia might be regulated. Since external circumstances no longer compel either his Eminence Bishop Lazarus in Russia, or his Eminence Bishop Barnabas in France to remain as secret Hierarchs of our Russian Church Abroad, the Hierarchical Synod is now officially declaring this fact.”
This was an ominous phrase: “so that… the Church life of the Catacomb Orthodox Church in Russia might be regulated”. No indication was given as to why the life of the Catacomb Church needed regulating from abroad, nor how it was proposed that this regulation should be accomplished, nor whether the consent of the Catacomb Church to such a regulation had been sought or received, nor what canonical right the ROCA had to interfere in the life of the Catacomb Church inside Russia. In actual fact the consent of the Catacomb Church, was neither asked nor given.…
The ROCA’s first parish on Russian soil was that of St. Constantine the Great in Suzdal, which was received after its departure from the MP on the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25 / April 7, 1990 – which also happened to be the day of the martyrdom of Patriarch Tikhon. In a real sense, this date marks the beginning of the return of the True, “Tikhonite” Church to above-ground life in Russia; and the Suzdal parish and its dynamic pastor, Archimandrite (now Archbishop) Valentine (Rusantsov) were to play a leading role in Church life throughout the 1990s. Within a year the ROCA’s organisation inside the country, which was called the “Free Russian Orthodox Church” (FROC), had increased to some sixty parishes, while the Moscow Patriarchate suffered a very sharp drop in popularity.
However, this promising start was not maintained. By the time Soviet power fell in December, 1991, the ROCA had not reaped the expected fruits in terms of defections from the patriarchate, and in the Yeltsin period her influence actually fell sharply. The failure of the ROCA to seize the opportunity presented by the fall of communism to take the leadership of Church life in Russia was the great tragedy of the 1990s.
The reasons for this were complex. One was that the reaction against communism in Russia was in general motivated, not so much by a love of Orthodoxy and a desire to return to Holy Tradition, as by a desire to participate in the material benefits of the Western Babylon – and the MP promised more in material terms for its followers than the ROCA. Homo Sovieticus proved difficult to reform; the Russian people did not display a profound repentance over their participation in the Soviet experiment, with the result that, while rejecting the communist past in principle, they remained – and remain to the present day - as it were paralysed, loyal to structures and leaders that are irremediably compromised. Therefore the MP was able to mount a successful counter-attack, claiming for itself the mantle of “Russianness” as against the “American” church of the ROCA.
The situation was as the ROCA hierarchs described it in their epistle of October, 1991: “If the results of the Chernobyl catastrophe are still making themselves known in the bodies of the children of the surrounding region, the spiritual catastrophe of all Russia will show its effects for a far longer period of time. Just as Chernobyl’s radiation will continue for many years to annihilate the lives of the children of our land with its sinister, invisible fire, it is clear that the consequences of a spiritual catastrophe will not quickly depart from us.”
However, the ROCA hierarchy itself was not free from Chernobyl-type sicknesses, as became clear to many within Russia, as it had been evident for decades to those living outside. In particular, there was the lingering tendency, discussed at length in previous chapters, to think of the MP as the “Mother Church” of Russian Orthodoxy in spite of her obvious extreme corruption and hereticalness. This pro-Muscovite tendency was led, in the 1990s, by the powerful Archbishop Mark of Berlin, who argued that the ROCA should return into communion with the patriarchate now that communism had fallen.
In consequence, the ROCA found itself “moving in two directions”, as the brother-priests Dionysius and Timothy Alferov put it. “The first was that of establishing [ROCA] parishes in Russia. The second was working to enlighten the clergy of the very MP itself, and had as its toal the passing on to the [Russian] Homeland of the riches of the [Russian] Abroad’s spiritual and ecclesio-social experience. The adherents and supporters of both these courses of action argued amongst themselves from the start, although it cannot be said that these two approaches would have been completely and mutually exclusive, the one of the other.”
In the midst of these conflicting priorities, what should have been the very first priority, the establishing of contact with, and provision of support for, the Catacomb Church, was completely ignored. Indeed, the ROCA, far from supporting the Catacomb Church, acted at first in a distinctively hostile manner to those elements of the Catacomb Church that were not ready simply to submit without reservation to the ROCA’s authority. This meant that, if they were priests, they would have to accept reordination at the hands of the ROCA’s sole hierarch in Russia, Bishop Lazarus of Tambov – a much stricter procedure than was applied in the reception of priests from the MP.
The only branch of the Catacomb Church that still had bishops, the so-called “Seraphimo-Gennadiites” was declared to be uncanonical because their hierarchy did not have ordination certificates. So were those priests who had been ordained by great confessor, Archbishop Anthony (Galynsky-Mikhailovsky) – in spite of the fact that these priests had been received into communion by Metropolitan Philaret 23 years before. Both these branches now turned away from the ROCA: the Seraphimo-Gennadiites retreated into isolation, deciding to seek communion with no other Church; and the “Galynskyites” dispersed into various other jurisdictions.
The document in which these decisions were made public was signed only by Bishop Hilarion of Manhattan. In an e-mail sent to the present writer on July 15, 1998, he wrote: “The statement which I signed as Deputy Secretary of the Synod was based entirely on the information given to us by Archbishop Lazarus. He reported to the Synod on the different groups of the Catacombs and convinced the members of the Synod (or the Council – I don’t recall offhand which) that their canonicity was questionable and in some instances – their purity of doctrine as well (e.g. imyabozhniki). The Synod members hoped (naively) that this would convince the catacomb groups to rethink their position and seek from the Russian Church Abroad correction of their orders to guarantee apostolic succession. We now see that it was a mistake to issue the statement and to have based our understanding of the catacomb situation wholly on the information provided by Vl. Lazarus. I personally regret this whole matter very much and seek to have a better understanding of and a sincere openness towards the long-suffering confessors of the Russian Catacombs.”
The bad reputation of Bishop Lazarus led to a schism between the ROCA and another further branch of the Catacomb Church, the so-called “passportless”. So called, as we have seen, because its members refuse to carry Soviet passports, this branch – if it can be called that, and not simply a “right wing” tendency in several distinct branches – is based mainly in Eastern Russia and Siberia. On the death of their last bishop, Theodosius (Bakhmetev) (+1986), one part of the passportless elected Fr. Gurias (Pavlov) as their candidate for the episcopate, and in the spring of 1990 he travelled for this purpose to the Synod of the ROCA in New York (for which, of course, he had to compromise and take a passport). However, when Fr. Gurias learned that Bishop Lazarus was to take part in his consecration, believing Lazarus to be a KGB agent, he categorically refused the episcopate, broke with the ROCA and returned to Russia. After some negotiations with the Greek Old Calendarist Archbishop Chrysostom II of Athens, Fr. Gurias turned to the Auxentiites and received consecration as Bishop of Kazan in Boston in July, 1991.
Although many Catacomb Christians did join the ROCA, seeing it to be the last True Russian Church with undoubted apostolic succession, the long-awaited reunion of the reunion of the confessors inside and outside of Russia did not take place, and where it did take place, it tended to break down. Why? We have mentioned some reasons – the ROCA’s poor choice of Lazarus Zhurbenko as their representative in Russia, the pro-Moscow sympathies of many ROCA clergy – but the fact is of such historical importance that it requires further discussion.
First, it must be remembered that after decades of geographical isolation it was almost inevitable that some differences in outlook between the Church inside Russia and the Church Abroad should have developed. The Church inside Russia, living in conditions of extreme danger and the very real possibility of complete annihilation, was inclined to describe her situation in apocalyptic terms, thus: since 1917 we have entered the last period of Church history, the period of the Apocalypse; the True Church, like the woman clothed in the sun, has fled into the wilderness, and the earth (the catacombs) has swallowed her up; while the false church, the Moscow Patriarchate, is the whore sitting on the red beast (communism) (Revelation chapters 12-13 and 17). The ROCA had used very similar language to describe the situation in her All-Emigration Council of Belgrade in 1938; but in the post-war years, as news of the Catacomb Church became scarcer, on the one hand, and the Soviet beast became, by the standards of the 1930s, relatively gentler, on the other, this eschatological emphasis became less pronounced.
This difference became a clear theological divergence in, for example, the correspondence between Metropolitan Vitaly and representatives of the passportless in the early 1990s, when the metropolitan compared the Soviet Union to the Roman empire. St Paul had been proud of his Roman citizenship, he wrote, so what was wrong with having a Soviet passport and being called a Soviet citizen?
Passportless Christians were appalled by the comparison – as if Rome, the state in which Christ Himself was born and was registered in a census, and which later grew into the great Orthodox Christian empires of Byzantium, the New Rome, and Russia, the Third Rome, could be compared to the anti-state, the collective Antichrist established, not by God, but by satan (Revelation 13.2), which had destroyed the Russian empire! Rome, even in its pagan phase, had protected the Christians from the fury of the Jews: the Soviet Union was, in its early phase, the instrument of the Jews against the Christians. Rome, even in its pagan phase, guaranteed a framework of law and order within which the apostles could rapidly spread the faith from one end of the world to the other: the Soviet Union forced a population that was already Orthodox in its great majority to renounce their faith or hide it “in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth” (Hebrews 11.38).
More recently, an anonymous publication has taken up the metropolitan’s attitude to the Catacomb Christians, accusing them of “premature flight” from the world, analogous to the flight of the Old Believers from Russian society. On this path of premature flight from the world, writes the anonymous author, “set out the schismatic Old Believers under Peter. In our century, the Catacomb Christians decisively refused to accept any state documents, seeing in them the seal of the Antichrist. Of course, in Peter’s reign, and still more in Stalin’s regime, elements of an antichristian kingdom were evident. But such terrible rebellions against the God-established order were not yet the end, ‘this is only the beginning of sorrows’, as the Gospel says (Luke 21.9).”
So what is the anonymous author asserting? That the Catacomb Christians are schismatics on a par with the Old Believers?! This not only constitutes a serious slander against the Catacomb Church, but also betrays a blindness with regard to the eschatological significance of the Russian-Jewish revolution, which, if only the “beginning” of sorrows, was nevertheless also the beginning of the reign of the Antichrist, when the relationship between the Church and the State changed from one of cooperation and mutual recognition to one of mutual non-recognition and the most fundamental incompatibility.
There can be no doubt that Peter the Great inflicted great damage on the Church (and thereby indirectly also on the State, for which it paid in 1917) through his westernizing reforms. However, the conscience of the Church, while rejecting his errors, has always recognized that he died as a Christian and God-anointed tsar (see the Life of St. Metrophanes of Voronezh, who appeared to one of his venerators after his death and told him: “If you want to be pleasing to me, pray for the repose of the soul of Emperor Peter the Great”). No saint of the Church ever counselled rebellion against Peter or his successors, as opposed to resistance to certain of their decrees.
As for the Old Believers, their rebellion was not in the first place against Peter and his reforms, but against Patriarch Nicon and his reforms, which was quickly followed by rebellion against Peter’s father, Tsar Alexis Mikhailovich also. Later, they seized on Peter’s reforms as an excuse for widening and deepening their rebellion against the God-established order, making them the forerunners, not of the True Orthodox Christians of the Soviet catacombs, who always recognized that which the Old Believers rejected, but of the revolutionaries of 1905 and 1917. As Archbishop Anthony (Khrapovitsky) wrote in 1912,in his encyclical to the Old Believers: “The spirit of this world… winks at real revolutionaries and sent the money of your rich men to create the Moscow rebellion of 1905.”
Another, more moderate objection is sometimes raised: that the exploit (podvig) of the Catacomb Christians, while admirable and justified in view of the ferocity of the Soviet regime, was nevertheless not necessary, for one could be saved without resorting to such extreme measures.
The present writer is not aware of any decision by any competent Church authority that would clarify the question whether the rejection of Soviet passports was necessary for the salvation of Christians in the Soviet period. It may be that such a question cannot be answered in a clear and categorical manner in view of the great complexity and diversity of the relations between individual believers and the Soviet state. Only God knows whether any particular degree of involvement in Soviet life constituted apostasy or an acceptable level of accommodation to circumstances.
However, the question whether the podvig of the Catacomb Christians was “necessary” is much easier to answer. It is as easy to answer as the question: Is it necessary to keep as far away from sin as possible, or: Is it necessary to take every possible precaution against sin? The answer, of course, is: yes, it is absolutely necessary! The English have a parable: when you have supper with the devil, take a very long spoon. The Catacomb Christians took not even very long spoons to the marriage feast of the devil and the citizens of the Soviet state. In their completely laudable zeal to keep their bridal garments spotless for the marriage feast of Christ and His Church, they chose not even to step over the threshold of the Soviet madhouse. They chose rather to go hungry than eat of the devil’s food, the communion of heretics and apostates.
And not only did they save their own souls thereby: they also provided an absolutely necessary warning to those Christians who, thinking that they could take coals into their breast and not be burned, were being tempted into closer relations with the Antichrist. For as the beast’s ferocity gradually lessened from the 1956 amnesty onwards, and the Soviet state began to acquire some (but never all) of the external characteristics of the “normal” state, it was indeed tempting to think that the leopard was changing its spots, that the lion was becoming a vegetarian, that Pharaoh was becoming Caesar – so that it was now time to give to Caesar what was Caesar’s… Against this terribly dangerous temptation, the movement of the Passportless, which exploded at precisely this time, came as a powerful warning. “No,” they said, “the beast has not changed its nature. If its persecution is less widespread now than before, this is because the opposition to him has been largely destroyed. The persecution now is no less fierce than before, only it is more subtle, for it now mixes rewards – the comforts of the Soviet “paradise” – with punishments. But ‘here we have no continuing city’; and if this was true even under the God-loving tsars, how can it not be even more so now, under the God-hating Antichrist? If Christ suffered outside the walls of the city in order to sanctify us by His Blood, then we, too, must go out to Him outside the walls of the antichristian state (Hebrews 13.12-14).”
Now, having said all this, it must be admitted that the seal of the Antichrist in Soviet Russia could not have been the same seal that is mentioned in Revelation 13, if only because it was not a mark placed on the right hand and forehead. However, we are fully justified in calling it a seal (of the collective Antichrist), if not the seal (of the personal Antichrist); for its acceptance, at least in certain contexts (for example, the context of the 1961 law), entailed acceptance of the whole lawless legislation and ideology of the Soviet state. To that extent it was not just a neutral act of registration; it was an act of registration in Satan’s kingdom, the kingdom of the Antichrist, and as such was not only the forerunner of the seal, but in a sense the beginning of that seal, in that it had the same apocalyptic significance for the life of Christians.
Paradoxically, the passportless position is closer not only to Patriarch Tikhon’s anathema against the Bolsheviks in 1918, which called on Christians to have nothing whatsoever to do with the Bolsheviks, but also to the position of the first president of the ROCA, Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), who in 1921 called for an armed invasion of Soviet Russia and a general insurrection against Soviet power.
Another difference between the Church inside Russia and the Church Abroad was the relative difference in their exposure to the pan-heresy of ecumenism. Catacomb Christians, like the mass of Christians in the U.S.S.R., knew next to nothing about ecumenism or the ecumenical activities of the Moscow Patriarchate. With one exception, the catacomb literature of the 60s-80s that found its way to the West makes no mention of it. The ROCA, on the other hand, became increasingly preoccupied with the struggle against it, from Metropolitan Philaret’s “sorrowful epistles” in the 1960s to the anathema against ecumenism in 1983.
There can be little doubt that the most important contribution that the ROCA brought to Orthodox Christians in the U.S.S.R., apart from the provision of bishops with undoubted apostolic succession, was her public and trenchant critique of ecumenism. For the first time since the 1930s, the Moscow Patriarchate was thrown onto the defensive, and the theological awareness of thousands, if not millions of Russian Orthodox was raised to the point that there was a significant movement against ecumenism among the lower clergy and laity of the patriarchate. Thus in February, 1992, the president of the Union of Orthodox Brotherhoods, Sergius Polyakov, declared that the patriarch’s speech to the New York rabbis the previous November had been “clearly heretical”. And a representative of the Tver diocese declared that “almost 60% of the diocesan clergy” were refusing to commemorate the patriarch. Unfortunately, only one of those priests who ceased commemorating the patriarch actually joined the True Church…
When the borders between the Soviet Union and the West opened, it was logical that the ROCA and the Catacomb Church should meet and “pool their talents”, as it were, so as to present a maximally effective and united front against the common enemy. The ROCA could provide her theological knowledge and relatively greater material resources, while the Catacomb Church could provide her existing network of communities, her confessing experience and her intimate knowledge of Soviet conditions and the pitfalls of working in the kingdom of the Antichrist. Unfortunately, the ROCA decided to “go it alone”, attempting to take over, rather than work with, the Catacomb Church – and the consequences were disastrous….
KGB Agents in Cassocks
One of the biggest fruits of glasnost’ – which did not, however, lead to a real ecclesiastical perestroika – was the confirmation in January, 1992 by a Russian parliamentary commission investigating the activities of the KGB that for several decades at least the leaders of the Moscow Patriarchate had been KGB agents. The records of the fourth, Church department of the KGB’s Fifth Administration revealed that Metropolitans Juvenal of Krutitsa, Pitirim of Volokolamsk, Philaret of Kiev and Philaret of Minsk were all KGB agents, with the codenames “Adamant”, “Abbat”, “Antonov” and “Ostrovsky” respectively.
Other revelations unearthed by the commission included:- (I) the words of the head of the KGB Yury Andropov to the Central Committee sometime in the 1970s: “The organs of state security keep the contacts of the Vatican with the Russian Orthodox Church under control…”; (ii) “At the 6th General Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Vancouver, the religious delegation from the USSR contained 47 (!) agents of the KGB, including religious authorities, clergy and technical personnel” (July, 1983); (iii) “The most important were the journeys of agents ‘Antonov’, ‘Ostrovsky’ and ‘Adamant’ to Italy for conversations with the Pope of Rome on the question of further relations between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church, and in particular regarding the problems of the uniates” (1989).
The parliamentary commission also discovered that Patriarch Alexis himself was an agent with the codename “Drozdov”. It is now known that Alexis’ service to the KGB went back as far as the 1950s; and in the 1974 Furov report to the Central Committee of the USSR he (together with his predecessor Patriarch Pimen) was placed in the category of those bishops who “affirm both in words and deeds not only loyalty but also patriotism towards the socialist society; strictly observe the laws on cults, and educate the parish clergy and believers in the same spirit; realistically understand that our state is not interested in proclaiming the role of religion and the church in society; and, realizing this, do not display any particular activeness in extending the influence of Orthodoxy among the population.”
Moreover, according to a KGB document of 1988, ‘An order was drafted by the USSR KGB chairman to award an honorary citation to agent DROZDOV’ for unspecified services to state security. But these facts were not made public because, according to Fen Montaigne, “members of the parliamentary commission had told the patriarch that they would not name him as an agent if he began cleaning house in the church and acknowledging the breadth of cooperation between the church and the KGB. ‘So far, we have kept the silence because we wanted to give the patriarch a chance,’ said Alexander Nezhny, a journalist who said his comparison of the archives and church bulletins convinced him that Alexis II is indeed ‘Drozdov’…”
The parliamentary commission was almost immediately closed down by the President of the Supreme Soviet, Ruslan Khasbalutov, at the insistence, according to Ponomarev, of Patriarch Alexis himself and the head of the KGB, E. Primakov. One of the commission’s members, Fr. Gleb Yakunin, “was accused of betraying state secrets to the United States and threatened with a private persecution. Father Gleb remained defiant. He wrote to the Patriarch in 1994:
“’If the Church is not cleansed of the taint of the spy and informer, it cannot be reborn. Unfortunately, only one archbishop – Archbishop Khrizostom of Lithuania – has had the courage publicly to acknowledge that in the past he worked as an agent, and has revealed his codename: RESTAVRATOR. No other Church hierarch has followed his example, however.
“The most prominent agents of the past include DROZDOV – the only one of the churchmen to be officially honoured with an award by the KGB of the USSR, in 1988, for outstanding intelligence services – ADAMANT, OSTROVSKY, MIKHAILOV, TOPAZ AND ABBAT. It is obvious that none of these or the less exalted agents are preparing to repent. On the contrary, they deliver themselves of pastoral maxims on the allegedly neutral character of informing on the Church, and articles have appeared in the Church press justifying the role of the informer as essential for the survival of the Church in an anti-religious state.
“The codenames I discovered in the archives of the KGB belong to the top hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate.”
It is not only hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate who are now known to be KGB agents. As we have seen, Patriarch Ilia of Georgia was recruited by the Georgian KGB Unit V in 1962, with the codename “Iverieli”. As metropolitan of Sukhumi in the late 1970s he betrayed the Catacomb Schema-Metropolitan Gennadius (Sekach) to the Georgian KGB, as a result of which Metropolitan Gennadius spent two-and-half years in prison in Kutaisi. And in the late 1990s he persecuted the beginnings of the anti-ecumenist movement in Georgia (see below).
Chambésy and Balamand
Perhaps the most powerful weapon possessed by the ROCA in her struggle with the patriarchate was the latter’s immersion in the pan-heresy of Ecumenism.
An important stage in the Orthodox Churches’ participation in ecumenism was the Chambésy agreement between the ecumenist Orthodox and the Monophysite heretics in 1990. The Monophysites agreed to take “a positive attitude” to, although without officially accepting, the last Four Ecumenical Councils and the Fathers who took part in them, and to lift their anathemas against them; while the Orthodox agreed to lift their anathemas against all the Monophysite councils and fathers, including the notorious heresiarchs Dioscurus, Timothy and Severus. Thus both “families of Churches” (a new phrase unknown to Orthodox ecclesiology) agreed that “all the anathemas and condemnations of the past which divide us should be lifted by the Churches in order that the last obstacle to the full unity and communion of our two families can be removed by the grace and power of God.”
But this meant that all the six hundred and thirty holy Fathers who uttered these anathemas and condemnations were wrong!
Of course, the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches (with the exception of Jerusalem) have already implicitly rejected the Councils and the Fathers by their communion in prayer and the sacraments with all sorts of heretics, and even pagans, the WCC General Assembly in Canberra in 1991 being perhaps the most extreme example. Nevertheless, it is a further and important stage to say explicitly that the Ecumenical Councils were wrong, that the Monophysites should not have been condemned, that they were Orthodox all these centuries although the Holy Fathers and all the saints of the Orthodox Church considered them to be heretics. This is not simply a failure to come up to the standards of the Ecumenical Councils: it is a renunciation of the standards themselves.
In essence, the Local Orthodox Churches here placed themselves under the anathemas against Monophysitism from the Fourth Ecumenical Council onwards, and must be considered to be “semi-Monophysites”.
The ROCA and the Greek Old Calendarists quickly condemned the Chambésy agreement. Nevertheless, in 1992 the patriarchate of Antioch entered into full, official communion with the Monophysites. There is every indication that the Moscow Patriarchate wants to go along the same path.
Union with the Monophysites proceeded in parallel with moves for union with the Catholics. (There are indications that the three most ancient Christian communions have been coordinating their ecumenist negotiations with the aim of attaining full union by the year 2000.) Immediately after becoming patriarch, Alexis adopted a more conciliatory attitude towards the uniate Catholics of the West Ukraine; and although he and his senior hierarchs have often protested against Catholic proselytism in Russia, it is significant that in March, 1992 he strongly resisted the call by Patriarch Diodorus of Jerusalem for a cessation of all dialogue between the Orthodox and the Vatican. Since then, while Patriarch Alexis has avoided meeting the Pope, there can be little doubt about his ultimate aim of union with him…
In 1994 the Moscow Patriarchate and other Local Orthodox churches signed the Balamand agreement with the Catholics, in which the Orthodox and the Catholics were declared to be sister-Churches in the full sense, “two lungs” of the same organism (with the Monophysites as a “third lung”?). This was an official acceptance of the “branch theory” of the Church. There were protests in Greece and Mount Athos, but Patriarch Bartholomew forced the protestors to back down….
By this time, as we have seen, a new "dissident" movement, one aimed against ecumenism and modernism, was building up within the Moscow Patriarchate; and the anti-ecumenists attacked both Chambésy and Balamand. However, during the patriarchate's council in December, 1994, the liberals counter-attacked: the patriarchate's participation in the World Council of Churches was unequivocally endorsed as having been inspired “primarily through considerations of the good it would do for the Church”, and a purge of the anti-ecumenist brotherhoods began. This was followed by the death of the only anti-ecumenist in the hierarchy, Metropolitan John (Snychev) of St. Petersburg.
However, in December, 1995 a group of about fifty clergy of the diocese of Moscow addressed an open letter to the patriarch denouncing the "crypto-catholic" teaching and actions of several modernist priests and laity in the capital. The patriarch responded by complaining once more about the Catholic proselytism in Russia and Belorussia, and in particular about the Catholics' use of humanitarian aid as a cover for their missionary purposes. Nevertheless, it is very unlikely that the patriarch will voluntarily abandon his policy of aggiornamento towards the Catholics, especially in view of the fact that one Catholic organization "Aid to the Suffering Church", has, with the blessing of the Pope, offered to give every priest in the Russian Church an annual salary of $1000. Perhaps the only power which could make him change course now would be a nationalist, anti-western takeover of the government. For Alexis, political creature that he is, has never taken a truly independent position in relation to the State, insofar as his fundamental heresy is still Sergianism...
The Georgian Church and the “Third Way”
In July, 1994 a union took place between four True Orthodox Churches: the ROCA, the Romanian Old Calendarists under Metropolitan Blaise, the Bulgarian Old Calendarists under Bishop Photius of Triaditsa and the Greek Old Calendarists under Metropolitan Cyprian of Orope and Fili (the “Cyprianites”). Any reversal of the process of fragmentation among the True Orthodox Churches could only be accounted a positive sign. In this case, however, union was achieved at the price of the ROCA officially rejecting the validity of the Florinites’ defrocking of Metropolitan Cyprian in 1985 and accepting his very controversial ecclesiology as her own. This ecclesiology recognised that the churches of ecumenist “World Orthodoxy” still had grace, justifying this on the grounds of a completely unacceptable theory of the relationship between the Seven Ecumenical Councils and the heretics of their day. Thus the “Third Way” between Orthodoxy and heresy that Metropolitan Cyprian was preaching, and which he had succeeded in having accepted by three other Churches, threatened to become yet another of the diplomatic compromises with which Orthodox history is scattered and which have always failed in the longer term.
From the start, there were many critics of the union among conservative members of the ROCA in Russia and America. Even the two most senior ROCA bishops, Metropolitan Vitaly and Archbishop Anthony of Los Angeles, were reported to be against it. Thus in his Nativity epistle for 1995/96 Metropolitan Vitaly contradicted the Cyprianite ecclesiology he had signed up to, saying that he personally believed that the Moscow Patriarchate did not have the grace of sacraments. And in December, 1996, he wrote flatly that the Moscow Patriarchate was "the Church of the evil-doers, the Church of the Antichrist", which "has completed sealed its irrevocable falling away from the body of the Church of Christ". Again, although the Romanian Old Calendarists have been in communion with the Cyprianites for several years and have not protested their ecclesiology, their own practice of chrismating new calendarists who come to them suggests that they hold to a stricter ecclesiology.
At first, however, this True Orthodox union, like the earlier (and much more solidly based) one in 1971, appeared to elicit an encouraging response from the heretics. For from the middle of the 1990s, some signs of such a genuinely spiritual revival in World Orthodoxy have been discerned in the emergence of anti-ecumenist movements in Russia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Georgia. Thus in November, 1994 the Serbian Bishop Artemije of Kosovo said to his fellow hierarchs with regard to their participation in the ecumenical movement: "We have lost the purity of the faith, the canonical inheritance of the Church and faithfulness to the holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church." Those were honest and true words. But they were not followed up by appropriate action – that is, withdrawal from the ecumenical movement and repentace for participation in it. Thus when 340 priests, monks and nuns of the Serbian Church protested against ecumenism and called on the patriarchate to leave the WCC in the early summer of 1997, none of the Serbian bishops signed the document. And so the Serbian Church remains mired in heresy.
However, the Bulgarian and Georgian Churches did leave the WCC. It is particularly interesting to see how and why this took place in the two countries. The Georgian decision was elicited by the separation of two groups from the official Church of Georgia because of the latter’s participation in the ecumenical movement. One priest with his flock joined the Cyprianites, and then a monastery, a convent and a secular parish joined the American Auxentiites under Bishop Ephraim of Boston. Rattled by these events, and fearing a more general exodus, the patriarchate withdrew from the WCC in May, 1997 – but then promptly placed the leaders of the True Orthodox under ban! On August 21 the Betani monastery was stormed by the Georgian Patriarchate. At one point the patriarchal leader Archimandrite Joachim shouted at the “disobedient” True Orthodox that one should obey one’s spiritual superior unconditionally, even to the point of becoming a Muslim if so ordered!
Fr. Basil (now Hieromonk Gregory) Lurye continues the story: “Having withdrawn, in 1997, from international ecumenical organizations, the official Georgian Patriarchate has recently made its next step away from ecumenical jurisdictions. Upon recommendation of the Georgian Patriarchate’s Divinity Commission, in its Synodal meeting of October 8, the Georgian Church officially denounced a number of recent ecumenical documents, branding them ‘unacceptable.’ These documents included: 1) the Chambésy documents of 1990 and 1993 (Union with Non-Chalcedonian (Oriental) Churches); 2) the Framework Agreement between the Orthodox Church of Antioch and the Oriental (Non-Chalcedonian) Church of Antioch; 3) the Balamand Union with the Latins (Roman-Catholic Church) of 1993; 4) Easter Celebration by the Autonomious Orthodox Church of Finland according to the Papal Paschalion; 5) the so-called ‘Branch Theory’ was also denounced; as well as 5) common prayers and intercommunion with non-Orthodox denominations.
“It is quite obvious that this step back from ecumenism…has been driven by Orthodox zealots who have, over the past two years, been particularly vocal in Georgia. However, this statement of the Georgian Synod represents an unprecedented act of an all but complete rejection of the ecumenist politics, not just a cancellation of membership in a few ecumenical organizations. This move could be assumed to signify the beginning of a comeback of the official Georgian Patriarchate to Orthodoxy, if it were not for certain very important circumstances.
“Even if we ignore the fact that the Patriarchate would never have initiated the persecution of Georgian Orthodox zealots, who have recently established the True Orthodox Church of Georgia, if its goals had not been completely at variance with those of True Orthodox Christians; even if we decline to discuss the identity of Patriarch Elias, a veteran ecumenist and follower of Nicodemus [of Leningrad], and a KGB agent code-named Iverieli since 1962, for whom the beginning of repentance would mean the end of his term in office; and even if we are completely unaware of what is really going on in Georgia’s ecclesiastical life, we can still discern one very essential inconsistency in the above-mentioned Georgian Synodal document which brings to naught all its purported “Orthodox” merits, thus effectively downgrading the document to the level of a mere tactical loophole. Although the Synod does raise its voice against some random particulars of the ecumenical movement, reasonably citing their non-orthodox, i.e. heretical, nature, it proceeds to conclusions which no genuine Orthodox believer facing a heresy would ever make.
“Denunciation of any ecumenical developments as erroneous is no proof of the denouncer’s own adherence to the Orthodox faith. Denouncement of a heresy from a truly Orthodox standpoint would, first and foremost, involve a severance of ecclesiastical communion with the parties guilty of the heresy. In other words, as Georgian Orthodox zealots reasonably reminded the Georgian Patriarchate back in 1997, it is not enough to withdraw from all manner of ecumenical activities; it is necessary to break communion with all ecumenical jurisdictions, especially with Constantinople which is at the helm of the Orthodox chapter of this heresy. It is necessary to give up the vision of “World Orthodoxy” whereby it is presented as an assembly of local Orthodox churches; instead, it should be viewed as a conglomeration of communities each infected with the ecumenical heresy to a different extent.
“For true Orthodox Christians, the issues of “intercommunion,” “common prayers,” or “ecclesiastical commission” acquire relevance only in relation to pseudo-Orthodox ecumenical jurisdictions: for example, he who administers a common service with the New Calendarists is an ecumenist. Although the Georgian Patriarchate no longer hails the Roman Catholic Church as its “sister church,” it still maintains a “sisterly” relationship with the Constantinople Patriarchate and, therefore, the Georgian Patriarchate cannot be recognized as Orthodox, and the causes of Georgia’s ecclesiastical schism still persist in their undiminished entirety.
“Meanwhile, the above considerations do not cover the most outstanding singularity of the Georgian Synod’s decision. If this decision was, indeed, a tactical move, the question is: what sort of object could such a tactic possibly further? I daresay, I do have an answer, and it is based on an analysis of all the reshuffles that have occurred in the Orthodox world over the last 15 years.
“The acceleration of the “ecumenical build-up” in a bid to attain “Pan-Christian unity” in most of the world by the year 2000 has made it absolutely imperative to create some kind of “collector” for “the conservatives” since it will obviously take at least one or two generations before “the conservatives” become completely extinct. It was, therefore, necessary to give them a provisional modus vivendi enabling them to avoid the psychological discomfort of being involved in ecumenical activities “too directly” while at the same time preserving them as part of the “great and boundless” ecumenical Babel. The Orthodox Church was certainly unable to provide assistance in this task, but a ready-to-wear model did exist: the Anglican Church with its two wings, High Church and Low Church, which have no dogmatic accord between them and completely abhor each other’s rites (for instance, High Church does not admit women to priesthood and does not recognize homosexual marriages), yet they consider themselves parts of a single church and retain full communion with each other.
“Starting in the mid-1980s, certain postulates of mid-20th century Saints dating back to the time when hope was still alive that the New Calendarist Greek Church and the Moscow Patriarchate would mend their ways… created the foundation for a semblance of ‘special divinity’ formulated as follows: we are divorcing ourselves from the ‘official’ jurisdictions” on account of their heresies, yet we will continue to regard them as members of the Orthodox Church, albeit ailing members. In other words, according to this ecclesiology, the sojourn of such ‘ailing’ members within the Church may be (spiritually) harmful, but at least there is no threat of their full defection from the bosom of the Church, since the full defection of ecumenical jurisdictions from the Church may not be effected outside some extraordinary Council involving the participation of the jurisdictions concerned.
“In Greece, this theology [gave birth to the Synod of Resisters], a separate organization headed by Cyprian, Metropolitan of Fili and Oropos. Within the ROCA, a similar attitude practised by some of its members vis-à-vis the Moscow Patriarchate made it possible to hold talks with the MP which received the enthusiastic backing of what looked like the entire German Diocese. In a rather typical development, the same Council of ROCA Bishops (1994) that gave its go-ahead for the talks with the Moscow Patriarchate, also gave its full approval for Metropolitan Cyprian’s ecclesiology.
“’The Third Way’ between Orthodoxy and ecumenism may yet prove suitable for small official “local churches” with pronounced traditionalist sentiment among their laity and lower clergy (Georgia, for instance), not just for conservative factions within Old-Calendar Greek or Russian communities. The ecumenical “ocean” will not become any shallower without such a small country as Georgia. However, as far as the building of the new and tortuous ‘Third Way’ is concerned, Georgia could make a good heap of sand and rocks. This new way is, essentially, a way of distancing oneself from ecumenical lies without causing confrontation. It is a way of coming to terms (and even ecclesiastical unity) with lies and, hence, yet another hopeless journey somewhere away from the truth.”
The hollowness of the “Third Way” was demonstrated at the Eighth General Assembly of the WCC in Harare in December, 1998, when “the two Patriarchates of Georgia and Bulgaria were exposed, since, although they had withdrawn from the WCC for supposedly serious reasons, now – through their observers at Harare – they declared their loyalty, on the one hand, to the ecumenical ideal and, on the other hand, justified themselves on the grounds that their decisions to withdraw from the WCC were prompted by pressure from ‘conservative elements’!
“A Georgian clergyman, Father Vasili Kobakhidze, revealingly stated that ‘… the Georgian Orthodox were, are, and always will be your brothers and sisters in the Lord. Patriarch Ilia and the Orthodox Church of Georgia were forced to leave the ecumenical movement on account of fanatics and fundamentalists and in order to avoid an internal schism, but they always pray for Christian unity.’
“In one of his delegation’s documents, the Bulgarian theologian Ivan Dimitrov (one of seven Bulgarian observers), expressed ‘sorrow for their Church’s withdrawal from the WCC,’ saying that ‘the Bulgarian church’s decision to withdraw from the WCC had been taken, “not out of anti-ecumenical convictions, but under pressure from the Old Calendarist church.”’”
Metropolitan Valentine of Suzdal
In the early 1990s the dioceses and parishes of the Russian Church Abroad inside Russia were administered by three bishops: Lazarus of Tambov, Benjamin of the Kuban and Valentine of Suzdal. At that time they were known as the Free Russian Orthodox Church (FROC).
The FROC's parishes grew rapidly in number, especially in diocese of Bishop Valentine. However, in 1992 serious problems began to arise. The MP, with the help of the local authorities and OMON forces, seized back churches that had gone over to the FROC by force. Still more seriously, foreign bishops of the ROCA, especially Mark of Germany, tried to interfere in the running of the Russian dioceses, and even began to slander the FROC bishops publicly. Thus Archbishop Mark called Lazarus and Benjamin poor administrators, and Bishop Valentine - a "wolf in sheep's clothing". (Mark's attempts to become the "Fuhrer of All Russia" actually began very early. In July, 1990 Bishop Lazarus told the present writer in Moscow that if Mark continued to interfere in his diocese he might be forced to form an autonomous Church independent of the ROCA.) Moreover, he tried to get Valentine put on trial - but the ROCA Synod eventually, after two years' investigation, threw out the charges.
Worse was to follow: the ROCA Synod appointed Bishop Barnabas of Cannes as its representative in Russia with full powers to receive parishes from all over Russia, wherever they might be. Bishop Barnabas went about his task with gusto. Thus he received clerics who had been banned by the Russian bishops, ordained priests in their dioceses without asking them, etc. Then, on official Synod notepaper, he petitioned the "Patriarch of Kiev" (the Ukrainian self-consecrator schismatics, "the dead hand bunch") to receive the FROC into communion with him, and went to Kiev to see him - which the Moscow Patriarchate seized on, of couse, to discredit the whole of the ROCA! Finally, he publicly supported the fascist black-shirt organization "Pamyat", included some fascists in his diocesan administration, and took part in fascist demonstrations (one of his priests actually organized an attack on the offices of the newspaper, Moskovskij Komsomolets).
As a result of all these scandals, and in order to protect what was left of the FROC, in the spring of 1993 Archbishop Lazarus, followed by all the other FROC bishops, decided to create an autonomous Temporary Church Administration (TCA) in Russia which would be administratively independent of the ROCA but remain in communion with her, on the basis of: (a) Patriarch Tikhon's ukaz no. 362 of November 7/20, 1920, which allowed for the creation of autonomous dioceses and groups of dioceses in the event of a lack of communication with the Patriarch or until the canonical election of a new Patriarch, and (b) the Statute of the ROCA, which in its first point specifically restricted the administrative authority of the ROCA to Russian parishes OUTSIDE Russia (this did not preclude helping the Russian Church inside Russia by, for example, consecration of new bishops, but it did preclude in any way ruling it). The ROCA Synod reacted by banning the Temporary Church Administration and retiring Bishop Valentine on the grounds of his ill health (without his agreement, of course).
The FROC consecrated three new bishops: Theodore of Borisovsk, Agathangelus of Odessa and Seraphim of Sukhumi (the latter, a catacombnik, for the large number of Catacomb parishes who had joined the FROC). However, they still sought reconciliation with the ROCA, and so the two senior bishops, Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Valentine, went to the Lesna Sobor of the ROCA in November, 1994, and after asking forgiveness, were again received into communion. Then an "Act" was presented to the two Russian bishops and they were told to sign. This "Act" greatly troubled the two bishops, because they saw that it involved changed that were very detrimental for the life of the FROC. However, Archbishop Lazarus wanted to sign nevertheless, and Bishop Valentine, though unwilling to sign, did not want to create a schism among the Russian bishops by not following the lead of his senior, Archbishop Lazarus. But he did obtain an assurance that if he wanted to amend any points in the Act, he could do so and his amendments would be included in the final published document. However, he was urged to sign now "in the name of brotherly love". So he signed, after which he promptly had a heart attack, and was whisked away to a hospital in Paris, where he was in intensive care for a week.
In January, 1995 there was a meeting of the bishops and clergy of the FROC in Suzdal to discuss the results of the Lesna Sobor. The Act was widely and strongly criticized by the parish clergy, as was the ROCA Synod’s proposed redefining of diocesan boundaries. The latter was of particular concern to them because it would necessitate the re-registration of very many parishes. Since they had achieved registration only with the greatest difficulty in the first place, they did not of course welcome this prospect. But more importantly, it would very probably mean that they would be refused any registration, since the Moscow Patriarchate representatives in the ministry of Justice would insist that changing names and diocesan boundaries was unacceptable. This in turn would very likely mean that their churches would be handed over to the Moscow Patriarchate.
It was therefore proposed that the ROCA be respectfully asked to amend the Act in a number of points. However, two hierarchs present at this meeting – Bishop Eutyches and Bishop Benjamin - interpreted this proposal as a rebellion against the authority of the ROCA which the senior bishops Lazarus and Valentine had only recently reaffirmed. Then a priest asked Bishop Eutyches which had a higher authority for him: the Apostolic Canons and the decisions of the Russian Council of 1917-18 and of his Holiness Patriarch Tikhon - or those of the ROCA Synod? Bishop Eutyches replied: those of the ROCA Synod. This reply elicited an uproar in the hall, and Bishop Eutyches left (taking with him a recording of the proceedings).
Very soon after this, the ROCA Synod sent a respectfully worded invitation to Bishops Theodore, Agathangelus and Seraphim to come to New York for the February meeting of the Synod. When Bishops Theodore and Agathangelus arrived in New York, they were handed a document informing them that (a) they themselves (with Bishop Seraphim) were not canonically consecrated bishops (although their consecration had been officially recognized as valid at the Lesna Sobor and they had been addressed as bishops in their invitations); and (b) Bishops Lazarus and Valentine were banned from serving, and would be defrocked if they continued serving, their "widowed" dioceses being administered for the time being by Metropolitan Vitaly.
This was the last straw for the much-suffering FROC bishops. Another break with the ROCA was now inevitable. In March, 1995 the TCA was rehabilitated under the leadership of Archbishop Valentine (by this time Archbishop Lazarus and his vicar Bishop Agathangelus had “repented” and returned to the ROCA – Lazarus was fully reinstated as a ruling bishop in October, 1996). In September, 1996 the ROCA “defrocked” Archbishop Valentine without even the semblance of a canonical trial, making the rift between the ROCA and the FROC seemingly permanent.
In 1999, the Synod of the FROC (now officially called the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church (ROAC)) declared: “A resolution was passed concerning the hierarchs and representatives of the clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate who received their rank through the mediation of the authorities and organs of State Security. In relation to such it was decided that every year on the Sunday of Orthodoxy ANATHEMA should be proclaimed, using the following text: ‘If any bishops, making use of secular bosses, have seized power in the Church of God and enslaved Her, let those and those who aid them and those who communicate with them without paying heed to the reproaches of the Law of God, be ANATHEMA.”
At the time of writing, the ROAC has nine bishops led by a metropolitan, six in Russia, two in the Ukraine and one in Latvia.
Right-Wing Catacomb Groups
Apart from the ROCA, the ROAC and the Seraphimo-Gennadiites, and offshoots from them, there were at least several other Catacomb Church groups that arose in the 1990s.
The most controversial of them was the “Andrewites”. A very large question marks over not only the canonicity, but even of the very existence of this branch, so the following data, derived from only one source, must be considered extremely provisional and quite possibly incorrect. So called from their founding father, Archbishop Andrew of Ufa (+1937), the canonicity of the Andrewites hierarchy depends in part on the canonicity of Archbishop Andrew, considered by some to be one of the great martyrs of the Catacomb Church and by others – a schismatic who died under ban and formally an Old Believer.
After their last bishops died in the early 1980s, the Andrewites found a 96-year-old Bishop Amphilochius (Shibanov, consecrated in 1928) living in secret in the Trans-Baikal region, and in June, 1994 brought him to Moscow, where he consecrated (on his own) two bishops, and later two more, before dying shortly afterwards. In June, 1995, the Andrewites held a Council at which they defined their (rather extreme) position on various questions. The acts of this Council were signed by: Bishops Ambrose (Count von Sievers) of the Goths, Evagrius (Baron Drenteln) of Ingermannland, Paisius (Rogozhin) of Satkinsk and Eustace (Amosov) of Chita. The Council confirmed an earlier decision, made at the Nikolsky Council of 1961, that sergianists were not to be raised to the priesthood except in exceptional circumstances, and only those who had been subdeacons or lower in the patriarchate. In June, 1996 the Andrewites held another Council near Moscow attended by eight bishops (Ambrose, Evagrius, Paisius, Eustathius, Pancratius, John, Babylas and Nectarius) - twenty-two clergy in all. At this Council the 29 canons of the “Nomadic” Council of 1928 (which most observors consider to be mythical) were confirmed, and measures against various sexual sins were adopted.
The Andrewites claim to be in communion with a “Clementite” Old Believer hierarchy, so called from their first bishop, Clement, who was consecrated by Archbishop Andrew of Ufa in 1925.
Three of the Greek Old Calendarist Churches – the Matthewites, the Chrysostomites and the Kallinikites – have representatives in Russia. Of these the largest and most active is the Matthewites.
In 1978, the Catacomb Schema-Monk Epiphanius (Chernov) (+1994), a former spiritual son of the second hierarch of the ROCA, Archbishop Theophanes of Poltava (+1940), came out to the West. At first he joined the ROCA in Switzerland, but then, convinced that the ROCA had fallen away from her former confession and had been infiltrated by renovationism, he moved to England, from where he joined the Matthewite Greek Old Calendarists. On returning to Russia in 1990, he assumed the leadership of a wide net of virtually priestless parishes, bringing them under the omophorion of the Matthewite Metropolitan Chrysostom of Thessalonica. Since the split in the Matthewite ranks that took place in 1995, the Russian Matthewites have come under the omophorion of Archbishop Andrew of Athens and are served mainly by the Matthewite exarch in Russia, Metropolitan Cyricus of Mesogaia. They now have five priests and two deacons.
The Serbian Wars
The Serbian wars began in the spring of 1991. The general feeling then was that a repeat of 1941 was taking place, when hundreds of thousands of Orthodox Serbs suffered martyrdom at the hands of Roman Catholic Croats for refusing to renounce Orthodoxy. Now most Orthodox appear to feel that we are back in 1389, when St. Lazar and his army suffered martyrdom defending their homeland against the Muslim Turks. But a knowledge of the Balkan wars in this century should encourage a more cautious approach.
That similarities exist between the present and the past cannot be denied. Thus in 1991, as in 1941, the Pope was using the war to further its geopolitical ambitions at the expense of the Orthodox. The Vatican was the first state to recognise Croatia; it was reported that the Catholic Church itself purchased weapons and ammunition that it sent to the Croats; and the Pope called the bloody murderer of Serbs in World War II, Cardinal Stepinac, "undoubtedly the most prominent martyr in Croatia's history". The destruction of Orthodox churches was a particularly eloquent proof that the forces ranged against the Serbs were indeed of the evil one.
But did the evil of their enemies make the Serbs innocent victims or “martyrs” for Christ, as even some Greek Old Calendarist publications incautiously declared? Let us consider some facts. First, as the Orthodox writer Jim Forest has pointed out, "Serbia is one of Europe's most secularised societies. Tito's anti-religious policies were more effective than those of Stalin, Khruschev or Brezhnev. Few Serbs are even baptized (the usual estimate is five per cent) and far fewer are active in church life."
As for marriages, in the diocese of Rashka and Prizren, for example, “for 50 long years almost no one was married and all those families lived in a state of adultery. In [Bishop Artemije of Prizren’s] diocese, the clergy started pressing for having church weddings. In the beginning it went very slowly and with difficulty, but then people got used to this requirement of the Church and the amount of those who marry increases with each year.”
Whereas in 1931 barely 0.1% of the population of Yugoslavia declared itself to be without religious affiliation, and only about 12.5% in 1953, the figure was 31.6% in 1987. And the phenomenon of religious non-affiliation was particularly striking precisely in the Serb territories (for example, 54% in Montenegro). One survey in 1985 put the proportion of religious believers in Bosnia at 17 per cent.
These figures cast doubt on the oft-heard statement that the Serbian wars are religious in essence. Rather, according to Srdan Vrcan, it is a political conflict that has been given a religious colouring by the warring leaders in order to gain the support of their peoples. Thus, according to the dean of the Serbian Orthodox Theological Faculty in Belgrade, the conflict in Bosnia was “not in any way a religious war. What is the religious issue which is the main motive? There is none. Rather, this is an ethnic and civil war with some elements of religion... This is just a case of the religious component pressed into service for either ethnic or secular [interests]."
Secondly, the attitude of the Serbian Church in this conflict has been highly ambivalent, sometimes criticising the Serbian communist government for having brought so much suffering upon the Serbian people, at others criticising it for not fighting hard enough, and even blessing the activities of some of the most criminal elements in the Serbian forces.
Thus the Swiss Orthodox analyst Jean-François Meyer writes: "The Church has assumed a vocation of guarding 'Serbness' and preserves a lively consciousness of this mission. Thus she has always adopted uncompromising positions with regard to the Kosovo question and energetically defends [Kosovo's] remaining a part of Serbia. As for the Serbs of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, since the massacres carried out in the zones under Croat control during the Second World War were also anti-Orthodox operations, the Church has not hidden her sympathy for their worries and their political objectives. Certain Serbian Orthodox circles were able for a time to believe that they had found in Milosevic a politician who shared the general preoccupations in this respect, but the Church was not slow to distance herself on experiencing the chicaneries of the regime. Thus in 1993 one could see the minister responsible for religious affairs in Belgrade accusing the Church of getting involved in political affairs and certain bishops of wanting to 'stir up the people against the government', while the patriarchate replied by describing the minister as a 'servant of the communist ideology'. At least one part of President Milosevic's entourage continues to cultivate the anti-religious heritage of the communist regime, beginning with the president's wife herself, Mira Markovic (ex-president of the 'Federation of communists - Movement for Yugoslavia', then founder in 1995 of a new party, the UYL, that is, the 'United Yugoslav Left'), who deplores the importance of religion in Serbia and considers that the country 'has already reverted spiritually to the Middle Ages'; the tendency of the regime to retrieve Serb nationalist symbols does not prevent the wife of the president from criticising the cult of Saint Sabbas, which is very important in the Serbian Orthodox tradition. Wishing to be a guarantor of the unity of all Serbs, the Serbian Church has again reasserted her opposition to the Belgrade regime when the latter tried to distance itself from the Bosnian Serbs so as to obtain a lifting of the embargo imposed by the international community. When the Serbs fled from Krajina in August, 1995, the leaders of the Serbian Church again published a solemn declaration sharply criticising the 'incapacity' of the 'neo-communist' Belgrade regime, which has led to 'a total impasse' and is preventing 'the spiritual, moral and political recovery' of the Serbian people."
This gesture of defiance towards the communist government was a welcome change from the Serbian Church's “sergianism” in relation to the communists over the previous forty years. On the other hand, as Cigar wrote: "Notwithstanding general condemnations of violence by Patriarch Pavle, the Serbian Orthodox Church continued to lend its mantle of respectability to even the most extreme nationalist elements. Arkan provided bodyguards for the Serbian Orthodox metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro, who has reportedly used them to intimidate dissidents. In July, 1993, on the occasion of the city of Belgrade's holy day, Arkan marched prominently beside Patriarch Pavle in solemn procession through the city streets. In that same month, Patriarch Pavle himself led an official delegation to Bosnia, where he presided over widely publicized religious ceremonies with the participation of the top Bosnian Serb government and military leaders."
In March, 1999, NATO warplanes bombed Serbia in an attempt to stop the latest tide of “ethnic cleansing” unleased by the Serbian army against the Muslim Albanians of Kosovo. On March 23, 1999 the Synod of the Serbian Church issued the following statement: “In the name of God, we demand and beseech that all conflict in Kosovo and Metohija immediately cease, and that the problems there be resolved exclusively by peaceful and political means. The way of non-violence and co-operation is the only way blessed by God in agreement with human and Divine moral law and experience. Deeply concerned about the threatened Serbian cradle of Kosovo and Metohija and for all those who live there, and especially by the terrible threats of the world’s armed forces to bomb our Homeland, we would remind the responsible leaders of the international organisations that evil in Kosovo or anywhere else cannot be uprooted by even greater and more immoral evil: the bombing of one small but honourable European people. We cannot believe that the international organisations have become so incapable of devising ways for negotiation and human agreement that they must resort to ways which are dark and demeaning to human and national honour, ways which employ great violence in order to prevent a lesser evil and violence…”
This statement must be commended at least for calling the actions of the Serbs in Kosovo “evil”. But in its main import it was both factually and morally wrong. After all, is the uprooting of a whole people, accompanied by the cruellest of tortures and rapes, a “lesser evil” than a war undertaken to defend the victims and restrain the aggressors? Of course, NATO’s actions may well have been ill-considered or bungled from a political or military point of view, and it can be argued that these were not the right means to achieve NATO’s stated aims. However, from a moral point of view, NATO’s aims were surely better than those of the Serbian army in Kosovo.
Serbs also talk about the sacredness of Kosovo Polye and the terrible injustices they have suffered over the centuries. Terrible suffering and injustice there has undoubtedly been; but true martyrs for Christ do not complain about their sufferings but rather count themselves blessed, in accordance with the Lord’s word. And it goes without saying that they never indulge in revenge killings and rapes. In any case, how is the sacredness of Kosovo Polye, sanctified by the blood of St. Lazar, who chose a Heavenly Kingdom over an earthly, increased by the savagery of men whose aims are quite clearly earthly – or rather satanic, insofar as they involve the rape and murder of peaceful civilians? And how is Orthodoxy glorified when the world sees such savagery committed by supposedly Orthodox Christians on their television screens, with no attempt by the Serbian authorities to condemn it as it deserves?
On November 29, 1999 Patriarch Pavle took a step backwards towards the communist past when he took part in a festival organised by the communists celebrating the day of the foundation of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1945. He was strongly criticised for this by Bishop Artemije, who called this day “the feast of the annihilation of the monarchy of the Serbian people”, and called for “the reestablishment of the monarchy in Serbia and the return of its lawful rights to the House of Karageorgievichs, of which they were deprived by the decision of the godless communist authorities.” As the Milosevic regime began to fall in the summer of the year 2000, the patriarch again returned to an anti-communist position – but by this time it was clear that the Serbian patriarch was no different from his ally, the Moscow patriarch, in always following the dominant political currents in his country, which is the essence of sergianism…
Not only in relation to sergianism, but also in relation to ecumenism, the patriarch could only be described as the opposite of a confessor. He could truly be said to have been defending Orthodoxy against the Catholic Croats and Muslim Bosnians and Kosovans only if he had actually confessed the Orthodox faith against Catholicism and Islam. However, in a letter to the Pope dated January 17, 1992 Patriarch Pavle the patriarch asked for "a true ecumenical dialogue between our two sister Churches". Again, he declared that the Christians and the Muslims had the same God; while his bishops, especially Laurence of Sabac, continued to take prominent roles in the World Council of Churches. The ecumenical activities of the Serbian Patriarchate not only did not cease, but intensified as the end of the millennium drew near…
As we have seen, there was a reaction against ecumenism in Serbia in the mid-1990s. But Patriarch Pavle played no part in it, the movement produced no concrete results, and Serbian hierarchs have continued to the present day to pray with heretics, especially Catholics. Claims to be suffering martyrdom for the Orthodox faith at the hands of wicked Catholics and Muslims are hardly consistent with ecumenist betrayal of that same faith with those same enemies!
Supporters of the Serbs often point to such men as Archimandrite Justin Popovich, as if such True Orthodox confessors justified the present state of the Serbian Church. This argument completely forgets to mention the rather relevant fact that Fr. Justin denounced the apostasy of the Serbian Church in the most scathing terms, and, as we have seen, in fact broke communion with the Serbian Patriarch. The only True Orthodox Serbs in the world today are those who have followed Fr. Justin in breaking communion with the false patriarchate.
It is significant that the Serbian wars broke out in 1991, when the last significant anti-ecumenist forces in the Serbian Church, the Free Serbs, had just surrendered to the false patriarchate. This suggests that the war was allowed by God as a punishment for apostasy from the True Faith.
Now, we must hope, the Serbs - and not only the Serbs, but all the traditionally Orthodox nations still enslaved to apostate hierarchies and totalitarian governments - will see their error, and begin to fight the heretical West and Islam, not physically but spiritually, not by returning evil for evil, but by confessing both the truth and the love of Orthodox Christianity in word and deed.
Let us say, O brethren, even to those that hate us: Let us forgive all things on the Resurrection, and thus let us cry: Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and on those in the tombs bestowing life!
The Fall of the ROCA
As the millennium drew to its close, one more tragedy in a century marked by tragedy on an unprecedented scale remained: the fall of that Church which, for most of the century, had symbolised True Orthodoxy more than any other – the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.
Having effectively rejected most of Catacomb Church, as well as that (large) part of her organisation inside Russia that is now known as the ROAC, the ROCA began inexorably to fall towards the “black hole” of the Moscow Patriarchate. In December, 1996 Archbishop Mark had a meeting with Patriarch Alexis in Moscow which scandalized Russian Orthodox faithful in many countries. And shortly after he issued a joint declaration with Archbishop Theophanes of the MP in Germany which effectively recognised the MP as a True Church with which the ROCA must unite as soon as possible.
In July, 1997, when the MP, supported by the Palestinians, seized control of the ROCA’s monastery in Hebron, Israel, Archbishop Mark was given control of the ROCA’s commission to investigate the matter. He promptly placed all the blame on Abbess Juliana of the ROCA’s Eleon monastery in Jerusalem, who had been the Hebron monks’ main supporter and had refused to allow Patriarch Alexis into her own monastery, and secured the expulsion of her and all the ROCA’s anti-Soviet clerics from the Holy Land! He even compelled Metropolitan Vitaly to make a humiliating apology to the Patriarch of Jerusalem and Yasser Arafat!
In June, 1998, under pressure from believers inside Russia, Metropolitan Vitaly recovered somewhat, and declared that the MP was “a pseudo-patriarchate with a pseudo-patriarch at its head… The Moscow Patriarchate has lost Apostolic Succession, which is to say, it has lost the Grace of Christ. We have not the slightest intention of taking part in a Bishops’ council, or Sobor, jointly with the Moscow Patriarchate.”
Nevertheless, all the indications were that this was precisely what the majority faction in the ROCA wanted and was planning for…
In 1999, the ROCA Synod issued the following appeal: “The present condition of our Sister Church of Serbia and the much suffering Serbian people is becoming ever more difficult. Employing the evil of slander and violence, NATO is attempting to excise Kosovo, the very heart of Serbia. And bombs are exploding near Belgrade itself. This appeal directs the Archpastors to call the clergy and flock to pray, not only in church but also at home for the salvation of the land of Serbia and its faithful people, to whom we are bound by bonds of consanguinity.” The Appeal then instructed ROCA priests to pray at the Liturgy “for the suffering Orthodox people of Serbia”, and in molebens - “for His Holiness Paul, Patriarch of Serbia, for the Archpastors, clergy and flock of Serbia”.
What was immediately striking about this appeal was the fullness of the recognition of “our Sister Church of Serbia”. Logically, of course, this implied that not only the Serbian Church, but also the Moscow Patriarchate and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, with whom the Serbian Church was in full eucharistic communion, were “Sister Churches” of the ROCA. And yet all these Churches had been anathematised by the ROCA in 1983 for their participation in the pan-heresy of ecumenism – which anathema had been reaffirmed as recently as May, 1998. What did this mean? That the ROCA Synod was simply stupid in not realising the incompatibility of its “Appeal” with its own recent condemnation of ecumenism? Or that it was deliberately deceiving the faithful by pretending to condemn and separate itself from heresy, while actually entering secretly – or now, perhaps, not so secretly - into communion with it?
Secondly, the ROCA was accusing NATO of “slander and violence”. What slander? Surely the ROCA did not believe the communist propaganda machine? Surely it did not deny the ever-mounting evidence of atrocities and “ethnic cleansing” on the part of the Serbs?! As for violence, the violence of NATO was, of course, regrettable, but much less than the violence of the Serbs against their own citizens. Why did the ROCA – unlike Patriarch Paul, it should be noted – not say a word about that evil?
Why was the ROCA reversing the political as well as the ecclesiastical position it had maintained for most of this century – that is, of support for NATO against the communist regimes of Eastern Europe and Asia? Perhaps the clue here was a word that figures prominently in the “Appeal”: “consanguinity”. Everything, it appears, was forgiven to the Serbs because they had Slavic blood in common with the Russians. And if one did not know better, one could be forgiven for summarising the ROCA’s apparent position as follows: it is evil to attack a Slavic communist regime for humanitarian reasons using minimal violence to do the job, but the mass torture, murder and rape of non-Slavic victims of that regime is permissible because it is committed by soldiers with Slavic blood in their veins and Orthodox crosses round their necks!
The hand of the pro-Moscow majority in the ROCA was strengthened when the Serbian Patriarch declared, in 2000, that the Serbian Church was not in communion with the ROCA, and even called its presence on Russian soil “anticanonical and worthy of every condemnation”. The communion of certain ROCA hierarchs with the Serbs had always been presented by them as proof that they were still “in” with World Orthodoxy. Now, however, a choice has to be made: either full integration into World Orthodoxy through submission to the Moscow Patriarchate, or complete breaking of all ties with World Orthodoxy and a return to the confessing stance of Metropolitan Philaret.
In August, 2000 the MP held a “Jubilee” Hierarchical Council which seemed to be partly aimed at removing some of the last obstacles towards the ROCA’s unification with it.
These obstacles, as formulated by the ROCA during the past ten years, were: 1. Ecumenism, 2. Sergianism, and 3. The Glorification of the New Martyrs, especially the Royal New Martyrs.
1. Ecumenism. Few concessions were made on the issue of ecumenism, apart from the ritual declarations that “the Orthodox Church is the true Church of Christ, created by our Lord and Saviour Himself; it is the Church established by, and filled with, the Holy Spirit…” “The Church of Christ is one and unique…” “The so-called ‘branch theory’, which affirms the normality and even the providentiality of the existence of Christianity in the form of separate ‘branches’… is completely unacceptable.”
But, wrote Protopriest Michael Ardov (ROAC, Moscow), “the ‘patriarchal liberals’ will also not be upset, insofar as the heretics in the cited document are called ‘heterodox’, while the Monophysite communities are called the ‘Eastern Orthodox Churches’. And the ‘dialogues with the heterodox’ will be continued, and it is suggested that the World Council of Churches be not abandoned, but reformed…” Moreover, immediately after the Council, on August 18, “Patriarch” Alexis prayed together with the Armenian “Patriarch”.
Thus going into the 21st century, the MP was as immired in the pan-heresy of ecumenism as ever – quite sufficient reason for the ROCA to consider it to be a false church with which any kind of communion was out of the question. But the ROCA was no longer what it had been: ecumenism was forgotten, forgotten, too, was her own anathema against ecumenism. As in 1945, when so many ROCA bishops and clergy apostasised to Moscow, so in 2000: dogma and tradition were cast aside in the rush to join the “Mother Church”.
2. Sergianism. In its council the MP approved a “social document” which, among other things, recognised that there might be cases in which Christians are obliged to disobey their government. In spite of the vagueness of these passages, and the lack of any specific reference to the MP’s servility to the Bolshevik regime, in its Epistle of October 14/27, 2000, the ROCA Bishops claim that this “blots out… the essence” of Metropolitan Sergius’ 1927 declaration: “For the first time ever, the MP has attempted to defend the independence of the Church”.
It goes without saying that in actual fact the MP has never in its entire history since 1943 shown anything other than a determination to serve whatever government may be in power – communist, democratic or nationlist – to the detriment of the independence of the Church. And now, having become the “state church” of the Putin regime, with enormous privileges and power (including significant tax-breaks on the large-scale import of alcohol and tobacco!), it is as determined as ever to eliminate its rivals. In truth, the MP never defends the Church, for the simple reason that it is an anti-church: it defends only the personal interests and power of its members – or rather, of its higher clergy.
3. The New Martyrs. After nearly a decade of temporising, the MP finally glorified the Royal New Martyrs. Again, the ROCA Bishops in their October Epistle seized on this as “an initial act of repentance. Hence, one of the reasons for the division [between the ROCOR and the MP] has been eliminated, for the most part.”
However, this act was not accompanied by any repentance on the MP’s part for its blasphemies against the martyrs during the communist period. Moreover, significant distortions were introduced into the concept of martyrdom by mixing up true martyrs with false. Thus true Catacomb martyrs such as Archbishop Victor of Vyatka and Metropolitan Cyril of Kazan were glorified together with several leading sergianist “martyrs” whom Saints Victor and Cyril had denounced, and broken communion with, in their lifetimes. This blasphemous canonisation of both the true martyrs of the Catacomb Church and the false martyrs of the sergianist church, thereby subtly downgrading the exploit of the Catacomb Church without denying it completely, had been predicted by Fr. Oleg Oreshkin: "I think that some of those glorified will be from the sergianists so as to deceive the believers. 'Look,' they will say, 'he is a saint, a martyr, in the Heavenly Kingdom, and he recognized the declaration of Metropolitan Sergius, so you must be reconciled with it and its fruits.' This will be done not in order to glorify martyrdom for Christ's sake, but in order to confirm the sergianist politics."
The essential thing from the patriarchate’s point of view was that their own founder, Metropolitan Sergius, should be given equal status with the catacomb martyrs whom he persecuted. A significant step in this direction had been taken in 1993, on the eightieth anniversary of the “restoration” of the Patriarchate, when the patriarch said: “Through the host of martyrs of the Church of Russia bore witness to her faith and sowed the seed of her future rebirth. Among the confessors of Christ we can in full measure name… his Holiness Patriarch Sergius.” By the time of the council in 2000, the patriarchate still did not feel able to canonise Sergius – probably because it fears that it would prevent a union with the ROCA. But neither did it canonise the leader of the Catacomb Church, Metropolitan Joseph of Petrograd – which suggested that a canonisation of the two leaders was in the offing…
The patriarch's lack of ecclesiastical principle and ecclesiological consistency in this question was pointed out by Fr. Peter Perekrestov: "In the introduction to one article ("In the Catacombs", Sovershenno Sekretno, No. 7, 1991) Patriarch Alexis wrote the following: 'I believe that our martyrs and righteous ones, regardless of whether they followed Metropolitan Sergius or did not agree with his position, pray together for us.' At the same time, in the weekly, Nedelya, No. 2, 1/92, the same Patriarch Alexis states that the Russian Church Abroad is a schismatic church, and adds: 'Equally uncanonical is the so-called "Catacomb" Church.' In other words, he recognizes the martyrs of the Catacomb Church, many of whom were betrayed to the godless authorities by Metropolitan Sergius's church organization.., and at the same time declares that these martyrs are schismatic and uncanonical!" For in the last resort, as Fr. Peter points out, for the Moscow Patriarchate this whole matter is not one of truth or falsehood, sanctity or impiety, but of power: "It is not important to them whether a priest is involved in shady business dealings or purely church activities; whether he is a democrat or a monarchist; whether an ecumenist or a zealot; whether he wants to serve Vigil for six hours or one; whether the priest serves a panikhida for the victims who defended the White House or a moleben for those who sided with Yeltsin; whether the priest wants to baptize by immersion or by sprinkling; whether he serves in the catacombs or openly; whether he venerates the Royal Martyrs or not; whether he serves according to the New or Orthodox Calendar - it really doesn't matter. The main thing is to commemorate Patriarch Alexis. Let the Church Abroad have its autonomy, let it even speak out, express itself as in the past, but only under one condition: commemorate Patriarch Alexis. This is a form of Papism - let the priests be married, let them serve according to the Eastern rite - it makes no difference, what is important is that they commemorate the Pope of Rome."
However, that was written several years ago: now Fr. Peter Perekrestov is a member of the permanent commission set up by the October council whose task is finding means to restore unity with the MP. Nor was this the council’s only concrete step towards union with Moscow: a letter to the Serbian patriarch was also composed begging that ecumenist to help them in their bid to join the ecumenists of Moscow. These two measures provoked widespread condemnation from some priests and parishes, and even some bishops of the ROCA: but the majority appears to be ready to follow their bishops into the arms of Moscow...
Thus in March, 2001, separate conventions of clergy in the Eastern and Western dioceses of the ROCA came out in support of the October council. To which the independent Russian journal “Vertograd” provided the following fitting riposte:
“The events surrounding the Hierarchical Council of the ROCA of October, 2000 are rich in the most dramatic collisions. A new phase in the struggle was revealed after the practically simultaneous publication of the decisions of the two clerical pastoral conventions – of Eastern and Western America… Until then almost the only ones to express their position strongly were the opponents of the October resolutions, while the hierarchs who passed them confined themselves to bans and reassurances that they remained unbending in their chosen course, from which the protests would not deflect them. However, the impression was created that the hierarchs were almost alone amidst their “rebellious” flock. We now know that it is not like that – the huge majority of the clergy both of the western and of the eastern coasts of the United States have signed up to affirmations of their unquestioning loyalty to the present leaders of the ROCA and their decisions. The number of pastors entering into the “group supporting” the council outstrips the number of opponents. Moreover, those dioceses in which the clergy are almost completely “uniate” – the German and Austrian – have not yet expressed their views. This served to underline the fact that the decisions of the October council were not some kind of “fruit of the fantasy” of the hierarch-plotters, but a lawful consequence of the many-yeared process of apostasy within the ROCA, which has deeply touched the clergy and laity of the ROCA. The October decisions were expected and desired by many, but only now, with the appearance of the above-mentioned signatures of the clergy has it become possible to present a picture of the composition and position of the supporters of the “new course” of the ROCA in the ranks of its pastors….
“It is understandable that this argumentation is not to be sought in the documents of the pastors of the Eastern seaboard, insofar as they, in spite of all their personal convictions, are under the omophorion of Metropolitan Vitaly, who would not have approved of the clergy subject to him expressing themselves with theological-canonical definiteness in favour of an aggiornamento with the MP. The priests of the Western seaboard had great freedom to express themselves. Besides, they had in their ranks those long-time convinced ideologues of aggiornamento with the MP, Fathers Peter Perekrestov and Alexander Lebedev (who are probably the authors of the document).
“What is the “Address” of the pastoral convention of the Western American diocese saying? First of all, its authors are trying to defend the thesis that the position expressed at the hierarchical council in 2000 was not a “new course”, but the traditional confession of the ROCA. In this way the authors of the “Address” are trying to snatch out of the hands of their opponents the most powerful, “historical” argument (what are we to do if arguments from “habit” are now considered more powerful than arguments from Truth?). The authors do this by using the ambiguities, indefiniteness and omissions which are to be found in the conciliar documents of the ROCA and which bear upon themselves the marks of an intense struggle between the supporters of a hard line in relation to the MP (which was clearly dominant in the 1940s and 50s, was then undermined, but again gained strength in the years when Metropolitan Philaret was first hierarch) and the gradually strengthening supporters of recognition of the MP as a Church and, moreover, the Russian Church, and then also “the Mother Church”.
“We can sum up the schema that the “Address” is suggesting to us as follows: of course the ROCA did not recognise and does not recognise the canonicity of the MP as “the Mother Church”; undoubtedly the ROCA condemned the senior hierarchs of the MP for their cooperation with the God-fighters, for their enslavement to the atheist authorities. But the ROCA has always remained in communion with “the believing people” and “faithful pastors” in the ranks of the MP, and has intently followed any “positive signs” appearing within the MP. And all the more is it untrue that she ever refused to consider the MP as a Church, and her sacraments as sacraments. This, it is suggested, is the key to understanding the decisions of the latest council of the ROCA – they are simply a following of the “new winds” and “closer approximation to the truth” in the MP.
“There’s no denying the fact that a certain part of the clergy, and even of the hierarchs of the ROCA has been very carried away by the “new winds” and the search for “faithful pastors” in the ranks of the MP. At one time the renovationist Gleb Yakunin was greatly revered in the ROCA as a “confessor”. He sharply and vividly rebuked the unrighteousnesses of the MP, but he did not leave her ranks, but on leaving joined… the KGB agent Philaret Denisenko whom he had formerly reproached… A huge popularity in a certain part of the ROCA was enjoyed by Dimitri Dudko, who was considered to be almost a luminary of Orthodoxy, but then first recanted and “repented” before Soviet power, and then became a despised by many even in the MP itself “Orthodox Stalinist” (once he even confessed that in general he recognised that in the opinion of many in the person of Stalin he was bowing down to the devil and the antichrist). This historical experience could teach much to those who would like to learn concerning how the “new winds” in the MP end up and who the “faithful pastors” really are. However, not many are now capable of learning even from their own mistakes. Meanwhile, it was precisely Metropolitan Philaret, who did not approve of the cult of Dudko, and who pointed to his main falsehood – his refusal to leave the Moscow Patriarchate, who turned out to be prophetically right in relation to the later path of Dudko and all the other “faithful pastors” who did not want to say: “I have hated the church of the evil-doers”.
“And yet, even if there did turn out to be “faithful pastors” in the MP, this is still irrelevant, insofar as the basic conciliar documents of the hierarchs of the ROCA in 2000 did not related to movements in the “lower depths” of the MP, but to the decisions of the “Jubilee Hierarchical Council” “of hierarchs with titular Russian sees” (according to the exact expression of Metropolitan Philare in his epistle to Patriarch Athenagoras…), that is, the higher ranks of the MP, its leaders, whom the historical ROCA had never recognised but had always condemned in the sharpest manner.
“We think there is no need to expound on the position of Metropolitan Philaret himself in detail. It found its most vivid expression in his letter to Fr. Victor Potapov and came down to the fact that the whole of the MP was graceless, was not the True Church and was under two anathemas. Since then there has followed a third anathema against ecumenism, about which they have shamefully forgotten – but in vain, or even if we accept the opinion of Metropolitan Vitaly that the anathema of the 1983 Council related “only to the children of our Church”, without touching other ecumenist jurisdictions, it still had to relate to the MP insofar as the latter, according to the logic of the authors of the “Address”, was “part of the Russian Church” on a par with the ROCA. The “local” character of this anathema was again emphasised by Metropolitan Vitaly in his article of 1984 (Pravoslavnaya Rus’ N 10, 1984, p. 3), so that if the MP is part of one Local Church together with the ROCA, the anathema against ecumenism falls on its in all its fullness, and those who unite with it fall under this anathema.
“However, many affirm that the position of Metropolitan Philaret was his “personal opinion”. Let us suppose for the sake of argument that this is so. However, if this “personal opinion” was shared by many Fathers, it is already the consensus patrum. But what was the consensus of the “personal opinions” of the Fathers of the ROCA? How did they evaluate the MP and what was the meaning of their refusal to make a final judgement about it?
“This is the opinion of Blessed Metropolitan Anastasy, as expressed in his “Will”: “As regards the Moscow Patriarchate and its hierarchs, insofar as they remain in a close, active and benevolent union with Soviet power, which openly expresses its complete atheism and strives to implant atheism in the whole of the Russian people, the Church Abroad, preserving her purity, must not have any canonical, liturgical or even simple everyday communion with them, at the same time presenting each of them to the final judgement of a Council of the future free Russian Church” (italics by the editors of Vertograd).
“Let us recall that the “Will” was not simply a “personal opinion”, but a canonical document, for it was accepted as needing to be fulfilled by the Hierarchical Council of the ROCA and has not been annulled (but only flouted) to this day. What was the meaning of the Most Blessed Metropolitan’s words? (1) The leaders of the MP are not bishops, but “hierarchs”, that is, persons with a hard to understand and doubtful canonical status, who are in a, to say the least, unclear relationship to the hierarchy of the Orthodox Church. (2) With such hierarchs the ROCA must not be in any ecclesiastical communion – not only eucharistic and liturgical, but also everyday. How (in the imagination of the defenders of the recognition of the MP as the Russian Church) there can be two “parts of the Russian Church”, one of which cannot maintain even everyday communion with the other – remains an enigma. De facto in these words Metropolitan Anastasy delivered a judgement on the hierarchy of the MP as being uncanonical (the break in canonical communion) and heterodox (the break in liturgical communion), consisting of people who had fallen away from the Church and were hostile to her (the ban on everyday communion). (3) However, in agreement with many representatives of the Catacomb Church in the 1920s and 30s, Metropolitan Anastasy decided not to deliver a final verdict on each concrete hierarch of the MP – “Let him be anathema!” Presenting the final judgement to a Canonical, Free Council of the Russian Church. The basis for such a refusal to judge on the part of Metropolitan Anastasy was the evident lack of clarity of the situation within the MP itself, whence from time to time there came news of the dissatisfaction of the hierarchs, of their protests in relation to the persecutions against the Church (it is sufficient to recall that aura with which the figure of Hermogen (Golubev) was surrounded). Correspondingly, amidst the hierarchy who had been condemned “as a whole”, sincerely believing people could be found who would convert from unrighteousness and would assist in the restoration of Orthodoxy – just as many hierarchs ordained by the “semi-Arians” nevertheless became Holy Fathers and confirmers of Nicaean Orthodoxy. For that reason Metropolitan Anastasy considered it premature to deliver a final verdict on each person in particular, even condemning the MP as a whole. (4) Moreover, Metropolitan Anastasy establishes clear temporal bounds to the break with the MP – at a minimum until the free Council of the Russian Church. It is understood that he is talking here about a Local Council of the whole Russian Church, which is not foreseeable even today.
“What remains unclear is: on what basis, in this case, did the present council of the ROCA, sweeping aside the testaments of her great first-hierarch, (1) recognised “the Moscow Patriarchate and her hierarchs” as the Russian Orthodox Church, and her bishops as fully empowered “to do the work of bishops”; (2) Reestablished everyday, and in part liturgical and, de facto, expressed a desire to re-establish canonical, communion with the MP; (3) Delivered a final verdict on the hierarchs of the MP, deciding that they are Orthodox hierarchs; (4) Did all this before the decision of the free Council of the Russian Church?
“But perhaps Blessed Metropolitan Anastasy with his clear and unambiguous canonical indication was also an “extremist”? But let us take St. John of Shanghai, before his shrine and relics the pastors of the Western American Diocese gathered and to whose testaments they refer in season and out of season? How did he resolve the question of the reasons for the non-communion with the Moscow Patriarchate and the reasons for the refusal to deliver a final verdict on it? In his work “On the spiritual and moral significance of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad” (1960) we read: “Ecclesiastical authority in Russia is in such a position that we cannot distinguish and understand what is being done by it freely and what under compulsion. Ecclesiastical authority in Russia presents an image of captivity and a spirit of powerlessness: there is neither free will nor free expression. There is nobody for us to communicate with: there is no free ecclesiastical authority! For that reason the Russian Church Abroad is not bound administratively with such an authority. But we are spiritually united with the Holy Russian Church, for we are a part of the Russian Church. We must not think that everyone in the Homeland is spiritually enslaved to the authority that exists there. We believe the opposite. We are not trying the hearts, which are known to God alone, but we know that there there is no freedom of consciousness and will, that reserve is deeply rooted there, there is no social communication, there people cannot choose their path in life, following their heart, there reigns the situation about which the Prophet Micah prophesied: “people do not believe each other, they do not rely on friends” and “a man’s enemies are those of his own household”. The atheist power has a destructive influence on people. It subjects to itself not only the body, but also enslaves the soul and disfigures the man. The sincere and open Russian soul is distorted.” (Sermons of our Father among the saints John, Archbishop of Shanghai and San Francisco, 1994, p. 248) (italics by Vertograd). This text should be well known to the editor of the collection, Fr. Peter Perekrestov. What meaning can we draw from it? First of all, that for the Russian Church Abroad there is no subject for communication = “we have nobody to communicate with!” With whom in the MP are the present hierarchs of the ROCA to conduct “conversations” with, if forty years ago the holy Hierarch John said that there is simply nobody to communicate with, that the whole of the MP presents “an image of captivity and powerlessness”? In that time, has another hierarchy, another MP, appeared from somewhere? No. The majority of those seated in the Synod of the MP are the same people who played a prominent role in the time of St. John and who were reproved by name in the epistles of the ROCA (in the epistle of 1964 ă., cited in the “Address” of the Western American clergy, the present head of the MP is cited by name, and the validity of his hierarchical rank is rejected). Again, the situation of the MP is described by St. John as the situation of slaves, enslaved not only bodily, but also spiritually, morally not responsible by reason of the unfreedom of their will. Can there be a more terrible sentence on an ecclesiastical hierarchy than that? It is for that reason that the holy Hierarch also refuses to make a final judgement on each of the hierarchs of the MP – the conditions of Soviet reality were such that sincerely believing and pure-of-heart people could not reveal their true convictions. As the holy Hierarch John emphasises in his Short History of the Russian Church Abroad, written not long before his death: “Also among the hierarchs who are externally subservient to Soviet power there are many who are tormented by that internally, and who, should the opportunity arise, will act in accordance with the example of those who at the Council of Chalcedon declared with tears that they gave their signatures at the robber council under duress – for example, St. Paul, who was burdened by his conscience and accepted the schema in recognition of his weakness under the iconoclasts” (Holy Hierarch John (Maximovich) and the Russian Church Abroad, Jordanville, 1996, p. 36). It is difficult to choose a clearer example of the holy Hierarch John’s estimate of the hierarchs of the MP – both those “with consciences” and those “with a seared conscience” – both categories are compared by him with the participants in the God-fighting heresies of Monophysitism under Dioscorus and iconoclasm. In other words, both those with the most conscience and the “faithful” in the Moscow Patriarchate are considered by St. John to be on a par with those abiding in a terrible heresy. Up to now they have not repented of it before a council of Orthodox hierarchs. So far they have not come down from their sees, weeping for their sins. The schematic evaluation of the MP drawn from the numerous works of St. John is distinguished from the judgement of Metropolitan Anastasy only by the fact that the first place in it is occupied, not by canonical, but by moral factors. But in essence they are identical. The MP, created by Soviet power is a puppet whose representatives are robots subject to the “Soviets”. Therefore it is impossible and senseless to have any ecclesiastical communion with them. There are probably living believing people amidst these robots, but to know this for certain and rely on it in the conditions of total lie dominant in the MP and the USSR is simply impossible. Therefore the ROCA must guard herself without giving in to the temptation to trust all kinds of phantoms. She must guard the purity of her confession and her ecclesiastical freedom. And who was a man and who a robot will be revealed “in a fitting time”, when the atmosphere of total fear and lies under Soviet society will be dispersed. Today “the acceptable time has come”, ten years have already passed since the hierarchs of the MP have been able to express themselves freely – and not one of them has left his see in repentance, not one has repented with tears that he was a robot. On the contrary, the MP has become ever more stubborn in its “stand for the lie”. That moral moment of Truth which St. John foretold has come. From now on sergianism and ecumenism have become free, and completely morally responsible for the confession of the MP. And through this the question of who was a “faithful pastor”, and who a robot, has been decided.
“But perhaps even St. John did not express himself sufficiently clearly for the authors of the “Address”? Let us then quote the opinion of three hierarchs – representatives of three generations of the history of the ROCA: Metropolitan Melety of Harbin, Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko) and Archbishop Averky (Taushev).
“This is what is recounted about him [Metropolitan Melety] in an article of a sergianist author, referring to Archimandrite Constantine (Zaitsev): “A great role in his formation at that time was played by his spiritual father, Archimandrite Philaret (the future Metropolitan Philaret – Vertograd), and the clairvoyant blind schema-monk Ignaty from the Kazan monastery. The position of schema-monk Ignaty in regard to the Church under the Soviet came down to the categorical: “Its priesthood is not a priesthood and its sacraments are not sacraments”… He stuck to his formula, which, by the way, Metropolitan Melety also worked out for himself independently, in the same terms (S. Fomin, The Jordanville hermit, // Archimandrite Cyril (Zaitsev), The Miracle of Russian History. Moscow, 2000, pp. 13-14) (Italics by Vertograd).
“And here is an extract from a report by Fr. Peter Perekrestov objecting to the “negotiations” with the MP (“Suzdal’skij Palomnik” N 26, 1995): “The reposed Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko) used to say: ‘They say: the patriarchate has changed nothing, neither dogmas, nor services, nor rites. No, we reply, the patriarchate has violated the vital dogma of the Church of Christ, has destroyed its vital purpose – serving the regeneration of people, and has substituted for it the atheist aims of communism, which are unnatural for the Church. This apostasy is more bitter than all the previous arianisms, nestorianisms, iconoclasm, etc. It is not the personal sin of this or that hierarch, but the root sin of the Moscow Patriarchate, confirmed, preached, sealed by an oath before the whole world. It is, so to speak, dogmatised apostasy (“The Motives of My Life”, p. 25)” (italics by Vertograd).
“And this is what we can read when we open at random the third volume of the “Sermons and Speeches” of Archbishop Averky: “Now, if anyone had any doubts how we should relate to the contemporary Moscow Patriarchate, whether we can consider it to be Orthodoxy, in view of its close union with the God-fighters and persecutors of the Church of Christ, these doubts must be finally put aside: by entering into liturgical communion with the papists, the Moscow Patriarchate has thereby fallen away from Orthodoxy, and can no longer be considered to be Orthodox” (italics by Vertograd).
“After this, we repeat, there is no point in recalling once more the numerous witnesses by Metropolitan Philaret to the fact that the MP is not a Church and has no grace. This opinion no longer seems to be the opinion of an “isolated extremist”, as many blasphemers of the memory of the metropolitan have tried to present him, but as the expression of the conciliar opinion of the best pastors of the Russian Church Abroad. And there is no point manipulating the text of the holy Hierarch, declaring: “The opponents of the Hierarchical Council of the year 2000 affirm that they are walling themselves off from those who consider the MP to be a part of the Russian Orthodox Church. They should recall that in this case they are walling themselves off from Metropolitan Philaret himself, who in his “Epistle to our brothers in Christ the Orthodox bishops and to all those to whom the fate of the Russian Church is dear” wrote in 1965: “However, besides the True Orthodox Church and the Moscow Patriarchate, which are in the Soviet Union and have no communion in prayer or everyday communion between themselves, there also exists a third part of the Russian Church (italics by the authors of the “Address of the pastoral convention of the Western Amercian diocese), which is free from persecutions and the attacks of the atheists – the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad”. This epistle, which was published on the internet, and which is therefore the property of a wide public, rebukes the strained interpretations which the authors of the “Address” impose on its text. In the epistle the sergianist MP is unambiguously defined as a “schism” of the minority from the majority of the Russian Church. The epistle as a whole is devoted to an affirmation of the True Orthodox Church as the truly Orthodox Church in Russia, and the cited fragment not only has a quite different context, but also completely different orthography, which sharply alters the meaning of that which is said and which the authors of the “Address” simply omitted, put a sign of equality between the MP, on the one hand, and the Catacomb Church and Church Abroad, on the other. This is what the text of Metropolitan Philaret’s epistle looks like in the original:
“However, besides the TRUE ORTHODOX CHURCH and the Moscow Patriarchate, which are in the Soviet Union and which have neither communion in prayer nor everyday communion between themselves, there also exists a third part of the Russian Church, which is free from persecutions and attacks from the atheists – the Russian Church Abroad. It has never broken spiritual bonds and bonds of prayer with the Catacomb Church in the homeland. After the last war many members of this Church found themselves abroad and poured into the RUSSIAN CHURCH ABROAD, which still more strengthened the bond between these two Churches, a bond which is maintained illegally to the present day…”
“The aim and meaning of the existence of the ROCA was also discussed: “The free, abroad part of the Russian Church has been called to speak in the free world in the name of the persecuted Catacomb Church in the Soviet Union. She reveals to all the truly tragic situation of believers in the USSR, about which the atheist authorities with the help of the Moscow Patriarchate so carefully keep silent. She calls on those who have not lost shame and conscience to help the persecuted. That is why it is our sacred duty to guard the existence of THE RUSSIAN CHURCH ABROAD (italics by Vertograd). While the called by name hierarchs of the MP (Metropolitans Pimen, Nikodim, Ioann [Wenland] (New York), Archbishop Alexis [Ridiger]) are characterised as agents of the Soviet authorities “under the appearance of being representatives of the Church”.
“We think that what has been said is enough for us to understand that the MP is called “a part of the Russian Church” in the context of the given epistle of Metropolitan Philaret by no means in an ecclesiological, but in a purely historical sense, the sense in which the renovationists who departed into schism in the 1920-40s could be called “a part of the Russian Church”….
“The ecclesiology of the authors of the “Address” is very idiosyncratic and “populist”: “However, never in any way has the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad lost her spiritual links with the much-suffering Russian people and with those clergy who in the most difficult conditions continued faithfully to fulfil their pastoral duties. (…) The Russian Orthodox Church Abroad has never identified the leaders of the Moscow Patriarchate with the believing Russian Orthodox people.” We have already spoken about the “faithful pastors”. As regards the believing Russian Orthodox people, in the documents of the ROCA it is more often called “believing” than “Orthodox”, although its confession of faith in the conditions of Bolshevik persecution was highly valued. Highly – in the moral sense, for the hierarchs of the ROCA had sufficient grounds for believing that after the fall of the God-fighting authorities the whole of the truly believing people would itself leave the churches of the apostate patriarchate and stream to the True Church, insofar as it sought in the churches (albeit mistakenly) Orthodoxy and the Church, and not the heresies of the MP. However, it is strange that here too the authors of the “address” have learned nothing from the last decade. The choice in favour of the MP is now a choice precisely of “the believing people”, which has gone into the MP precisely for its heresies and unrighteousnesses: young eldership and servility, semi-pagan carrying out of needs, and just as semi-pagan “nationalism”. But what is more surprising is not so much their failure to understand this as their unwillingness to understand that however strong the faith of the people may be it cannot take the place of the Orthodox Episcopal hierarchy. And as we demonstrated earlier, the presence in the MP of an Orthodox Episcopal hierarchy has always been consistently denied by the ROCA, while without it there was nowhere for the “faithful pastors” to go in the canonical meaning of this word. The “believing people” is not a hierarchical level of the priesthood, and the maximum that we could admit by economy is the suggestion that through lay baptisms the grace of baptism was preserved in the MP for a certain period of time. But the ROCA often witnessed to the de facto unlawfulness of the hierarchs of the MP performing the eucharist. Of course, this did not stop believing people from trying to work their salvation in the MP, too, while trying to get out of it at the first opportunity. It was precisely about this that the Hierarchical Council of the ROCA in 1981 under the presidency of Metropolitan Philaret was saying in its epistle, as quoted, once again in a distorted sense, in the “Address”: “In some cases we see a complete fall, in others – at any rate attempts, even while formally submitting to the Patriarchate, all the same to remain outside the apostate politics of its leaders, trying somehow to work out their salvation even on the territory of the antichristian kingdom.” It would be strange if the hierarchs of the ROCA had said otherwise, since their president, Metropolitan Philaret, managed to live 15 terrible years under the “omophorion” of the MP, but nevertheless crowned his life, not only with salvation, but also with radiant holiness, having fled from this “omophorion” and witnessed to its lack of grace. But does the Episcopal lawfulness of the hierarchs of the MP follow from this? It does not follow. For if it had been a hierarchy with true sacraments, then salvation could not have been won “in spite of” and “outside” them.
“The idea that the apostolic succession and churchness of a people can be maintained even without an Episcopal hierarchy, which is in clear apostasy from Orthodoxy (and to assert the opposite in relation to the hierarchy of the MP would mean to contradict everything that has been said by the Church Abroad in the decades of her existence ), - is already a very serious harming of the dogmatic and canonical bases of ecclesiastical consciousness, of the understanding of what is the Church hierarchy. Although in another context – the context of the police methods of compelling the protesting members of the Church to submit to the hierarchs of the ROCA, - the authors of the “Address” speak a great deal and willingly about the significance of the hierarchy, especially emphasising the conciliar character of the ROCA. But here they display lack of consistency. The authors of the address say not a word in reproach of the bishops of the ROCA who de facto went against the will of their first-hierarch and imposed on his the opinion which he has twice (before and after the council) refused to agree with. Both those who imposed this opinion and he who submitted to this imposition have sinned. Historically and conciliarly, the Church Abroad has had another conception of the place of the First-Hierarch, both in the ranks of the Church people and in the ranks of the bishops. Here, for example, is what Metropolitan Philaret said of the Third All-Emigration Council in one of his conversations: “… This was a resolution for which there were 70 voice and two voices against. But of these two voices, one was the President of the Synod, and the other was his Grace Archbishop Seraphim [of Chicago – Vertograd]. So the Council found itself in a quandary, because it is impossible to make resolutions without the opinion of the President, and the question remained open, undecided.” (Sermons and Instructions of His Eminence Metropolitan Philaret, First-Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, volume 2, o. 257). Having a real care for hierarchical order in the Church, the hierarchs who supported an aggiornamento with the MP did not begin to put pressure on the president who did not agree with them through a false “conciliarity”, but put the question aside. But the authors of the address should have been careful about appealing for unquestioned disciplinary submission to a hierarchy which is itself not accustomed to discipline and subordination. Thus the matter has reached the point of being a crying scandal – the open disagreement of the First-Hierarch and of the majority of the council, which is being disregarded at the cost of the “submission” to “conciliarity” on the part of the First-Hierarch.
“Thus the venerable priests, many of whom have been in the priestly rank in the ROCA for more than one decade, while some are even famous for their works exposing the MP, in trying in the given address to put a sold historical, canonical and even theological base under the decisions of the council of the ROCA of October, 2000, have done their hierarchs a bad service. Until now, those knowing the history of the ROCA and its many contradictions still supposed that the defenders of the “new course” would say their “weighty word”, which would be or many convincing and would protect the hierarchs of the ROCA from the moral defeat that threatened them in their quarrel with the critics of the council’s decision. Today the “weighty word”, prepared quite carefully and with quite a lot of erudition, has sounded – and it has turned out to be full of juggling, exaggeration and just plain false information. It has not deflected a single accusation directed at the hierarchs of the ROCA and their decisions. It has not proved their historical succession from the traditional ecclesiology of the ROCA. It has exposed a yawning departure from Orthodox ecclesiology and the “authentic” tradition of the ROCA on the part of the defenders of the “new course”. The one thing that the authors of the appeal have succeeded in doing is to prove the act that the decisions of the October council of the year 2000 did not spring up on an empty place, but that behind them there stands a definite ideology and a compact group of people composed of bishops, clergy and laity. But the latter circumstance will more likely increase the crisis in the ROCA insofar as many of those who remained in the ROCA counting on correcting the “mistakes of the hierarchs”, will now, having taken stock of this fact, understand that it is not a question of mistakes, but of the confession of faith of a whole compact group, from “organic union” with which it would be desirable to separate as quickly as possible.”
CONCLUSION: THE RESTORATION OF ROMANITY
The kingdom of this world has
become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.
As we survey the history of the Orthodox Church in the twentieth century, we can see that the two seemingly minor breaches in the Orthodox world-view made in 1905 – the limitation on the Tsar’s autocratic powers made in the October manifesto, and the April decree on toleration, - led to an almost complete devastation of the former lands of Holy Orthodoxy. The first by implication declared that the Orthodox Autocracy was not a Divine institution sanctified by and united with the Divine institution of the Orthodox Church, but a merely human organization that needed “checks and balances” supplied by other purely human and secular organizations. And the second by implication declared that Orthodoxy was not the One, God-inspired Truth which it is the duty of all men to seek out and obey, but simply one religion among many others deserving of no special privileges or support. The great prophet of the twentieth century, St. John of Kronstadt, opposed both measures. Now we can only lament the consequences of disobeying the prophet’s word and seek to draw lessons from them.
In essence the measures passed under the threat of revolution in 1905 opened the way to the secularization, first of the political and social life of the Orthodox peoples, and then of their ecclesiastical life. Let us look first at the secularization of ecclesiastical life.
The Secularisation of the Church
The tragedy of our century is clear for all to see: the Church has been secularized and politicized. From the left she has been conformed to the image of an autocratic party-state (the Sergianist Soviet Church); from the right she has taken on the shape of a democratic federation of states (the World Council of Churches); while on all sides nationalist self-worship has replaced the worship of the Man Who died for all men, to create a Nation which exists to embrace all nations. The Church has come to be seen as the servant, not of God, but of the world, a pander to man in his fallen desires: “Ecucommunism” has abolished the boundaries between the Church and the world.
The roots of this tragedy lie in two rebellions against the Church: the autocratic rebellion of the Pope in the eleventh century, which gave birth, as Tyutchev and Dostoyevsky saw, to Communism; and the democratic rebellion of the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century, which gave birth to Ecumenism. And these rebellions, though rapidly declining in strength as they degenerate into simple paganism, are with us still. But the real tragedy lies in the fact that the spirit of rebellion has entered into the heart of the Orthodox Church, allowing the surrounding political culture and ideology to seep into the Church’s organism and to drive out the life-giving sap of the Holy Spirit from whole autocephalous Churches, making them of one flesh and spirit with the surrounding world.
God has fearfully punished this rebellion – and yet it continues. The situation is as the prophet described: “O sinful nation, a people full of sins, an evil seed, lawless children: ye have forsaken the Lord, and provoked the Holy One of Israel. Why should ye be smitten any more, transgressing more and more? The whole head is pained, and the whole heart sad. From the feet to the head, there is no soundness in them; neither wound, nor bruise, nor festering ulcer are healed: it is not possible to apply a plaster, nor oil, nor bandages. Your land is desolate, your cities burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is made desolate, overthrown by strange nations. The daughter of Sion shall be deserted as a tent in a vineyard, and as a storehouse of fruits in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city. And if the Lord of Sabaoth had not left us a seed, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been made like unto Gomorrah” (Isaiah 1.4-9).
The overt rebellion began in Russia in February, 1917, when the people rose up against the Lord and against His Anointed, the Orthodox emperor, whose role, as the apostle said, was to restrain the coming of the Antichrist (II Thessalonians 2.7). And so the Lord allowed the Antichrist to come. He allowed “the flesh [the body politic] to be delivered to Satan, so that the spirit [the Church] could be saved” (I Corinthians 5.5).
The punishment of the rebellion began some eight months later, on the night of October 25, 1917, when the Winter Palace fell to the Bolsheviks at the same time that the following lesson was being read in the churches: “Thus saith the Lord, What trespass have your fathers found in Me, that they have revolted far from Me, and gone after vanities, and become vain? And they said not, Where is the Lord, Who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, Who guided us in the wilderness, in an untried and trackless land, in a land which no man at all went through, and no man dwelt there? And I brought you to Carmel, that ye should eat the fruits thereof, and the good thereof; and ye went in, and defiled My land, and made Mine heritage an abomination. The priests said not, Where is the Lord? And they that held by the law knew Me not. The shepherds also sinned against Me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and went after that which profited not.” (Jeremiah 2.5-8).
And as Russia and the Russian Church was the de facto leader of Orthodoxy, the catastrophe that took place there was allowed to spread to all the other Orthodox Churches, which had become infected by a similar worldliness. Thus the Orthodox monarchies disappeared throughout Eastern Europe, while the schism of the new calendar forced a faithful remnant to dissociate itself from the official Churches, taking as their banner faithfulness to the traditions of the holy Apostles and Fathers of the Church. For the basic cause of this catastrophe, as Elder Ambrose of Optina foretold, was indifference to, and disdain for, the holy traditions of the Orthodox Church.
Two traditions in particular were almost universally derided among the educated, that is, the westernized classes: first, the tradition concerning the Orthodox Church as the only ark of salvation, and secondly, the tradition concerning the Orthodox Empire as the political institution chosen by God to defend His Church from external enemies.
As regards the tradition of the Orthodox Empire, the Russians’ loyalty to it was eroded by their infection with the heresy of democratic Socialism. Few were those who understood and esteemed the holy mission of the Orthodox emperor, and that, as St. Seraphim said: “After Orthodoxy, zealous devotion to the Tsar is the Russian’s first duty and the chief foundation of true Christian piety.” The great majority either actively called for the abdication of the Lord’s Anointed or passively acquiesced in it, doing very little to save him from death at the hands of his and Russia’s enemies. And their punishment has been correspondingly severe.
However, the other Orthodox peoples must also bear their share of responsibility. Most of them fell victim to the other western heresy of nationalism, and strove to put their own national interests above the interests of what was in fact the Pan-Orthodox Empire. For if the spirit of a society is its religion, then its soul is its national self-consciousness. And when the spirit is weakened or lost, it is the soul that becomes the dominant power – but in the fallen, egoistical state that is the inevitable consequence of the loss of spirituality.
The Greeks, for example, having already succumbed to nationalism themselves, tended to see in Russia’s self-sacrificial wars in the Balkans merely the expression of nationalist Pan-Slavism. For their own nationalist dreams of the restoration of the Byzantine empire prevented them from admitting that the fully legitimate successor of Byzantium already existed – in Holy Russia. For this they were punished by the extinction of the last remnants of Greek Orthodoxy in Asia Minor. In the same way the Georgians, having gleefully thrown off the yoke of Orthodox Russia, immediately fell under the far harsher yoke of Bolshevism – inflicted, moreover, not by the Russian Lenin but by the Georgians Stalin and Ordzhonikidze.
Thus both Russian and non-Russian Orthodox forgot the words of the Ecumenical Patriarch Jeremiah II to Tsar Theodore in 1589: “You are the protector of all Orthodox Christians everywhere”. For Moscow was indeed “the Third Rome”, the lawful successor of the New Rome, Constantinople; and the better Russian Tsars took this role and its attendant responsibilities very seriously. They waged successive (and usually successful) wars to liberate the Orthodox Balkans from the Turks and protect them from the western powers; they spent large sums of money to support the Orthodox monasteries and patriarchates of Mount Athos and the Middle East; and Tsarism itself fell in a self-sacrificial war to protect Orthodox Serbia from Catholic Austro-Hungary.
The abdication of the Russian emperor led, some twenty-five years later, to the fall of the Orthodox monarchies of Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria, to be replaced eventually by the “people’s democracies” of militant atheism. Only Greece preserved some remnants of Orthodox statehood. But this was only a semblance. And there was much truth in the Greek newspaper report on the democratic revolution of 1924: the new democracy had cast down the Cross together with the Crown.
It would appear to follow that if the Cross is once again to be raised in triumph over the formerly Orthodox lands, the Crown, too, must be raised with it. For if the fall began with the killing of the king, the resurrection can only come with the resurrection of the kingdom. This gives particular significance to the fact that, in spite of the victory of the “true” democracies of the West in the cold war, monarchist sentiment is rising throughout Eastern Europe. Could it be that, just as the age of the Roman catacombs was succeeded by the triumph of the Cross under the Emperor Constantine the Great, so the emergence of the True Church from the Soviet catacombs will be followed by a restoration of the Orthodox empire? Could there yet be a restoration of Romanity – the religio-political unity of the Orthodox peoples – in our time?
The Cross and the Crown
Before dismissing this vision as an idle dream, let us look a little more closely at the profound relationship between the Cross and the Crown, the Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Empire.
The Cross is the symbol both of the victory of Christianity and of the basic Christian virtues of humility, love and self-denial, the latter being the means to the attainment of the former. Now while the Christian virtues can be practised under any circumstances and under any regime, including that of the Antichrist, the Holy Spirit will be quenched in most souls, given the weakness and fallenness of human nature, unless His workings are supported by a Christian State with a Christian code of laws. Conversely, if the Cross reigns in the hearts of a large enough segment of society, then the leaven of the Spirit will rise to influence and change in a Christian direction even what would seem to be its most crusty and irredeemable parts – its political structure and philosophy.
This is what we see in the time of the first Christian emperor, St. Constantine and his successors. The power of Roman Christianity, working from below, broke the mould of Roman pagan society and transformed its most pivotal and anti-Christian element, the worship of the imperator-pontifex maximus, into the Christian system of the “symphony” of the powers of the Church and the State under the supreme lordship of Christ. Succeeding Orthodox emperors, in the Spirit of Christ and for the sake of the salvation of all their subjects, introduced a Christian system of laws whose basic principle was that it should in no way conflict with the laws of the Church, but should rather support them. The unity of the State was a reflection of, and inspired by, the deeper unity of the Church; just as God ruled His Kingdom in heaven, so the emperor and bishops ruled His kingdom on earth in the image of His authority.
The Emperor Justinian expressed this vision in his Novella VI (535) as follows: “There are two greatest gifts which God, in his love for man, has granted from on high: the priesthood and the imperial dignity. The first serves divine things, while the latter directs and administers human affairs; both, however, proceed from the same origin and adorn the life of mankind. Hence, nothing should be such a source of care to the emperors as the dignity of the priests, since it is for their (imperial) welfare that they constantly implore God. For if the priesthood is in every way free from blame and possesses access to God, and if the emperors administer equitably and judiciously the State entrusted to their care, general harmony will result, and whatever is beneficial will be bestowed upon the human race.”
This vision is based on the belief that the Crown, no less than the Church, is directed by the Providence of God. As Pope John II wrote to Justinian: “’The King’s heart is in the hand of God and He directs it as He pleases’ (Proverbs 21.1). There lies the foundation of your Empire and the endurance of your rule. For the peace of the Church and the unity of religion raise their originator to the highest place and sustain him there in happiness and peace. God’s power will never fail him who protects the Church against the evil and stain of division, for it is written: ‘When a righteous King sits on the throne, no evil will befall him’ (Proverbs 20.8)”.
The symphony of powers can work as long as the majority of the population is truly Christian and therefore wants it to work. It tends to break down when: (a) a significant part of the population believes differently and is prepared to resort to revolutionary action to destroy it (e.g. the Monophysite Semites, Copts and Armenians in sixth- and seventh-century Byzantium, or the Jews and Poles in nineteenth-century Russia); (b) the ruling class itself is infected with heresy (e.g. the iconoclast emperors in eighth- and ninth-century Byzantium, or the educated classes in nineteenth-century Russia); or (c) the empire is conquered from outside because of a betrayal on the part of one or the other of the pillars of society (e.g. the false council of Florence-Ferrara in 1439, or the forced abdication of the Tsar in 1917).
This is the pattern of Christian society that has clearly been favoured by Divine Providence for the salvation of the Christian race; for the great majority of Orthodox Christians until 1917 lived either in the Byzantine or Russian empires, or in one of the smaller kingdoms, such as Orthodox (i.e. pre-schism) England or France, Serbia or Georgia, which were modelled on the Byzantine model.
Now just as secular democracy and Nazi fascism are patterns of society based on a philosophy of life, so is the Christian symphony of powers. This philosophy is based on the premise that the real ruler of the world and everything in it is God. That part of the world which acknowledges this rule is the Church of Christ; the rest are, consciously or unconsciously, rebels against God (Matthew 22.1-14).
Ideally, therefore, as Patriarch Nikon of Moscow saw with particular clarity, Christian society should tend towards identification with the Church, in which everything is subordinated to God’s rule, and the aim of everything is the salvation of souls.
However, this identity between Christian society and the Church can only be approximated on this earth, never fully achieved. In practice, there have always been, and always will be, matters which are outside the canonical jurisdiction of bishops, such as the administration of non-Christians, the conduct of wars and the collection of taxes. These belong to Caesar; they are affairs of the State, not of the Church.
Nevertheless, if God’s rule is recognized to be truly universal, then politics, too, must be, if not formally subordinated to His Kingdom, the Church, at any rate brought into relation to it and influenced by it. In other words, there can and should be such a thing as Christian politics. And this becomes a realistic ideal if Caesar himself is a Christian and a faithful son of the Church.
It is fashionable in the West to favour the disestablishment of the Church from the State. The principal reason given for this is that it makes the Church free from political pressure and able to carry on her own affairs without interference and undistracted by worldly concerns.
This aim is indeed a laudable one. However, the argument fails to take into account the fact that nature abhors a vacuum, so that the disestablishment of the Church will unfailingly lead to the establishment of some other institution or philosophy in her place – Masonry, for example, or secular humanism, or one of the more extreme ideologies of nationalism. For the disestablishment of the Church from the State also entails the disestablishment of the State from the Church; if the State is not governed by Christian principles, it will inevitably come to be governed by antichristian principles. Eventually, deprived of the sanctifying influence of the Church, it will turn against the Church. And then the Church, instead of freeing herself from politics, will find herself having to resist a determined invasion of her realm by politicians, as has happened in all Orthodox countries since 1453 and especially since 1917.
The solution, therefore, is to preserve the relative autonomy of the two realms without legislating for their absolute independence. For the relationship between the Church and the State is like that between the soul and the body – distinct substances which are meant to work together through the Spirit, even if sin has damaged that cooperation. Just as the soul is the life, the guiding principle of the body, so is the Church of the State. The Church sets the standards and the essentially other-worldly goals of the whole of society, provides the motivating force and legitimizes and sanctifies its political institutions. The State, on the other hand, protects the Church against external foes and provides her with essential material assistance, especially in the spheres of education and welfare.
If, however, the State renounces Orthodoxy, the Church can withdraw her legitimization, as she did when the All-Russian Council anathematized Soviet power in 1918. This is in order to preserve the soul of society by preserving its communion with the heavenly world intact, even while the body, the political covering, dies. Then the Church enters the condition of isolation symbolized by the woman fleeing into the wilderness in Revelation 12.
But such a condition is unnatural and apocalyptic; it betokens the spiritual death of the world, its burning up and replacement by “a new heaven and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (II Peter 3.13). Indeed, St. Paul indicated the removal of “him that restrains” (II Thessalonians 2.7) – lawful monarchical power – as presaging the coming of the Antichrist.
The period since 1914 has been precisely the period following the breakdown of lawful monarchy, first in Russia and then successively in each of the Orthodox Balkan States – Greece in 1924, Serbia in 1934 with the murder of the pious King Alexander, Bulgaria in 1943, with the murder of the pious King Boris III. The True Church, in all of these countries (with the partial exception of Greece, although here, too, the True Orthodox have been outlawed at times), has fled into the wilderness, while the false Church has remained wedded to the rotting corpse of the now definitely antichristian State. The fall of Communism presents the Orthodox with an opportunity unparalleled since 1914 to unite under the aegis of a truly Orthodox monarchy.
For, as “a Hieromonk of the Orient” has written: “The monarchy is not an anachronism, nor the daydream of nostalgic aristocrats. In recent times one has seen the monarchy as a serious guarantee for democratic government – which should never be confused with democratic ideology. They are two quite different concepts. Democratic government allows the people to constitute a certain determining factor in government and even, at times, directly or indirectly, to choose the leader of the nation. Democratic ideology, on the other hand, insists that the authority to govern belongs to the people. That is an abominable heresy, for all power and authority to govern belongs to God. Even when a leader is elected (legally) his authority to govern, once elected, comes from God. As God shares with the human parent His own power to create pro-creating, the head of a State shares in or collaborates in God’s power to govern. That is why the monarch is monarch “by the grace of God”. It is for this reason that the Christian Orthodox obey and honour the legitimate authority, in so far as that authority does not order anything in contradiction to moral law.”
“Our Tsar,” wrote St. Barsonuphius of Optina, “is the representative of the will of God, and not the people’s will. His will is sacred for us, as the will of the Anointed of God; we love him because we love God. If the Tsar gives us glory and prosperity, we receive it from him as a Mercy of God. But if we are overtaken by humiliation and poverty, we bear them with meekness and humility, as a heavenly punishment for our iniquities, and never do we falter in our love for, and devotion to, the Tsar, as long as they proceed from our Orthodox religious convictions, our love and devotion to God.”
Again, as Hieromartyr Demetrius of Gdov says, “only royal power can be a lawful power”. “For us an authority is a hierarchy, when not only is someone subject to me, but I myself am subject to someone higher than myself, that is, everything goes up to God, as the source of every authority. In other words, such an authority is the anointed of God, the monarch…”
By placing the salvation of souls as the supreme goal of society above any national or material good, the Orthodox symphony of powers avoids the extremes of Papocaesarism and Caesaropapism, of fascist dictatorship and secular democracy, that has so plagued western society.
The Obstacles: 1. Nationalism
The way forward, therefore, for the Orthodox peoples is to recreate their spiritual and political unity under the aegis of the resurrected Orthodox empire.
But formidable obstacles remain to the realization of this vision. The first is the continuing influence of nationalist rivalries – a legacy, to a large extent, of the period of Turkish rule, when national feeling helped to defend Orthodoxy against Islam, but then turned Orthodox against Orthodox as Ottoman power declined.
Examples are everywhere to be seen: in the rivalry of the Ecumenical and Moscow Patriarchates; in the continuing rivalry between Greeks and Slavs in Macedonia, between Russians and Ukrainians in the Ukraine, between Russians, Ukrainians, Romanians, Bulgarians and Gagauz in Moldova, between Russians and Georgians in the Caucasus, and between Greeks and Arabs in the Middle East.
Perhaps the most glaring example is the Babylonian welter of ethnic jurisdictions in the diaspora, even among those who are united for or against Ecucommunism. In America, for example, the jurisdictional confusion now is in total contrast to the unity of all the Orthodox under the Russian Archbishop and future Patriarch Tikhon which prevailed until the revolution. This leads to a general weakening of the Orthodox witness to those outside, who in spite of all obstacles – not the least of which is the Orthodox Primates’ shameful decision to eschew all proselytism in western countries - are coming in larger and larger numbers to the light of Orthodoxy.
The Byzantine and Russian empires had in general a very good record – much better than any of their successor States – in overcoming nationalist prejudices; and this success is another sign that “the great idea” of the Orthodox Christian empire, properly understood, can indeed unite the nations.
Thus Fr. George Metallenos writes about the Byzantine empire: “A great number of peoples made up the autocracy but without any ‘ethnic’ differentiation between them. The whole racial amalgam lived and moved in a single civilization (apart from some particularities) – the Greek, and it had a single cohesive spiritual power – Orthodoxy, which was at the same time the ideology of the oikoumene-autocracy. The citizens of the autocracy were Romans politically, Greeks culturally and Orthodox Christians spiritually. Through Orthodoxy the old relationship of rulers and ruled was replaced by the sovereign bond of brotherhood. Thus the ‘holy race’ of the New Testament (I Peter 2.9) became a reality as the ‘race of the Romans’, that is, of the Orthodox citizens of the autocracy of the New Rome.”
The Russian Empire was an even more extraordinary success, extending as it did over an area and a population many times greater than that of the Byzantine empire. Of course, there were mistakes, and there were periods – notably the eighteenth century – when the Orthodox symphony of powers was dangerously distorted in the direction of western absolutism. But even in the eighteenth century it would be difficult to characterize the Russian empire as chauvinist – if only because it was the Russian people who suffered most from the mistakes of her (non-Russian) leaders.
For the Russian idea is in essence Orthodox Christian and therefore universalist. As Nicholas Lossky wrote, quoting Dostoyevsky: “The eastern ideal, that is, the ideal of Russian Orthodoxy, is ‘first the spiritual union of humanity in Christ, and then, by virtue of this spiritual union of all in Christ, and undoubtedly flowing from it – a correct state and social union’ (Diary of a Writer, May-June, 1877).” Of course, this idea has never been fully incarnate in Russian history, and Leninism and “Soviet patriotism” were grotesque mockeries of the Russian idea and Russian patriotism. As for today’s post-communist Russia, it is far from incarnating that universalism which Dostoyevsky extols. Nevertheless, those nations, both Orthodox and non-Orthodox, who see Russia as always having been a chauvinist and expansionist State make both an historical and a moral error.
With the possible of exception of Bessarabia in 1812, Russia has never forcibly annexed territories belonging to other Orthodox nations. As regards non-Orthodox nations, Russia first began to expand eastwards in the sixteenth century, and this took place partly through the peaceful colonization of sparsely inhabited areas, as in the Russian north and Siberia, and partly through military conquest, as in Ivan the Terrible’s conquest of Kazan. However, it must be remembered that the wars against the Tatars were wars against the former conquerors of Russia herself, and the Golden Horde continued for many centuries to be a threat to the existence of Russia both physically and spiritually. With regard to the West – to the Poles, the Swedes, the French and the Germans – Russia’s wars have almost always been defensive in character, involving the recapture of Russian lands with large Russian populations whose spiritual and physical identity was most definitely under the most serious threat. Only very rarely has Russia embarked upon a purely offensive war; and as Henry Kissinger has remarked, “Russia has exhibited a curious phenomenon: almost every offensive war that it has fought has ended badly, and every defensive war victoriously – a paradox.”
A paradox, yes; but one with a clear explanation: when Russia has fought in defense of her Orthodox Christian idea, the Lord has given her victory, withdrawing His support only when she has betrayed that idea. Therefore as long as Russia remains true to her idea, we can expect her to come into conflict with other nations only when that idea is itself under threat. At the present time, that idea is not yet incarnate within Russia herself; for neither Lenin’s Russia, nor Yeltsin’s Russia, nor Zhirinovsky’s Russia is the true and Holy Russia. But as the true and holy Russia struggles to surface from under the rubble of ideologies alien to herself, that conflict will inevitably arise.
And at that point it will be up to the other Orthodox nations to overcome their own nationalist and self-justifying anti-Russianism and understand that their own survival as Orthodox nations depends on Russia now just as it did when Russia was the sole protector of the Orthodox against the Turks and the West. For the words of Tyutchev, written 140 years ago, are still true: “For a long time now there have existed only two real forces – the revolution and Russia. These two forces now stand in opposition one to another, and tomorrow, perhaps, they will enter into battle. There can be no negotiations or treaties between them; the existence of the one is equivalent to the death of the other! On the outcome of the battle between them, the greatest battle the world has ever seen, depends the whole political and religious future of mankind.”
The tragedy is that nationalism now is not only dividing Orthodox from Orthodox: it is enabling completely unscrupulous and essentially anti-Orthodox tyrants, such as the present Serbian leaders, to undertake barbaric wars in the name of Orthodoxy which only defile the holy name of Orthodoxy throughout the world. For while the threat to Serbia from Catholicism and Islam is real, the evil methods used to defend her can only harm her in the long run. The Orthodox everywhere must realize that the nationalist-communist thugs that lead the Serbian nation now have nothing in common with the holy ideals and past of Orthodox Serbia, that evil can be overcome only by good, and that a Greater Serbia – great in the spiritual sense – can be restored only by purity and penitence, not by “ethnic cleansing” and rape. And the same applies to the idea of a Greater Greece or a Greater Russia. For “righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin diminishes peoples” (Proverbs 14.34).
The Obstacles: 2. Ecumenism
The second important obstacle in the way of the restoration of Romanity is the continuing adherence of the majority of Orthodox Christians to the heresy of Ecumenism. For even while “Communism”, and to an increasing degree “Ecumenism”, too, are already discredited words, especially amidst the Church intelligentsia in Russia, the majority still follow hierarchs who are deeply mired in the antichristian heresy. This is illustrated by the sequel to Patriarch Alexis’ ecumenical speech in a New York synagogue in November, 1991, when, although many condemned the speech as heretical, no large-scale movement out of the patriarchate ensued.
This witnesses to the continuing strength of political modes of thought in Orthodoxy today, where the appearance of heresy is not followed, as the Holy Tradition of the Church decrees, by formal condemnation of the heretics and the breaking of all ecclesiastical communion with then, but by nothing stronger than “censure motions” from a “loyal opposition”.
While Ecumenism is a potion brewed from many toxins, undeniably the most dangerous of them for Orthodoxy is the proposed unia with Roman Catholicism. Orthodox Romanity and Roman Catholicism, the Orthodox Christian empire of the East Romans and the “Holy Roman Empire” of the West (for which read today: “the European Union”) are diametric opposites, irreconcilable and immixible.
Orthodox Romanity stands for the principle of true Catholicity, whereby each local Church contains the fullness of grace in union with, but independently of every other, and decisions are made through the conciliar agreements of in essence equal bishops whose authority rests on their complete faithfulness to Apostolic Tradition. It also stands for the relative independence of the spheres of Church and State, the latter being an Orthodox autocracy pledged to incarnate the law of the Gospel within its boundaries, and to protect and stimulate the spread of Orthodox Christianity beyond them.
Roman Catholicism, on the other hand, stands for the destruction of Catholicity, insofar as no local Church can have grace independently of Rome, and the decisions of any and every council of bishops, even an Ecumenical Council, have no legitimacy until endorsed by the Pope. Its authority rests on an abrogation of Apostolic Tradition and the substitution of the Pope’s fiat for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of truth. It also stands for the abolition of the distinction between Church and State, the Church becoming a State and requiring the submission of all other States to itself, ideally on the basis of a Socialist levelling of all traditional values and institutions.
Just as there can be only one Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, so there can be only one true Romanity. Therefore any unia between the forms of Orthodox Romanity and the content of Roman Catholicism must be a fraud.
As Fr. Ilia Fratsea writes: “the Unia is the consequence of the attempts of the Catholic Church to impose – by political rather than ecclesiastical means – the sovereignty and jurisdiction of the Pope on the Orthodox lands. The Unia was born only where Orthodoxy, Romanity met Roman Catholicism… There is no ‘Unia’ in the lands of Protestantism or the Anglican Church, in spite of the fact that dialogues have taken place between them. More accurately, the Unia accomplishes the penetration of Papism into Orthodoxy, a Roman Catholic parasite in the body of Romanity.”
In spite of this fact, and the fierce condemnation of Uniatism by the Local Orthodox Churches at the 1992 Pan-Orthodox Council in Constantinople, the “World Orthodox” continue to work for a full unia with Rome by the year 2000. Thus at the Orthodox-Roman Catholic meeting at Balamand in Lebanon in 1994, the Orthodox delegates recognized the Catholic Church as a “sister church” in the full sense of the word. As Patriarch Bartholomew put it, Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism are like “two lungs” of a single body. Such statements demonstrate yet again, if further demonstration were needed, that the hierarchs of official “World Orthodoxy” have entirely lost the salt of true Romanity, having become uniates in spirit and in truth.
And yet, paradoxically, the fall of Ecumenism looks more and more inevitable as it appears to reach the zenith of his power. Thus as the Pope – that totalitarian wolf in an ecumenist sheep-skin – sets his geopolitical plans ever wider, his priests flee from the priesthood in their thousands to marry, his theologians become ever more Protestant in their theology, and his laity rebel against everything from the style of the liturgy to the permissibility of abortion and contraception, from the relationship of the Church to Socialism to the authority of the Pope himself. The Anglican Church is disintegrating as the “comprehensiveness” it so prides itself on removes from it the last remnants of a common faith and discipline, while Protestants advocate the “rights” of homosexuals and every kind of deviant. And “new age” paganism penetrates everywhere. The decline of the West, obvious to western observers already at the beginning of this century, has now become a steep descent into an ever deepening “black hole”.
However, just as Solzhenitsyn used to tell the West during the Cold War that its greatest ally in the struggle against the Soviet Antichrist was the Russian people, so the greatest ally the Orthodox have, after God and His Saints, in their struggle against the European Antichrist may well prove to be the unconscious striving for their lost Romanity of the peoples of the West. For as “the wood, hay and stubble” of post-schism western civilization burns away, so its pre-schism foundation in the true and Orthodox faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, is laid bare. Thus the British are returning with a renewed interest to their Celtic and Anglo-Saxon saints, and the French to their Gallican churches and liturgies.
It is the Romanity of the West, the heritage of its first Christian millenium, which is the only real basis for the reunification of Europe. For that heritage began to be lost when a Frank and a stranger to Romanity, Charlemagne, created a second Christian Roman Empire (800); when another Frank and stranger to Romanity, Pope Nicholas I, tried to introduce the Filioque into the Creed and the papal autocracy into Orthodox Bulgaria (861); when a German stranger to Romanity, the “Holy Roman emperor” Henry II reintroduced the Filioque at his coronation in Rome (1014); and another German, Pope Leo IX, removed the epiklesis, the invocatory prayer to the Holy Spirit, from the Liturgy and died just before the Great Church of Constantinople cut him off the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church (1054).
As the life-creating breath of the Holy Spirit withdrew from the altars of St. Peter’s in Rome, the death-creating poison of the prince of darkness took His place in the thrones and cathedras and chalices of Western Romanity. This was the primal tragedy; and this is the tragedy which must be reversed if the restoration of Romanity is to be accomplished. That such a reversal will indeed take place, albeit in the wake of a terrible world war, is the message of several Orthodox prophecies.
The Obstacles: 3. The European Antichrist
The third major obstacle, therefore, to the restoration of Romanity is the revival of the West European, Middle Eastern and Chinese Antichrists.
Each of these, while professing different religions, have a common hatred of Orthodoxy and a common addiction to communist patterns of social organization. Probably the most dangerous of them, although seemingly the most “eirenic”, is the first one – the “Holy Roman Empire” in the form of the European Union – which is already exerting enormous influence on the political and ecclesiastical life of the Orthodox lands. This Western Babylon acts like a magnet for the semi-destitute peoples of Eastern Europe, who, blinded by the ideology of Democracy, seem unable to see that the new Europe has all the makings of a second Socialist monolith built on essentially the same atheist-humanist foundations as the Soviet monolith whose demise they have just celebrated. Fortunately, most of the Orthodox peoples of Eastern Europe seem too poor and unstable to qualify for membership in the new Europe in the near future. But while they are prevented, even against their will, from being included in the new socialist colossus, the latter is injecting all their past enemies in Central Europe.
If the threat of the resurrection of Socialism in Western Europe seems exaggerated, we should remember that Socialism will always remain a temptation for a society that has lost its grounding in the Heavenly Church. In one form or another, Socialist-type States have appeared from the earliest times, and the eclipse of Soviet-style Socialism does not guarantee that a less crude, more “eirenic” form of the same experiment will not be tried again. As long as peace on earth (rather than peace with God) and material plenty (rather than spiritual wealth) are the goals men place before themselves, the failure of one attempt to achieve them by the organization of men into a centralized, all-encompassing State will only make them more eager to try again. And in an increasingly complex and unified world, a super-complex and ultra-unified World State will come to be seen as the only solution to the problem.
In this context, the Russians, with their unparalleled experience of the true nature of Socialism, have the greatest responsibility to take the lead in rejecting the new danger. They are the only Orthodox nation with real military and political power; only they can take on the mantle of Christian Rome; only they can draw the other Orthodox nations from the abyss and bring the light of Orthodoxy to the benighted nations to the East and West. For, as the Pskov Elder Philotheus told Tsar Basil II: “Moscow is the Third Rome, and a fourth there shall not be…”
However, only a truly Orthodox Moscow can again call herself the Third Rome with any justification. And that she has not yet become. For unfortunately, in spite of a massive revival of religion, the leaders of Russia in both the political and ecclesiastical spheres seem to be offering no real resistance to the introduction of the worst aspects of westernism – greed, crime, sexual immorality and religious syncretism.
What is needed is a leader who will reject westernism without necessarily rejecting the West, who will fight the revolution without employing the weapons of the revolutionaries – that is, who will think and act in the conviction that the end does not justify the means. Thus he must be an enlightened patriot who is not a chauvinist nationalist, an Orthodox zealot who is yet a humane Christian, an autocrat who loves and serves, without pandering to, his people. The democratic West neither believes in nor desires such a ruler. For it desires only to be free from all rule, human or Divine – which, as Dostoyevsky’s Shigalev prophesied and the history of the twentieth century has irrefutably proved, is the surest path to absolute tyranny. But the Orthodox East lives by faith; and when she has started to produce the works of faith, the Lord will undoubtedly satisfy her fervent desire for a righteous king.
Where could such a king come from? As we have indicated above, only from Russia. For the restoration of Romanity is possible only where there is Orthodoxy, and not just the name of Orthodoxy, but real, ascetic, suffering Orthodoxy, the Orthodoxy of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia.
And so we return, once again, to that crucible in which the gold of True Orthodoxy has been refined in the greatest quantities in this century, to the successor of the Roman catacombs of the first three centuries, and of the New Roman catacombs of the eighth and ninth centuries – to the catacombs of the Third Rome, Russia.
But we must beware of a counterfeit, especially since the false Russian democracy and false Moscow patriarchate is already playing with the idea of creating a puppet “autocracy” that will have the name Romanov but not that family’s piety. For, as a Catacomb priest writes, for the genuine regeneration of Russia, “even if a tsar is elected, he must necessarily belong to the True Orthodox Church. And to this Church must belong all the people who represent the regenerate Russia… The first union of people.. can arise at an extremely unpropitious historical and political moment on the territory of Russia or even on some small part of it… It is possible that such a union ‘into Russia’ can encompass only 100-200 people, who can be joined by other people later. At some point an Orthodox Tsar could even be elected in their midst…”
Only a truly Orthodox tsardom can be a legitimate government for Russia – or a Provisional Government that consciously prepares the way for the return of Autocracy and unambiguously condemns the lawlessness of all that has taken place in Russian governmental life since February, 1917.
That Russia will be saved and a truly Orthodox Tsar arise from the midst of the Russian people is indicated by several prophecies. And if this still seems unbelievable to many, let us recall that other miraculous restoration of Romanity in the history of Russia, when Palm Sunday in the year 1611 was celebrated by only one man – the Martyr-Patriarch Hermogenes. In those terrible times, when the boyars openly rose up against the lawful political authorities, and bands of foreigners and robbers rampaged around the countryside, the Lord called a representative of the clergy, Archimandrite Dionysius of the Trinity – St. Sergius Lavra, a representative of the nobility, Prince Demetrius Pozharsky, and a representative of the people, the butcher Cosmas Minin, who, in response to the patriarch’s appeal and with the aid of the wonderworking Kazan icon of the Mother of God, liberated Moscow from the Catholics, restored order, and convened the zemsky sobor which elected the first Romanov tsar.
This century’s Hermogenes, his Holiness Patriarch Tikhon, already issued his appeal some sixty years ago: “We call on all of you, believing and faithful children of the Church: stand in defence of our Holy Mother who is now being reviled and oppressed. The enemies of the Church are seizing power over her and her heritage by the power of death-dealing weapons. But you withstand them by the power of your faith, the powerful cry of the whole people, which will halt the madmen and will show them that they do not have the right to call themselves fighters for the good of the people and builders of a new life according to the people’s reasoning, for they are even acting directly against the conscience of the people. But if it will be necessary to suffer for Christ, we call on you, beloved children of the Church, we call on you to undertake these sufferings together with ourselves in the words of the holy apostle: ‘Who shall separate us from the love of God? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?’ (Romans 8.35). And you, brother archpastors and pastors, do not delay one hour in your spiritual activity. With flaming zeal call on your children to defend the rights of the Church which are being trampled on, quickly form spiritual unions, call on them, not from necessity, but of their own free will to enter the ranks of the spiritual warriors, who will oppose external power with the power of their holy inspiration. And we firmly hope that the enemies of the Church will be defeated and dispersed by the power of the Cross of Christ, for the promise of the Divine Cross-bearer Himself is unlying: ‘I shall build My Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against her.’ (Matthew 16.18).”
Today’s Archimandrite Dionysius and his monks are represented by the Catacomb Church, which, robed in the purple of countless new martyrs and confessors, has experienced in herself the whole weight of the Antichrist’s assault, while preserving her confession of the Orthodox Faith pure and whole. If the people finally recognize her hidden beauty, and renounce their adhesion, not only to the God-fighting communist power, but also to the apostate Moscow Patriarchate, then the Lord will summon new Pozharskys and Minins, and a new Michael Romanov will ascend the throne of the Orthodox tsars, to the defence and confirmation of Orthodoxy throughout the world. Nor is this an impossible dream, but a necessary hope; for “where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29.18).
As New Hieromartyr John, Archbishop of Latvia, and the first non-Russian hieromartyr of the Soviet yoke, said: “The Lord is the same, yesterday and forever. When the shame of godlessness and impiety now presses upon the children of the new Israel, Holy Russia, somewhere in the plains of Russia, or in the Siberian forests, or in some one of the countries of exile and diaspora of the great God-bearing people, there is already being prepared a grace-given field which will cause to sprout up a chosen one of God for the deliverance and rebirth of the God-bearing people. There are no more leaders, and pastors are in straitened conditions. The human eye does not see from where deliverance might come; but the All-knowing knows this. The Lord, by ways known to Him alone, will raise up suitable men at a suitable time. Of this we can and must be convinced.”
Let the last word be from three True Orthodox documents written in the Brezhnev period. The first is a samizdat document of the Catacomb Church: “All the arguments in defence and justification of the Moscow Patriarchate.. are contradictory and, in the last analysis, not serious. They are based on a desire to view the existing situation in the church as natural and, from the spiritual point of view, (supposedly) satisfactory. The contradiction.. is easily laid bare: when talk is of the external assault upon the church, it is said that ‘our kingdom is not of this world’; but when the spiritual compromise with the prince of this world is pointed out, it is replied that this is essential for the preservation of the hierarchical succession, churches, etc. – that is, the external organization of the church. Naturally, such an indefiniteness testifies to the spiritual unsureness, the internal (not to mention external) disorder of the Moscow Patriarchate. Such a situation cannot continue forever. Religious awareness must either entirely become aware of itself, or else disappear altogether as religious awareness. The latter course, abstractly speaking, is likewise possible: after all, the once flourishing Church of Carthage disappeared. We, however, fortify ourselves with the faith that the spiritual renewal of Russia and the liberation of the Church will yet occur. We believe that if the world does not perish, sooner or later in liberated Russia there will be a Local Council of our Church, to which the fruits of their labours and exploits for the long period without a Council (for one cannot call Councils those convocations of Soviet hierarchs which the Council for Religious Affairs organizes together with the patriarchate) will be brought forth by the Moscow Patriarchate and the by the persecuted Russian ‘Catacomb’ Church, to which the authors of this article belong, and of the continuing existence of which they consider it a sacred duty to bear witness at the first opportunity that has offered itself. To this future Council the ‘Catacomb’ Church will bring the testimony of the purity of her faith, unstained by any kind of compromise with the enemies of Christ; for prayer that has been bought is impure prayer. The ‘Catacomb’ Church will bring also the testimony of the exploits in the name of Christ of her martyrs and confessors… She will bring also the testimony of her unwavering faith in Jesus Christ, by which alone she has fortified herself and lived already for decades, preserved by Divine Grace amidst persecutions and betrayals. For just as the Soviet kingdom is a prefiguration of the Antichrist, so also the ‘Catacomb’ Church is the nearest of all prefigurations of the Church in the time of the Antichrist – the Woman clothed with the sun who has fled into the wilderness. Her garments are woven of the exploits of saints. Just as in the time of the Prophet Elijah, the Lord has preserved for Himself seven thousand faithful, until the time known to Him alone.
“Our Church lives a difficult life; her members are mercilessly exterminated by the authorities; we are betrayed by brethren who consider themselves Orthodox. We are scattered like wheat, but we believe that in the hour when it is necessary Christ will send His faithful disciple, who will strengthen His brethren. Together with the Apostle Paul we dare to say: ‘We are not of them that shrink back to perdition, but of them that have faith unto the saving of the soul’ (Hebrews 10.39). And this our faith, ‘by which kingdoms are subdued’ (Hebrews 11.33), gives us the strength to await the hour of God’s visitation. ‘God is with us, understand, ye peoples, and submit, for God is with us!”
The second document is a sermon by Archbishop Averky of Syracuse: “It must be absolutely clear to every rational believing Russian person that if the first Time of Troubles lasted for only 15 years, while the second one now, which is many times more terrible, has continued already for more than fifty years, and up to now no ray of hope is visible, then this is only because that former burning faith does not exist in Russian people, and there is no real, sincere feeling of repentance, no true and effective prayer and the required hope on help from on high – on the intercession of the fervent Defender of the Christian race, who has so often saved the Russian land in a wondrous manner…
“The main task of the contemporary Russian person who sincerely longs for the salvation of our Homeland Russia, therefore is: not to fight savagely over forms of government, not to construct any purely human plans, and work out political programmes, but to take all measures, with the help of God, decisively to eliminate everything that hinders sincere, unhypocritical repentance, and never in any way to return to those moods which brought our Russia to destruction. Lack of faith, godlessness, carnal impurity and dissolution, nihilism and cosmopolitanism, neglect and disdain for all that which is native and holy from ages past – all this must become completely foreign to the soul of the Russian person, if he really wants to see the Homeland resurrected to new life.
“There is not, and cannot be, any other path for the salvation of Russia!
“Then, when this saving metamorphosis in the souls and hearts of Russian people takes place, they will be able sincerely, from the depths of their souls, in tears of repentance, to call on the fervent Defender of the Christian race: ‘O Sovereign Lady and Queen, help and defend all of us who in troubles and sorrows, in illnesses and burdened with many sins, stand before they most pure icon with tears, praying to thee with compunction of soul and contrition of heart’… and truly, ‘with one heart and mouth’, they will prayerfully cry out as they cried out before: “O Mother of God! Save the Russian Land!”
The third document is a sermon on Russia by the great wonderworker and apostle of the Russian diaspora, the recently canonized Archbishop John Maximovich of Shanghai, Western Europe and San Francisco: “Russia will arise as she arose before. She will arise when faith is enkindled. When people arise spiritually and a clear, firm faith in the truth of the words of the Saviour will become dear to them: ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness and all the rest will be given to you’. Russia will arise when she loves the Faith and confession of Orthodoxy, when she sees and loves the Orthodox righteous and confessors.
“Today, on the day of all the Saints who shone forth in the Russian land, the Church points them out and the Orthodox see with spiritual joy how many there are in the Kingdom of God! And what an innumerable number who have not yet been glorified here. See how silently and calmly Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev goes to his death. The murderers lead him out of the gates of the Lavra to kill him outside the city, as they killed the Lord and Saviour, and the hierarch silently, like a lamb ready for the slaughter, accepts death for Christ, for the Faith, for the Russian Church, for the fact that he sought first of all to acquire the Kingdom of God, eternal life.
“A multitude of martyrs and confessors, and again we see the blessing of God on their exploit of faith, and again we see the incorruption of their relics: the bodies of the righteous who already live according to the laws of the life to come, where there is no suffering and corruption, to which the incorruption of their relics testifies. Thus incorrupt are the remains of Great Princess Elizabeth Fyodorovna, which repose in the Gethsemane monastery, witnessing to her righteousness in the eyes of God.
“Russia will arise when she raises her eyes and sees all the Saints who shone forth in the Russian land alive in the Kingdom of God, and sees that in them is the spirit of eternal life, and that we have to be with them and spiritually take hold of and commune of their eternal life. In this is the salvation of Russia and the whole world…
“Faithfulness to the command ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness’ (Matthew 6.33) created Russian humility, it humbled also the powers that be, and in the days of its greatest earthly glory Russian power, in the mouth of Emperor Alexander I, confessed itself to be a Christian power, and on the memorial of its glory was written: ‘Not unto us, not unto us, but unto Thy Name’.
“The Russian heavens, the Russian Saints call us to be with them, as they are with us. They call on us to commune of the spirit of eternal life – that spirit which the whole world thirsts for.
“The whole world, which has lost the spirit of life and which trembles in fear as if before an earthquake, needs the arising of Russia.
“Russia awaits a Christ-loving army, Christ-loving Tsars and leaders, who will lead the Russian people not for earthly glory, but for the sake of faithfulness to the Russian Path of Righteousness.
“’Not unto us, not unto us, but unto Thy Name’.
“In repentance, in faith, in cleansing may the Russian land be renewed and may Holy Russia arise.”