Fundamentalist criticism of Moscow patriarchate continues


by Aleksei Mikheev

RIA Novosti, 19 April 2016


The Russian Orthodox Church (RPTs), in the person of its primate, Patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus Kirill, does not see reasons for refusing to conduct the Pan-Orthodox Council on the Greek island of Crete or to participate itself in it, despite the fact that a multitude of its suggestions on organizing the meeting were not heard, the head of the Department of External Church Relations [OVTsS] of the Moscow patriarchate, Metropolitan of Volokolamsk Ilarion, declared on Tuesday.


"The Russian church and His Holiness the patriarch frequently spoke critically of the precouncil process. Some of our suggestions remained unheeded, but this does not give us grounds for refusing to participate in the council. I would like to emphasize that the suggestions of the Russian church for improving the work of the council and the adoption of documents had to receive the support of all local Orthodox churches, . . . and that is not always a simple process," the director of OVTsS said at a conference in the St. Tikhon's Orthodox Humanities University.


He noted that thanks to the efforts of the RPTs delegation, they managed to achieve the removal of many tense moments in the formulation of the agenda of the council, particularly that any discussion of the so-called calendar question was removed. "An absolute majority of our believers do not want even to discuss this problem and it does not exist at all for us," the hierarch emphasized.


However he said that concerns regarding the topics of the upcoming conference still have arisen, since "church institutions receive stacks of letters of identical contents supposedly from concerned Orthodox believers with demands specifically to condemn the heresy of ecumenism, to withdraw from the World Council of Churches, and to conduct a local council of the Russian church instead of the Pan-Orthodox Council."


"These letters, as if written with carbon paper, also contain demands to publish all documents of the council, although they were published in full long ago," Metropolitan Ilarion explained.


He also touched on criticism of the meeting of Patriarch Kirill with Roman Pope Francis held in Havana. "We are asked why the patriarch did not say to the pope's face: 'You are a heretic,'" the clergyman said. "If the meeting were intended to be without results or with negative results, this probably would make sense. But it was intended to have an impact on the development of events occurring in the world." (tr. by PDS, posted 20 April 2016)



by Aleksei Mikheev

RIA Novosti, 19 April 2016


Texts of documents which will be considered at the Pan-Orthodox Council on Crete are unclear and confusing and they evoke serious concerns in European Orthodox dioceses, the vice-chairman of the Bishops' Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), Archbishop of Berlin and Germany Mark, declared on Tuesday at a conference in Moscow.


"The document that was adopted 'Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world' evokes caution from the point of view of ecclesiology. It is unclear and confusing; it talks all the time about the existence of other churches, and for us this is unacceptable," the clergyman said during his speech in the St. Tikhon's Orthodox Humanities University.


He noted that in Russia people relate to other Christian confessions, particularly protestant communities, "more favorably than in Europe." "We live beside them and we have a more acute perception of such a topic," Archbishop Mark added. He said that the document being discussed does not say that the division of churches, which has continued to the present day, occurred as the result of schisms and heresies. "We cannot say to a protestant every day that 'you are a heretic,' but we should remember that," the hierarch emphasized.


He mentioned that the text "constantly speaks about a mysterious Christian unity," but "nowhere is it said what that is." It says that this lost unity should be restored, but its restoration cannot happen in nebulous ways. The bishop thinks that the Orthodox church cannot "simply take and say that we suggest everybody return." He said also that it is impossible to speak about some kind of equality of confessions.


"It would be much easier to call the upcoming council a conference, not a council. This would remove all the tension that exists among people," Archbishop Mark concluded. (tr. by PDS, posted 20 April 2016)



RIA Novosti, 20 April 2016


The Moscow patriarchate promises to take into account in editing drafts of documents of the Pan-Orthodox Council constructive criticisms that have been sent on the part of various hierarchs and theologians. This was reported Wednesday by the communications service of the Department of External Church Relations (OVTsS) of the Moscow patriarchate on the basis of the results of a research and practice conference, "The Pan-Orthodox Council: Opinions and Expectations."


The head of the department, Metropolitan of Volokolamsk Ilarion, said that the key point is "the question of the reception of the decisions of the Pan-Orthodox Council," which is scheduled for 18-26 June on Crete.


"The documents have been published; they have met certain criticism, and we are hearing it from various parties and various local churches, and it is impossible not to pay attention," Metropolitan Ilarion declared, whose words were quoted by the communications service of the OVTsS.


The head of the synodal department noted that "constructive criticism is important so that afterward the decisions which will be adopted at the council will not provoke rejection on the part of our believers." "It is better that we heed these critical comments and react to them now. It is better that we take them to the Pan-Orthodox Council than that the entire critical wave advance after the council," Ilarion said.


Particularly, earlier the Bishops' Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) issued a statement that pointed to "serious shortcomings" in several documents of the Pan-Orthodox Council. Thus, in the opinion of ROCOR hierarchs, one of the draft of documents speaks incorrectly about Christian unity as something that has been "lost;" while nowhere in the text is the division among Christians defined, following the rules of the Holy Fathers and canons of the ecumenical councils, as the consequence of schisms and heresies. The statement of the ROCOR synod notes that it is necessary for the council's document "to declare that the real absence of unity among Christians today is the loss of unity by the heterodox from the Orthodox church, and the way to its healing, which could give humanity genuine unity, is repentance for schisms and heresies and return to the single church, whose unity has never been lost."


Metropolitan Ilarion acknowledged that alongside "completely serious and constructive theological criticism, which has come from hierarchs and theologians," there has also been "provocational criticism spread simply in order to undermine the unity of the church."


In the concluding resolution, conference participants expressed thanks to Patriarch Kirill and the delegation of the Russian church "for active work in defense of the truth of sacred Orthodoxy" in the inter-Orthodox precouncil conferences. At the same time, the resolution contains the request "to pay attention to the opinion of conference participants about the drafts of the documents of the council, reflecting concern on the part of the flock of the Russian Orthodox Church, and to bring them to the attention of the primates of local Orthodox churches." (tr. by PDS, posted 21 April 2016)



Interfax-Religiia, 20 April 2016


The Russian church expressed concern about a campaign against Patriarch Kirill in response to his meeting in Havana with Roman Pope Francis.


"It is impossible to call this campaign of protests that has been unleashed recently against the primate of the Russian Orthodox Church, His Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus Kirill, because of his meeting with Roman Pope Francis on 12 February in Havana and the joint declaration they signed anything other than pharisaism," the head of the synod's Department of External Church Relations, Metropolitan of Volokolamsk Ilarion declared, speaking Wednesday at the Moscow Ecclesiastical Academy.


The patriarch elaborated that he had in mind primarily "statements of one bishop, several clerics, and several of the laity, and speeches of participants in two obscure assemblages organized in St. Petersburg and Moscow, as well as letters with protests arriving at the Moscow patriarchate, the Department of External Church Relations, and several other synodal institutions."


"These letters, written as if with carbon paper, contain identical accusations, flowing from one author to another. All these statements, protests, and accusations unite their attempt to prove that the meeting of His Holiness the patriarch with the pope allegedly violates the letter of Orthodox canons, the teaching of the Holy Fathers, and rules according to which the Russian Orthodox Church lives," he noted.


Having recalled that the chief theme of the meeting was defense of Middle Eastern Christians, the representative of the church asked why the "zealots for Orthodoxy" do not hold a conference in support of the persecuted or collect resources for aid to refugees.


"Instead of this, they arrange shameful schismatic gatherings at which they condemn the peacemaking efforts of the hierarchy and call for not commemorating His Holiness the patriarch in the liturgy. What is this if it is not an excessive expression of pharisaism and hypocrisy?" he declared.


In the metropolitan's opinion, critics of the patriarch push the church "into isolation and schism," and would wish to turn it "into a sect like their own assemblages."


"These people speak out against the active public position that the church now occupies. They would like for the patriarch not to meet with anybody, not to speak anywhere, not to have allies, and to sit in isolation. In their ideal, they would wish to see our church like some Old Believer concords, who do not have any contact at all with the outside world, and all authority within them belongs to laity," he said.


The hierarch called critics "to come to their senses, repent, and stop deceiving gullible and credulous people with their horror stories that have nothing in common with reality." (tr. by PDS, posted 21 April 2016)

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