An Epistle from the ROCOR Council of Bishops to the Followers of the Old RIituals. 2000

The Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) greets the faithful children of the Russian Orthodox Church who keep the old ritual, in the homeland and in diaspora!

Dearly beloved brothers and sisters in our holy Orthodox Faith: May the blessings and mercy of the Man-loving Saviour be with you always!

In the year in which the holy Orthodox Church is focused on the bi-millennium celebration of the Nativity in the flesh of our Lord God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, we, the Synod of Bishops of ROCOR, having gathered in the divinely protected city of New York, are contemplating how we might expedite the healing of that division which the Russian Church has suffered for so many centuries following the liturgical changes introduced in the 17th Century.

We deeply regret those atrocities which were visited upon the adherents of the old ritual, the persecutions on the part of the civil authorities, which were inspired by certain of our predecessors in the hierarchy of the Russian Church, merely because of the love of the Old Ritualists for their heritage, which they had received from their pious ancestors, and because of their zealous observation thereof. The Russian Orthodox Church Abroad has, from its very establishment, sought reconciliation with the Old Ritualists, and at the Third All-Diaspora Council, convened in 1974, in the presence of all declared the ancient liturgical practices and rituals to be Orthodox and salvific; and the prohibitions and anathemas which were, in former times, laid upon those who kept to these practices, to be invalid and rescinded, as if they had never been.

And despite the fact that, although neither our hierarchy nor our faithful have ever participated in persecutions or acts of violence against Old Ritualists, we wish to take advantage of this present opportunity to ask their forgiveness for those who treated their pious fathers with disdain. In this we would like to follow the example of the holy Emperor Theodosius the Younger, who translated the holy relics of St. John Chrysostom from the remote place of exile to which his parents had mercilessly sent the saint. Taking his words, we cry out to the persecuted ones: “Forgive us, brothers and sisters, for the transgressions committed against you out of hatred. Do not count us as accomplices in the sins of our fathers, do not blame us for the bitterness of their intemperate actions. Although we are the descendants of your persecutors, we are not guilty of the misfortunes which were visited upon you. Forgive the offenses that we may be delivered from the reproach associated with them. We prostrate ourselves before you and commend ourselves to your prayers. Forgive those who have assailed you with wanton violence, for in our mouths they have repented for what they had done to you and ask your forgiveness. In the 20th century new persecutions came down upon the Orthodox Russian Church, this time at the hands of the god-fighting Communist regime. Right before our eyes the vivid image of persecution manifested itself in the craven or even unconscionable cooperation and complicity with the civil authorities on the part of persons who called themselves religious. With sorrow we acknowledge, that the great persecution of our Church over the past decades is in part perhaps a punishment for our predecessors’ persecutions of the children of the old ritual .

And so we acknowledge the bitter results of the events that have divided us and at the same time have weakened the spiritual might of the Russian Church. We solemnly proclaim our profound desire to heal the wound which has been inflicted upon the Church and pray, if it is the will of the All-Merciful God that we shall be able to participate in this God-pleasing labor.

We believe both sides must follow the saving commandments of Christ in the conviction that it is not our rituals themselves which bring us to God, but rather our repentance, humility, readiness to forgive each other, love and all the Christian virtues which lead us to our salvation

We sincerely wish to meet representatives of the old rite Church and those in harmony with them, and also their parishes, that together we may tear down the walls which divide us and make ready the path to a positive relationship and, finally, to the restoration of full communion between our Church and those striving to preserve the old rite in the bosom of the Orthodox Church.

+Metropolitan Vitaly

+Archbishop Lavr

+Archbishop Alypiy

+Archbishop Lazar

+Archbishop Mark

+Archbishop Hilarion

+Bishop Kirill

+Bishop Benjamin

+Bishop Evtikhiy

+Bishop Agafangel

+Bishop Aleksandr

+Bishop Varnava

+Bishop Gavriil

+Bishop Mikhail

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