Articles Deacon Andrei Psarev Non-Orthodox

Relations between the ROCOR and the Roman Catholic Church, 1920-1964

A chapter from Psarev’s Masters thesis, “The Attitude of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad toward Non-Orthodox Christians and the Ecumenical Movement (1920-1964): A Historical Evaluation.”

A chapter from Psarev’s Masters thesis, “The Attitude of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad toward Non-Orthodox Christians and the Ecumenical Movement (1920-1964): A Historical Evaluation.”


This chapter will review the following subjects:

  1. The issue of proselytism:
    1. Regarding Russian youth;
    2. The Vaticans relations with Soviet Russia;
    3. The Eastern rite;
    4. Renegade clergy.
  2. The Attitude to the Sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church:
    1. Views of the hierarchy;
      1. Metropolitan Antonii;
      2. Archbishop Vitalii of Eastern America;
      3. Archbishop Feodosii of Brasil;
      4. Archbishop Leontii of Chile and Peru;
    2. The reception of clergy;
    3. The attitude toward lay people.
  3. Ecumenical Relations with the Roman Catholic Church:
    1. Spontaneous union movement;
    2. Metropolitan Antonii;
    3. The Second Pan-Diaspora Council;
    4. Bishop Nafanail of Brussels and Western Europe;
    5. Archbishop Leontii of Chile and Peru;
    6. The First, second, and third sessions of the Vatican II (October 1962 – November 1964);
      1. The Issue of Participation;
      2. The Question of Observers.
  4. Conclusion.

1. The Issue of Proselytism

The issue of proselytism colored relation between the Roman Catholic and the Russian Churches from the thirteen century. The Russian Synod in its epistle of 1903 noted: “The conversion of Russia and of the Russian people constitutes the secret dream and unconditional goal of the yearnings of the Papacy of our times.” 1 Since my paper is dedicated to the evaluation of the position of the ROCA, I am not going to review the vision of proselytism from the Roman Catholic side. 2

a. Regarding Russian Youth

At the meeting of the Higher Russian Church Authority in Constantinople (April 6/19 – 8/21, 1921), Bishop Veniamin of Sebastopol reported attempts to “seduce Russian children” who are studying in French educational institutions “into Roman Catholicism.” It was resolved: to inform the Apostolic delegate, Monsignor Dolchi, about this with a suggestion to allow Bishop Veniamin and priests assigned by him into the foreign schools. Bishop Veniamin was charged personally to clarify this problem with Monsignor Dolchi. 3

In the report of the missionary department of the First Pan-Diaspora Council in 1921, concern was already expressed regarding the activities of sectarians, especially Adventists, among members of the Russian Church as well as the increase of Roman Catholic propaganda. The department suggested numerous missionary measures for the protection of the flock. 4

On May 17/30, 1922, the HCAA discussed the intensification of Roman Catholic propaganda among Russian Orthodox. It was resolved 1)To charge Bishop Veniamin with the collection of existing material regarding the proposed letter to the Pope of Rome concerning his use of the difficult circumstances of Russian people for seduction from Orthodoxy; and for an appeal to the parents of Russian children with warnings against Catholic propaganda; 2) To charge the secretary of the HCAA, E.I. Makharoblidze, with taking measures to print the pamphlet of Metropolitan Antonii, Conversations of an Orthodox Priest with a Uniate Priest About the Delusions of the Greek Catholics, 5 planning for a wide distribution of this pamphlet among the Orthodox and Uniates; 3)The cost for this project should be taken from the funds of the Higher Church Authority Abroad. 6

Metropolitan Evlogii in his memoirs recalls his visit to Rome in 1924 with the following activists for Church union: Count A. Volkonskii, Fr. Abrikosov, and Msgr d’Herbigny, director of the Pontifical Oriental Institute. 7 Evlogii said that the union of Churches was a holy idea, but there are some obstacles, and he drew attention to Catholic propaganda. He does not mind if adults become Catholic, but when Catholics are catching the “small ones” in the orphanages and schools, it is inadmissible violence against the children’s souls. As an example, Evlogii points to the activity of a certain Sipiagin in Belgium. Another obstacle brought up by Evlogii was the persecution of Orthodoxy in Poland. His opponents did not object, but said that the Holy Father does not sympathize with all these efforts. 8

Igumen Filip (von Gardner), in his report to the Second Pan-Diaspora Council of 1938 concerning education, called for a study of the Roman Catholic Weltanschauung in order to demonstrate to youth the moral consequences arising from it. The speaker appealed for opening the world of Orthodox practice to the teenagers in order to preserve them from the influence of the rigorous religious life of Roman Catholics. Bishop Ioann of Shangai, in his report to the same Council on the spiritual state of the Russian people in diaspora, 9 noted that a significant part of those Russian children who now study in Catholic convents will become traitors of their fatherland and that it is the fault of their parents. Such people, according to Ioann, should be baned from entering Russia after the victory over Bolshevism.

That the issue of the proselytism of children was still a concern as late as 1961 can be seen from the statement of Bishop Antonii of Geneva to Cardinal Bea. Bishop Antonii pointed to proselytism, especially aimed at the young, as an obstacle to good relations with Roman Catholics. 10

b. The Vatican’s Relations with Soviet Russia

The activity of the Vatican to spread Roman Catholicism in Russia and Ukraine was already noted in 1921 in the report of the missionary department. 11 Because of that the HCAA decided at the meeting of May 17/30 1922, to address to all heads of the heterodox Churches, except the Pope of Rome, because he had entered into contact with the Bolsheviks. 12

The attempts of the Vatican to establish diplomatic relations with the Soviet government after the Russian revolution were reviewed in the report “Catholicity and Bolshevism” by Bishop Serafim of Potsdam at the Second Pan-Diaspora Council. The Council made the following resolution based on that report:

(…) The Council with a feeling of satisfaction admits that the head of the Roman Catholic Church, many representatives of Roman Catholic clergy, and a number of Roman Catholic organizations made considerable contributions to the struggle against Bolshevism (…) On the other hand the Council has to note with sorrow that the policy of the Vatican was not always anti-Bolshevik (…) In addition, the anti-Bolshevik stance of the Vatican and of some of the representatives of the Roman Catholic hierarchy are weakened because of the appearance of other statements that were clearly pro-Bolshevik (…) Even in such cases when the fight of Catholicism against Bolshevism has an immediate relation to the Russian people and is connected with the desire to free Russia from the anti-Christian communist dictatorship, this fight has in view the advantage of its own confession and therefore loses its value for us. Noting all these sad facts, the Council considers it its sacred duty to address the faithful of all confessions with a fervent appeal for an irreconcilable, uncompromising struggle against Bolshevism, in the name of the salvation not only of Russia but of the entire Christian world and all its nations from this mystery of lawlessness which appears in our days.(…) The Russian emigration must be especially careful and circumspect in its choice of allies in the fight against Bolshevism and for the liberation of the suffering fatherland, since a questionable and untrustworthy friend is sometimes worse and more dangerous than an open enemy. 13

The hard history of the relations between the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches continues before the World War II. In connection with the forcible conversion to Roman Catholicism of Orthodox peasants and the demolition of Orthodox churches in Poland begun in 1937, the Second Pan-Diaspora Council evaluated this persecution as violation of the freedom of conscience which takes the fourth place after Soviet Russia, Spain and Mexico. It was decided to request the Council of Bishops to assign special prayers for the persecuted Church in Poland and took in brief space of time all possible measures for protection of Orthodox in Poland republic. 14

The appeal of Pope Pius XII, Sacro Vergente Anno, to the Russian people made in 1952 found a response from Archpriest Georgii Grabbe who, while welcoming the anti-communist passages, argues against its historical interpretations, the dedication of Russia to the “Immaculate Heart of Mary,” and the treatment of the Fatima manifestations, among other points. 15

c. The Eastern Rite

N. F. Stepanov, in the above-mentioned speech, “The Jewish Catholic Rapprochement and Related Perspective of the Further Evolution of the ecumenical movement,” puts forward the thought that the Vatican will not leave the Russian Church in peace until it gains power over greater Russia. Beside the Roman Catholic attempts at proselytism in Russia, he also considers the persecution of Orthodoxy in Poland and the support of the Eastern Rite abroad. Each of these was criticized in resolutions of the Councils of Bishops following the Second Pan-Diaspora Council. Here is an excerpt from the resolution following the speech of K. N. Nikolaev 16 on the Eastern Rite:

2.(…) Even simply visiting a church of the Eastern Rite is forbidden and sinful for an Orthodox Christian. It is necessary to warn the Russian people against placing their children in schools which are headed by Catholic clergy. It is likewise necessary to relate to the performance of mixed marriages, which in the circumstances of emigré life is a source of danger for the Orthodox faith in the family, with special care.

3. It is necessary to explain to Russian society that Christianity and Orthodoxy have the same meaning. One must explain that true Christianity exists only in Orthodoxy, and where there is no Orthodoxy there is only heresy and sectarianism. 17

The issue of the Eastern Rite activity continued in the afterwar period. The Synod of Bishops at their meeting on February 17/March 1, 1952, recommended the book of K.N.Nikolaev 18 on the history of the Eastern Rite. 19

On November 12/25, 1958, the Synod of Bishops discussed the appearance of Eastern Rite priests looking just like Orthodox priests. It was resolved: The sacred canons prevent Orthodox Christians from prayerful communion with those who do not belong to the Orthodox Church. Because of that, members of the Church and especially her priests must watch carefully that people who have nothing in common with the Orthodox Church would not have access to their flock. Orthodox shepherds must warn their flock against those who wear Orthodox garments and sometimes try to conceal their belonging to Roman Catholicism. There is no way for them to participate in Orthodox divine services. 20

The Synod of Bishops on February 12/25, 1959, heard an oral report by Metropolitan Anastasii informing them about a letter from Archbishop Feodosii of Brazil in which he described the activity of representatives of the Eastern Rite and that a certain Mr. Reier established a society for help in emigration to North America. On the board of this society Catholic missionary priests and archpriests of the ROCA were on the same level. Frs. A. Samoilovich and N. Predoevich participated. It was resolved that the Synod of Bishops recognized the need for an energetic struggle with against the propaganda of the missionaries of the Eastern Rite by reviving the missionary work of priests. The participation of the ROCA’s clergy on any boards together with the heterodox without the permission of their bishop is a breach of discipline and should not be permitted. 21

At the Bishops’ Council of 1959 (October 9/22) Bishop Antonii of Geneva pointed to the activity of the Eastern Rite Catholics in Austria and added that one psalomshchik, without knowing the difference, had participated in an Eastern Rite service. The resolution offered by Bishop Vitalii and accepted by this Council contains the following thoughts: Missionaries of the Eastern Rite are active in all dioceses of the ROCA, especially where the pastoral activity is weak. Therefore priests must work with their flock, explaining to them the actual aims of the Eastern Rite. The prohibition to attend Eastern Rite services was repeated. It is especially directed to choir directors. Those who breach this concilar decision must be placed under a penance. All print shops must print works which answer Roman Catholic arguments. 22

However, regarding the Eastern Rite, not only pastoral concerns were raised. Fr. Igor’ Dulgov of the ROCA’s Western European diocese expressed his hope that there are Roman Catholic clergy who are not for deception, but due to their sympathy for Orthodoxy use the Eastern Rite, and some of them pursue their journey into the Orthodox Church. Such people, as long as they act according to their conscience and do not proselytize, benefit Orthodoxy by doing what the Orthodox cannot do: they introduce people of their faith to Orthodoxy. 23

d. Renegade Clergy

In order to protect its flock, the Synod of Bishops took strong measures against clergy who converted to Roman Catholicism. In the “Inventory of files kept in the Chancery of the Higher Church Authority Abroad/Synod of Bishops” the following items are found: 24

File no. 172. Started on October 21/November 3, 1923. On the deposition of Archimandrite Sergii (Dabich) from the holy ranks of the priesthood and monasticism and his excommunication;

File no. 248. Started on March 25/April 7, 1925, on the deposition of Archpriest Ioann Koronin and his excommunication;

File no. 25 A. Started on August 23/September 5, 1926, submitted by Archbishop Innokentii of Peking regarding the deposition of Archimandrite Nikolai (Alekseev).

The periodical Khleb Nebesnyi states that the priest Zakharii Kovalev was removed from the Orthodox Church and deposed for his departure to Roman Catholicism by decree of the Synod of the Bishops. 25

On March 29/ April 11, 1930, the Synod of Bishops treated the case of the return to Catholicism in Persia of the Orthodox priest Pavel Ivanov (he had previously been a Catholic priest). The Synod of Bishops deposed him from his office on the basis of Apostolic Canons (10, 11, 31, 46) which concern prayer with apostates, specifically those who without reason install different altars and those who accept the sacrifice of heretics. The third and fourth canons of the Third Ecumenical Council were also cited concerning those who apostacized to Nestorianism, as well as a series of canons of the Council of Laodicea concerning the prohibition of prayer with heretics. In addition, the Synod of Bishops excommunicated the former priest and anathematized him. 26

In May 1946 the Bishops’ Council, while in Germany, received refugee bishops of the Ukrainian and Belorussian Orthodox Churches (BOC) into the ROCA. On June 26 Bishop Pavel of the BOC, vicar of the Smolensk diocese, was defrocked specifically for propagating Roman Catholicism among the faithful. On August 17, 1946, the same Council deposed Bishop Pavel, for his lack of repentance for concelebrating with Roman Catholic clergy. 27

The ROCA’s Synod of Bishops on December 15/28, 1953, heard a report from Archbishop Stefan of Vienna and Austria that Archpriest Iuvenalii Kubenskii informed him in a letter that he had joined the Roman Catholic Church. Because of this the Bishops’ Council of the diocese removed him from the clergy, which was announced in all parishes. It was resolved by the Synod to inquire of Archbishop Stefan if he would like to judge Iuvenalii Kubenskii for his betrayal of Orthodoxy. 28

2. The Attitude to the Sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church


i. Metropolitan Antonii

In his letter to Hieroschemamonk Feodosii of Mt. Athos, Metropolitan Antonii wrote on May 26, 1926:

Was the Church divided in the eighth or eleventh centuries? This is written in our idiotic textbooks, but the Church by receiving Latins into communion in the same way as Nestorians (Council of Trullo, 95) does not make any distinction between old heresies and the Latin one. I think that the Latins are considerably further from the Church and they are worse than Monophysites and Monophelites, because they created a second Christ, i.e., the antichrist in the person of the Pope, who is supposedly infallible, explaining all issues of piety ex sese, etiam sine consensu ecclesie (resolution of the Vatican Council of 1870). 29

ii. Archbishop Vitalii of Eastern America

Archbishop Vitalii (Maksimenko) was close to Metropolitan Antonii from his student years at the Kazan Theological Academy, from which he graduated. Perhaps this explains the following account provided by Metropolitan Evlogii in his memoirs: In 1918 Fr. Vitalii, then an Archimandrite, was interned by Ukrainian nationalists in a Uniate monastery together with a group of bishops headed by Metropolitan Antonii. There Vitalii, a quick-tempered person, in his discussions with the monks, once called their Communion demons’ food. 30

iii. Archbishop Feodosii of Brasil. 31

During discussion at the Bishops’ Council of 1953 (October 13/26) mentioned that he used to be perform wedding ceremony in churches of both confessions. When people who had been married in the Roman Catholic Church turn to him, Feodossii release them from obligations to the Roman Catholic Church. 32

iv. Archbishop Leontii of Chile and Peru

Igor’ Andruskiewitsch, secretary to Archbishop Leontii 33 when he lived in Buenos Aires, 34 recalled at a meeting with the author, that he once asked the archbishop if it would be permissible to call for a Catholic priest if he were in an accident. Archbishop Leontii replied:

I do not know how I would have answered you before Vatican II, but now, after Vatican II, I will not answer you. When the moment comes, our Lord and Savior will tell you what to do. You will be able to decide without me. Because after Vatican II, I have my doubts. They changed the canon of the Eucharistic liturgy again, which had been changed earlier. Therefore I do not know whether their Eucharist is valid. 35

Andruskiewitsch mentioned that Archbishop Leontii used to say that before Vatican II Roman Catholic Communion was of benefit to faithful Catholics.

b. The Reception of Clergy

File no. 11A (Started on February 27 / March 12, 1923), listed in the “Inventory,” 36 was based on the report of Archpriest M. Stel’mashko on the attempts of Roman Catholic clergy for union with the Russian Orthodox Church.

On August 16/29, 1932, the Synod of Bishops heard a report by Archbishop Apollinarii on behalf of Fr. Vipartas, the administrator of sixteen Lithuanian parishes in the U.S. that wanted to join the Orthodox Church. 37 Archbishop Tikhon of Berlin was confused because they preserved the Roman Catholic calendar, rites, and customs. On the next day Archbishop Serafim of Finland informed the Council on the decision of the commission (the second member was Bishop Serafim [Lade]) which was established to review this case. The commission related to the Lithuanians with the greatest condescension. They were required to accept all dogmas of the Orthodox Church and the Orthodox creed. They would have to start communing lay people under “both species” immediately. They would also have to begin to commune infants, perform Chrismation immediately after Baptism, serve the Orthodox liturgy with an Orthodox antimension, follow the Orthodox Paschalion, venerate the saints of the Orthodox Church, and cease the veneration of saints of the Roman Catholic Church which were not received by the Orthodox Church. The Lithuanian parishes were allowed to bring in Orthodox practices and the Orthodox way of life gradually. They would be in constant canonical communion with and obedience to the Higher Church Authority of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad through their bishop. The points elaborated by the commission were accepted by the Council. The decree was sent to Archbishop Apollinarii on August 31/September 13, 1932, signed by Metropolitan Antonii and Iu. P. Grabbe as the administrator of the chancery. 38

I found the cases of the deviation from the practice of the Synodal period, regarding the reception of clergy, in the post-war time. In December of 1950 Archbishop Venedikt of Berlin and Germany ordained to the priesthood the ex-Roman Catholic priest Venedikt Boian. 39

c. The Attitude Toward Lay People

Archimandrite Amvrosii (Pogodin) served the parish in Bradford, England, in 1952 while he was a clergyman of the ROCA. Once he was called to the hospital to see a woman “of your religion” who was apparently a Galician Uniate. Fr. Amvrosii did not commune her, but served as an interpreter between her and a Roman Catholic priest. Later Archimandrite Amvrosii related this to Archbishop Ioann of Shanghai and

told him that I would have given Communion to the dying women even though she was a Uniate. After this I was ready to accept any punishment which the Holy Orthodox Church would give me. Archbishop Ioann’s reply was worthy of his sanctity and love towards people: “No punishment would have been given to you.” 40

On October 6/19, 1960, the Synod of Bishops discussed the appeal of S. F. Medvetskii, who was born into a Uniate family. However beginning in 1912, while studying in Vienna, he diligently attended the church at the Russian embassy, where he had made his confession and received Holy Communion. While in Russia he was married in an Orthodox church and participated in the mysteries, according to the practice during the First World War when Orthodox clergy did not demand from Uniates a formal reception into the Orthodoxy, but offered pastoral care of them. In that period whole Lemko villages returned to Orthodoxy. However, Archbishop Aleksander of Berlin and Germany prohibited Medvetskii to make his confession and to partake of Holy Communion. The Synod resolved that, since only persons who belong to the Orthodox Church are allowed to receive confession and communion, M. F. Medvetskii should be asked if he had completely left the Uniate Church and whether he wishes to stay within the Orthodox Church until his death. If so, he is a son of the Orthodox Church and there is no difficulty in permitting him to participate in confession and communion. 41

It was common for Orthodox to sing in Roman Catholic choirs. Archbishop Ioann of Western Europe commented that he reprimanded Ioann Gardner for conducting such a choir. 42 At the same time, at the Bishops’ Council of 1953 (October 8/21), Archbishop Ioann mentioned that in the ROCA’s parish in Holland even non-Orthodox sing in the choir. 43 A Roman Catholic monk who visited the Balkans in the 1930’s mentioned that he had “the opportunity of assisting at solemn matins in the Russian Orthodox church at Belgrade.” 44 At the same time Fr. Albert Valensin of Lyons, who helped Russian refugees in France, mentioned that during his visit to Harbin to 1937 he Archimandrite Vassilii and M.B.Gerasimov assisted him at the Polish Church, where he celebrated mass. 45 At the St. Vladimir Convent in Harbin Valensin was solemnly received: a little girl by the Russian custom gave him a loaf of bread and the abbess expressed here joy at being able to receive him. 46

There is no indication that before World War II the reception of Roman Catholics was done differently from the practice of the pre-revolutionary Russian Church. The first mention is found in the repot of Bishop James (Toombs) of Manhattan 47 of the American Orthodox Mission under the ROCA to the Bishops’ Council on October 8/21, 1953, where he mentioned that he receives people through baptism, including Catholics. 48 The Mission printed The Church is One by Khomiakov and planned to print The Catechism of Metropolitan Antonii (Khrapovitskii). The way of reception converts through baptism not meet with any objection by the Bishop’s Council. One may wonder whether such an approach was in any way influenced by the literature the Mission printed.

At the same time the Orthodox mission of Archpriest Evrgaf Kovalevskii in France received some Catholics through repentance and some through baptism. However the bishops, at their meeting of October 26/November 8, 1962, did not object to this information provided by Kovalevskii. 49 At the meeting they had the day before, Archbishop Vitalii of Montreal said that by an easy reception heretics are not given the chance to repent and be humble. God’s grace will touch them when they will show humility and readiness to submit to the authority of the Church. 50

The Kovalevskii group was received into the ROCA in 1960. From then until January of 1962 they give Communion to heterodox for missionary purposes. Following conversations with his ruling hierarch, Archbishop Ioann, Kovalevskii sent a special epistle forbidding such a practice. At his meeting with the Bishops’ Council on October 26/November 8, 1962, Kovalevskii explained that they did this:

Because in France only twenty-five percent of the population practiced Christianity and only fifty percent were baptized. The Church left them behind. They are in search. In his thoughts Archpriest Kovalevskii sees crowds of Catholics who left the Church. They are baptized, chrismated, and are seeking the truth, coming to our churches. It is a shame that for 1000 years we did not care about them. 51

The fact of giving communion to Catholics ignited the discussion. Archbishop Nikon noted that we are giving communion to Uniats for missionary purposes. Archbishop Vitalii argued that this is so because in the Carpathians people never knew that they were not Orthodox and they continue to live as in olden times. Their bishops were recognized by the Pope, but the people still think they are Orthodox. Archbishop Afanasii noted that it all depends on how to understand membership in the Orthodox Church. If a person goes to an Orthodox church for communion then he is Orthodox. Ruthenians by the thousands took communion in the Pochaev Lavra, and nobody ever questioned if they were Orthodox, because they were such in spirit. Archbishop Averkii confirmed that simple Carpatho-Russian people never suspected that they were not Orthodox; the intelligentsia, however, needed to be received through the special rite. 52

3. Ecumenical Relations with the Roman Catholic Church

a. Spontaneous Union Movement

Some Russians refugees, meditating on the events of the Revolution, Civil War, and their exile, came to the conclusion of the necessity of the union of Churches. This was also seen in connection with the position reviewed above on the Pan-Christian alliance against militant atheists. The following account from the pamphlet of P.P.Izvol’skii typically reflects this position:

The last hour has come. We have begun to see clearly that the Russian disturbance (smuta) is neither a political nor a social movement and that it has in its foundation the age-old struggle against light, and evil against good (…) We Orthodox should not breach the law of love. We should not have in our hearts any bitterness or condemnation towards the Western Christians. We should sincerely, with all our hearts, strive to know them and to understand their spiritual world better. In personal relations we should put away all prejudices and we have to remove misunderstandings (…) accumulated over the centuries. (…) You [Roman Catholics] are on the wrong path – put away your concern for the external, formal unity (…) Our enemy is your enemy, take up arms with us against unbelief and godlessness. 53

It is possible that Izvolskii’s thoughts were influenced by Bulgakov’s Na piru bogov, written in 1918, where Bulgakov’s “refugee” says:

A common enemy is advancing upon the whole of Christendom, and his advance does away with old quarrels between Orthodoxy and Catholicism. Differences of dogma never really had any vital importance in the question, and they can and must be solved amicably, with a sincere and loving desire for mutual understanding. In reality, neither Catholicism nor Orthodoxy is quite the same as they were. Something visible to only a few is happening here: a new sense of an ecumenical Church is coming to life. 54

In 1922 Bulgakov developed this concept in a much more Latinophile tone in his U sten Khersonesa. In December of 1922 he arrived in Constantinople and stayed there until the spring of 1923. Here he was cured of his enthusiasm toward Rome. To this period are related his contacts with Archbishop Anastasii, who at this time lived in Istanbul. The latter, in his letter of April 10/23, 1923, wrote to count G. N. Trubetskoi:

Fr. S. N. Bulgakov was to have left Constantinople today (…) We spoke at length about future publications. We, having been in agreement from time immemorial (not just on this point) about nearly everything, differ only in views about the Catholic question. I find that now it is extremely dangerous to treat [traktovat’] the union of Churches in the sense and direction of V.S. Solov’ev. I am taking into consideration only the factual side of the question and do not touch the principal one, which also demands the most serious attention. This would mean to entice the entire native and diaspora Rus’ against oneself, which is unanimous in their attitude toward Catholicism, as the known system of relations to the rest of the Christian and particularly the Orthodox world. S.N. [Bulgakov] approaches this important topic from the scholar’s point of view, but now is not such a period and atmosphere that we may discuss this subject from abstract scholarly levels, since this is in too close proximity to the vital interests of the moment. Even ordinary prudence demands not to touch this issue or review it from the practical side. 55

Troubetskoi himself, in an essay written in 1922, Red Russia and Holy Rus’, 56 dedicated several concluding pages to “the union of Churches.” The author argues against conversion and in favor of working for the union of Churches. Trubetskoi assumes that sooner or later Catholics will throw away the dogma of Papal infallibility and then the Church will be one. The author thinks of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches in terms of the two Gospel sisters, Martha and Mary, and only the joint prayers of both will help to resurrect the religious life of the world. The rapprochement has to begin not from the revision of differences but from the strengthening of the inner unity we have while praying in churches. The West cannot wall itself off from either Bolshevism or Russia. Therefore the West has to turn to what is good in Russia, which is its striving for Christ.

That the subject of union was taken up not solely in the realm of intellectuals can be seen from the letter of a certain Russian Captain [rotmistr] P-ov, written in January of 1924:

You concentrate your main attention on what is common to all Christian Churches and that which divides them you count as secondary. Meanwhile, not long ago, in Gallipoli, in 1921 I had to hear the views about Roman Catholics from an old Archpriest (an Academy graduate), that they are not Christians but pagans! (…) He tried to convince me that this is the view about Catholicism of the Orthodox Church. If this is right it is awkward to speak about unity. Pagans have to be converted to Christianity. 57

b. Metropolitan Antonii

In his letter to Iurii Pavlovich Grabbe of December 18, 1924, Metropolitan Antonii writes that Russians were invited to a Catholic conference by Roman Catholics for no reason other than to convert them to the Unia, which is a heresy. “However, why not send a sturdy fellow there?” Then he suggested candidates from among the youth who were best informed in theology, such as M. Maksimovich, Kern, and Zernov. “It is also good to send someone well-versed in languages.” 58 This ecumenical approach of Antonii is confirmed by Serge Bolshakoff, the prior of St. Benedict Brotherhood, who saw it as follows:

His attitude toward Rome was very clear. Rejecting any kind of insincere prosyletism and any dogmatic compromise, he wished the restoration of the broken connection between Rome and the Orthodox Church based on the principles of past unity. It is in that spirit that he permitted the unionist activity of the Orthodox Brotherhood of Saint Benedict and the introduction by the prelates of his jurisdiction of the celebration of the “Octave” toward Christian unity in their dioceses. 59

Antonii, adamantly recognizing that “there can be no question of union with heretics and schismatics, but only of their restoration to union with the Church,” 60 nevertheless stated that if this were to happen, he would be prepared to invest the Roman Pontiff with such “an authority (…) as had never hitherto been assigned to him.” 61 Antonii would admit a “single personal supremacy in the Church in consonance with the broadest preservation of the conciliar principle and on the condition that supremacy does not pretend to be based on such invented traditions [of the Roman Church], but only on the practical need of ecclesiastical life.” 62

Archimandrite Kiprian (Kern) wrote in his memoirs 63 that “the Metropolitan did not understand the entire acuteness of the [Catholic] question and struck all that required careful and attentive study” 64 According to Kiprian, for Metropolitan Antonii “Rome was simply heretical.” 65 Antonii considered their mysteries devoid of grace and his aphorism that “the Pope is just a muzhik66 is well-known. In fact, Metropolitan Antonii equates Rome with “those self-consecrated societies which appeared after Luther’s and Calvin’s break from the Roman Church.” 67 Kiprian sees this equation as the main problem in Antonii’s understanding of ecumenical dialectics.

c. The Second Pan-Diaspora Council

At the Council N. F. Stepanov presented the report, “The Vatican’s Attitude to the ecumenical movement.” 68 The author started from the point that the Vatican cannot compromise regarding union and can conceive only of the recognition of the Roman Church by the separated brethren and their unconditional reception of it. Over ten printed pages of the report deals with the Encyclical of Pope Pius XI, Mortalium Animos. Stepanov comments that this document did not state the main dogmas of the Church while at the same time confirming the Pontiff and the infallibility of the Bishop of Rome. From here Stepanov reaches the conclusion that the Vatican allows the preservation of all peculiarities of those who are presently not in communion with the Roman See. The only demand is the recognition of the Pope and his infallibility. It seems that Stepanov is rather sympathetic to the Roman Catholic ecclesiological stance vis-a-vis the other confessions and suggests that the ROCA accept its intolerance toward Protestantism which is, he writes, very different in belief from the Orthodox Church. 69 In the Pope’s Encyclical regarding ecumenism, Stepanov does not find anything but the condemnation of ecumenism. However, Stepanov finds a different tone in the statement of the French bishops who speak of the recognition of the value of the moral foundation provided by the Oxford Movement. That endorsement allowed him to reach the conclusion that there is a policy regarding ecumenism in the Roman Catholic Church which acts “behind the scenes.”

Stepanov speculates on these motives in a lecture dedicated to the Oxford Conference of 1937 and in another report, “Jewish-Catholic Rapprochement,” which was reviewed in the previous chapter. In the latter report the author sees that this presumed collaboration is negatively influencing Roman Catholicism, moving it into relativism. 70 Stepanov warns of the activities of a lay group of faithful, the “Fellowship of Faith”, founded in Paris in 1934 with a Catholic chairman and two vice-presidents, a Protestant and a Jew. Among the purposes of this fellowship were modesty, full religious freedom and mutual respect, and condemnation of anti-clericalism and anti-semitism. Stepanov points to the masonic lexicon of the fellowship, that the word “God” is replaced by Hope, Power, Spirit, Love. For Stepanov this is the way to a Masonic understanding of God as Great Architect of the universe.

On the basis of this speech the Council of Bishops on its meeting on August 24, 1938, accepted the following resolution:

The organization under the general name “Fellowship of Faith” threatens the Church of Christ and especially the Russian Church. The principles of race, nation, patriotism, and also monarchy, condemned by the Vatican and undermined through this fellowship, not only do not contradict the doctrine of the Orthodox Church and church life and are therefore sinful, but, to the contrary, these are spiritualized through the teaching of the Gospel, and assist in the spiritual success of the nations. The Russian Orthodox Church forbids her children in any fellowship of faith beside societies spiritually nourished by her, because for Orthodox Christians the only union is the Church. 71

d. Bishop Nahanail of brussels and Western Europe

Archimandrite Serafim, the abbot of the St. Job of Pochaev Monastery in Slovakia, in an editorial article for the new year of 1942 in Pravoslavnaia Rus’, noted that the coincidence of dates for the celebration of Easter by Orthodox and Catholics and the rest of Christianity calls for a united effort in a drastic campaign against Bolshevism. 72 This article was positively received in the Slovak Catholic newspaper, Katolicke Noviny. There was a later response 73 by Archimandrite Nafanail (L’vov), with whom we dealt in a different parts of this paper. 74 Nafanail appreciated the thought in the article which refers to the restoration of Christ’s seamless garment. The starting point for such a union is the striving for the truth. The Church does not close her eyes to the abyss which separates her from this world, as is done by some of her unwise children at the ecumenical conferences, but calls for unity across this abyss. The Church understands such a union not as a submission to her earthly institutions, patriarchs and synods, but calls for a unity in truth. The whole Christian world confesses that uncorrupted truth and genuine freedom that were qualities of the ancient undivided Church. All that is still possessed by the Church, which preserves the faith of the ancient Church without betrayal.

In the beginning of 1948 Bishop Nafanail at the meeting 75 with Catholics at the Vatican cited the words of Bishop Feofan the Recluse: “I do not know if Catholics will be saved, but if I became a Catholic I would not be saved.” 76 Nafanail in the conclusion of his talk, given in Brussels almost in the same time as he visited Vatican appealed

to all Belgian Catholics to help those Russians who were living in Belgium to return to the Church. Catholics and Orthodox were today in the same position. Their enemies were the same, not only militant Communism, but also other evil forces, among them “the putrefying human lukewarmness.” We stand in need of each other. And St. John Chrysostom, venerated by us all, teaches us that the Lord brings people together when they need each other, so that we may meet, learn, and love each other. 77

In his letter to Grabbe of May 14/27, 1968, Nafanail 78 explains his view of Roman Catholicism prior to the Second Vatican Council. He had a great sympathy for the Catholic Church, especially for Pope Pius XII, who proclaimed the anathema against communism. After the Second Vatican Council, Catholics keep silent about this anathema. Before the Vatican II Catholics were ninety percent Orthodox.

e. Archbishop Leontii of Chile and Peru

Igor’ Andruskiewitsch, at a meeting with the author mentioned above, related the following story told to him by Archbishop Leontii:

(…) a Catholic Archbishop, well-known in Chile, served a memorial service for Jacques de Molay, the last great secretary of the Order of the Knight Templars and a great heretic. The Templars were the predecessors of Masons and heretics. This was an ecumenical funeral service. Catholics, Anglicans, and Protestants participated. I refused to go, but the Antiochean Orthodox Bishop did and I ceased communion with him.

f. First, Second, and Third Sessions of The Second Vatican Council (October 1962-November 1964)

i. The Issue of Participation.

Metropolitan Anastasii, at the Synod meeting on January 14/27, 1959, informed the bishops of the summoning of an Ecumenical Council by Pope John XXIII which would remove previous divisions and restore unity. This council is very important for all Christians and especially “for our Church which is in captivity by the godless Soviet rule.” 79 Metropolitan Anastasii considered it expedient to organize a special commission to review the possibilities of the ROCA’s participation in such a council. The Synod resolved to appoint the following persons to this commission: Bishop Averkii, as Chairman, and Bishop Nikon; Archimandrite Konstantin (Zaitsev); Protopresbyter Vasilii Bascshenovskii; Archpriests Mikhail Pomazanskii, Georgii Grabbe, Ioann Legkii, Boris Molchanov; Hieromonk Antonii (Grabbe); Professors N. S. Arseniev and G. A. Glinka; P. D. Il’inskii, K. N. Nikolaev, and G. V. Mesniaev. 80

Archbishop Aleksandr of Berlin and Germany, in his letter to Metropolitan Anastasii of April 7/20, 1959, informed him that he had participated in the Catholic conference at Mainz which was convoked in view of the Vatican Council. 81

At first Vatican II looked like a pan-Christian endeavor and met with a unified response from the ROCA. Bishop Vitalii of Montreal and Canada wrote 82 that the main goal of this council was to find a common front for the entire Christian world in its struggle with the main enemy, godless materialism. To the inquiry of the French press, Vitalii responded that such a conference cannot be called a Council because a Council must express catholicity. Councils cannot be composed of organically different organizations. Heretics, in the history of the Church, were called to a Council only to face the Church. Archpriest Georgii Grabbe wrote in the official organ of the Synod, “the Orthodox East cannot come to the Council called by the Pope while he preserves the dogmas denied by us. There is no such precedent in the history of the Church.” 83

Archimandrite Konstantin (Zaitsev), in his lengthy essay included in the brochure To the Forthcoming Catholic Universal Council, 84 calls the initiative of the Vatican in summoning the Council “a temptation which abolishes the dogma of the Church.” 85 Konstantin did not agree with Patriarch Athenagoros of Constantinople, Patriarch Theodosios of Antioch, and Metropolitan Antony (Bashir) in their call to have a dialogue with Rome. According to Konstantin the Orthodox Church does not need such a meeting because only in her is the authentic consciousness of ecumenicity preserved. Those who are in delusion need be refuted and return to the Church. All other agreements for Konstantin are deviations on the path to ecumenism, which rejects true Orthodoxy. Konstantin applies the same arguments in his comments on articles by Florovsky 86 and Alivizatos.

In his article written in 1960, Ecumenism, Communism and Apostasy: the Spiritual State of the Contemporary World, Konstantin comments as the present situation within the Roman Catholic Church:

For Catholicism it is most difficult to withstand the temptation of keeping a complete aloofness of consciousness in its appeal to Christ – without taking a blasphemous turn against Orthodoxy, which it rejects. And insofar as Catholicism raises its hands against Orthodoxy, then it goes not towards Christ, but against Him, manifesting that “anti-Christ” which is inescapably present in apostasy. It is not mercy but righteous wrath which is the natural response of God to such a direction of Catholicism – a direction which simultaneously imposes a ruinous duplicity upon its whole countenance. 87

Konstantin at the same time demonstrates his adherence to an Augustinian approach toward schismatics:

Until recently, the task of struggling with Orthodoxy did not characterize the consciousness of Roman Catholicism as a whole. At the upper levels something in this direction was being done, at the periphery something was taking place, and somehow later something of the sort was consolidated into the Church life. But the main body of the faithful, remaining within the fold of a Church essentially Christian in origin, did not burn with anger toward those whom the Roman Church abandoned in the bosom of the True Church. In historical Catholicism two elements are intertwined. Christ lives, even though due to apostasy He is manifested in a perverted form. But the Antichrist also is present, and in one way or another manifests himself. 88

In the same article Konstantin regrets that the Vatican, for the price of domination in the Christian world, loses features of its apostolic succession:

In giving “schismatics” equal plae in a “renewed” Catholicism, Rome annuls her own original historical value, making herself equal to the “schismatics” whom she allows to associate with herself: there is no more of Christ, in His original authenticity. There is only the pope, and beneath him different variants in the worship of God. The ecumenism annuls its own Roman Catholic Church past, which by right of succession ascends to the Hall of Pentecost. What remains is an ecumenistic dream resting on human agreement concerning the utilization of various forms of worship of God. A clerical “social contract.” 89

At a meeting of the Synod on June 12/25, 1959, it was resolved to request the above-mentioned commission to review the publication of the works of St. Mark of Ephesus which were translated by Archimandrite Amvrosii (Pogodin) and offered them for publication in view of the Vatican Council. 90

Two days of work by the Bishops’ Council of 1959 were dedicated to the Vatican Council. During meetings on November 3-4 the majority of bishops were against participation in the Council. Bishop Averkii, the chairman of the commission, commented that the Council is a step in the process of apostasy. Averkii cited Feofan the Recluse: “Catholicism is the first stage of decline into the sphere of darkness.” 91 The goal of Masonry, said Averkii, is to realize the union of Churches and now the Pope has entered onto this path. 92 Averkii was supported by Archimandrite Konstantin, a member of the commission, who claimed that in the Vatican there is a struggle between two trends, the Ecumenical, headed by Cardinal Montini, and the Catholic, led by Cardinal Tardini. Konstantin notes that “we should wall off from Catholic ecumenism, without attacking anyone and keep up the fight against Protestant ecumenism and Red Moscow.” 93

Bishop Vitalii of Montreal offered a different perspective. He agreed that initially it was possible to regard this Council as not exclusively Catholic. However, the ROCA may participate in such a conference if Catholics will decide to gather for a discussion of social issues for the protection of Christianity. To summarize the discussion Metropolitan Anastasii said that we need to study the question of Catholicism in a broader sense and do more work in that sphere. 94

The resolution accepted by the Council contains the following points: Every Christian heart is in sorrow that for 900 years the Christian West has been separated. The Encyclical of Pope John XXIII explains unity as a “return” of the Eastern Church to Rome. A joint Council of the Orthodox and Roman Catholics is not possible as long as the latter confess the dogma of Papal infallibility ex cathedra. By participating in the “Twenty-first Ecumenical Council,” the Orthodox Church is obliged to recognize as Ecumenical the previous thirteen councils. The faithful children of the Russian Church in the diaspora must firmly preserve the traditions of the Fathers, and not give in to the perspective of union, which is foreign to Orthodoxy, be it through a Roman Council or the ecumenical movement, where the spirit of inter-confessionalism is dominant and inevitably leads to ignorance of dogmatic truth. 95

ii. The Question of Observers

Prior to 1962 the position regarding the Council changed. On September 11, 1962 the Vatican officially requested Metropolitan Anastasii to send observers to the Council. 96

By the time of the meeting of the Synod on May 31/June 13, 1962, Bishop Antonii of Geneva had already appeared as an observer at the Vatican Council. 97 Archpriest Igor’ Troianov from Switzerland joined him in the same status along with Prof. Grotov from Rome. Archpriest Aleksandr Trubnikov from Paris came to the Vatican as a journalist at the invitation of the Vatican Press office. 98 Protopresbyter Georgii Grabbe, in his letter to Trubnikov of July 20/August 2, 1962, 99 instructed him to listen more than to speak while in Rome, at least regarding solely Catholic questions. At the same time Trubnikov was to inform whomever he could of the ROCA’s circumstances and views.

At the same time, positive evaluations of the Vatican Council were found among the ROCA’s speakers. Priest Igor’ Dulgov, in the periodical of the ROCA parishes in Switzerland, 100 welcomed the proposed change in the bishops’ rights and of the return to the norms of the ancient Church. Dulgov wrote that such a movement will place Rome, sooner or later, on the path of direct return to Orthodoxy. Bishop Antonii of Geneva and Archpriest Igor’ Troianov met sincere friends among Catholics while they were in Rome. 101

A traditional Orthodox position at ecumenical meetings was represented by Bishop Antonii of Geneva at his sermon in the Russian church in Rome, given on October 1/14, 1962, after the opening of the Vatican Council. The unification of the Christian world is necessary especially now in the face of militant atheism. At the same time it is necessary to place realistic boundaries for our rapprochement. Behind these boundaries lies the “holiest of holy,” the sacred dogmas of Christ’s faith, which we preserve as the divine truth revealed by God and to lose these is our greatest fear in all in world. 102

It is noteworthy that the ROCA’s position regarding their presence at Vatican II was more flexible than that of the Patriarchate of Constantinopole. The article “Orthodox Churches and the Council in Vatican” 103 was published in the same issue of the above cited newsletter. The editors expressed their respectful disagreement with the refusal of the Ecumenical Patriarch, on behalf of all Orthodox Churches, to send representatives to the Vatican. The observers were only listening, without the right to vote. The Bishops’ Council of 1962 in its epistle justified the presence of the ROCA’s observers at the Council because the Ecumenical Patriarch had refused to send any delegates to the Vatican due to the activity of the Eastern Rite Catholics. In their epistle, the bishops completely agreed with the Patriarch that this activity is an obstacle to rapprochement. 104 However, to the best of my knowledge it is the only position of the Ecumenical Patriarchate which met with a positive response from the ROCA in the period of the early sixties.

The editors of Tserkovnaia Zhizn’ 105 commented on a statement of Archbishop Iakovos made in view of the Vatican Council. According to Tserkovnaia Zhizn’, Iakovos said that he does not mind leaving the dogma of Papal infallibility only for Catholics. “Union is more important than dogma. Doctrine has to bring together, not divide.” 106 The editors commented that they read such statements with deep sorrow, since from such statements one may conclude that truth is something relative. The article concluded: “Vladyka Iakovos suggests to express only the things which may attract and help the general union, without paying attention to the truth of the dogmatic teaching of the Ecumenical Orthodox Church.” 107

Bishop Antonii, in his report on the Vatican Council presented to the ROCA Bishops’ Council of 1962 (November 13/26, 1962), shows that he adopted some of the Catholic arguments. According to Bishop Antonii, the Protestants are afraid that at the Vatican Council the Orthodox and Catholics may unite with each other much easier than with Protestants. In order to avoid the union of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, Protestants decided to involve all Orthodox Churches in the ecumenical movement.

Antonii continued that the presence of the ROCA‘s representatives at the Vatican Council is important while observers from Moscow were there as well. The ROCA’s representatives were able to explain the circumstances of the Church in Russia and the Church Abroad to many people.

This report met with some objections. Archbishop Afanasii of Buenos Aires was afraid that Catholic organizations will use the fact of the presence of the ROCA observers to attract the Orthodox into the Eastern Rite. Bishop Savva of Western Canada received a letter which expressed confusion over why the ROCA observers were present while other Orthodox Churches did not send any observers. Moreover, the ROCA observers were there along with Moscow Patriarchate’s. Archbishop Vitalii of Montreal and Canada was against the recall of observers because their presence might help break the relations of the Eastern Patriarchs with the WCC. Bishop Savva felt the ROCA must use the Vatican as a forum for witnessing to the truth. 108

On the next day (November 14/27), the Council continued its discussion of Vatican II. Here a tendency to see Communism as the worst evil was present. A member of the commission on Vatican II, Archimandrite Konstantin, saw this problem: if the Vatican wants to co-exist with Communism and understands that the representatives of the Soviet Church were acting, not as church representatives, but as agents of the Soviet government and nevertheless invited them, the ROCA cannot cover this evil with silence. Archbishop Vitalii mentioned that the ROCA must struggle with Moscow on a world-wide scale. Archbishop Savva read a letter of N. D. Tal’berg, a Professor at Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, in which he wrote that the ROCA has to establish communion with Old Calendarists, but not with free-thinkers headed by the Pope. Bishop Antonii of Geneva argued that if at the Vatican there would be conversations on the reception of Orthodox into Roman Catholicism, the observers will leave the Council. On the other hand to leave means to lose the ability to maintain a voice. Bishop Savva felt that it would be worthwhile to stay at the Vatican if it would be interested in joining the Orthodox Church. Archbishop Vitalii felt that an opportunity existed to speak about Orthodoxy, on the situation in the Orthodox world, and about the persecution of the Church in Russia. If they leave, Moscow will stay. Archbishop Averkii sees the event in relation to worldwide apostasy. He said that the Parisian Exarchate and the Greek Church explain their membership in the WCC as a witness to Orthodoxy. Now it is clear that this is not true. They were integrated the WCC. The offer to have observers at the Vatican was for the same purpose. Metropolitan Anastasii again shows his broadmindness: he summarized the discussion by saying that he is in sorrow when he hears speeches in which the power of Orthodoxy is forgotten. The simple introduction to Orthodoxy may later bring about miracles. The Catholics established a double-rite monastery in Amay 109 and, as a result, several monks joined the Orthodox Church. Now the ROCA has the possibility to use a world forum and it is afraid. One must have more faith in the power of Orthodoxy. 110

A typical presentation of the ROCA’s observers at Vatican II is exemplified by the following. 111 At Cardinal Bea’s reception, Archpriest Igor’ Troianov said:

We Orthodox stand firmly on the foundation of our faith and will stand as we did in the past. All talks on the confusion of Churches are not acceptable to us. All we want is rapprochement and mutual understanding. If we come to a mutual understanding of the Church, then we will find in such an understanding a unity which is pleasing to our Creator. 112

The issue of the presence of the Moscow Patriarchate continued to be crucial. In the letter of Bishop Antonii of Geneva to Metropolitan Anastasii of August 2, 1963, it is stated that the Vatican opened the doors for Moscow’s propaganda too widely and that the only way to counteract this is withdraw the observers. One may argue, writes Antonii, why did the ROCA, while knowing about the Communist control of the WCC, have an observer in New Delhi, but may not have one at the Vatican? In any case, no bishop should be present. 113 On August 2/15, 1963, the Synod decided, with respect to the invitation from the Vatican, to delay the certification of the observers, which should clearly demonstrate the protest of the ROCA against the persecution of religion in Russia and its non- recognition of the Moscow Patriarchate, which serves the godless communist regime. 114

Representatives at the second session were Archpriest Igor’ Troianov and Prof. S.V. Grotov. For the third session they were joined by Archimandrite Amvrosii (Pogodin), rector of the ROCA parish in Rome. 115

The following account represents the ROCA’s reception of the Vatican II minus their attitude toward aggiornamento. Archpriest Igor’ Troianov, in his report dedicated to the fourth session of the council, comments 116 on the following words of Prof. Arseniev:”it is possible to consider the Council as one of the most significant and fruitful phenomena of our time for sending the apostolic message of salvation in Christ to the suffering world which is under the threat of perishing.” 117 Troianov mentions that Arseniev belongs to a group of ecumenically-minded thinkers. “This ecumenical ideology came out of Anglican Protestantism and is gradually taking over minds throughout the world, including the Orthodox masses. The only exception was, and remains, the Russian Church Abroad. She did not joint it and did not participate in its ‘church’ work.” 118 The Council itself did not make any serious impression on Troianov; he did not see anything constructive or epoch-making in it. What was good about it were the contacts which were made there.


The ROCA’s attitude toward the proselytic activity of the Roman Catholics was characteristic of the Russian Church. The Russian bishops in the diaspora encountered the missionary activity of Roman Catholics aimed at the Russian people. At the same time many of the Russian refugees who lived through the collapse of old Russia were sensitive to the issue of the union of Churches, especially in view of militant atheism. The concern of the Russian bishops to preserve their flock in Orthodoxy did not help them to distinguish between those in Roman Catholicism who were interested in converting the “eastern schismatics” and those who were interested in a serious study of the Orthodox Church. Nevertheless Metropolitan Antonii did not object to the participation of select representatives of Russian youth at Roman Catholic conferences. Metropolitan Anastasii maintained the continuity of this approach by Metropolitan Antonii.

Not all bishops were ready to deny unequivocally the presence of grace in the mysteries of the Roman Catholic Church. Archbishop Leontii of Chile did not allow the faithful to receive Roman Catholic mysteries, though he left the question open in the case of mortal danger. Archbishop Ioann of Western Europe would allow a dying Uniate woman, for the sake of condescension, to receive the Holy Gifts.

I do not have evidence to indicate how Roman Catholics were received prior to World War II. I assume they were received according to the usage of the Russian Church during the Synodal period: ”Confirmed Roman Catholics […were] received by the third rite, i.e., through confession and repudiation of heresy.” 119 The first evidence of deviation from this practice occured in the American Mission within the ROCA headed by Bishop James of Manhattan. It is possible that he decided to receive Roman Catholics through baptism under the influence of the writings of Khomiakov and Metropolitan Antonii. However, toward the end of the period under consideration the French mission of Archpriest Evgraf Kovalevskii received Roman Catholics through repentance. The only available case for the reception of Roman Catholic priest, by Archbishop Venedikt in 1950, also shows divergence from pre-Revolutionary practice. 120

The ecclesiological position of the Roman Catholic Church on the ecumenical movement (non-participation), which was also an inspiration of Catholic proselytic activity, was met with sympathy by some of the ROCA’s spokesmen. 121 This ecclesiological position was based on the understanding that the Roman Catholic Church is the only true Church and all those separated from her must return to her. Of course, sympathizers of this approach applied it to the Orthodox Church, addressing the Catholics with the same appeal as they addressed to the Orthodox. Side by side with this approach there existed another position represented by Archimandrite (later Bishop) Nafanail, who imagined a broader picture: a return to common Orthodox heritage with the preservation of existing external forms. This position recalls the statement of Metropolitan Antonii on the status of the Bishop of Rome. This approach also was shared by Bishop Antonii of Geneva, the head of the ROCA’s observers at the Vatican II. It should be noted that, contrary to Metropolitan Antonii, Bishop Antonii of Geneva showed much more sympathy for Catholics than for Protestants.

Two trends within the ROCA clashed regarding the Second Vatican Council. One was the “preserving the deposit” and the other was the “missionary.” The first, for instance, was advocated by Stepanov at the Second Pan-Diaspora Council 122 and, following World War II, by Bishop Averkii of Syracuse and Holy Trinity Monastery. The “missionary” approach was advocated by Metroplitan Anastasii and Bishop Vitalii of Montreal and Canada. The representatives of the “preserving the deposit” position were afraid to compromise Orthodoxy. This concern also applied to meetings with heretics on equal terms. The “missionary” position saw Vatican II as the forum in which to maintain the Orthodox voice and to leave it would mean to lose the ability to do so. It is significant that the ROCA’s main interest at Vatican II was to convey the position of the Russian Church under the communists. The epochal decisions of Vatican II were met without any interest at best, and negatively at worst.

Vatican II demonstrated also the divergences between the ROCA and the Patriarchate of Constantinople on the issues of participation at that Council and witnessing to Orthodoxy.


  1. Riley, Birkbeck, 251.
  2. E.g. Accusations against Metropolitan Evlogii et al. and his reply: “Konflkt s katolikami,” Tserkovnyia vedomisti 7-8 (1/14-15/28 April 1926): [15-17].
  3. Archive of the Synod. My gratitude to Sr. Vassa (Larin) for providing me with this excerpt.
  4. Deiania russkago, 78-80.
  5. Besedy pravoslavnago sviashchennika s uniatskim o zabluzhdeniiakh latinian i uniatov greko-katolikov.
  6. Archive of the Synod.
  7. On him see Léon Tretjakewich, Bishop Michel d’Herbigny SJ and Russia: a Pre-Ecumenical Approach to Christian Unity (Würzburg:Augustinius verlag, 1990).
  8. Put’, 434-435.
  9. “O dukhovnom sostoianii russkago naroda v razseianii sushchago,” Deianiia vtorogo, 156.
  10. The meeting took place on November 27 1961. “Ukaz Arkhiereiskago Sinod Russkoi Pravoslavnoi Tserkvi Zagranitsei ot 22 avgusta/4 sentiabria 1961 goda No 1180”, Svet Khristov prosveshchaet vsekh: Vestnik Shveitsarskago vikariatstva 1 (January 1962): 10. The order of things was not the same everywhere. For instance, Fr. Alvian Smirensky, in his correspondence with the author (December 2003), writes that while he attended the St. Nicholas Lyceum in Harbin in the late thirties only the Catholic students received Communion at the Sunday Mass served in the school. The Orthodox boys would be taken to a near-by Russian Orthodox church for confession and communion several times a year. There were about a hundred boys at the school and only four or five were Catholic. There was no overt pressure to turn students into Catholics.
  11. Deiania russkago, 78.
  12. Archive of the Synod.
  13. Deiania vtorogo, 375-376.
  14. Deiania vtorogo, 678-679.
  15. “Novaia papskaia entsiklika,” Tserkov’ i eia uchenie 2 (1970), 221-232. At the meeting (October 21/November 3) of the Bishops’ Council of 1959, Bishop Vitalii (Ustinov) said that the phenomenon of Fatima is purely a spiritual delusion (prelest’). The description of it contradicts the entire ethos of the Marian manifestations (Archive of the Synod).
  16. From 1912 served as a barrister, was a consultant of Orthodox Church in Poland. Because of his zealous position in favour of the Orthodox Church, Nikolaev had to leave Poland to Serbia, shortly before World War II (“Tchestvovanie K.N.Nikolaeva,” Pravoslavnaia Rus’ 7[1952]: 15.).
  17. “Opredeleniia Arkhiereiskago Sobora,” Tserkovnaia Zhizn’ 10 (1938): 160.
  18. Vostochnyi obriad (Paris 1950).
  19. “Opredeleniia Arkhiereiskago Sinoda Russkoi Pravosalvanoi Tserkvi Zagranitsei,”Tserkovnaia zhizn’ 7-8 (July-August 1952): 114.
  20. “Ukaz iz Arkhiereiskago Sinoda Russkoi Pravoslavnoi Tserkvi zagranitsei,” Tserkovnyia vedomosti Pravoslavnoi Tserkvi v Germanii 1-2 (January-February 1959): 3.
  21. Archive of the Synod.
  22. Ibid.
  23. “Rimo – katoliki i my,” Svet Khristov Prosveshchaet vsekh 8 (August 1962): 2-3.
  24. As was mentioned, the present location of them is unknown.
  25. “Tserkovnaia khronika,” 1-2 (Februrary 1927): 30.
  26. “Opredeleniia Arkhiereiskago Sinoda,” Tserkovnyia vedomosti 9-10 (May 1/14-15/28 1930): 4-5.
  27. Archive of the Synod.
  28. Ibid.
  29. “Pis’mo 31,” Pis’ma blazheneishago, 169.
  30. Put’,324. It is worth noting that at the same time Metropolitan Antonii discussed with other inmates whether it is permissible for the Orthodox to make the sign of the cross in a Uniate church. His decision was that it is permissible wherever the image of the cross is present (Ibid., 321).
  31. He graduated in 1914 from St. Petersburg Theological Academy (Seide, “Biographies”).
  32. Archive of the Synod.
  33. Born in 1904 in Kiev. In 1922 entered the Kiev-Caves Monastery, where he received informal theological training which he later continued with some of the professors of the St. Petersburg and Kievan Theological Academies.
  34. 1969-1971.
  35. Manuscript in possession of the author.
  36. Archive of the Synod. See references above. As in all other cases there is no information on the present location of this file.
  37. GARF. f.6343, op.1, d. 7.
  38. I have no information on the further fate of these parishes and doubt that they were ever received into the ROCA.
  39. “Naznacheniia i uvol’neniia za noiabr’ i dekabr’ mesiatsy,” Rasporiazheniia Vysokopreosviashchenneishego Venedikta Arkhiepiskopa Berlinskogo i Germanskogo (December 1950): n.p. The absence of details does not allow one to make a final conclusion for the reasons of the ordination.
  40. Pogodin, “On the Reception of Converts,” 61.
  41. Archive of the Synod.
  42. Ibid.
  43. Ibid.
  44. Austin Treamer, A.A. “A Tour in the Balkans,” The Eastern Churches Quarterly 1.4 (April 1936): 94.
  45. In both cases it is hard to guess what means “assisted.”
  46. “Russian Orthodox in Harbin, “The Eastern Churches Quarterly 2.4 (October 1937): 227.
  47. American Episcopalian by birth who had belonged to the group of Bishop Aftimios (Ofiesh). In 1951 was consecrated Bishop of Manhattan.
  48. Archive of the Synod.
  49. Ibid.
  50. Ibid.
  51. Ibid.
  52. Ibid.
  53. K voprosu o soedinenii tserkvei. Izdanie Prikhodskogo Soveta pravoslavnoi russkoi tserkvi v Rime (Munich, 1922), 12. The author, former unter-procurator of the Holy Synod in Russia, soon after the publication of this article received ordination from Metropolitan Evlogii (Put’, 399-400).
  54. Cited in Gallahaer “Bulgakov’s Ecumenical Thought,” 38-39.
  55. “U Istokov,” Vestnik, 227.
  56. 388 Krasnaia Rossia i Sviataia Rus’, [N.Arsen’ev preface] (Paris, 1931). Already in 1919 Trubetskoi inquired A.Lisakovskii in Rome if there is ground for closer relations between the Vatican and the Orthodox Church. Lisakovskii replied positively, adding that he believes in the practical possibility of such union (GARF f.3696. op. 2 d.7).
  57. To Mikhail Arkad’ev, published in his pamplet Na kakikh osnovaniakh vozmozhno soedinenie Pravoslavnoi, Katolicheskoi i Protestantskoi Tserkvei, part 2 (n.d, n.p.), 29-30.
  58. “Pis’mo 23,” Pis’ma blazheneishago, 163.
  59. “Le Metropolit,” Irenikon 13.5 (September-October 1936): 559.
  60. “The Orthodox Church and the Papacy,” The Christian East 5.1 (February 1924): 24. It is a summary of Antonii’s lecture given in Belgrade on August 15/28, 1923, in view on the conditions which must precede the union of the Churches (Ibid.). The Russian text is found in Tserkovnyia vedomosti (October 15/28 1923).
  61. “The Orthodox Church and,”.25. The same thought was expressed by Trubetskoi in his above-cited essay, p. 79 and in our time by Bishop Kallistos (Ware). See The Orthodox Church(1997), 316.
  62. Ibid.
  63. Vospominaniia.
  64. Ibid., 49.
  65. Ibid., 48.
  66. Ibid.
  67. Ibid., 49.
  68. Deiania Vtorogo, 335-351.
  69. Generally Stepanov shows reverence for the Roman Catholic Church relative to the way he writes about Protestants and the ecumenical movement.
  70. Ibid., 552.
  71. “Postanovleniia i rezolutsii Sobora RPTsZ … ,” Tserkovnaia Zhizn’ 10 (1938): 159-160.
  72. “1942,” 1-2 (January 25/February 7 1942): front page.
  73. “Tserkovnoe edinstvo,” Pravoslavnaia Rus’ 11-12 (1942): 3-5.
  74. Nafanail attended Pastoral and Theological courses in Harbin.
  75. Mentioned in the chapter on cooperation.
  76. Archive of the Synod. File 5/48.
  77. “News and Comments,” Eastern Churches Quarterly 7.5. (January-March, 1948): 343. It is not clear where this talk was given. Presumably at the Comitté Belge de Documentation Réligieuse pour l’Orient.
  78. Stanford M0964, Box. 2, Folder: “Bishop Nathanail to Grabbe.”
  79. Archive of the Synod.
  80. Ibid.
  81. Ibid.
  82. “Katolicheskii Ekumenicheskii Sobor,” Pravoslavnoe obozrenie 25 (Montreal, March 1959): 70-71.
  83. “Problema vozsoedineniia v sviazi s predstoshchim Soborom Rimskoi Tserkvi,” Tserkovnaia zhizn’ 3-4 (March-April 1959): 45.
  84. K predstoiascshemu Katolicheskomu Vselenskomu Soboru, 1-37.
  85. Ibid., 12.
  86. “ ‘Ekumenicheskoe’ Pravoslavie”, 12-13.
  87. Reprinted by St. John of Kronstadt Press as a pamphlet (n.d.) from Orthodox Life 64 (July-August 1960). Pages cited from the pamphlet, 8.
  88. Ibid., 8-9. Further Konstantin reflects how the situation changed after the Russian Revolution when Catholics unfolded their missionary activity for the salvation of Russia.
  89. Ibid., 10.
  90. Archive of the Synod.
  91. Ibid.
  92. Meeting on October 21/November 3 1959. Archive of the Synod.
  93. Ibid.
  94. October 22/November 4, 1959. Ibid.
  95. Archive of the Synod.
  96. Archpriest Igor’ Troianov, “Pravoslavie i Vtoroi Vatikanskii Sobor,” Nasha strana (Buenos Aires, Feburary 23 1965): 3.
  97. Archive of the Synod.
  98. Letter of Troianov to Grabbe of July 23, 1962. Archive of Synod, File 5/48.
  99. Ibid.. Grabbe wrote that the Synod of Bishops charged Bishop Antonii to be an observer. Considering that, his assignment most probably was made at the June session of 1962.
  100. “Rimo – katoliki i my,” Svet Khtristov Prosveshchaet Vsekh 8.11 (August 1962): 4.
  101. .”Ukaz Arkhiereiskago Sinoda Russkoi Pravoslanvoi Tserkvi Zagranitsei ot 22 avgusta/4 sentiabria 1961 goda № 1180,”Svet Khristov prosveshchaet vsekh:Vestnik Shveitsarskago vikariatstva 1 (January 1962): 10.
  102. “Nasha tochka zreniia,” Svet Khristov prosvechshaet vsekh, 10 (October 1962): 1-2.
  103. “Pravoslavnaia Tserkov’ i Vatikanskii Sobor,” 2-6.
  104. “Arkhipastyrskoe poslanie Arkhireiskago Sobora Russkoi Zarubezhnoi Tserkvi Pravoslavnym Russkim liudiam v razseianii suscshim,” Archive of the Synod.
  105. “Zaiavleniia Arkhiepiskopa Iakova” 1-6 (January-June 1962): 39-41. Translated from Long Island Catholic (May 24 1962).
  106. Ibid., 40.
  107. Ibid., 41.
  108. Archive of the Synod.
  109. This “double rite” community in 1939 moved to Chevtogne.
  110. Archive of the Synod.
  111. I do not have much information on the statements made by observers at the working sessions of the Council.
  112. Troianov, “Pravoslavie.”
  113. Archive of the Synod.
  114. Ibid.
  115. Troianov, “Pravoslavie”.
  116. Archive of the Synod.
  117. “Znachenie Vtorogo Vatikanskogo Sobora (1962-1965),” Vozrozhdenie 170 (1966): 90-95.
  118. “Doklad o 4-oi zakliuchitel’noi sessi 2-go Vatikanskago Sobora.”
  119. Pogodin, “On the Reception of Converts.”
  120. Although we do not have sufficient information to make a final conclusion on the reasons of that ordination.
  121. Stepanov, Archimandrite Konstantin.
  122. “Catholicism influences Judaism; Judaism influences Masonry, and Masonry influences the Ecumenical Movement.” (“The Jewish-Catholic Rapprochement,” Deiania Vtorogo, 539).


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