Appeal of Sergei Averintsev to Patriarch Alexis II
At the beginning of August of this year, saddened and moved by the events around the parish of the Dormition of the Mother of God in Pechatniki, whose rector was Fr Georgy Kochetkov, Sergei Averintsev, a parishioner of this church, sent a personal letter to Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus. Until the present day he has been awaiting a response to his letter, but he still has not received one, which forced him to doubt whether the patriarch actually received it, although the letter was transmitted to him twice, through two different channels. In view of the absence of any reaction over the course of almost two months, Sergei Averintsev decided to make public his letter to the patriarch and presented to us its full text, which we print here.
His Most Holiness, Mosy Holy Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus.
Your most holiness!
I am not able to be a witness. On 29 June of this year I was not in Moscow. I did not participate in the liturgy in the church of the Dormition in Pechatniki and, consequently I was not an eyewitness of the most regretable events about which the versions have been so diverse. Indeed, I saw nothing with my own eyes and from this flows my awareness of the weakness of my position. I am forced to create an image of what happened by comparing versions. Dare I say that you, your most holiness, are in the very same position as I with regard to this matter?
My sad amazement deals with the fact that the instructions from your most holiness, which have supreme authority for the believer and which designated the investigative process and announced the composition of the commission appointed for this purpose, in advance of any investigation already unambiguously predetermined the unquestioned accuracy of one version. Is this possible? Is it really the case that the rules that operate for secular investigation and forbid the defendant to be held guilty before a trial cease to operate within the church where, it would seem, the greater care than outside its boundaries should be expended to observe the words of Scripture: "Judge not by the sight of the eyes" (Is 11.3)?
The so-called "documents" presented by the police can hardly be viewed as the truth in the last resort sufficient for reaching a verdict that would obviate the investiation. The response of Sr. Lt. A.L. Rimsky to the query of Bishop Arseny concludes with the affirmation that is quite strange for a document: "Similar prior events associated with parishioners and priests of the church of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God in Pechatniki also occurred. . . ." How is this to be understood? What is the senior lieutenant talking about in his official testimony? Does he wish to say that he was an eyewitness; and just what were these "similar events," when, where? Either he was not an eyewitness and his assertion is based, let's say, on testimony of complaints filed in his office--whose complaints, on which dates? Or he simply has heard something from someone? But information for which the composer of a document cannot give assurance on the basis of his authority and personal honor ought not to be put into a document (the more so when there are rumors), because otherwise the document ceases to be a document in a juridical sence. It is also amazing that the response of Mr Rimsky refers exclusive to evidence from the monastery of the Presentation; it always has been said: Audiatur et altera pars (let the other side also be heard).
As you know, your most holiness, I, a sinner, a parishioner of the church of the Dormition in Pechatniki, am not about to break the bonds joining me to the parish; much less at such a bitter time for it. I also will not hid that it is difficult for me to imagine persons whom I know to act in a way that is just not like them. But I am trying to proceed not from my own feelings, for or against whomever. If only you, your most holiness, had judged Fr Georgy Kochetkov for his church position by your supreme authority directly, you would have been within your rights. In the same way out of respect to the dignity of your office, I would not dare to judge the appointment of Fr Mikhail Dubovitsky as the second ranking priest, although, speaking honestly, the decision seemed to me not entirely kind for the young priest, who at the very beginning of his priestly career was placed into such a predictable and very unfortunate collision of duties; he could not help recognizing that he was being sent to "correct" a rector who was his superior by age and position. Nevertheless this all is a part of your authority and to that extent is not subject to discussion. Quite a different matter is the question about the actual truthfulness of the criminal accusation. No one, even the head of the hierarchy, can serve at one and the same time as judge, prosecutor, supreme arbitrator, and one of the sides of the dispute.
Alas, we now have experienced a time of grief; that mutual understanding among believers that came from the mere fact that they were believers, educated by decades of persecutions and restrictions has departed; people who once scarcely recognized one another with tears of joy in the churchs of the soviet era, "Ah, you too!" now view one another grimly and see each other as enemies of the faith.
I sympathize with one of the most difficult duties of the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox church: to do all possible and impossible under such conditions to secure whatever remains from the vanished consensus. Indeed this duty is very grave; but it remains obligatory and noone can remove it. Over the years of your patriarchal service it was possible to rejoice that your holiness carefully avoided identifying with one of the extreme positions in the church and maintained an approximately equal distance from each of them. That is why I was the more struck by the text of the above-mentioned resolution that distinctly suggested that the sentence, properly speaking, already had been pronounced. Really is this just?
So in conclusion I wish to remind your most holiness that the issue is by no means confined to Fr Georgy Kochetkov or his altar-boys, but about the more than 1,000 Orthodox believers who had trusted your most holiness' conscience.
The unworthy devotee of your most holiness,
(tr. by PDS)
11 August 1997 © "RM", 1996. All rights reserved.