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Ukrainian church politics in critical state
UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH CALLS CONSTANTINOPLE PATRIARCH NOT TO
INTERFERE IN ITS AFFAIRS
24 July 2008
The Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox church called Patriarch of
Constantinople Bartholomew to cease interference in its affairs.
"The Ukrainian Orthodox church is able to resolve its own internal
problems independently. Help from other local churches should not turn
into interference in the internal affairs of our church," an appeal to
Patriarch Bartholomew noted, which was adopted at an extraordinary,
enlarged session of the synod of the Ukrainian church and published on
the official site of the Moscow patriarchate.
Members of the synod declared that all initiatives for overcoming the
church schism in the country should have the consent of the Ukrainian
Orthodox church as "the only recognized Orthodox church in Ukraine,"
and the only member of the family of local churches.
In addition, the synod of the Ukrainian church declared undesirable the
interference in this process of state authorities and various political
and public forces; in the opinion of participants in the session, such
interference always leads to "severe conflicts which may take many
years to overcome."
At the same time, the appeal to Patriarch Bartholomew emphasized that
in the history of the Constantinople patriarchate of recent centuries
"one can see many example of how the interference of politicians in
church affairs has led to painful church divisions."
"The present situation in Ukraine is no exception. It is the
interference of political forces in church affairs that has led to the
existing schism," members of the synod of the Ukrainian church think.
The head of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow
patriarchate, Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad Kirill, also
participated in the synod session, at the invitation of Metropolitan of
Kiev Vladimir. (tr. by PDS, posted 24 July 2008)
PREPARING TO GO TO KIEV, PATRIARCH ALEXIS II SENDS LETTERS TO LEADERS
OF LOCAL CHURCHES WITH URGENT REQUEST NOT TO GO TO UKRAINIAN CAPITAL.
23 July 2008
The Internet edition of "Orthodoxy in Ukraine" of the UPTsMP posted a
photo copy of a sensational letter from Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow
and all-Rus to Catholicos Patriarch of all-Georgia Ilia II in which the
primate of RPTsMP recommends to the Georgian patriarch that he not come
to Kiev for the celebration of the 1020th anniversary of the Baptism of
Kievan Rus. Observers suggest that such letters from the head of
RPTsMP, who plans himself to arrive in Kiev on 26 July, were sent to
all primates of local Orthodox churches.
In the letter, the primate of RPTsMP "fraternally" shares "his concern
in connection with plans of the Ukrainian authorities relative to
future celebrations." "At the time of negotiations with authorized
persons of the Ukrainian government, responsible for preparing the
holiday events, we learned of the firm intention of the president of
Ukraine to invite to the celebration not only Orthodox hierarchs but
also leaders of all religious confessions existing in Ukraine," the
The invitation of heads of UPTsKP and UAPTs and hierarchs of Ukrainian
Greek Catholics and other churches to the celebrations causes special
resentment on the part of the Moscow patriarch. "Circumstances
which have developed in connection with the possibility of grievous
offence of the faithful and threats of new divisions make it impossible
for us to participate in events on the state's schedule in which
schismatics participate," Patriarch Alexis warns. He also notes:
"With profound regret we are forced to request Your Holiness to refrain
from personal participation in the festivities so that under the
circumstances that have developed, independently of us, the fact of
your presence would not be interpreted as a manifestation of support
for anticanonical actions."
Despite the letter, Patriarch Ilia nevertheless will arrive in Ukraine
for the celebrations.
Quotes [in Russian] from the letter of the head of RPTsMP have been
made by back translation from Ukrainian. The full text of the letter is
scheduled for publication on our Portal-credo.ru on 24 July. (tr.
by PDS, posted 24 July 2008)
VIKTOR YUSHCHENKO AWARDS ORDEER OF YAROSLAV THE WISE SIMULTANEOUSLY TO
HEADS OF UPTsKP, UPTsMP AND UGKTS ON EVE OF 1020-th ANNIVERSARY OF
BAPTISM OF KIEVAN RUS
24 July 2008
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko awarded on 23 July the Order of
Yaroslav the Wise (1st degree) simultaneously to Metropolitan of Kiev
and all-Ukraine Vladimir of UPTsMP, and to the head of UPTsKP (whom he
"anathematized"), Patriarch of Kiev and all-Rus-Ukraine Filaret,
and the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic church, Supreme Archbishop
Cardinal Liubomir Guzar.
The highest state award of Ukraine was presented by the president of
the country to religious leaders after a session of the All-Ukrainian
Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, devoted to the
celebration of the 1020th anniversary of the Baptism of Kievan Rus,
which was held in Kiev, the Ukrainian edition of the "Kommersant"
Participants in the ceremony called attention to a curious detail. When
the marshal of the ceremony began announcing the name of the head of
the Ukrainian Orthodox church of the Kievan patriarchate, Metropolitan
Vladimir rose from his seat which, according to official Ukrainian
protocol, he yielded to Patriarch Filaret. (tr. by PDS, posted 24 July
AUTHORITIES' ATTEMPTS TO CREATE INDEPENDENT UKRAINIAN CHURCH COMPLICATE
24 July 2008
Participants in an international conference in Kiev, "The 1020th
Anniversary of the Baptism of Rus; to the question of the
civilizational choice of Russia and Ukraine," expressed concern over
the attempts to politicize the celebrations in Kiev on the occasion of
"It is difficult to overrate the significance for our common history of
the Baptism of Rus, the triumph of light over darkness and civilization
over barbarism. If we all really believe this, the upcoming days in
Kiev will be a celebration and a real sign of love and brotherhood,"
says a declaration summing up the conference, which was held on 22-23
July on the initiative of the Institute of the Countries of CIS in the
Ukrainian affiliate of this organization in Kiev.
"But we cannot help but express serious alarm in connection with
attempts made by the Ukrainian authorities to politicize the jubilee
for the sake of achieving the dubious goals of the creation of a
so-called 'united local church,'" states the document, which was
delivered on Thursday to Interfax-religiia.
According to the participants in the meeting, "the persistence with
which the state authorities in Ukraine have directly and crudely
interfered in the affairs of Orthodoxy, under the slogan of 'unity,'
promoting the schism of the Ukrainian church from Moscow, cannot help
but engender new disturbances and worries in the souls of believers who
have only just been brought into the church after decades of militant
"We protest against the tactics of all manner of intrigues with regard
to His Holiness Patriarch Alexis II, wishing to cause conflict between
the Moscow and the Ecumenical (Constantinople—"IF") patriarchs and
persecutions of Orthodox citizens of Ukraine who advocate the unity of
canonical Orthodoxy," the declaration says.
As its authors noted, such phenomena appeared also in the present
conference, one of whose invited participants, the head of the Union of
Orthodox Citizens of Ukraine, Valery Kaurov, was arrested on the eve of
the event in Odessa, and another, the announcer of the TV program
"Postscript," Aleksei Pushkov, was not able to get to Ukraine because
of a conflict with the confiscation in Kiev of journalists' video
materials made for his program in preparation for the jubilee of the
"We would like to hope that the Ukrainian authorities will display
real, and not false, hospitality to His Holiness Patriarch of Moscow
and all-Rus, and we express alarm about the latest attempts to turn the
holiday of the Baptism into a settling of accounts regarding the unity
of Russian and Ukrainian Orthodoxy. We are convinced that such attempts
will not happen without consequences both for their initiators and for
Ukrainian-Russian relations as a whole," the participants in the event
stress. . . . (tr. by PDS, posted 24 July 2008)
UKRAINIAN CHURCH CONFIRMS PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW RECEIVED
REPRESENTATIVES OF UPTsKP and UAPTs IN CONSTANTINOPLE
24 July 2008
Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew received in his residence in
Istanbul the heads of UPTsKP and UAPTs, who are considered by the
Moscow patriarchate as "schismatics," Patriarch Filaret and
Metropolitan Mefody. This was reported to an "Interfax-religiia"
correspondent by the head of the Department of External Church
Relations of the Ukrainian Orthodox church of the Moscow patriarchate,
Archimandrit Kirill Govorun.
The result of this meeting led to an extraordinary Bishops' Council of
UPTsKP, at which tentative ways for overcoming the "canonical
isolation" of this church were discussed.
The head of OVTsS of UPTsMP also reported that in the run-up to the
1020th anniversary of the Baptism of Kievan Rus, Patriarch Bartholomew
sent to heads of all local Orthodox churches invitations to participate
in the Kievan ceremonies and even arranged in Istanbul for press
credentials for coverage of the festivities in Ukraine.
Earlier, representatives of RPTsMP had frequently called on Bartholomew
"to cease interference in the ecclesiastical affairs of Ukraine, which
is the canonical territory of the Moscow patriarchate," and Patriarch
Alexis II personally sent to heads of churches a letter with the urgent
suggestion not to go to Kiev. (tr. by PDS, posted 24 July 2008)
GEORGIAN PATRIARCH DECIDES TO FULFILL MOSCOW'S REQUEST AND NOT GO TO
CEREMONIES IN KIEV
24 July 2008
Patriarch of all-Georgia Ilia II decided to heed the urgent request of
Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus and not take part in
celebrations of the 1020th anniversary of the Baptism of Kievan Rus,
which are beginning in Kiev. This was reported on the "Orthodoxy in
Ukraine" site, citing a source in OVTsS UPTsMP.
Thus, at the level of church heads, beside the Moscow and
Constantinople patriarchs, only the Greek (Archbishop Hieronymos) and
Albanian (Archbishop Anastasy) churches will be represented at the
The Georgian church will be represented at the holiday in Kiev by an
official delegation, and the Cypriot church, whose primate was in
Moscow several days ago, will possibly completely abstain from
participation in the celebrations.
According to the chairman of OVTsS UPTsMP, many representatives of
local Orthodox churches have sent questions to his office concerning
the desirability of participation in the jubilee events. (tr. by PDS,
posted 24 July 2008)
YUSHCHENKO CALLS JOURNALISTS "TO BE UKRAINIANS" AND NOT SPECULATE ON
TOPIC OF CONSTANTINOPLE PATRIARCH'S VISIT TO UKRAINE
24 July 2008
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko asked journalists not to
speculate on the topic of the visit of Patriarch of Constantinople
Bartholomew and the celebrations devoted to the 1020th anniversary of
the Baptism of Rus.
As Yushchenko said on Thursday at a press conference in Kiev, he
understands well that there will be much speculation around the events
connected with the 1020th anniversary of the Baptism and the visit of
the Constantinople patriarch.
"There will be colossal attempts to use journalists in order to present
incorrectly the role, place, and significance of this event," the
president said. At the same time he called journalists "to be
Ukrainians and take a dignified position."
Yushchenko called the visit of Patriarch Bartholomew a great event for
Ukraine. "It is a colossal honor for our land and for our people
to meet the Ecumenical patriarch," the president declared, noting that
this is the first visit of a patriarch of Constantinople to Ukrainian
land in the past 350 years (although the last visit by Patriarch
Bartholomew to Ukraine took place in 1997—"IF").
"It seems to me that this visit establishes fundamental processes for
the consolidation of Ukrainian Orthodoxy, which should bring us to a
united local church," the president noted.
Viktor Yushchenko again gave assurances that he will do everything
possible so that in Ukraine there will be a united local Orthodox
church. (tr. by PDS, posted 24 July 2008)
YUSHCHENKO SELECTS A PATRIARCH FOR HIMSELF
1020th anniversary of Baptism of Rus may lead to new schism
by Boris Klin
Izvestiia, 24 July 2008
Ceremonies devoted to the 1020th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus are
being presented by Kiev as a demonstration of the unity of Orthodox
peoples. But in the end one gets the impression that the jubilee has
been arranged in order to deliver a mighty blow to the Russian Orthodox
church. For the time being this operation is proceeding successfully.
One need only walk around Kiev and it becomes clear: Patriarch
Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus, who is preparing to arrive in Kiev on
Saturday, will be in second place in this holiday. Experts predict an
uproar and the most pessimistic of them see something like a
catastrophe for Orthodoxy.
"Ukraine welcomes Patriarch Bartholomew": such posters decorate all of
Kiev. In the majority of them President Yushchenko stands next to the
patriarch of Constantinople.
The authorities have announced that the visit of their Turkish guest
will proceed "according to the same protocol as for the Roman pope."
Events in which the patriarch of Constinople participates will be
broadcast simultaneously by five Ukrainian TV channels. What is such
It is hoped in Kiev that he finally will recognize the schismatics of
the so-called Kievan patriarchate (UPTsKP) and the Ukrainian
Autocephalous Church (UAPTs). These organizations arose with the
support of the Ukrainian authorities after the fall of USSR. From the
point of view of official Kiev, their main virtue is independence from
Moscow. The problem is that the Ukrainian Orthodox church of the Moscow
patriarchate is considered legal by world Orthodoxy, and UPTsKP and
UAPTs are considered schismatics.
So now it is hoped in Kiev that Patriarch Bartholomew will recognize at
least one of them. A more likely scenario is thought to be the
acceptance of UPTsKP with "Patriarch Filaret," and of UAPTs with
"Metropolitan Mefody" in the capacity of a metropolia of the
Constantinople patriarchate. This step could be taken at a time when
Patriarch Alexis is still in Ukraine; everything is ready in Kiev for
the appearance of a church that is in no way subordinate to Moscow.
Whether Yushchenko has already managed to get the consent to this of
Bartholomew will become clear at the end of the week. For now the head
of the press service of UPTs of the Moscow patriarchate, Vasily
Anisimov, says:: "People are being brought by bus from all over
the country to Kiev; they want to assemble 50,000 persons. They hint
that Patriarch Bartholomew will say something important about Filaret
A quite different reception awaits His Holiness Patriarch Alexis
II. President Yushchenko does not plan to meet him. In Kiev there
is still no mention of Alexis's visit to Ukraine, which, incidentally,
is the first in ten years. The Moscow patriarchate reported that
attempts to decorate Kiev with posters "Ukraine greets its patriarch"
were met with the prohibition of the authorities. Yesterday the
situation with the posters was resolved; they appeared, but in minimal
quantity. And just yesterday evening the Kievan authorities finally
gave permission for holding a concert of the groups DDT and "Brothers
Karamazov," which was supposed to be held with the blessing of the
patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus. The Ukrainian Ministry of Internal
Affairs issued a warning: Alexis II's arrival may provoke protest
In itself the invitation by President Yushchenko to Patriarch
Bartholomew was a kind of diplomatic chicanery with respect to RPTs.
The Turkish guest, who lost his flock long ago, but who retains the
title of "Ecumenical," is considered first by right of "honor." But it
would nevertheless be quite logical to expect that the chief guest at
the celebration of the Baptism of Rus would be its, Rus', patriarch.
However for him the authorities still have prepared a role of second
rank, at a minimum.
And what if Bartholomew still recognizes the "self-anointed ones"?
Russian and Ukrainian scholars tried to find the answer to this
question at a conference in Kiev on 22 July. Political scientist and
State Duma deputy Sergei Markov thinks that the transfer of the
schismatics to the jurisdiction of Constantinople will lead to a sharp
reduction of the number of Orthodox believers in Ukraine. He said that
it was like that in Poland in 1924; the Polish church did this under
pressure from the government and the number of its parishes was reduced
to one tenth. "We will still commune from a common cup; there will be
no military conflict between Russia and Ukraine," the director of the
Institute of the Countries of CIS, State Duma Konstantin Zatulin gave
assurances. He recalled the civil wars in Yugoslavia: "After all,
this was a single nation, speaking the same language. They simply
grazed in different places." The chief editor of "Political Class"
journal, Vitaly Tretiakov, thinks the struggle over the church is a
consequence of the struggle between the West and the East for
Ukraine. And he adds sadly: a civilizational schism in
Ukraine is inevitable.
And here the Ukrainian scholar, associate of the Institute for the
Study of Russia, Viktor Konstantinov, sees the chief threat not in a
civilizational schism. The church may lose trust as a public
institution: "In ratings of trust, churches today occupy the
first places, but as soon as hierarchs act like politicians, trust
immediately falls. For example, the rating of confidence in the
Armenian church fell 5 to 6 percent after the Armenian monks fought
with the Greeks in Jerusalem. People willingly forgive a fight in the
parliaments, but not monks in churches. (tr. by PDS, posted 24 July
Russian original posted on Interfax
site, 24 July 2008
Prominent soviet-era dissidents challenge Moscow patriarchate (again)
DOCUMENT: Open letter from priest Gleb Yakunin and historian Lev
Regelson to primate of UPTsMP Metropolitan Vladimir and Moscow
Your Blessedness, Monsignor Vladimir
The celebration of the millennium of the Baptism of Rus in Moscow in
1988 was marked by radical changes in the social status of RP:Ts: for
the first time in many centuries the harsh governmental dictatorship
was removed. At the time it seemed that nothing could prevent the
church from displaying its incarnational nature and become for society
the living image of active love and supreme morality.
However the opposite has happened: under conditions of freedom the
chronic illness of the church only worsened and now has entered the
stage of acute crisis. This crisis is displayed in the conflict between
the hierarchy of RPTs and the rebel bishop of Anadyr and Chukotka
Diomid. Having long ago received from his theses accusing them "the
constantly growing heretical teaching of ecumenism" and other
deviations from the purity of Orthodoxy, the leadership of the church,
shaken by the unprecedented impudence of a provincial bishop, displayed
their own helplessness and incompetence in theological dialogue and
intrachurch diplomacy. In the end, the reaction of the Bishops' Council
was hysterical and aggressive and only intensified the acuteness of the
For us there are two obvious causes of the contemporary crisis on the
church. The first is that the ideology of utopian fundamentalism, with
which Bishop Diomid has armed himself, matured long ago and has been
intentionally implanted in broad strata of the Russian church, from the
upper hierarchy to the "unchurched laity." The second is the
uncanonical, anticonciliar, bureaucratic structure of the Moscow
patriarchate, because of which a vacuum has formed between the
totalitarian church authority and the believing people who are deprived
of genuine spiritual training and enlightenment. In an atmosphere of
religious ignorance the people easily are bewitched by apocalyptic
myths, medieval fears, and nationalist historical utopias.
The Diomidite ideology finds its foots in the idea of the Pan-Orthodox
Conference of 1948, which in terms of its representation and the scope
of questions discussed laid claim to the status of an Ecumenical
Orthodox council. The conference was held on the initiative and under
the control of Josef Stalin, who intended at the time to "sanctify"
Marxism with the Sergianite ideology which would cater to his regime
and facilitate the achievement of world dominance of the soviet empire
as the Third Rome. Russian church historian Johann Chrisotomos,
assessed the significance of this conference thus:
"At the center of attention of the organizers of the conference was
located world Orthodoxy. It was supposed to show itself as a moral
force upon which the eastern bloc could operate in contradiction to the
other churches of countries of the free world" (Church History of
Russia in Modern Times," in German, 1965-68, vol. 3, p. 119)
According to Stalin's intent, the center of Orthodox should be
transferred from Constantinople to Moscow, which would make not the
ecumenical patriarch but the Moscow patriarch the head of world
Orthodoxy. "The leader and teacher of all progressive humanity"
would assume the figure of the Orthodox emperor; and this nightmarish
parody was accepted by the Russian church hierarchy with sincere
The Pan-Orthodox Conference of 1948 (whose decision have never been
rescinded) adopted the resolution "The Ecumenical Movement and the
Orthodox Church" which opposed the ecumenical initiatives of
Catholicism and Protestantism.
Before Bishop Diomid, the positions of the conference of 1948 were
developed in the works of Metropolitan Ioann Snychev, who from 1990
occupied the Leningrad see. His book are still being published in
colossal edition and they are dominant among the religious literature
that is distributed through Orthodox churches, while Metropolitan Ioann
is honored by many as a contemporary "teacher of the church." The basic
ideas of his "confession" are Russian Orthodox exclusivity, struggle
with non-Orthodox Christians, monarchical utopianism and antidemocracy,
xenophobia, and antiglobalism. Representing, in essence, a development
of the positions of the conference of 1948, the works of Metropolitan
Ioann have become the chief source of "Christian enlightenment" for a
whole generation of believing Russian people.
Bishop Diomid preaches the confession of Metropolitan Ioann, which is
shared by the majority of the hierarchy of RPTs. Obviously it is for
this reason that the Chukotka rebel was not subjected to some kind of
doctrinal accusation but the measures to which he was subjected,
without a trial and investigation in an unprecedented extra-mural
procedure, were based solely upon disciplinary violation which
supposedly occurred on his part. But Diomid, in contrast with
Metropolitan Ioann and the leadership of the patriarchate, is a
convinced antisergianite and an opponent of "spiritual compromise
(neosergianism), that subordinates the church authorities to the
secular, often antitheist authorities, infringing upon god-given
The role of initiator in the suppression of the Diomidite uprising has
been taken on by one of the three most influential hierarchs of the
Moscow patriarchate, Metropolitan Kirill Gundiaev. A worthy disciple of
Metropolitan Nikodim Rotov, he, chameleon-like, has changed his
ideological orientation, compliantly fulfilling any order from the
state authorities. If Metropolitan Nikodim tried to theologically
"unite" Orthodoxy with communism and place all interconfessional
contacts under KGB control, then Metropolitan Kirill is heading up the
World Russian Assembly, has worked out the concept of social service of
the church, and has taught Russian legislators how to understand
correctly the juridical and humanitarian principles of human rights.
The billionaire (in dollars) who holds in his hands the ecumenical
contacts and has for years appeared on television screens, Metropolitan
Kirill, like his late patron, presents himself as an ideal target for
Diomid's attacks, and for engendering among church people obscure
conspiratorial legends and alarming apocalyptic rumors.
As in former times, "heresies walk in pairs," presenting themselves as
mutually exclusive rationalistic or mystical distortions of the truth.
Also as before, one can discover this truth only on the narrow line
between contradictory false teachings: in the patristic era, between
Nestorianism and monophysitism; yesterday, between Nikomidovism and
Snychevism; and today, between Kirillism and Diomidism. Of course, no
kind of opinion can be subject to canonical prohibition, so long as it
has not been condemned by the conciliar reason of the church, but we
also have the right and even the obligation to sincerely and
responsible express our attitude toward these false and harmful
The chief false teaching of our time, the swamp from which all the
others flourish, is the ecclesiological heresy of sergianism. The
spiritual illnesses of the contemporary church take their origin from
the uncanonical, pseudoecclesiastical innovation—the sergianite Synod
formed in 1927. It is no accident that the leading figures of the
Moscow patriarchate, the Nikodimites, Snychevites, conservative
bureaucratic functionaries, despite all the disagreements among
themselves, unanimously sing the hymns of praise addressed to
Metropolitan Sergius Stragorodsky, calling him "the great pilot of the
church ship" and "caretaker of the House of the Lord."
For a way out of the blind alley of sergianism the church needs to
return to the decisions of the local council of 1917-1918, the
violation of which is the source of the crisis of Russian Orthodoxy.
Today the Moscow patriarchate faces a question of life and death:
either a saving acceptance of the ecclesiological truths of the great
council or cessation of its historical existence in the capacity of a
The experience of church life in the post-stalin epoch has shown that
even in those conditions it was possible to achieve the personal feat
of one, single bishop, who, counting o the support of the church
people, fulfilled to the end his archpastoral church ministry, despite
the wishes of the secular powers and the accompaniment of the entire
"episcopal corps." We have in mind Archbishop Ermogen Golubev, your
fellow countryman, son of the famous professor of the Kiev
Ecclesiastical Academy, who was personally ordained a priest by
Patriarch Tikhon and installed as abbot of the Kiev caves lavra. This
outstanding hierarch, who served a lengthy term in prison camp
and was, by an "oversight" accepted into the ranks of the episcopate in
the "stalin convocation," did not allow during the time of the
Khrushchev campaign the closing of a single church in the Tashkent,
Omsk, and Kaluga dioceses which he successively ruled. More than that,
what seemed quite unthinkable, he built several new churches—a first in
all of the soviet epoch (of course, under the pretext of "repair"),
including an enormous cathedral church in Tashkent.
Sentenced by the bishops led by Patriarc Alexis I, for his "conflicts"
with the secular authorities, to forced retirement, Master Ermogen did
not remain retired and in his new capacity continued to fulfill his
Episcopal duties. In his letter to the patriarch on the occasion of the
fiftieth anniversary of the restoration of the patriarchate he subject
to critical analysis the canonical divergences of the patriarchate from
the resolutions of the local council of 1917-1918. This analysis
retains its pertinence entirely to this day. In particular, on the
matter of the necessity of the participation of representatives of the
laity in local councils he wrote:
"From a principled, ecclesiastical canonical point of view the question
of the composition of the council must first of all be decided in
dependence upon the manner of the formation of the episcopacy. If
bishops are elected by dioceses in accordance with procedures
established by church canons and as a consequence of this are really
representatives of their dioceses, then, it seems, the council, as a
representative organ of the church, may consist of bishops only. If
bishops are not elected, as the church canons require, but in violation
of them they are appointed, then it is clear that the episcopate formed
in this way cannot have either the canonical or moral right to
represent those dioceses which did not elect them."
Disagreeing with Master Ermogen in his response, Archbishop Alexis
Ridiger, who then was the chancellor of the patriarchate, wrote:
"According to the sense of what has been expressed, it follows that all
bishops of the synodal period and also after the restoration of the
patriarchate are noncanonical."
This answer was a crafty attempt to create the impression that
Archbishop Erogen had placed in doubt the apostolic succession of the
synodal episcopate. But that is not the point. The question is only
about the canonicity of the representative nature at the local council
if bishops who were appointed from above and not elected and thereby
about the canonicity of such a council. As is known, in the synodal
period there were no local council and, consequently, no higher church
authority, but the council of 1917-1918, which restored the canonical
church structure and the patriarchate, was formed on the basis of the
elective principle. Thus, the honest and simply presentation of the
facts in the bishop's letter turns out to be fatal for the whole
concept of the church's structure established after 1927.
It is impossible to say that "the brother bishops" did not understand
this. The resonse to Master Ermogen's letter on their part was panic,
not to say hysteria.
It is difficult to assess in any other way the statement of the same
Archbishop Alexis, who at a session of the synod on 30 July 1968
literally cried out, addressing Bishop Ermogen who was present at the
session: "The harm inflicted by you must be corrected, erased,
We are convinced that the doctrinal testimony of the most worthy bishop
of the Russian church has never been able to be "corrected, erased, and
Your Blessedness Master Vladimir!
Perhaps now the time has come when the arguments of Master Ermogen
should be carefully studied and placed at the basis of conciliar work
on the restoration of the canonical church structure. Archpriest Pavel
Adelgeim, a disciple of Master Ermogen, has repeated his achievement:
he also at the time of persecutions dared to build a new church, for
which he was harshly punished. Fr Pavel worthily continued the
canonical studies of his teacher. In his book "Doctrine of the church,"
which today may be considered a "clergyman's handbook," he subjects to
a detailed analysis the new bylaws of RPTs, adopted by the bishops'
council of 2000. Fr Pavel shows that all the changes in the bylaws were
directed to restricting the role of the local council and transferring
its authority into the exclusive domain of the episcopate. Thus, in the
previous bylaws of 1988 there was confirmed the key determination of
the council of 1917-1918 that "In RPTs the supreme authority in the
spheres of doctrine, church administration and ecclesiastical
justice—the legislative, executive, and judicial authority—belong to
the local council." The new bylaws declare that the local council has
supreme authority only "in the area of doctrine and canoncal
structure." Thus, "the power of administration and justice,
legislative, executive, and judicial," is transferred from the
competence of the local council in favor of the bishops' council. A
multiplicity of supplementary provisions and restrictions in the new
bylaws strengthen this tendency to transforming the local council into
a demonstrative fiction, not leaving to it any practical possibility of
exercising even doctrinal authority. In particular, even when there are
elected priests and lay persons present, the bylaws provide for a
so-called "bishops' conference" within the local council, to which all
final decisions belong. As a result the church as a whole "of canonical
subdivisions" (as the bylaws of 2000 put it) the most numerous of which
are "parishes and monasteries," actually is deprived of real
participation in the election of the patriarch and the formation of
organs of church administration, a well as in the resolution of
questions of doctrine and canonical structure.
With regard to this Fr Pavel poses the legal question:
"If the church is replaced by an episcopal corporation, then where do
the clergy and the people of the Body of Christ come out? Where is
their place? If the Body of Christ include clergy and people, it is
necessary to recognize that the episcopal corporation does not
constitute the whole church but only a part of it. Then the corporate
interests of bishops may not coincide with general church interests.
The part may deform the whole by virtue of its restrictions."
And further in connection with questions of doctrine he writes:
"Who is the maintainer and spokesman of Christ's truth in the church?
The bishops' college? The clergy and people? Perhaps their conciliar
unity? Then where is the organ in which their voice may be heard?"
In sum, fro the arguments of Archbishop Ermogen and Fr Pavel the
conclusion undoubtedly follows: no canonical local council in the
Moscow patriarchate is in principle possible until there is restored
beforehand the conciliar unity of the church people and the episcopate.
From the impossibility of local councils flows also the absence of the
canonical validity of church authority. The current Moscow patriarchate
has authority only over those whom its has elected, that is, over the
bishops' college. But this authority is purely administrative, that is,
it does not have a mystical or charismatic character, which
Metropolitan Sergius himself also recognized. The last one who
possessed the fullness of church power was His holiness Patriarch
Tikhon, elected at the last canonically valid local council.
The synod, patriarch, or bishops' council may, of course, by
administrative procedure prohibit the ministry of Bishop Diomid, but
only within churches that are under their control. It is quite a
different matter when the current church authorities claim the right of
rescinding episcopal grace, that is, of "divesting from the cloth," and
also of rescinding baptismal grace, "exclusion from the church." Bishop
Diomid has every basis to repeat on this matter the words of one of the
founders of the catacomb church, Metropolitan Joseph, on the occasion
of his punishment on the part of the sergian synod: "Let these
resolutions lie on longsuffering paper and ubiquitous senseless air,
but not upon the living sould of the faithful servants of the church of
We have already expressed our attitude toward the false teaching which
Bishop Diomid preaches, but canon law requires recognition that no
administrative decrees about divestment from the cloth have real force.
The flood of "prohibitions," "divestments," and "exclusions" has for 80
years accompanied the "victorious procession" of the uncanonical organ,
the Moscow patriarchate. But the creators of these punishments obvious
do not believe in their reality. There were so many of them heaped on
the heads of bishops of ROCOR that over there, it seemed, there could
be no remaining traces of grace; but now, after their reunification to
the RPTs they, as if nothing happened, have been accepted into
fellowship in full orders. What happened: for 80 years there was not
grace in ROCOR, but President Putin wanted to reunite the church, and
suddenly it appears. Perhaps there also were persons without grace in
the bishops of the catacomb church prohibited by the patriarchate, but
whom now it canonizes as sacred martyrs.
Your Blessedness Master Vladimir!
The Ukrainian and Russian parts of the Moscow patriarchate are seized
by one and the same ecclesiastical crisis, but the dynamics of the
development of this crisis in Ukraine and Russia are qualitatively
If one ignores the heat of political passions and tries to get to the
profound ecclesiological essence of events that are occurring, then we
will see the most important thing, namely that here in Ukrainian
Orthodox a truly tectonic spiritual feat has been accomplished: before
our very eyes "parish people" have recalled their apostolic descent and
have again been transformed into "church people."
Our hope that the general regeneration of the church may begin with
Ukraine is not utopia or an idle dream. Orthodoxy in Ukraine is a
powerful and growing force. Already today the number of churches in
which the Orthodox liturgy is performed on the territory of Ukraine is
almost equal to that on the territory of Russia, and the number of
active believers is significantly greater! At the same time in Russia,
despite the growth in the number of church buildings, the total number
of worshippers within them is steadily falling, while in Ukraine it is
just as steadily growing. So that the Ukrainian church is not some
small and insignificant part of the entire Russian church but, rather,
it is greater and, we dare say, not an inferior part. Ecclesiastical
healing, which has begun in Ukrain, can fully be spread from here also
to the Russian church which is now the sickest part of the Moscow
We sincerely believe and hope that it will be you who can achieve the
greatest Union in Christian history, the reunification of the
episcopate with the church people proper. Once achieved within the
borders of Ukraine, the regeneration of Orthodox ecclesiology can
become an example for the whole church of Russia.
Moved by these brilliant hopes, we great you on the great jubilee which
now is being celebrated where it should be, there, where the Baptism of
Rus happened and where the living roots of the original Russian church
are preserved. And let this holiday serve as a sign of the beginning of
a new historical process, the healing and regeneration of Orthodox both
in Ukraine and in Russia! (tr. by PDS, posted 24 July 2008)
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