July 11, 1997
Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan
Via Facsimile to 202-228-0406
Dear Senator Moynihan:
I write to you now as a concerned constituent of yours in the State of New York, as an American citizen, and as Primate (first hierarch) of the Orthodox Church in America.
I am extremely concerned today by your press release of Tuesday, July 8, 1997, entitled "Senator Moynihan Calls for Return of Monastery Seized in Hebron." Having read the release, I asked my secretary, Rev. Dn. John Hopko, to telephone Dr. David Luchins in your New York office to express my concern that you seem to be taking sides in this affair, possibly without being fully informed as to the facts of the matter. (Dr. Luchins was listed as a contact person on the release.) When Deacon Hopko was put in contact with Dr. Luchins, Dr. Luchins asserted that your primary concern in this matter is the violence that was allegedly used by armed officers of the Palestinian Authority against monastics associated with the monastery and that you were not personally concerned about the issue of who owns the monastery.
My difficulty is that your press release, while condemning alleged violent acts,begins by calling for the return of the monastery to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. This is precisely the issue that your representative in New York, Dr. Luchins, told my representative, Deacon Hopko, that you are not interested in.
Please allow me to share with you where I am coming from in regard to this matter.
The Orthodox Church in America traces its roots to the first Russian Orthodox Mission sent to North America (Alaska) in 1794. Our ties to our mother Russian Orthodox Church were broken by the tragic events of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917-18. Unlike the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia which stands in opposition to the Russian Orthodox Church, we are part of the greater communion of Eastern Orthodox Churches throughout the world, including the most ancient Patriarchates of Constantinople, Jerusalem, Alexandria and Antioch, together with the historic Churches of Russia, Georgia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Albania, Poland, and the Czech Lands and Slovakia.
The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, whose representatives initially contacted you in this matter, is a small, schismatic group that holds itself in opposition to the Orthodox Church in America and the above listed family of Orthodox Churches around the world. Occasionally the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia styles itself (as reported in some recent press reports) as the "White Russian Orthodox Church" in opposition to the "Red Russian Orthodox Church." The term "Red Church" is used in a derogatory manner by them to refer to the Russian Orthodox Church now headed by His Holiness, Patriarch ALEKSY II. This is a cruel and cynical moniker since the Russian Orthodox Church, as is extremely well documented, suffered greatly under the now defunct Communist regime of the Soviet Union.
I am, of course, concerned about the allegations of violent acts and have been working to confirm the reports of such violence. (I myself have worked with the U.S. State Department on issues of human rights and religious freedom.) I have been, earlier today, in personal contact with His Holiness ALEKSY II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church. His Holiness told me that he was not informed of any violent acts that had occurred in connection with the transfer of the monastery from the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia to the Russian Orthodox Church. He also assured me that he would be asking the Department of External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church to look into the matter.
I must tell you that the only direct reports of violent acts occurring in connection with the transfer of the Holy Trinity Monastery that have reached me have come to me from sources that I am unable to completely trust. I am unable to fully trust these sources because of the extremely polemical nature of these reports. If you have received information concerning these alleged violent acts from sources that are trustworthy, I would appreciate knowing more. I would share what I have learned with my brother in Christ, His Holiness, Patriarch ALEKSY. Right now, I am also contacting other, trustworthy sources known to me, in an effort to further clarify the facts surrounding the transfer of the Holy Trinity Monastery in Hebron.
We must all, however, make every effort not to confuse or conflate the issue of the possible mistreatment by armed officers of the Palestinian Authority of monastics affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, with the distinct and separate issue of the rightful ownership of the Holy Trinity Monastery in Hebron. I hope you help me in maintaining the distinction between these two issues.
Thank you for your continuing service on behalf of the good citizens of the State of New York and the United States of America. My quest in this matter, as always, is to serve Truth. I know you share this desire.
Archbishop of Washington,
Primate, Orthodox Church in America