Mark, Archbishop of Berlin and Germany
Munich, 30 January/12 February, 1998
Members of the Hierarchical Synod,
On the afternoon of Thursday, February 5, Vl. Metr. telephoned me informing me that he had received a Declaration signed by me together with Archb. Theophan of the MP and he said that he had known nothing about these dialogues, that I had no right to meet in such dialogues.
I replied to him that I had reported on this at the Sobor. Vladyka repeated that he knew nothing and hung up the phone. On Sunday, February 8, -- our altar feast of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia -- in the morning before Liturgy I received from Vl. Metr. a fax in which it was again confirmed that I had no right to conduct these dialogues and that he imposed upon me a punishment: from that time I was no longer a member of the Synod and "had the right to be present" only at those sessions at which my personal affair would be discussed. This "right" I have no intention of using, and do not intend "to justify myself".
However, in the following I openly set forth my point of view. Vl. Metr. writes to me concerning the dialogues conducted by us within German borders: "The clergy were for some reason silent, saying nothing to me and you also did not make this known to me." The clergy of the German Diocese were not silent. At the Diocesan Convention the clergy composed an appeal to the Hierarchical Sobor held in the Lesna Convent with the request that they bless the dialogues whose goal was the elucidation of the positions involved with a view to the possibility of a future All-Russian Local Council. After an exhaustive discussion of this question, the necessity to clarify our relationship with the other parts of the Russian Orthodox Church was adopted in the Epistle of the Hierarchical Sobor held in Lesna Convent in 1993: "With open discussions we must prepare the ground for the free, genuine and fruitful All-Russian Sobor." On this basis we entered into dialogues with the local bishops and certain of the clergy of the MP in Germany. Subsequently I reported to the Hierarchical Sobor about the dialogues with the representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate in Germany. In Minute No. 1 of the Hierarchical Sobor of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia of 21 August/3 September, 1996, in Part 8, it states: "Archb. Mark recounted to us the discussions which were conducted with the representatives of the MP on our territory." This clearly refers to "discussions" in the plural. Vl. Metr. at that time verbally expressed a positive evaluation of the results of the discussions: the dispelling of the illusions of certain of the clergy of the MP. Now, however, he denies the very fact of my reports about the discussions as well as his knowledge of them. I bow profoundly before the personal podvigs of prayer of our First Hierarch, who rises early in the morning daily to serve the Midnight Service. This exceptional and extremely trying practice at times demands too much from a person, all the more from one of such venerable age. And we all can be so immersed that we can forget things, and can affirm that sleep sometimes overcomes us during sessions. But just because of this, I feel that for the correct direction of our Church needs, the First Hierarch needs an office in which his letters (all the more with those as harsh as this new missive to me) would be reviewed if only as to the reliability of their contents. This purely practical requirement of mine should not trouble anyone; it should not [illegible] about these inadequacies of the Synod's office which I mentioned at the Hierarchical Sobor of 1996 which received my proposal very sympathetically. (cf. Minutes p. 15) The development of these discussions were mentioned twice at this same Sobor of 1996. In the document approved by the Sobor, "Opinion of the Committee on the Question of the Review of 'The Position of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia' ", it states: "We recommend the desirability of continuing and increasing the initial efforts in the Diocese of Germany of conversations with the representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate as well as the possibility of expanding the scope of the participants beyond one diocese. It is desirable to elevate the level of the discussions and attract to them our best theological forces." (Part [?]) It also states: "In anticipation of the summoning of such a Council, it behooves us to strive set up contacts with the other parts of the Local Russian Church, first of all with the Moscow Patriarchate, as heading up the de facto largest part of the Orthodox faithful in Russia." (Part 6) The Metropolitan writes: "Outside your diocese you have no right to any sort of discussions." Independently of the above citations, the Metropolitan himself cites the literal heading of the Declaration of 3/16-12- 1997 where it says: "within the German borders." How can I have been discussing "outside my diocese", since I do not attribute any special significance beyond the borders of our diocese to this document? Repeatedly in recent years the Sobor's measures expressed the need to clarify the relationship with the MP and other parts of the Russian Church. Even at the Sobor of 1994 in San Francisco, Bishop Daniel asked: "Why are we met in Sobor? If the majority of the hierarchs are agreed, and one of the bishops, even the Presiding Bishop, individually abrogates decisions, then there is no use to call a Sobor..." (Minutes No 9, 30 June/13 July, 1994, p. 3) Vl. Metr. writes about some sort temptation which my actions have in some way caused "amongst the clergy, both in Germany, and throughout Europe." I can with complete confidence say that in the German Diocese there is no temptation. On the contrary, the above overtures which I have entered into are met with complete approval by my clergy and my flock. I can state this with such assurance because at our Diocesan conventions all the developments of the present situation in the Russian Church were thoroughly analyzed and discussed. If some temptation has arisen, it is not in the German Diocese, but perhaps there where they have not penetrated to the essence of the words and deeds involved as should be, there where public discussions are evoked by "open letters". A collection of signatures was attempted (of course, behind my back) even in my diocese. A signature to such an "open letter" was given (and that by misunderstanding) only by one priest of my diocese, not a Russian, who did not notice, and as a doubly honorable pastor could not suspect, that the first lines included slanders against our nuns in the Holy Land. But with the honest and open discussion and with attentive reading of, for example, the Declaration of 3/16-12-1997, no temptation should arise. Rather in it is stated only the position which was adhered to by St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco and Vl. Anthony of Geneva and Western Europe, as well as by many other hierarchs and clergy of the Russian Church Outside Russia. Reservations and one-sided interpretations are always possible where there is an absence of calm and open discussion. This we need above all. The words of Vl. Metr. that I, as it were, said nothing to him, are without foundation, as has already been shown. But apart from this, what was the prior experience, in regard to my written statements, in the name of our First Hierarch? At times he paid them no attention, not even taking them into consideration. A more tragic case of such an procedure occurred for me in connection with the consecration of Valentin (Rusantsov). Following my visit to Suzdal -- my first visit to Russia, done with the blessing of the Hierarchical Sobor -- I reported that the ordination of the then Archm. Valentin was a glaring mistake. This letter resulted in no reaction whatsoever from the First Hierarch. When I later asked him several times by telephone how Vl. Metr. regarded the thoughts contained in my letter, he replied that he had not received it. As a result I sent this letter alltogether six times. It may be that even so this letter did not reach Vladyka, or it may be that it was difficult for him to read it because it was long and was printed in relatively small type. As regards further developments: at the Sobor a decision was taken as to how to regard the possible consecration of Archm. Valentin. Conditions were laid down, that is, the participation of Vl. Lazar was required, the place of consecration, Suzdal, and so on. All this oriented towards the fulfillment of fundamental ecclesiastical rules, but in fact these were not observed. When the consecration was designated for Brussels, I had no desire to participate. In this regard I held discussions more than once with Vl. Metr. and the late Vl. Antony. Only because the danger that my non-participation would be seen as a revolt against the elder hierarchs and my opposition might turn into a schism in our Church did I all the same participate. The consequences of this illegal action resulted in irreparable harm to our Church, effectively sowing temptation in the Russian Church as a whole. And such time and effort was lost, and is being lost now, to in some way correct these bitter consequences. The point is not only with regard to Archm. Valentin, but in those confusions which resulted between the newly consecrated Bishop Valentin and Archb. Lazar from 1991 to 1993. Later they were reconciled (for the moment), only to still further aggravate the problems facing us, and then to diverge even further, leaving us with what? In sum, my attempts to be obedient for the sake of my elders, contrary to the witness of my ecclesiastical conscience, in part deprived me of audacity. But in regard to my own diocese I acted in this according to my arch-pastoral conscience and in no way supported attempts by some to build the relationship to the MP on falsehood and hypocrisy. I adjusted my course in this battle. Seeing illnesses, I see also the rudiments of the cure of the Russian Church and I am not ready to add to them the illnesses of the MP. It was precisely my unwillingness in this that turned me away from thoughts of the consecration of Archm. Valentin and all the more now turns me away from false compromises. But in Russia other possibilities are revealed; a new church populace matures, not fed on our personal "righteousness", but seeking and finding Christ. In this connection, one must see and esteem the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims in Russia herself and at the holy places throughout the world (Bari, the Holy Land, etc.). I will not denigrate this love. But at the same time this understanding in no way deprives me of a clear vision and precise evaluation of what is happening in the leading structures of the MP. For just these reasons I decided upon meeting with the head of the MP. And Vl. Metr. himself subsequently at a session of the Synod confirmed that meetings between bishops are always possible. But our previous correspondence had already been distributed from the Synod office and publicized in the press, which gave rise to no small temptation since confidential correspondence is not for publication. When, then, the Synod was faced with the necessity to decide whether to receive or not to receive Patriarch Alexis in Germany and at the Mount of Olives, without any debate it was decided to receive him in accordance with the rules of human conduct. And no one sought in this any advantage and did not fear any temporary loss (in any case, there was no talk of this). Apparently the usual understanding prevailed. And so in the summer of 1997 I went to the Holy Land as a participant in the sessions of the Synod and observed what at first to me seemed utterly inexplicable: Archm. Bartholomew and Abbess Juliana constantly asserted that they acted according to the blessing of the Metropolitan. Shortly after, when the Metropolitan found himself that summer in France, he stated in conversations with clergy in Paris that there was no decree of the Synod on the reception of Patr.Alexis and that Abbess Anna acted improperly. This conversation is on tape. When he returned to New York at a special session of the Synod, Vladyka Metropolit asserted what he confirmed in a telephone conversation with Bishop Varnava: that it was necessary to receive Patriarch Alexis. However difficult, one has to doubt the logic of the words and actions of Vladyka Metropolit. More importantly, it seems we lost Hebron because of such zigzags. Then we lost a massive amount of time, energy and means trying to stop the affair begun in Hebron of the transfer of our properties into the hands of the Russian Federation. The matter now has been stopped, albeit temporarily, but will we succeed in regaining Hebron? When Vladyka Metropolit telephoned on Thursday, February 5, I was sitting before a television camera giving an interview about the church in Dresden where we had to surrender our property rights. The interview was interrupted. In this conversation Vladyka said to me about this that we are so persecuted, that "stones are not needed" and that we may have to relinquish all the older churches. Grant such an opinion to the First Hierarch, but such a result is totally alien to me because during my consecration I vowed to preserve the properties of the diocese. And in addition, this is one of the duties of any bishop. The discussions bear fruit for those "on the outside" as well, since the question of our properties (the Tsarist churches) is very important. As a result of our discussions we encountered a greater understanding concerning our position and the realities of the Russian Church. Not being ignorant of property issues concerning the churches from Tsarist times in Germany, Bari and in the Holy Land, I confirm that the reasonable course of our affairs presupposes consistency and such labor which will not be supported by inconstant decisions, is the product of emotions, and in addition abrogates the common [sobornoe] consensus of the hierarchs. But this does not relate only to property. Vladyka Metropolit in his letter of 6/24 February (that is, 24 January/ February 4[sic]) declared that I am no longer a member of the Synod, individually abrogating a conciliar [sobornoe] resolution with this. I am grateful for this liberation and underscore that I cannot imagine how I could be responsible in the future for being present in the Synod under such conditions which would not permit, in my view, serious and fruitful work. But in leaving the ruling bishops of our Russian Church Outside Russia, I am in no way able to deny my responsibility for such evident inadequacies in our governance from the point of view of the canons of the Holy Church (amongst which is Apostolic Canon 34) and therefore I call upon all hierarchs to apply every effort to the correction of these inadequacies which are clearly evident in the given case. The issue, of course, is not a matter of my person, but in our ecclesiastical inabilities which require restoration, reordering -- not only for our sakes alone, but for the sake of the benefit of our Russian Church.
Mark, Archbishop of Berlin and Germany