BY SILENCE IS GOD BETRAYED
by Konstantin Dushenov
Moskva, No. 2 (1997)
"Orthodox Russia has enemies..."
"The Orthodox church is the collective conscience of the nation," Metropolitan Ioann of St. Petersburg and Ladoga wrote in 1992. "Like a caring mother it formed in it its better characteristics. It denounced its sins and gave it strength to restore what had been lost. 'Whoever thirsts may come to me and drink,' the church declared in the words of Holy Scripture and generously gave drink to those coming to it and believing the gospel truth with living water. Having recalled all of this we contemplate: has not the time now arrived when we must look more insistently at ourselves, and look around with sober gaze?. We must recognize that Orthodox Russia has enemies who hate our people for their steadfast devotion to the truth and for faithfulness to their religious ministry and for their Christian sources and roots. We must recognize that if we want to survive we must learn to defend ourselves, our faith, and our holy things."
These words of the "Russian Chrysostom" are especially pertinent today as never before. Moreover, the experience of recent years has shown that we all must learn to defend the holy things of Orthodoxy not only from external enemies, the overt enemies of God and russophobes, but also from enemies within who are undermining the religious foundation of the Russian national consciousness while imagining themselves to be "reformers" of our church life.
From the moment that the Russian church was freed from the yoke of the state sponsored war on God rather little time has passed. However in these few years have taken place as many experiences as, in other circumstances, would require decades. The Ukrainian, Estonian, and Moldavian schisms, the aggression of the totalitarian sects, the opening of "parallel" parishes by the "church abroad," the restoration of the cathedral of Christ the Savior, the fervent preaching of Metropolitan Ioann of St. Petersburg, the rupture of canonical relations with Constantinople, the intensification of the clash between the renovationists and adherents of traditional Orthodoxy. And this is far from a complete listing.
Church self-awareness, striving for clarity of understanding of our present situation, has recently traveled an enormous, painful path. But the labors and sorrows brought on this path were not in vain and they have produced some good fruit. In any case, at the present time the Orthodox public is quite well aware of the basic problems of our church life and of the chief sore spots and dangers that threaten the peace and orderly course of church life.
The essence of these dangers and problems can be expressed in a single phrase: the gracious core of the Russian church is being eaten away (alas, with the support of some of the bishops) by two destructive diseases, two insidious heresies: renovationism and ecumenism. They, of course, have not yet fully penetrated the church organism, but if we do not take urgent precautions and energetic measures of collective prevention, in time terrible destruction and disorders, schisms and troubles, await the church's life.
Many Orthodox people do not contemplate sufficiently what the contemporary ecumenical movement represents, what the World Council of Churches is, and what role the Russian church plays in it. They think that all of this "church politics" doesn't affect them. And they don't care what happens over there in the ecumenical centers. And it's a danger. Because over there gross iniquity and shameless violation of all norms of Christian doctrine and morality are flourishing. For God's sake, if the ecumenicists themselves were not writing so frankly about all that is happening, in their journals and press releases, then it simply would not be possible to believe much of this stuff. But to avoid talking without proof, let's take up several examples.
World Council of Churches: Sodomites in Priests' Clothing
The Central Committee of the WCC decided to hold its regular general assembly in 1998 in the capital of Zimbabwe, Harare. However in September 1996 this decision was sharply criticized at the regular session of the CC. The reason was several letters that came to the staff headquarters in Geneva from Zimbabwe lesbians and homosexuals.
The authors of the letters complained to the WCC that President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, in defiance of all rules of democratic pluralism, had declared real war on the "sexual minorities" of his country and they now were deprived of legal rights to carry out their preferences. This outcry of the offended perverts evoked a sharp argument in Geneva. A substantial part of the membership of CC WCC began to insist on moving the meeting of the general assembly from Harare to another city, stating that they could not engage in the quest for ecumenical "Christian unity" if they knew that nearby the unfortunate gays and lesbians were being repressed.
The general secretary of WCC, Dr. Konrad Raiser, quelled the conflict with great effort. And then only after he personally met with President Mugabe and received his assurances that if any offended ecumenicists wanted to conduct a protest in support of the Zimbabwe perverts, the government of the country would not hinder them. And so that no one would doubt the victory of pluralism, all of this story was recounted on the pages of the regular edition of the international ecumenical journal, Ecumenical News International.
However, the successful Dr. Raiser already had substantial experience in handling such conflicts. Back in January 1991 in Johannesburg, South Africa, there was a session of the Central Committee of WCC at which it was suggested to "devote special attention to attacks on lesbian women," and to adopt a special declaration on this matter. When representatives of the Orthodox churches declared that such a document must contain a call for sodomites to repent, they were condemned as too radical.
And these are not isolated incidents. The ecumenical movement, at its deepest points, has manifested a spirit that is directly contrary to the law of God and the commands of Christ. In October 1996 in England the host of the popular radio program, Ann Atkins, accused the leadership of the Anglican church (which also is a member of WCC) of indulging vice and defiance of basic Christians morals. The occasion for her declaration was the preparation for celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the "Movement of Christian Homosexuals and Lesbians, which was scheduled for London's Southwick cathedral.
However, this scandal quickly was forgotten. And really what is there to say if already in 1989 the Anglican bishop of Newark Jack Spong "ordained" as "priest" an open homosexual, Robert Williams. In 1991 he "consecrated to the priesthood" another pederast, Barry Stofel, of which the ecumenical journal Ecumenical Press Service did not hesitate to inform the world. However very soon he was surpassed in liberality by his colleague from Washington, Ronald Heynes, who ordained as priest a lesbian woman, Elizabeth Carl.
Moreover, advertising his superior experience, Jack Spong wrote a book "Saving the Bible from Fundamentalists" in which, in particular, he affirms that the apostle Paul was gay. It is embarrassing for a Christian even to mention this scandal, but I believe that it must be done in today's Russia. Orthodox believers must know what kind of abomination their ecumenicist bishops are leading them into, such as Metropolitan Vladimir Kotliarov of St. Petersburg, who publicly, from the pulpit, summoned us to "sit and fellowship" with such "Christian brothers" who "pray correctly and believe properly" (sermon in the monastery of John, 2 Jan 1997)
In his time, Metropolitan Antony of Transylvania, the noted ecumenicist, acknowledged: "It's really a good thing for the ecumenical movement that the Orthodox people do not know what really goes on in Geneva in the residence of WCC" (Ekklisia, 1994). Which leads to the conclusion: in order to expose the true face of ecumenism it is necessary for us to inform the Orthodox public as fully as possible about what really is being covered up by the respectable banner of "the struggle for Christian unity."
Then probably the trusting Orthodox Russian people will not be misled by the declaration of Metropolitan Kirill Gundiaev that "the Russian church is integrally joined with the ecumenical movement," and of General Secretary Konrad Raiser, affirming in an interview with the Moscow News (1996, no. 38) that "ecumenism does not entail any theological, liturgical, or ritual compromise, nor does it seek the destruction of what pertains to truth or Christ." Incidentally, in this light the compliments of Raiser to Metropolitan Kirill, calling him a "leader devoted to the ecumenical movement," become quite ambivalent.
Indeed, even the affirmation of the general secretary of WCC [translator's note: the writer here is using the word generally used to name Stalin--gensekt--in reference to the church leader] to the effect that "from 1961 the Russian Orthodox church has played a central role in the life of the World Council of Churches" evokes a mass of questions. Does the ROC really agree with the practice of ordaining sexual perverts (since it is so influential in the council, according to Raiser)? Or can it not prevent the abominable discussion of this subject in the CC WCC? Or does it simply not view this matter as a hindrance to its participation in the ecumenical movement?
Uniates on the Attack
However the problem of ecumenical contacts with those who believe differently is not confined to the issue of the participation of the Russian church in the heretical World Council of Churches. At least as serious is the question of the relations between Orthodox and Catholics. There is a faction in the Russian church that is actively pro-Catholic (in essence, Uniate), that includes Nikodimite bishops [i.e., proteges of Metropolitan Nikodim], professors of the St. Petersburg Ecclesiastical Academy, and several representatives of the clergy of the capital, that leads one to think that soon this matter will become more acute.
This prospect becomes even more likely because the promoters of Uniatism within the ROC have ceased to conceal their intentions of "catholicising" Russia--after the dissolution of the USSR, the victory of "pluralism" and "democracy" in the country, and especially after Metropolitan Vladimir, a permanent member of the Holy Synod, was named to succeed the late Metropolitan Ioann of St. Petersburg.
The most zealous Nikodimites did not conceal this even before. Metropolitan Nikodim Rotov himself spoke pretty much openly about the need for union in the mid-1970s. His closest protege, Kirill Gundiaev, in the summer of 1983 at the VI assembly of WCC in Vancouver joined with Catholics in the so-called "ecumenical liturgy," composed by the Frenchman Maxim Turian, when he declared: "We pray that we can soon achieve visible communion in the body of Christ by means of the broken bread and blessed cup around the one table."
The well known scholars of ecumenism from Bulgaria Archimandrite Serafim Alexeev and Sergius Yazajiev wrote that "the implicit meaning of these words needs no commentary," and the concelebration in this heretical gathering by Metropolitan Kirill "crudely violated not only the tenth and forty-fifth apostolic canons but also all of Orthodox tradition" ("Why the Orthodox Christian cannot be an ecumenist," SPb, 1992).
However such protests bother the Nikodimites little. Metropolitan Kirill, for example, does not even bother to conceal his pro-Catholic sympathies. In one of his numerous interviews he unabashedly declared that any conversion from Catholicism to Orthodoxy is a deception. You don't believe it? Look in Moscow News for 26 January 1992. Another Nikodimite, Bishop Krizostom Martishkin of Vilnius and Lithuania, who was in 1972-1981 the assistant to the president of the Department of External Church Relations, frequently allowed Uniates to perform the liturgy in the Orthodox cathedral of Vilnius, and he openly communed Catholics and blessed the communing of Orthodox among them, and in an interview in Izvestiia (30 Feb 1991) also declared that he "sees no evil" if someone from his flock becomes a Catholic and thus "fellowships in Christian morality."
As time has gone by the Unitizers have completely cast off all restraint. The present vicar of Metropolitan Kirill, Bishop Panteleimon of the Baltics, in 1996 publicly permitted himself the totally unrestrained expression in which he openly declared that "Catholics took communion in our churches and priests prayed for them." And these words were published in none other a place than the newspaper called "News of Orthodox Life" (1996, no. 2/12)
The "Kaliningrad Catholic Messenger" (1996, no. 2) states with satisfaction: "Joint prayers were conducted by Bishop Panteleimon of the Baltics, the vicar of Metropolitan Kirill Gundiaev, and Abbot Arnold of the Teutonic order." Let's be more specific. This Teutonic order, by the way, is the same one with which our Blessed Prince Alexander Nevsky fought, defending Rus from the Latin traitors. However, what can one expect from a vicar, if Metropolitan Kirill himself designated his own representative to the Catholic commission on the canonization of Doctor Friedrich Gaaz and suggested that Bishop Adalbert Voicek of Prague be enrolled in the Orthodox list of saints, though he was a notorious persecutor of Orthodoxy, while the Vatican prepared to celebrate in 1997 the millennium of his birth?
As regards concelebration, as early as 1969, when he still was a deacon, Father Kirill (according to the Catholic magazine Truth and Life) concelebrated in the church of the Leningrad Ecclesiastical Academy the liturgy with the famous Jesuit Miguel Arrants, the personal translator of Pope Paul VI. This Jesuit Arrants, an extremely influential man in the Vatican, subsequently for five years, on invitation from Metropolitan Nikodim, taught at the Orthodox Leningrad Ecclesiastical Academy. Every Sunday, according to his memoirs, he "communed at the liturgy along with all Orthodox clergy. And on weekdays I performed the mass in my room."
From the middle of the 1970s Professor Jesuit M. Arrants did not teach at the academy any longer, but after Vladimir Kotliarov was appointed to the Petersburg see he again showed up in the city on the Neva. On 24 November 1996 he participated in the divine liturgy in the cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ on the Obvodny canal, and then he delivered a lecture on the liturgy at the Orthodox Sunday School for adults.
Such examples are characteristic, alas, not only for Petersburg and Vilnius, Kaliningrad, and Moscow. The Catholic influence in the Russian provinces is becoming more evident and energetic. However such an overt and shameless violation of church canons and patriarchal traditions by Orthodox Uniatism could not fail to evoke a reaction.
It is said that there is no cloud without a silver lining. Russian "democracy" opened all the gates for religious aggression against Orthodoxy in Rus, but at the same time it permitted the purification of the Russian national and religious self-consciousness, contrary to the intentions of the noisy orgy of "pluralism." The attack of the Uniatizers evokes a strong reaction among ordinary believers, provincial priests, professors at the Moscow Ecclesiastical Academy (Sergiev Posad) and the Orthodox segment of the bishops.
At the end of 1995 109 priests and teachers of Moscow's church schools wrote to Patriarch Alexis II: "Your Holiness. Under the circumstances of the active expansion of Roman Catholicism we are disturbed by the overt cooperation of several clergy of our church with those Catholic structures that are engaged in proselytism on the territory of Russia." Citing numerous examples of such cooperation the writers of the appeal concluded: "The Vatican is trying to create within the Russian Orthodox church a faction of clergy who are loyal to Catholic teaching and seek Union."
Unfortunately, restricted by the rules of episcopal church discipline, the priests chose not to name in this document the Catholicizing bishops who were protecting heretical priests. However the very tone of the appeal leaves no doubt that there is a profound feeling of alienation from the openly anti-ecclesiastical actions of the apostates.
A year later a similar letter was sent to the Novosibirsk bishop Sergius Sokolov by 33 of his priests who were disturbed by the pro-Catholic tendencies of their bishop. The priests wrote: "We cannot help but be concerned about the reports about joint services of Orthodox with Catholics which have appeared recently in the press. We are pastors of the Russian Orthodox church and we gave our oath before the Holy Cross and the Gospel to take care of the flock of Christ within the church's borders and in faithfulness to the Holy Orthodox faith. Contacts with Catholics are dangerous, for they encourage theological modernism within our church and they lead to disorders and schism. They imperil the salvation of those who apostatize from Orthodoxy."
This document is remarkable not only because the priests simply express their dissatisfaction with Catholic expansion. They try to support their opinion with the conciliar authority of indisputable documents: the circular letter of the eastern patriarchs of 1848, the circular patriarchal and synodal letter of the Constantinopolitan church of 1895, and others, unambiguously and clearly stating that Catholicism was an egregious heresy. This is substantial to the extent that these are priests who reject the claim of such as Metropolitan Filaret Vakhromeev of Minsk that "Catholics separated themselves from Orthodoxy, but they never were declared heretics." Or the declaration, from the mouth of the same Orthodox Bishop Sergius of Novosibirsk in August 1996 in the village of Zavialovoe: "We are Orthodox by fate--if we had been born in western Europe we would be Catholics or Protestants, and if in Asia, we would be Buddhists or Muslims (Rus Pravoslavnaia, n. 45 (1997)).
However, one might suggest that all of this had no impact upon the religious authorities in Moscow if it were not for the recent appearance of an unreconciled opposition to the Nikodimites within the episcopate itself of our church. Most demonstrative and pointed in this regard is the resolution, proposed by the Kurgan Bishop Mikhail at the end of the year in a letter, sent from Petersburg to all bishops and Catholic sympathizers in Tsarskoe Selo. It says: "Warning: Appeal to the bishops' council of February 1997. There is no greater heresy than Catholicism." It seems that many bishops share this point of view, and thus in the near future ROC will have to face a serious trial for fidelity to Orthodoxy.
At this point it would be extremely useful for us to recall that when Bishop Mark of Ephesus, the noted confessor of the fifteenth century, was asked how one should deal with a certain bishop who was celebrating with the Latins, he answered: "By all means flee fellowship with him and do not concelebrate with him, nor in general commemorate him, and do not think of him as a bishop but as a wolf." Even Holy Scripture warns us about such men: "Wolves will enter among you without sparing the flock, and people will arise among you who will turn away the disciples. Beware of them." (Ac 20.29).
In our troubled times someone must, finally, summon the courage to name things as they are, saying opening just who are all these uniatizing and simply heretical bishops. It is to them that the threat of Christ applies: "Beware of false prophets who will come among you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves:" (Mt 7.15). Silence is no longer permitted for this is the very thing about which the great teacher and bishop of the church Gregory the Theologian spoke: "By silence is God betrayed." As Orthodox our simple obligation is to preserve the sacred things of the faith in purity and security, standing, if necessary, for this purity even to the shedding of blood.
The New Renovationism
In 1967 Archbishop Iakovos Kukuzis, representative of the Constantinople patriarchate in America and administrator of the Greek foreign dioceses, a zealous ecumenicist, frankly declared: "We need a new Christianity, based on a completely new understanding and terminology. We cannot pass on to the future generations that form of religion we have received."
One need not be a learned theologian to understand that such "renovation threatens Christianity with complete destruction and the Orthodox church with schism, loss of divine grace and surrender as a tool of the coming Antichrist. This is why the problem of renovationism, along with ecumenism and Uniatism, is one of the most important problems of contemporary church life.
Russia first dealt with the renovationism heresy, in the form of the notorious heresy of the Judaizers, in the time of Ivan III in the fifteenth century. Judaizer heretics did not recognize the sacraments of the church and they railed against icons, denied church tradition and strove secretly to take control of the higher church and state power in order then to reform obsolete Orthodoxy. However despite their managing for a time to draw into their plans even Princess Elena, the bride of the grand prince Ivan, and Metropolitan Zosima of Moscow, in 1504 the church council placed them under anathema and the chief heretics were condemned to death by the state.
The second time the Russian church endured the full burden of the renovationist trouble, when liberal democratic clergy decided to take advantage of revolutionary disorders in 1917 in order to seize higher church authority and carry out "renewal" of Orthodoxy in the "spirit of the times, in accordance with world progress." And this time the chief target of the renovationists was the ages-old church tradition which they called "reactionary" and "black Hundredist," and thus good for nothing.
But even this time the heresy overreached. First, at the local council of 1917-1918, at which despite the harsh opposition of the renovationists the patriarchate was restored. Despite the long years of harassment of the canonical episcopate by the renovationists after the council, who did not even shrink from cooperating directly with the secret police, the church people in the overwhelming majority rejected renovationism and remained true to pure and holy Orthodoxy.
Today, similarly, our Russian church is on the brink of a renovationist schism for the third time.
The experience of church history of the last century has shown that one of the chief goals of contemporary renovationism is to change to the new calendar style in church observance.
The argument about the church calendar has been going on since the sixteenth century. The Russian church has heretofore calculated the annual cycle of divine worship and church holidays according to the old style, the so-called Julian calendar, which the primitive Christian congregations used. However in 1582 Pope Gregory XIII decided to "correct" the ancient calendar in accordance with the data of the "latest" science. So there appeared the new, Gregorian style, which at the present time has a difference of thirteen days. From that moment the Orthodox church frequently has collectively condemned the introduction of the new style as contrary to all canons and the new stylists as heretics, who violate the Holy Traditions and the church canons.
Why the reaction of Ecumenical orthodoxy to an insignificant and, seemingly, purely external change was so harsh is a subject for a separate discussion. What is important for us now is the simple fact that the new style, according to Orthodox thought, is an impermissible heresy.
Against this background, a sermon delivered by Metropolitan Vladimir Kotliarov on 2 January 1997, the day of the memorial of Saint John of Kronstadt in the monastery of John in St. Petersburg, appears as an open summons to the church and it created a shock among the Orthodox public of the city. We shall cite the transcription: "Right now we all are in a very complicated state. Almost all the Orthodox world has gone over to the Gregorian calendar. They celebrate Christmas on the Gregorian calendar on 25 December, as appointed. Only we, Russia and Serbia and few Greek parishes, are old stylists. We are wiser than all the rest and better than they. And we are waiting while thirteen days go by and we abide by the old Julian calendar by which nobody anywhere lives....And if Father John were here, he, of course, would set everything straight. He would shout with his whole voice that we must set things right."
At this point the objective transcript states: "Noise in the cathedral. Shout: 'he would not say such a thing,' 'This could not be.' The noise grows. Metropolitan tries to continue his sermon. Shouts: 'heretic,' 'Judas,' 'wolf,' 'anathema,' and the like. The disturbance continues until Bishop Vladimir leaves the pulpit."
Having heard the tape of this heretical sermon one wants to say: "Orthodox, beware. This is a direct summons to us all, an open declaration of apostasy, which is occupying one of the highest posts in the contemporary church hierarchy. And it is important that this sermon was delivered precisely on the day of the memorial of Saint John of Kronstadt, who is noteworthy for his steadfast struggle for the purity of Orthodoxy. And it was on the eve of the bishops' council. And it was in a stauropigial, that is, patriarchal, monastery that is administratively not a part of the diocese of Petersburg and formally not subordinate to Metropolitan Vladimir. His address is a programmatic address of one of the leaders of the liberal renovationist group of the Russian episcopacy, demonstrating thereby its growing influence and independence even from patriarchal authority.
It seems that control over the internal church situation is being lost and it is impossible to hold the balance of forces even within the higher ranks of the Moscow patriarchate.
As regards Metropolitan Vladimir, it will not be irrelevant to recall that the fifteenth rule of the seventh council categorically requires all Christians, without awaiting a church trial and conciliar determination, to withdraw from communion with such a bishop who publicly from the pulpit preaches heresy that has been condemned by the church and the holy fathers.
And Metropolitan Vladimir seems to say to parishioners: "Just try," obviously assured of his immunity from punishment. And who is he, Bishop Vladimir, to decide on such an overt proclamation of the renovationist heresy?
The present Petersburg bishop was born 27 May 1929 in Kazakhstan in the city of Aktiubinsk. In 1948 he graduated from the Dzhambul technical institute of statistics of the central administration of Gosplan of USSR, and then he entered the Moscow ecclesiastical seminary, which he finished in 1952. Soon he was enrolled in the Leningrad ecclesiastical academy where he studied until 1958. There, in Leningrad, he met the future Metropolitan Nikodim Rotov (1929-1978), the ideologist of the contemporary renovationism, the founding father of the procatholic and ecumenical lobby among the Russian episcopacy.
The charmed course of Nikodim's career, who supported with all his might the state agencies of the USSR that were destroying the Russian Orthodox church, began in the 1960s. At that same time Father Vladimir Kotliarov began his ascent of the career ladder. In 1961 someone's mighty hand included him in the membership of the first (since 1917) official delegation of the Moscow patriarchate to go abroad with the agreement and support of the soviet leadership. Where? Of course, to an ecumenical forum, to New Delhi, to the conference of the World Council of Churches. In the area of inner church life this trip became a kind of demonstration of the power of the liberal ecumenical faction that openly and defiantly violated the conciliar determination of the conference of Orthodox local [i.e., national] churches that met in Moscow in 1948. At that time the leaders of eleven Orthodox churches, under the leadership of the Russian patriarchate, resolved that "the goals of the ecumenical movement do not comport with the ideal of Christianity" and they adopted the unequivocal decision "to reject the ecumenical movement."
Father Vladimir, obviously, showed himself in New Delhi a man of cooperation and understanding, for the next year he was sent to Rome, to the second Vatican council in the capacity of an observer from the Moscow patriarchate. Later, recalling this council, which adopted a number of overtly modernist, renovationist decisions, which became the cause of a profound spiritual crisis in the contemporary Catholic church, Metropolitan Vladimir said: "I saw there for the first time what the church can become if only its normal development is not hindered" (Smena, 1996). Such a position of the young cleric, obviously, fully suited his highly placed patrons, and 1962 became a turning point in the career of Father Vladimir. He took monastic vows and, with amazing speed, became the assistant director of the Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem, representative of the Moscow patriarchate at the World Council of Churches, and bishop of Zvenigorod, a vicariate of the Moscow diocese. Already in 1967 in Geneva the Zvenigorod bishop Vladimir celebrated the liturgy for an ecumenical crowd at which the Gospel and Epistle were read by foreign heretics.
Subsequently, wherever his fate carried him, to Damascus, Berlin or Pskov, Bishop Vladimir firmly recalled what his fortune and career required and he carefully portrayed the liberal ecumenical image of the "enlightened bishop." He properly observed joint services with heretics, in Rostov, in the residence of the local bishop, in the cathedral of the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God, and from time to time he cursed the "fanatic obscurantists" and lamented the "low level of the religious culture of contemporary Orthodoxy."
The brief background of the appearance of Metropolitan Vladimir in the Petersburg see is as follows. The sudden outburst of the preaching activity of Metropolitan Ioann Snychev in 1992-1995 took the adherents of the liberal ecumenical renovation of the ROC by surprise. None of them had expected that the old man who was well known for his meekness and weak health would decide upon such an uncompromising and overt opposition to the powerful clan of ecclesiastical heirs of Metropolitan Nikodim who managed by the beginning of the 1990s to control just about all the commanding heights of the bureaucracy of the Moscow patriarchate.
The problem for the renovationists was all the greater because the historical and theological level of the preaching of Metropolitan Ioann precluded the possibility of disparaging its content from an Orthodox ecclesiastical point of view. Up to that time there had not appeared a single publication with a reasoned criticism of his views and the newspaper hysterics of the "secular world" only added to Ioann's popularity within church circles and created around him a halo of the persecuted saint.
The elevated hierarchical position of Metropolitan Ioann, his popularity among ordinary believers and a significant part of the clergy made it impossible for his enemies, during his life, to restrict the bishop from active participation in church life. Although the death of the Petersburg elder was taken by them as a signal to use all their energies to restore their shaken positions.
But for this in the first place a man was needed who would be able to restore order to the Petersburg see, neutralizing the faction of "obscurantists, black Hundredist, and chauvinists" around the late Metropolitan. Then there arose on the horizon the figure of Metropolitan Vladimir, a man of assured and stable liberal ecumenical leanings.
It is extremely significant that the first and most excited response to the designation of Metropolitan Vladimir to the Petersburg see came from abroad. "Unlike Metropolitan Ioann, Bishop Vladimir knows and values ecumenical ties," said the Finnish journal Ortodoksi (1996, no. 2). "He has worked in the ecumenical movement since the 1960s and, thus, he has the necessary breadth of views and follows in the footsteps of his great predecessor Metropolitan Nikodim." And further, Bishop Ioann's forty-day observance had not even happened with they invited a pastor from German to give a lecture to us fools and to give us the word. And a month later, with the blessing of Bishop Vladimir, they held a "week of ecumenical services" with Catholic heretics.
The Goal--the patriarchal throne?
The second (perhaps even the first, the number doesn't matter) leader of the renovationist ecumenical faction of the Russian episcopacy is Metropolitan Kirill Gundiaev, who has headed since 1989 the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow patriarchate (OVTsS).
After the collapse of the USSR, as soon as the political victory of the "pluralists" and "democrats" was assured, the OVTsS under the leadership of the young bishop began vigorous activity. Only this activity seemed extremely strange: although within the structure of the Moscow patriarchate, the workers of the department occupied themselves with organizing the expansion of western heretical sects on the territory of Russia in the guise of an "inter-confessional" proclamation of the Gospel.
In particular, under the aegis of OVTsS the notorious Protestant activity "Volga-92" was organized. "Moscow News" literally choked with fright over the unabashed liberalism of the department's workers. "At the beginning of 1992," the newspaper wrote, "OVTsS and its head, Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, began talks with German Protestants of "Mission Europe." They reached an agreement that in the summer of that year there would be a joint Orthodox-Protestant evangelism mission on a ship that went down the Volga."
However, after the mission began there was a session of the Synod at which, taking into account local outcries, it was decided not to participate in the mission. This, however, by no means affected the ecumenical activism of OVTsS. Priest Vsevolod Chaplin, head of a sector of OVTsS, declared emotionally in Nezavisimaia gazeta, 22 Oct 1992: "On the boat sailed Baptists and Pentecostals, Orthodox and Catholics, believers of other confessions." It is significant, however, that he signed this article with a pseudonym, Viktor Pokrovsky (apparently out of modesty).
The newspaper "Pravoslavnyi Petersburg" noted in April 1993: "Inside the OVTsS all the ecumenical programs and proclamations are being created. Thus, Archpresbyter Vitaly Borovoi, a worker of OVTsS, wrote the notorious speech of Pariarch Alexis which he gave to the rabbis of the USA which discredited the primate of the Russian Orthodox church. An address of the president of OVTsS, Hegumen Innokenty Pavlov, from the pulpit on 8 October 1990 summoned "unconscious" believers to an urgent union with Catholics because, in his opinion, division from them is our greatest 'sin.'"
Literally from the first moment of his being named head of the department, Metropolitan Kirill worked extremely actively to expand the sphere of his influence. In autumn 1992 the new statutes of the department were confirmed, giving to OVTsS and its leadership unprecedented broad authority.
As a result today Metropolitan Kirill's authority extends to:
"1. Relations of the Russian Orthodox church with the external world, both on its canonical territory and beyond its boundaries on all daily questions.
2. Ties with the media of mass communication for giving the fullest and most authoritative information about the ministry of the church and its positions on socially significant matters.
3. The link of the higher church authority with the institutions of the Russian Orthodox church that are located outside of its canonical territory, on all matters of their ordinary activity
4. Support and development of comprehensive fraternal relations with local [i.e., national] Orthodox churches.
5. Establishment and strengthening of fraternal ties with churches and religious associations of other denominations and with world, regional, and national confessions and interconfessional organizations and movements."
Besides this, on 11 October 1996 by resolution of the Holy Synod Bishop Kirill became, on top of all this, president of the "Special group on working out the draft of the conception that expresses the general church view on questions of church-state relations and problems of contemporary society as a whole." The result is predictable: in the church organism of the Moscow patriarchate the OVTsS is a de facto "state within a state," whose activity no one is now about to control, even the patriarch and the Holy Synod. At the same time, recognizing the strength of his current position and obviously intending to make the department his launching point for the upcoming struggle for the patriarchal throne, Metropolitan Kirill is trying to broaden even further the sphere of his influence, both within the church and among the leading Russian political forces.
In the politics for accomplishing such a task he must sit simultaneously on two stools: first, to maintain influential friends and patrons among the current state bureaucrats and leaders, rich bankers and successful businessmen of the "liberal democratic" camp, and, second, at the same time considering the possiblity of changes in the Kremlin, he must maintain good relations with leaders of the patriotic opposition.
Within the church the metropolitan also faces a similar problem. On the one hand, he must be the leader of the influential liberal ecumenical faction of Nikodimite bishops, but on the other hand he must pay any price to avoid have a renovationist-ecumenicist image with the church conservatives and Orthodox patriots.
Both of these tasks work together and have no relation to any of the needs of the Russian church nor of Orthodoxy in general. Bishop Kirill resolves them entirely in the spirit of the contemporary cynical "political pragmatism." He says to all just what they want to hear. However, this approach is good only until such a practice of the "double standard" is subjected to glasnost and becomes a matter of public attention.
Hitherto the president of OVTsS has managed to avoid public explanation on such a delicate matter. But this cannot last forever. And this means that sooner or later he will have to answer all the extremely unpleasant questions.
For example, when, Your Holiness, were you sincere: when you declared that conversion from Catholicism to Orthodox is a delusion (Moscow News 26 Jan 1992), and you blessed the signing of the Balamand Declaration in Lebanon for a new union with Catholics (and the document signed there by Hegumen Nestor Zhiliavy recognizes the Catholic heresy as a sister church with grace)?, or when from the high tribune of the First World Russian Sobor you enthusiastically celebrated the "Orthodox roots of Russian patriotism"? When as head of OVTsS along with the Protestants of "Mission of Europe" you organized the scandalous proselytizing action of "Volga-92"? or when you discussed the "Orthodox ideal of Holy Rus" at the Second World Russian Sobor?
Why, in January 1996 at an ecumenical reception in New York for the head of the Armenian church of the USA, which confesses the monophysite heresy, did you declare that it "is recognized as Orthodox by the Russian church," and that "we share a common faith and doctrine," and in an interview with the domestic press you said that "in matters about faith there cannot be alternatives" (Nezavisimaia gazeta, 28 Feb 1996)?
And incidentally, Bishop, had there been an agreement with the patriarch about your declaration recognizing as Orthodox the monophysite heretics who had been anathematized by the fourth ecumenical council? If one believes the press, you made this declaration in the name of the plenitude of the Russian Orthodox church. But only the patriarch himself, the Holy Synod, a church council, or those whom they authorize are able to speak in the name of the church.
Authority and Conscience
But how has it become possible for there to be such open and defiant contempt by the senior church bishops for Orthodox canons, the attitude of the lower ranks of the church, and the will of the enormous majority of ordinary priests and parishioners? The answer is simple. The confidence of the ecumenicists and renovationists, like Metropolitan Vladimir and Metropolitan Kirill, that they can get away with it is based on the premise that the contemporary administrative structure of the Moscow patriarchate has no means for taking action against the permanent members of the Holy Synod, who serve for life. Once he becomes a member of this "church politburo," a bishop automatically becomes immune to any influence from the church public (and even the influence of his brother bishops) and he is transformed into a kind of inaccessible Olympian deity who is not subject to any earthly court.
At the same time this state of affairs is an egregious canonical violation and, moreover, a direct contradiction of the resolution of the 1917-1918 local council of ROC.
It is significant that Metropolitan Kirill, in an interview with Nezavisimaia gazeta, 28 Nov 1996, called this council "anachronistic in its spirit and ideas." No matter who tries to belittle its significance, the local council of 1917-1918 remains in the history of the Russian church the most authoritative council of the last 300 years. I would remind any doubters that from the time Peter I (1721) suppressed the patriarchate until 1917 there were no church councils in Russia at all. And the bishops' councils of 1943, 1945, and 1971 and others like them, convoked in the period of state atheism and making decisions under the supervision of "competent agencies" cannot, of course, compare in any way with the 1917-1918 local council, which made decisions on many aspects of church life.
Thus, according to the determinations of this council, the Synod must be made up of twelve bishops beside the patriarch. Only one of them can be permanent, the Metropolitan of Kiev (because of the importance of the Kievan see for the Russian church). And all the others must be elected and regularly replaced. Six of the members of the synod are elected by a council for three years and the other five "are summoned" for work in the Synod for one year.
This conciliar decision was violated in 1943 when Stalin decided, finally, to select a new primate for the patriarchal throne that had been vacant for almost two decades. Under the new patriarch was established a kind of "church politburo", a small synod, consisting of three permanent bishop members who administered the most important dioceses, Moscow, Kiev, and Leningrad. In 1961, during the heat of the Khrushchev persecutions, when under the intense pressure from the KGB the bishops' council, conducted with lightning speed in a single day, made a number of decisions that frankly disorganized the entire system of church administration, and it increased the number of permanent members of the synod. And this situation has continued to the present day.
Knowing all this, it is difficult to understand why no bishops have raised the question of the need to bring the contemporary system of church administration into conformity with the decisions of the council of 1917-1918. Are the current bishops really so badly aware of the history of the recent decades? Or do they like their present circumstances in which they are practically deprived of any possibility to influence church politics and countermand the anticanonical activity of ecumenicists, renovationists, and schismatics? Even the patriarch himself would gain much more freedom of maneuver and cease to be the hostage of an arithmetic majority of the life members of the Synod if the system designed by the council of 1917-1918 for synod seats were implemented.
Whatever the case, there can be no doubt that sooner or later this question will be placed on the agenda. Better sooner, of course, for it is always a complex matter to heal a disease. In any case today we can say with assurance: the future of the Russian church depends on whether we all in the near future can acquire the courage and wisdom not to cover up the problems, conflicts, and internal church contradictions, and the tolerance and love to heal them honestly and peacefully, in accordance with centuries-old conciliar practice, and the strength of will and steadfastness to bring church organization into conformity with the canons, patriarchal traditions, and the requirements of contemporary life. (translated by PDS)