From the Editor
Archpriest Grigorii Lomako (1881-1959) was a member of the first wave of Russian émigré clergy with roots going back to the clerical estate of Imperial Russia. At Saint Petersburg Theological Academy, he was a classmate of the Tikhon Aleksandrovich Ametistov (1884–1941), a future colonel in the counter-intelligence division of the Russian Volunteer Army. The latter became the secretary of the Supreme Church Authority in the South of Russia and later in Constantinople, and subsequently the secretary of the diocesan administration under Metropolitan Evlogii. Father Grigorii was a member of the All-Russian Local Church Council of 1917–1918, and the secretary of the “Stavropol” Supreme Church Authority in the South of Russia. By virtue of these circumstances, Fr. Grigorii witnessed the “birth” of the Supreme Church Authority Abroad in the emigration, about which he writes so vividly. He penned unique memoirs, for instance, about how Metropolitan Antony was “lured” into evacuating Novorossiysk. In the emigration, Father Grigorii served in various countries and capacities, but always outside the ROCOR (after the 1926 schism): in 1935, he took part in a conference of Russian bishops abroad in Sremski Karlovci, and in 1950, he briefly held the dean’s post of Saint Tikhon’s Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania.A. Niv′er. Pravoslavnye sviashchennosluzhiteli, bogoslovy i tserkovnye deiateli russkoi emigratsii v Zapadnoi i Tsentral′noi Evrope [Orthodox Clergy, Theologians, and Church Figures in the … Continue reading Submission to the Moscow Patriarch was just as unacceptable to Fr. Grigorii as it was to the ROCOR.
The essay reproduced here was written after Fr. Grigorii’s participation as an expert in canon law in a two-month-long trial in 1949 involving the ROCOR and the North American Metropolia. In this capacity, Fr. Grigorii lost to his less prominent colleague, Archpriest Mikhail Polsky (1891–1960). According to the latter’s testimony, Fr. Grigorii was perfectly honest in his assessment of the disorder in the Metropolia.Amerikanskaia mitropoliia i Los Anzhelosskii protsess [The American Metropolia and the Trial in Los Angeles], Jordanville, 1949, p. 16. The present essay largely reiterates Fr. Grigorii’s earlier characterization.“Po povodu resheniia vysshego suda shtata Kalifornii po Los-Anzhelosskomu delu” [“On the Resolution of the California Supreme Court on the Los Angeles Affair”], Russko-Amerikanskii … Continue reading The resulting polemic is an elaboration on the wide-ranging debate, which has been reconstructed on this site, around the publication of Fr. Mikhail Polsky’s book The Canonical Position of the Supreme Church Authority in the USSR and Abroad in 1948. The argumentation of the ROCOR and the Metropolia is both interesting in the context of ROCOR lawsuits involving the ownership of church property.Cf. Priest Daniel Franzen, The Mayfield Parish, Congregationalism, and the American Orthodox Experience in the Twentieth Century. Fr. Grigorii asserts that recognition of the primacy of the Ecumenical Patriarch should be a fundamental principle for structuring the émigré church in an Orthodox manner. He cites Metropolitan Antony’s words underscoring this special status in the Orthodox Church. It is important to bear in mind that, when defending the rights of the Ecumenical Throne in 1923, owing to the possibility that the Ecumenical Patriarch might be deported from Istambul by Atatürk’s government, Metropolitan Anthony simultaneously opposed the Patriarchate of Constantinople meddling in the affairs of the Church of Russia.“Skorbnoe poslanie Sviateishemu i Blazhenneishemu Arkhiepiskopu Konstantinopolia – Novogo Rima i Vselenskomu Patriarkhu Kir-Kir Konstantinu VI” [“Sorrowful Epistle to His Holiness and … Continue reading, Like St. Theodore the Studite, Metropolitan Antony referred to the special rights of the Bishop of Rome“Vysokopreosviashchennyi Mitropolit Antonii o Soedinenii Tserkvei” [“His Eminence Metropolitan Antony on the Union of the Churches”], Tserkovnye vedomosti 19–20, October 15/28, 1923, pp. … Continue reading, while also being of one mind with Patriarch Photios, who condemned the interference of Pope Nicholas of Rome in the internal affairs of the Byzantine church. Transferring this understanding of the exclusive rights of the Ecumenical Patriarch from the Byzantine and Ottoman past into present-day reality poses a question concerning one of the main issues of church law at all levels: how and by whom will the decisions of the Ecumenical Throne be subject to control and restraint? In the absence of such a mechanism, it must be stated that the Ecumenical Throne considers itself to be endowed with a special ex cathedra status with respect to its role in the Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Deacon Andrei Psarev, July 16, 2021
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Church divisions and discords in the Russian diaspora have been ongoing for the past twenty years. Instead of the unification and unity that has been commanded to us, there is a whole series of “jurisdictions,” some of which are not slackening at all in their irreconcilability. This phenomenon of our church and social life cannot be termed anything besides an illness, and as any illness it has its causes and bases which brought it about, and it is impossible to attain pacification and a normal state without removing it. Abscesses cannot be treated by merely external plasters and rubbing, while ignoring the basic cause of an infection. This case is exactly the same. It is necessary to discover and clarify to oneself the cause or causes of our illness, firmly deciding in advance, immediately, upon discovery, to cast them away and totally step away from them, no matter on which side they may turn out to be. According to human reasoning, this is difficult, even impossible. As one of the most notable representatives of the “conciliar” jurisdiction has written, “… this will require not only much wisdom and reasonableness but genuine courage, total sincerity, and even confessionalism…” This is very true — only in the presence of such qualities can we attain the unification and peace for which we all long and the unity that has been commanded to us and is therefore obligatory for us. And we must not be troubled by the difficulties in realizing this truly holy task and by the obstacles on the way to its attainment. God’s all-powerful grace will fulfill what is lacking in us and will strengthen our weakness to reach the indestructibility of the power that overcomes all, and then we will forget about the pitiful babble of worthless words, as if “we are losing face, if we renounce what we stood upon before,” as the same notable representative of the “conciliar” jurisdiction wrote to us in response to our pleas to be roused to realize and perform the great and holy task of instilling God’s peace into tortured human hearts. What “loss of face” can be mentioned by those who strive to imprint upon themselves and upon their whole life the light of Christ’s countenance, this true light for the whole world, when we are trying with all our strength to be one with Him, our Lord and God, in fulfillment of what has been commanded to us?
When, according to the unknown and incomprehensible, but always good and always true judgments of God, this horrifying calamity and storm broke out over the world and the Russian nation, whose end we cannot see even now, many hundreds of thousands, millions of Russian people found themselves beyond the borders of the Russian Church. These exiles, who became wanderers over the entire face of the earth, lost, it seemed, everything that a person can lose on earth. But by a miracle of God’s ineffable mercy, they preserved a treasure more valuable than any treasure: their Orthodox faith.
And from the first days of their wanderings they could not conceive of their lives to be outside the Church and without Her. The Church became the focus of their lives and the parish became the venue of their social activity. I remember vividly the first years of our exile, when, by God’s will, I had the opportunity to visit almost all of the locations of our diaspora in the Near East: Constantinople, Thessalonica, Athens, Beirut, Cyprus, Egypt, and the Balkans. The first thing that these “refugees,” exiles, wanderers would try to organize and do from the first days of their arrival in a particular place of residence was to create a church and organize a parish. I believe that the same occurred in the Far East and in all the other parts of our diaspora. I was personally invited to Luzon Island, to Manila. “We cannot live without a church and without a priest,” they wrote me. In a word, Russian parishes spread out all over the world and, understandably, needed guidance, administration, and, according to the very order of church life, the grace of headship by hierarchical rule. The task that was emerging was to arrange and direct this whole mass of Russians dispersed across the various parts of the world. And so now, after more than a quarter of a century has passed, it must be said with all sincerity that we have not coped with this task, and it is also not apparent that we can solve it on our own if we remain with our previous mindset regarding the issue of arranging our church life.
The two-hundred-year period of rule of the Russian Church by the Synod (more accurately, by the ober-procurator), when the church became one of the “departments” of a complex governmental machinery, did not fail to leave traces in the minds of Russians, and especially in the minds of the émigrés from the first “evacuations.” Purity of ecclesiastical self-awareness was lost by most Russians during this two-hundred-year period. Awareness of the Church’s unity, of its universality and self-sufficiency, was all lost. The awareness of Her connection to the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church and of the necessity for this connection either was weakened to the utmost degree or took on the aspect of attributing to the Russian Church all the affirmations of the Church Universal, such that the Local Russian Church turned out to be the actual Church Universal, and that outside the Russian Church there was nothing ecclesiastic or Orthodox. Some kinds of Greeks, Romanians, and Arabs were there, but this was just an “insignificant amount.” “My dean has more Orthodox in his deanery than in his (one of the Eastern patriarchs) entire patriarchate,” as one of the members of the Most Holy Governing Synod of Russia said. Such a state of ecclesiastical self-awareness was the deep-seated basis for the development of the Russian Councils and Synods Abroad. This idea arose and was realized in Constantinople, where General Wrangel’s army arrived in November 1920 after a heroic but fruitless struggle against the red vermin. In the initial period after arriving in Constantinople and the Balkans, these fighters for Russia’s honor and its integrity, for their native land and the Orthodox Faith, were all in the still simmering and unabated pathos of a struggle that had not ceased but was rather interrupted. The army’s leader was in on it, and the churches commemorated “the[ir] faithful leader and ruler.” Of course, that was only a respite in a yet unfinished struggle. Soon we will plunge into battle again and — with God’s help — we will win. Everything that is true and genuine, is on our side. The red vermin and unfortunate martyrs are over there, in Russia. We have the Russian authority, the army and its leaders. We have the ruler. The ruler has the “Russian Council,” which is the fullness of power. Such was the mood and self-awareness among most the Russian exiles in the initial period following the evacuation from Crimean. The idea of establishing a Supreme Russian Church Authority arose on this basis. This idea, which arose out of national political elements, could not produce satisfactory results in the matter of arranging purely ecclesiastical life, as ensuing events demonstrated. In essence, all of us, upon arriving in Constantinople, the capital of the Ecumenical Patriarch, the bearer of the first throne of God’s Church, should have turned to him with a request, through our archpastors, to give us direction and organize us. How wonderful would that have been, totally in line with the canons, and, therefore, beneficial and salvific. We would have been established on an ecclesiastical footing in the structure of our church life right from the outset, and thus any “jurisdictions” would have been impossible in the future. This is not what happened. We forgot both the meaning of the canons and the living examples of the recent past, when our fellow Orthodox, the Greeks, in the early nineteenth century, were fleeing Turkish atrocities and came to Southern Russia. There were bishops among them, and these Greeks had no thought of starting their own Greek dioceses there. Neither did our Holy Synod think of establishing Supreme Greek Church Authorities Abroad for them. Orthodox exiles settled in an Orthodox country and consequently joined the jurisdiction of the Russian Church. And the Greek bishops, preserving, of course, the entire fulness and inviolability of the hierarchical gifts of grace, started exercising their episcopal authority only upon receiving dioceses for them to rule over from the Holy Synod (His Eminence Nikiphoros Theotokis in Astrakhan). We did not turn out to be at the same high level of ecclesiastical self-awareness. I well remember that drearily foggy December day in 1920 when the impetuous and never balanced Bishop Veniamin, at that time the bishop of the “Christ-loving Armed Forces,” and now Metropolitan of Riga, came off our battleship General Alekseev, docked at the roadstead, with a proposal to establish a Supreme Church Authority in Constantinople. Metropolitan Antony and I were in an empty room of the top floor of the Russian embassy in Constantinople by a large open window, gazing at the Bosphorus, the Scutari Minarets that were barely visible due to the rain, and the grey mass of the Turkish Selimiye Barracks in Kadikõy. Suddenly the entry door from the hallway opened fitfully and upon turning around we saw Bishop Veniamin running in. While still in the doorway he loudly said to the Metropolitan, “Vladyko! We (who?) have decided to establish a Supreme Church Authority here.” With his characteristic abruptness and directness, Metropolitan Antony said in response to this exclamation that one must be an absolute fool to think of establishing one’s own Supreme Church Authority in the Ecumenical Patriarch’s capital city. Nonetheless, a little while later, the elderly Metropolitan was persuaded to head a delegation composed of Russian hierarchs (Metropolitans Antony and Platon, Archbishops Anastasii and Feofan of Poltava, and Bishop Veniamin) to the Patriarchate with a request to allow Russian hierarchs to establish a Russian Supreme Church Authority in Constantinople. Some of the representatives of the “Conciliar Jurisdiction Abroad” say that it — as the immediate successor to the Supreme Church Authority in the South of Russia, which arose according to a ruling of the Stavropol (in the Caucasus) Council — was called into existence by “the council of Russian hierarchs in Constantinople, which changed the name of the Southern Church Authority in Russia to the Supreme Russian Church Authority Abroad, and from then on started gathering annually according to the canons (?).”Kanonicheskoe polozhenie Vysshei Tserkovnoi Vlasti v SSSR i zagranitsei [The Canonical Position of the Supreme Church Authority in the USSR and Abroad], by Archpriest M. Polsky, p. 13; available at: … Continue reading
With his characteristic abruptness and directness, Metropolitan Antony said in response to this exclamation that one must be an absolute fool to think of establishing one’s own Supreme Church Authority in the Ecumenical Patriarch’s capital city.
An incidental gathering of exiled hierarchs who had abandoned their dioceses “to God’s will” can be called a council only under the influence of a preconceived idea of justifying the existing situation. This ‘council’ can in no way be regarded as a successor to the Temporary Supreme Church Authority in the South of Russia as per the ruling of the Council of Stavropol(-in-the-Caucasus). There was not a single member of the Supreme Church Authority who was elected at the Stavropol Council in the Constantinople group of active hierarchs. But even if this totally incidental gathering of Russian exiled hierarchs in a half-empty room where Vladyka Anastasii was living was a council and initiated the existence of the Supreme Russian Church Authority Abroad, having “changed the name of the Southern Church Authority in Russia to ‘Abroad,’” as Archpriest M. Polsky writes in his book, why did this require a delegation of Russian hierarchs to the Patriarchate? For the delegation went not with an announcement that it was establishing a Supreme Church Authority, but with a request to allow the establishment of some sort of administrative body. And the Ecumenical Patriarchate, through the mouth of the Locum Tenens of the Patriarchal Throne at the time, Metropolitan Dorotheos of Brussa, gave his due to Metropolitan Antony, telling him that he would be allowing any initiative under his supervision, since the Patriarchate was aware that “Your Preeminence will not do anything uncanonical.” The document, which was received without delay, said the following: “ἀποτέλεσετε ὑπὸ τὴν ἀνώτατην προστασίαν τοῦ Οἰκουμενικοῦ Πατριαρχείου προσωρινὴν ἐκκλιαστικὴν Ἐπιτροπὴν μέλλουσαν ἐπιβλέπειν καὶ διευθύνειν τὴν ἐκκλιαστικὴν ἐν γένει ζωὴν τῶν ἐν τῇ περιοχῇ μὴ Ὀρθοδόξων Περιφερειὼν εὑρισκομένων ρωσσικῶν παροικιῶν” (the hierarchs listed in this document are: Metropolitan Antony, Metropolitan Platon, Archbishop Anastasii, Archbishop Feofan of Polatava, Bishop Veniamin). The Ecumenical Patriarchate is allowing the Russian hierarchs enumerated above those personally, who had approached them) to establish, on a ‘contingent’ (προσωρινήν) basis, an ecclesiastical epitropia (ἐπιτροπία, ‘guardianship’), indicating right away the aim of establishing the aforesaid epitropia, as well as the sphere and extent of its activity. It was being established, according to the patriarch, for ecclesiastical supervision and organization in the general order of the life of Russian parishes situated in non-Orthodox regions (“μέλλουσαν ἐπιβλέπειν καὶ διευθύνειν τὴν ἐκκλιαστικὴν ἐν γένει ζωὴν τῶν ἐν τῇ περιοχῇ μὴ Ὀρθοδόξων Περιφερειὼν εὑρισκομένων ρωσσικῶν παροικιῶν”). Despite such a clear, precise, and definite direction by the Ecumenical Patriarchate regarding the nature and extent of the ecclesiastic epitropia which it had established as being under its supreme authority, the Russian hierarch who initiated the founding of the Russian Supreme Church Authority deemed themselves to be the supreme power in the church, saying that the words in the decree of the Ecumenical Patriarchate should be understood “in a broader manner.” One of the first manifestations of this “broader” understanding of the rights of the above epitrope was the dissolution of marriage. However, the Ecumenical Patriarchate declared right away that the ecclesiastical epitropia that it had established to organize the church life of the Russian exiles in no way entailed the right to conduct divorce proceedings and to dissolve marriages. In exactly the same way, the Ecumenical Patriarchate did not recognize the right of Archbishop Anastasy, who at the time had the title of “Ruler of the Russian Orthodox parishes in the Constantinople District,” to conduct ordinations without the blessing and permission of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as can be seen from the case of the ordination of a choir member of the Russian Hospital Church, Gennadii A. Egorov, in Kharbia (he is now a protodeacon in Peking).
In view of such a definite, clear, and precise attitude on the part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate toward the Temporary Church Epitropia it had established, which was calling itself the Supreme Russian Church Authority Abroad and, following the sense of such a title, was trying to initiate its activity in Constantinople, there was no possibility of continuing this activity, developing and directing it there. So on a clear and frosty February evening in 1921 Metropolitan Antony departed from the Sirkeci Station in Istanbul for Serbia.
Patriarch Dimitrije of Serbia received Metropolitan Antony in a brotherly manner, allotting him appropriate quarters in his patriarchal palace in Sremski Karlovci, and immediately upon his arrival within the bounds of the Serbian Church granted him the direction of all Russian parishes in Yugoslavia (the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes at the time). In this way, Metropolitan Antony became the diocesan hierarch of the Serbian Church for the Russian parishes located in its territory. On the part of Patriarch Dimitrije, this was an act of profound canonical wisdom and fervent love for the Russian exiles. But it is impossible to see in this step anything indicating, even remotely, the establishment of a Russian Supreme Church Authority within the bounds of the Serbian Church. This is not to mention one of the basic conditions of the organization of church life, namely, that the administrative acts of the supreme church authority of each local church have and can have any canonical significance only within that church. Even if we admit (which actually was not the case at all) that Serbian Patriarchs Dimitrije and Varnava had agreed to recognize the rights and prerogatives of a Supreme Church Authority on the part of Russian church organizations in Serbia (only it is unknown over whom this authority extended), such a recognition could, of course, have had significance and any kind of force in Serbia and Serbia alone.
It should be noted here that Patriarch Varnava, who loved Russia so fervently, as, perhaps, few of us love our own truly much-suffering native land, was moved by this love and wholeheartedly wished for the Russian state—Maika Rusia ‘Mother Russia,’ as the Serbs would say—to be reborn in its previous glory and power. He was therefore more broadminded and tolerant in his attitude toward Russian Church institutions than he could afford to be according to his position as Patriarch of Serbia. In the confines of his Patriarchate, ‘in the colonnaded walls of the Serbian Church,” as he put it, he could acknowledge the efficacy, significance, and competence of the Russian “Synod” and “Council of Bishops’ as much as he wished. But outside these confines, his voice lost its decisive and definitive significance. He understood this partly himself, and lamented to me that “they wish to rule the whole world behind my back.” But along with this, he found it possible to head a committee to establish a memorial church (in memory of the murdered Tsar Nikolai Alexandrovich), and it had been predetermined that this church would be erected not in Serbia but in Belgium, where, according to the Ecumenical Patriarch’s determination and by royal decree, Archbishop Alexander, formerly vicar to Metropolitan Evlogii, was recognized as the head of all the Orthodox. That church was under the jurisdiction of the “conciliar” clergy.
As it came into existence without any canonical basis and was motivated by national politics rather than ecclesiastical considerations, the Russian Supreme Church Authority Abroad, which later changed its name to the “Synod of Bishops of the Russian Church Abroad,” had no power to direct and minister to the Russian diaspora in an ecclesiastical sense, unifying it and giving it the necessary strength of indestructible unity. The attitudes of the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Patriarch of Serbia toward this ruling Russian church body abroad is clear from the above. Other autocephalous churches likewise did not recognize its right to govern the Russian diaspora, as can be seen by the facts that speak of this with irrefutable clarity. When the abovementioned Synod of Bishops appointed Archbishop Germogen (Maksimov) as administrator of the Russian parishes in Greece, Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Athens, who had received him with brotherly love, clarified to him that all of the Orthodox parishes of the Greek Church were ruled by the hierarchy of that Church, and for that reason Archbishop Germogen would be regarded as a guest. As such, he could reside in the territory of the Greek Church, but it would be impossible for him to rule over any Orthodox parishes within it. There was a similar attitude toward the Synod of Bishops on the part of Patriarch Myron of Romania, when the aforementioned Synod attempted, with the cooperation of the Yugoslav Foreign Ministry, to appoint its own candidate upon the death of Archpriest I. Kanevskii. The repeated confrontations regarding church consecrations, ordinations to the priesthood, and monastic tonsures that Metropolitan Anastasy had with the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and which are known to the Synod of Bishops much better than to us, demonstrate with total clarity the view of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem toward the jurisdictional rights of the Synod of Bishops. The book Ζήτημα τῶν Ρώσσων Ἀρχιερέων Προσφύγων [The Issue of the Russian Refugee Hierarchs], published by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, can be regarded as the final chord which definitively and clearly expresses the views of the Orthodox East toward the Russian Synod of Bishops Abroad. In it, the title of the abovementioned Synod always appears in quotes (“so-called”) and is characterized as αὐτοκαλούμενη ‘self-proclaimed’ and αὐτοτιτλοφορούμενη ‘bearing a self-willed title’.
It states definitively that its jurisdictional rights cannot have any canonical force and that it never obtained the blessing of the Constantinople Patriarchate to realize and exercise its authority as a Synod, that is, as a “ruling and supreme authority over the diaspora Russians”: “Ἀρχιερατικὴ Σύνοδος τῆς Ρωσσικῆς Ἐκκλησίας τοῦ « ἐξωτερικοῦ » οὐδεμίαν Κακονικὴν Ὑπόστασιν νὰ ἔχειν καὶ οὐδέποτε ἔλαβεν Εὐλογίαν τοῦ Οἰκουμενικοῦ Πατριαχεῖου πρὸς ἐξάσκησιν Συνοδικῆς ἐξουσίας ἐπὶ τῶν Ρώσσων τοῦ Ἐξοτερικοῦ” (the quotation marks around ἐξωτερικοῦ are in the original).
The Russian hierarchs, in the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s opinion, residing in Serbia and other ecclesiastic regions, have no basis for developing and realizing pastoral and ecclesiastical service in these regions: “Ἡ ἐν Σερβίᾳ καὶ ἐν ἄλλαις ἐκκλησιαστικαῖς περιφερεíαις εὐρισκόμενοι Ρώσσοι ἱεράρχαι οὐδεμίαν κέκτηνται ἁρμοδιότητα πρὸς ἐξάσκησιν ποιμαντορικῶν καὶ ἐκκλησιαστικῶν δικαιωμάτων ἐν ταῖς περιφερίαις ταύταις.”
When the Volunteer Army under General Denikin liberated huge territories in the South of Russia from Bolshevik rule (North Caucasus, the lower Volga, the Don, Crimea, Ekaterinoslav, Odessa, Kharkov, Poltava, Kiev, and others), the question naturally arose as to whether there was a need for an ecclesiastical center that would lead, direct, and coordinate and unify the actions and all acts of church life.
It is possible, if one wishes, to disagree with this view, which is strictly ecclesiastical and absolutely canonical. The most obvious truths are at times powerless to refute human stubbornness and the delusions that people defend. It is possible to challenge this stubbornness due to its persistence, but it is impossible and totally unacceptable to be silent about it or reject it simply because it is the “view of the Greeks” or a “Greek opinion” (the “view of the Russians” or “Russian opinion,” like any other “national views and opinions”, has never been and cannot be synonymous with the truth). And it is totally incomprehensible how one can say that “the foundation of Russian Church organization, in other words of the Russian Synod of Bishops Abroad, was actually laid by an act of the Patriarchate of Constantinople on December 2, 1920,” as reported by Professor S. V. Troitskii, the legal counsel for the abovementioned Synod, in his article “Papicheskie stremleniia grekov” [“The Papist Ambitions of the Greeks”], which appeared in 1936 in issues 5 and 6 of Glasnik, an official press outlet of the Serbian Church, and was reprinted in issue 2 of Na Strazhe Pravoslaviia [On the Guard of Orthodoxy], which was published in Paris by Metropolitan Seraphim (who was then loyal to the Synod of Bishops and prayed fervently during the War for the victory of the leader of the German armies and is now an exarch of the Moscow Patriarch). That Professor Troitskii could make such an assertion appears to be attributable to those higher spheres of professorial knowledge which are inaccessible to the uninitiated, and while moving in which it is possible to assert that which is nonexistent through one’s authority as a professor with expertise in the area in question, and to impart the needed efficacy and significance to the document. In this way, the actual canonical situation of the so-called “Conciliar,” or, in plain language, “Karlovcian” Russian church institutions gradually becomes clear. The Orthodox autocephalous churches of the East exhibit a silent negative stance toward them, expressed in reserved and delicate terms, while reminiscing about former, generous and pious Russia. After all, these institutions are made up of Russians. As a basis for the canonicity of their existence, they cite their legal succession (?) from the Supreme Church Authority in the South of Russia during the Civil War, via the well-known Decree (Ukase) No. 362 by Patriarch Tikhon of November 13/20, 1920, and certain canons of the Ecumenical and Local Councils (37 and 39 of the Sixth EC; Antioch 39; Sardica 17). Let us examine these bases.
When the Volunteer Army under General Denikin liberated huge territories in the South of Russia from Bolshevik rule (North Caucasus, the lower Volga, the Don, Crimea, Ekaterinoslav, Odessa, Kharkov, Poltava, Kiev, and others), the question naturally arose as to whether there was a need for an ecclesiastical center that would lead, direct, and coordinate and unify the actions and all acts of church life. The question was one of creating and organizing a particular body to serve as a Supreme Church Authority. The initiators of this cause set about carrying it out with the utmost caution and circumspection. Protopresbyter G. I. Shavelʹskii, chaplain to the Army and Navy, was its driver and inspiration; I took part in the preliminary work as an ordinary member. In the absence of any possibility of establishing contact with Patriarch Tikhon, it was resolved: 1) to regard the measures taken as purely temporary until contact could be made with the Most Holy Patriarch and the supreme bodies ruling the Russian Church under him (the Holy Synod and the Supreme Church Council), with mandatory reporting to them regarding any action taken; and 2) to limit the scope and extent of the activities of the proposed body only to those which were absolutely essential, such that, for instance, a total moratorium would be placed on the bestowal of higher awards, since in a time of extreme trauma in church life, such awards were not a matter of urgent necessity. No one objected to such an understanding of the nature and scope of the Supreme Church Authority, save for Bishop Germogen of Aksaisk, who saw it as a personal attack, since he “ought already to have received the Order of St. Alexander Nevsky…”. Ultimately, he did receive it—from the Don Ataman General Krasnov.
To realize and carry out this undertaking, a council was called in Stavropol-in-the-Caucasus, modeled on the Great Local Council of the Russian Church in Moscow in 1917–1918. In attendance were hierarchs of dioceses that had been liberated from Bolshevik rule, along with two clergy and three lay representatives each. Members of the Moscow Council who were in the South of Russia and representatives from the Volunteer Army were brought in to take part in the Council. With this makeup, the Stavropol Council (the Council sessions were held in the splendid Church of the Cross in the bishop’s residence in Stavropol) resolved to establish a “Temporary Supreme Church Authority in Southwestern Russia,” with the aforementioned nature and scope. In it were bishops, clergy, and laity, all of them elected by the Council. Archbishop Mitrofan of the Don and Novocherkassk was elected chairman and Archbishop Dimitrii of Tauride was elected vice-chairman. All of this took place in May 1919. With the defeat of Denikin’s armies, after the evacuation of Novorossiysk in early March 1920, Archbishop Dimitrii was the only remaining member of the Supreme Church Authority elected at the Stavropol Council who was left in Crimea, where General Wrangel was trying to continue the struggle with the Red usurpers. This was because Protopresbyter G. I. Shavelʹskii, whom the Moscow Local Council had recognized as Protopresbyter of the Army and Navy for life, was sent out of Crimea by General Wrangel through the machinations of Bishop Veniamin (who was mentioned in the beginning of this article). The order to leave Crimea was handed to him on the first day of Pascha, when Fr. Shavelʹskii was struck by typhus and bedridden with a high fever. The Supreme Church Authority that already had been initiated (I cannot say by whom and on what basis) in the Crimea was composed—besides Archbishop Dimitrii, who, as I already said, was elected at the Council in Stavropol—of six other persons, who came through an invitation or appointment by someone (unknown to me), but not at all by being elected in a conciliar manner. Thus, the succession t the Supreme Church Authority, which had been in Ekaterinodar and Taganrog, was violated, in terms of both its composition and the principle behind the formation of the Supreme Church Authority and the appointment of new members.
The understanding of the nature and scope of the activity of the Supreme Church Authority in the Crimea was also violated, since it considered it certain that the sphere of its activity extended not only across the territory occupied by General Wrangel’s army, but much more widely. It also considered itself to be the bearer of all-Russian ecclesiastical power in the same way that General Wrangel and the administrative bodies under him considered themselves to be bearers of all-Russian civil power. Only this can explain the appointment of Archbishop Evlogii by the Crimean Supreme Church Authority to adminster the Russian churches and parishes in Western Europe, of which Vladyka Evlogii—who had been in Serbia, first as a parish priest and later as religion teacher in one of the Russian women’s institutes—was totally ignorant. This also explains how Archimandrite Seraphim (Sobolev), rector of the Tauride Seminary, could have been elevated to the episcopate while being left in his former position yet simultaneously being appointed to Lubny as vicar of the Diocese of Poltava at the insistent petitioning by Archbishop Feofan of Poltava, who was experiencing unusual difficulties in administering the Diocese. This was in early October of 1920, and on October 30, General Wrangel’s army, which had never reached Poltava Province, left the Crimea. At the time, Archbishop Feofan was living at St. George Monastery in Balaclava on the very coast of the Black Sea, while Bishop Seraphim, newly appointed to Lubny, left Crimea without ever having seen the town to which he was appointed.
Bishop Veniamin was the sole member of the Crimean Supreme Church Authority who was in Constantinople. It was he who proposed to establish a Supreme Church Authority Abroad there, in the capital city of the Ecumenical Patriarch. It is perfectly clear that he himself did not find or perceive any continuity with the Authority that had been in Russia, within the confines of the Russin Church, since he spoke of “establishing” it and not of continuing the activity of previous administrations. That is how this was understood by the Russian hierarchs who went to the Patriarchate in 1920 with the request to allow them to start a Supreme Church Authority in Constantinople. That is how the Patriarchate understood it, as well, allowing these hierarchs to establish a temporary church epitropia under its supreme authority, while precisely defining the very limited sphere and scope of the activity of this epitropia. It is thus totally incomprehensible how and on what basis Archpriest M. Polsky could write in his book that “The Russian hierarchs conducted their first council, which changed the name of the Southern Church Authority of Russia to the Supreme Russian Church Authority Abroad.”/Kanonicheskoe Polozhenie…, p. 113.
Therefore, there is no succession between the supreme church insitutions abroad and the Supreme Church Authority in the South of Russia, just as there was no “first council” in Constantinople in November 1920 and no “name change.” How this all occurred and what precisely happened was said above in full, precisely, and very much in accordance with with reality, since I witnessed and participated in everything that took place.
When the Supreme Church Authority Abroad was established in Constantinople and shortly thereafter (in February 1921) transferred its base of operations to Serbia, the stormy, fiery, perennially unstable Bishop Veniamin held the “first Constantinople gathering of clergy and laity” in the summer of 1921 in the absence of Archbishop Anastasii, who was in Palestine at the time. In November 1921, a “First All-Diaspora Russian Council” was called in Sremski Karlovci, which Patriarch Dimitrije of Serbia simply called a “congress,” and this was not because his Russian was bad — it was excellent, in fact. At that time, the council dealt exclusively with political matters and tasks, attempting to speak on behalf of the entire Russian Church and Patriarch Tikhon. Finally, this council left in its wake an appropriately constructed “Supreme Church Authority Abroad”. None of the attendees at this Council and Church Authority cited Patriarch Tikhon’s Decree No. 362 of November 13/20, 1920, as a basis for its activity, and this was not only because no one knew about this decree in the Russian diaspora at the time. Those involved simply felt that they had no need of any external basis that could be found outside themselves, since the source and fulness of power lies only in themselves, in their meetings and councils that begat various authorities. At any rate, no question to this effect was raised at the Karlovci Council in 1921. Everything was clear and simple: “we assembled, which means that we are a council, and so we require no basis whatsoever”. Only later did they start referring to Patriarch Tikhon’s decree and to the canons.How broadly the participants in the Karlovci Council understood their rights and the competence of their institutions can be seen in “Polozhenie o kruge del, podlezhashchikh vedeniiu Arkhireiskogo … Continue reading
What specifically does this decree say? We see the following in the text in the Holy Trinity Orthodox Calendar for the year 1948:
By the blessing of His Holiness the Patriarch, the Holy Synod and the Supreme Church Council have come to a judgment regarding the necessity, above and beyond the instructions in His Holiness’ encircular, that in the event that diocesan councils cease their activity, the diocesan hierarchs should be given the same instructions in the event that their dioceses lose contact with the supreme church authorities, or that these authorities cease their activity, and they have decreed on the basis of existing judgments:
By a circular in the name of His Holiness, the diocesan hierarchs are to be given the following instructions for requisite cases:
- In the event that the Holy Synod and the Supreme Church Council, for whatever reason, should cease their church-administrative activity, the diocesan hierarch shall immediately consult His Holiness the Patriarch or a person or institution designated for this purpose by His Holiness the Patriarch for guidelines and instructions for his service and in order to resolve cases that rightly fall within the remit of the Supreme Church Authority.
- In the event that a diocese, due to movement of the front, changes in national borders, etc., should find itself cut off from the Supreme Church Authority, or if the Supreme Church Authority itself, headed by with His Holiness the Patriarch, should cease its activity for any reason, the diocesan hierarch shall immediately establish contact with the hierarchs of neighboring dioceses in order to organize a top level of church authority for several dioceses in similar circumstances, as either a temporary supreme church authority, a metropolitan district, or something else.
- Care for organizing a supreme church authority for an entire group of dioceses in the situation indicated in paragraph 2 is the immutable duty of the senior hierarch in the group.
- In the event that it should prove impossible to establish of contact with the hierarchs of neighboring dioceses, until the highest level of church authority is restored, the diocesan hierarch shall assume the entire fulness of authority granted him by the canons, taking all measures to organize local life, and, if necessary, to organize the diocesan administration as applicable to the current circumstances, resolving all matters that fall within his hierarchical authority in accordance with the canons, and with the cooperation of the appropriate diocesan administrative bodies (a diocesan assembly, council, and so on) or those that have been organized anew; in the event of the impossibility of forming the above institutions personally, he is to rule unilaterally, subject to his own responsibility.
- In the event that the situation indicated in paragraphs 2 and 4 turns out to be longstanding and even permanent, especially if it becomes impossible for the hierarch to enlist the cooperation of diocesan administrative bodies, it would be more expedient, for the sake of maintaining church order, to divide the dioceses into several local dioceses, for which the diocesan hierarch is to:
- A) grant his Right Reverend Vicars, who are now exercising, according to orders, the rights of semi-autonomous bishops, the full privileges of diocesan hierarchs, as well as organizing administrations under them as applicable to local conditions and possibilities;
- B) establish, according to the conciliar purview of the other diocesan hierarchs, new episcopal sees, with autonomous or semi-autonomous privileges.
- A diocese that has been divided in the manner indicated in paragraph 5 forms an ecclesiastical district headed by the hierarch of the main diocesan city, which assumes the direction of local church affairs according to the canons.
- If a diocese that has been deprived of its hierarch finds itself in the situation described in paragraphs 2 and 4, the Diocesan Council, or, in its absence, the clergy and laity, are to turn to the diocesan hierarch of the nearest diocese, or the one most accessible in terms of transportation, and the designated hierarch shall either assign his vicar to administer the widowed diocese or start administering it himself, acting in the cases indicated in paragraph 5 with respect to this diocese, according to paragraphs 5 and 6; under appropriate circumstances the widowed diocese may be organized into a special ecclesiastical province.
- If for any reason there is no summons from a widowed diocese, the diocesan hierarch indicated in paragraph 7 shall take it upon himself to care for it and its affairs on his own initiative.
- In the event of the extreme disorganization of church life, when certain persons and parishes cease recognizing the authority of the diocesan hierarch, he, should he find himself in the situation indicated in paragraphs 2 and 6, shall not divest himself of hierarchical authority, but shall organize parishes made up of persons who have remained loyal to him, and deaneries and dioceses made up of these parishes, allowing services to be conducted where needed, even in private homes and in other premises adapted for this purpose, while breaking ecclesiastical relations with those who are disobedient.
- In the event that central church authority is restored, all measures undertaken locally, in accordance with the present instructions, must subsequently be presented to it for confirmation.
We have presented this ruling by the Holy Synod and the Supreme Church Council of the Russian Orthodox Church—which, as is evident from the above text of the designated ruling, was made with the blessing of His Holiness the Patriarch—in full, in view of the obvious, indubitable, and extreme importance that it has in the matter of organizing the church life of our diaspora.
An attentive reading of this document makes clear with irrefutable certainty that His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon, and the bodies of the Supreme Church Authority of the Russian Church under him, had nothing else in mind other than dioceses of this Church that might happen to be in the difficult situations that are indicated in this document. The instructions contained in this act of the Supreme Church Authority of the Russian Church are for diocesan hierarchs and no-one else. The term “diocesan hierarch” had and has a clear and definite meaning: a hierarch who rules over a diocese that has been entrusted to him. Hierarchs who were not ruling dioceses were called vicar bishops or “present” bishops (i.e., those who were present at the Synod); such was Bishop Mark Popel, who had converted from Uniatism and did not govern any diocese but was present in the Synod for many years. There was also Bishop Nikon, who later received the See of Vologda. They were in retirement. The authors of the document in question were aware of this differentiation in hierarchical titles, and the repeated expression “diocesan hierarch” thus denotes a hierarch who is in the diocese that has been entrusted to him and his administration, and who is actually administering it. Such understanding is confirmed by the entire text of the document under discussion. Paragraph 2 speaks of a diocese separated by various circumstances from the central Supreme Church Authority, and of neighboring dioceses. Paragraph 3 speaks of an entire group of dioceses in the same situation. Paragraph 4 speaks of hierarchs of neighboring dioceses, likewise meaning “diocesan hierarchs.” Paragraph 5 speaks of the possibility of dioceses being divided, and it gives instructions on what the diocesan hierarch of such a diocese should do. Paragraph 6 speaks of the same diocese after its division. Paragraphs 7 and 8 speak of a diocese that has been deprived of its hierarch, one that has been widowed, and means and measures are indicated for settling and ordering its life. Paragraph 9 speaks of cases of extreme disorganization of church life in any diocese, and the hierarch administering that diocese at that moment is given instructions for the “diocesan hierarch” on what to do in such cases. But nothing is said about the hierarchs who had had charge of dioceses that God (“Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me”) and the Supreme Church Authority had entrusted to them, and who had later left them “to God’s will” and gathered somewhere by chance, beyond the bounds of the Russian Church, on the territory of another Patriarchate, another autocephalous church, and were suddenly struck with a desire to rule, as it was with the organizers of the Russian ecclesiastical bodies in Constantinople. Therefore, the title that appears over the heading of this document in the Trinity Orthodox Russian Calendar for 1948, Osnovnoi zakon Russkoi Pravoslavnoi Zarubezhnoi Tserkvi [The Basic Law of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad] is completely arbitrary and in no way congruous with the content of the document that has been adduced above.
Here, of course, those who had given this document its title considered the expression Russkaia Zarubezhnaia Tserkovʹ in connection with the “Karlovci”/“Conciliar” Russian ecclesiastical institutions. But, as a thorough and unbiased examination of this document reveals, it has nothing to do with the “Karlovci”/“Conciliar” institutions, nor can it have anything to do with them.
Yet what, in general, can the words Russkaia Zarubezhnaia Tserkovʹ ‘Russian Church Abroad’Although usually translated as “abroad” or “outside Russia,” this is actually an adjective which literally means “beyond the border”(trans.). be taken as expressing? The Church ‘beyond the border’ [rubezh]—beyond what the border of what? The Russian Church beyond the border of its own self, beyond its own border? Or is it the Russian Church outside the borders of the Russian state, the Russian nation? I assume that the question of the meaning of the words ‘Russian Church Beyond the Border’ can only be posed with these two interpretations in mind, since throughout its earthly historical existence, the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church has been broken up into local churches, or as the Greeks wonderfully express it, “the saints of God, everywhere present throughout the places of the Church.” This means that in its earthly historical structure, the Church is defined only by the attribute of territoriality, but never by political, national, social, or any other attributes (Gal. 3: 28–29, Col. 3:11); when Christ is in everyone, everyone and everything is in God’s Church.
It is perfectly clear that the first interpretation yields an internal contradiction and obvious nonsense. There cannot be a local church beyond its own border and outside of itself. Each local church, including that of Russia, is strictly delimited by its own borders, and it ceases to exist outside them, for it cannot exist outside its own limits. One might object that the essence of each local church lies not in its territory, but in those living stones out of whom the Church is created, and that these living stones can be outside the borders of their own church, as the Russian wanderers and exiles are in our case. But then they, being within the borders of other local churches, just by virtue of their presence there, automatically become part of them, since, of course, entry into the Church of Christ is determined by the purity of the right faith and a righteous life, but in no way by political convictions or national characteristics and features. Those who find themselves outside the borders of local churches, who are, so to speak, in partibus infidelium with respect to their ecclesiastical organization and affiliation, demand a special act on the part of Christ’s entire Church, as will be discussed below, but they cannot just call themselves ‘such-and-such a Church outside the Border’. They can use only the following expression as a name for themselves: “Children of the (name) Church in the diaspora.”
If we take the second interpretation of the words “Russian Church Beyond the Border” as a name and definition of separate parts of the Russian Church beyond the borders of the Russian Nation, the Russian Land, these words could have referred only to the Dioceses of Japan and North America, and, perhaps, to the Chinese Mission, as being headed by a bishop. At present, however, the designated document provides a canonical basis for organizing church life only in the Dioceses of North America and Japan, since the head of the Peking Mission deemed it possible to place himself under the Patriarch of Moscow. But in no case and in no manner can this ruling by the highest bodies of the Russian Church Authority apply to the Russian hierarchs who had abandoned their dioceses and gathered (purely by chance, it should be said) first in Constantinople and then in Sremski Karlovci. The jurisdictional authority of the hierarchs of the Russian Church ot extend to and have force within the borders of other local churches.
We thus discover that the “Karlovci”/“Conciliar” Russian Church institutions are not successors to the Supreme Church Authorities in the South of Russia during the period of the Civil War. Likewise, after becoming familiar with and examining Decree No. 362 of the Holy Synod and the Supreme Church Council, which was issued with Patriarch Tikhon’s blessing on November 7/20, 1920, we discover that this decree was referring to dioceses of the Russian Church and can be applied only to them. It can in no way be applied to Russian hierarchs who had been given dioceses to administer and who later abandoned them and left “for parts unknown” without a definite goal and unaware where they were going or, more precisely, where they would be taken.
To assert their validity, the “Karlovci”/“Conciliar” institutions cite certain canons of the Ecumenical and Local Councils, namely 6th Ecum. Council 37 and 39, Antioch 19, and Sardica 17.
What exactly do these canons say? Let us familiarize ourselves with their texts:
Canon 37 of the Sixth Ecumenical Council (in the Karolovcians’ view, the basis of their existence and legitimacy): “Since at various times there have been inroads of barbarians, and many cities have as a result become subject to the iniquitous, so that the President of such a city has been unable after ordination to take possession of his own throne and to be installed therein in sacerdotal state, and thus to act and employ himself in accordance with the prevailing custom of bestowing ordinations and to do everything that pertains to a Bishop, we, being determined to safeguard the rights of the priesthood to honor and respect, and being nowise disposed to consent to any curtailment of ecclesiastical rights or to allow the heathen influence to be exercised over those so ordained, and on account of the cause recited above since they are unable to gain possession of their own thrones, we have seen fit to concur in decreeing that no prejudice shall result therefrom to prevent them from bestowing ordinations canonically upon various Clergymen, and from employing the authority of the presidency in accordance with the same definition; and that any and all administration advanced by them shall be sure and duly established. For the definition of economy shall not be restricted or limited by the circumstances of necessity or be circumscribed as touching its rigor.”
It is perfectly clear that this canon can have nothing to do with the hierarchs of the Karlovci Council and Synod. It speaks of bishops who were unable after ordination to take possession of (their) own throne and to be installed therein in a clerical state, because “many cities have as a result become subject to the iniquitous,” and “since at various times there have been inroads of barbarians.” In other words, this canon speaks of bishops who had been consecrated by legitimate church authorities for cities and provinces that wound up, due to the invasion of enemies, outside the boundaries of the Byzantine Empire, and therefore the bishops “so ordained” (“on account of the cause recited above”) did not accede to their thrones.
But the Karlovci hierarchs were on their sees and abandoned them. Even if we admit the inadmissible, that this canon bears a relation to the Russian hierarchs who set up the Karlovci Council and Synod, then, according to this same canon, they could bestow ordinations canonically upon various clergymen and act as leaders only in their own dioceses—which, it is true, they had abandoned, but which they surely would have liked to retain the right to administer and actually administer, too.
But we see something else on the part of the Karlovci hierarchs: the creation of a new administrative body with supreme powers with respect not only to their own, abandoned, dioceses, but also to the church public and to church institutions and organizations that had never been under submission to these hierarchs or under their direction. Their own abandoned dioceses were apparently forgotten — at least there is not a single word about these dioceses in the statutes of the Karlovci institutions.
Canon 39 of the Sixth Ecumenical Council:“Seeing that our brother and fellow minister John the president of the island of the Cyprians has departed thence with his laity and has come to the eparchy of the Hellespont, both because of barbarian assaults and because they have been freed from heathen slavery and have become subject to the ruling powers of the most Christian empire, by the providence of the philanthropic (or man-loving) God, and by the hard work of our Christ-loving and pious emperor, we see fit to concur in decreeing that the privileges conferred upon and granted to the throne of the man aforesaid by the God-bearing Fathers who convened in Ephesus long ago shall be preserved without any innovations, so that the new Justinianopolis shall have the right of Constantinople, and the most God-beloved Bishop appointed over it shall preside over all those in the eparchy of the Hellespontians and be ordained by his own bishops, in accordance with the ancient custom. For our God-bearing Fathers have already decided that the customs obtaining in each Church are to be continued, the Bishop of the city of the Cyzicenians being subject to the president of the said Justinianopolis, in imitation of the rest of all the Bishops who are under the said most God-beloved president John, by whom, if the need arises, the Bishop of the same city of the Cyzicenians shall be ordained.”
This canon, as its text makes clear, speaks of the head of the local Church of Cyprus, which had moved “with its laity” to the Province of Hellespont and thus transferred its see to within the borders of Hellespont. With this canon, the fathers of the Sixth Ecumenical Council had left him with the same rights he had on Cyprus, yet subject to “the president of the islands of the Cyprians”: the bishop of Cyzicus, the main city of the Province of Hellespont. What relationship can this canon have to the Russian hierarchs who gathered in Karlovci? Not a single one of them was president of an autocephalous local church. The “laity” under each of them remained in their dioceses, and no one was contemplating moving their sees. How can they be compared to “John the president of the island of the Cyprians”? If the president of the Russian Church, Patriarch Tikhon, had decided to transfer his see to some other place, moving there “with his laity,” he could have cited this canon then. But until the end of his days, Patriarch Tikhon remained in his capital city, where the patriarchal throne of the Russian Church still stands. As far as is known, this canon may be applied only to Patriarch Arsenije (Crnojević) of Serbia, who at the end of the seventeenth century led his people out of the former Turkish Empire into Austria.
But even if, through some unknown and unexplainable means, the Russian hierarchs in Karlovci could apply it to themselves, it still would not have given them any right to establish a Russian Supreme Church Authority in Constantinople, as they did, before later moving the seat of their operations to Karlovci. The rights that “the president of the island of the Cyprian people” had had on Cyprus were preserved and granted to him at his new place of residence. As for the Russian hierarchs, upon arriving in Constantinople, they had no other rights than those of diocesan hierarchs, which they had apparently relinquished, having abandoned their sees, in the majority of cases, “to the will of God.” But they conceived a desire to establish a Supreme Church Authority in Constantinople, which the Patriarch of Constantinople, understandably, could in no way allow; and we could add that he had no right to do this and for this reason allowed them, who already had no dioceses and were formerly diocesan, to establish only a guardianship in Constantinople.
Canon 18 of Antioch: “If any bishop duly ordained to a diocese fail to go to the one to which he has been ordained, not through any fault of his own, but either because of the anfractuosity of the laity, or for some other reason for which he is not responsible, he shall retain the honor and office, only without causing any disturbance to the affairs of the church where he should be accorded a congregation. But he shall await the outcome of the decision of a complete Synod of the province in regard to his appointment.”
Like Canon 37 of the Sixth Ecumenical Council, this canon refers to bishops appointed to a particular see, but who for unsurmountable reasons cannot enter their territory. Therefore, this canon cannot apply to bishops who have left their sees. Even if it could have had anything to do with such bishops, then, it would not have accorded anything to them other than retaining “the honor and office” of a bishop, and even that with a caveat: “without causing any disturbance to the affairs of the church where he should be afforded a congregation,” and pending the decision of a complete Synod regarding them. What possible basis can be detected here for the establishment of Synods and Councils of their own within the boundaries of other local churches? On the contrary, would this canon not be violated by any attempt to exercise administrative functions on the part of bishops in territories with a church leadership of their own, not to mention such a fact as the consecration of a certain Archimandrite Vasilii as Bishop of Albania (in some Viennese hotel)?
Canon 17 of Sardica: “If any bishop who has suffered violence has been cast out unjustly on account of his confession of the catholic Church, on account of his insisting upon the truth, and fleeing from peril, when he is innocent and jeopardized, should come to another city, let him not be prevented from living there, until he can return or can find relief from the insolent treatment he had received. For it is cruel and most burdensome for one who has had to suffer an unjust expulsion not to be accorded a welcome by us. For such a person ought to be shown great kindness and courtesy.”
Ths canon, like the ones cited above, also has nothing to do with the Russian hierarchs in Karlovci, if we discount the words: “jeopardized, should come to another city.” In the view of many canonists, this canon was published because of Athanasios the Great, whom the Eusebians, with the support of Emperor Constans, expelled from his province, forcing him to seek refuge in other parts. In itself it is absolutely clear: a certain innocent bishop, while in his see, “is cast out,” “suffering violence”—in other words, forcefully loses his see and rank (is “cast out”)—and comes “to another city.”
Nothing of that kind can be detected in the situation of the Karlovci hierarchs. But, even if were possible to apply this part of the canon to them, the canon does not present any basis for establishing synods and calling together councils. It speaks only of the unrestricted presence “in another city” of one who is cast out and “jeopardized,” until his return or until he “can find relief for the insolent treatment.”
Speaking without any bias, what basis can we detect in the canons presented above for bishops who had abandoned their sees to establish bodies of supreme authority in their new places of residence, not to mention the fact that not a single one of these canons has anything to do with the Russian hierarchs who had been “evacuated” from their dioceses, if we discount Metropolitan Anastasii?
It is true that Metropolitan Antony, in referring to these canons at one point in his articles, likens his and his fellow brothers’ situation to that of Athanasios the Great. But it is very difficult to detect a likeness here, if one exists at all. Athanasios really was unjustly cast out by heretics, and the prefect moved him to the throne of Gregory of Cappadocia. This is why the fathers of the Council of Sardica issued the above canon, preserving Athanasios’ rights against the forcefulness of heretics and interlopers. Nothing of the kind can be detected in the situation of the Karlovci hierarchs. No councils, even heretical ones, cast them out, no one strove to take over their sees, and no secular authorities elevated or appointed anyone in their stead. The Karlovci hierarchs were simply “evacuated,” tearing themselves away from their sees and leaving them, in most cases, “to the will of God.” How does this resemble Athanasios the Great?
It has thus been determined with total clarity and definitiveness that the “Karlovci”/“Conciliar” Russian institutions have no basis for their existence, and therefore the Ecumenical Patriarchate was able to call them αὐτοκαλούμενη ‘self-proclaimed’ and αὐτοτιτλοφορούμενη ‘bearing a self-willed title’. They actually do not have Patriarch Tikhon’s blessing for their development and existence. They have neither the blessing of the Ecumenical and Serbian Patriarchs, in whose boundaries they have established and kept their institutions, nor any kind of succession from the Supreme Church Authorities in the South of Russia during the Civil War; and they have no basis in the canons, even though they refer to them.
But if this is so (and this is undoubtedly so), then how and why have we seen the development, expansion, multiplication, and continued existence of this so-called “Karlovcian,” or, as they call themselves, “conciliar” current in the life of the Russian church in our diaspora? The causes of this, which are rooted in the past of our synodal-imperial (or rather imperial-synodal) period of the life of the Russian Church, were most immediately the result of the introduction of a political element into the sphere of purely ecclesiastical life (unprincipled politicizing, as Archpriest M. Polsky defines this phenomenon with such precision in Russkaia Zhiznʹ [Russian Life], No. 167, September 11, 1948), and such a great mind as Metropolitan Antony was enticed by this element and submitted to it, allowing his name to bestow power and a certain canonicty upon this movement. “Whatever Metropolitan Antony participates in and heads cannot be wrong”: such was the view of many. The bishops of the Far East, of course, acknowledged the Karlovcian institutions only because Metropolitan Antony was at their head — he was their former professor, rector, instructor, abba, from whom they had received their monasticism and priesthood, and who had brought them up and raised them spiritually. The political element entered the tortured and pained heart of the elderly metropolitan through his great love for his suffering motherland, and for the Russian Church along with it, a love inducing immediate activity to ease and cease these sufferings, similar to a mother’s love for a suffering child when she is not able to anticipate the cessation of the progress of an ailment within in the period indicated by the doctors, but rather demands immediate healing of the creature so dear to her.
Our great Master and Father, His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon, did not remain indiffent to the situation of his spiritual children, who, in the difficult time of untold trials, were especially needful of pastoral care and grace-filled guidance. The aforementioned ruling by the united meeting of the Holy Synod and the Supreme Church Council, which took place with his blessing, is the best proof of this. But Patriarch Tikhon did not stop with this. Upon learning, without a doubt, of the huge number of Russian Orthodox people who, after 1920, fled Russia, he appointed Archbishop Evlogii to provide archpastoral care for this part of his flock which had been wrenched away from him “with the rights of a diocesan bishop,” elevating him to the rank of metropolitan. We mentioned earlier that Metropolitan Evlogii had received such an appointment from the Crimean Supreme Church Authority, noting in this act the claims of that Authority to the prerogatives of the Supreme All-Russian Church Authority, which, of course, was the case. Metropolitan Evlogii was simply “appointed” by the Crimean Supreme Church Authority. But with what wise foresight did Patriarch Tikhon carry out this action!
As we know, prior to the war of 1914 and the Revolution, all Russian churches abroad, besides the Ecclesiastical Missions, which were directly under the Holy Synod, were under the St. Petersburg metropolitans, who at one point even had a special vicar for them with title of Bishop of Kronstadt. Prior to appointing Metropolitan Evlogii to Western Europe “with the rights of a diocesan hierarch,” Patriarch Tikhon formally asked the martyred Metropolitan Veniamin of St. Petersburg if he would agree to yield the churches in Western Europe that were subject to him to Metropolitan Evlogii, and it was only after receiving an official notification from Metropolitan Veniamin giving his consent that Patriarch Tikhon appointed Metropolitan Evlogii to Western Europe. This was such a contrast with the actions of the Crimean Supreme Church Authority! Before the patriarch’s appointment of Metropoltian Evlogii to Western Europe was received, not all of the clergy everywhere recognized him as their hierarch. For instance, upon receiving some kind of administrative notice from Archbishop (at the time) Evlogii, Archpriest I. Smirnov, the rector of the Russian church in Paris, replied that he, Smirnov, knew his hierarch to be Metropolitan Veniamin of Petrograd and would consult him for the necessary instructions in this case, and he knew nothing of any Karlovcian Councils and Supreme Church Authorities and did not and could not regard them as administrative bodies over himself. Patriarch Tikhon’s appointment of Metropolitan Evlogii to Western Europe was the result of Sminov’s response.
This demonstrates with all clarity the difference between the mode of operation of the Supreme Archpastor of the Russian Church, which was wise in its circumspection and beneficially appropriate, and the nature and mode of operation of the self-initiated Russian institutions abroad that called themselves ‘Supreme’.
But the two-hundred-year-long imperial-synodal period in the life of the Russian Church did not remain without effect for Patriarch Tikhon either, and especially for the successors to his archpastoral authority. This period saw a significant weakening and clouding, and in some cases a total disappearance, of awareness of the Church’s self-identity, self-sufficiency, and universality in the minds of the Russian Orthodox people. In the minds of a great many Russians, the Church had become one of the parts of the majestic edifice of the Russian Empire. Officially, it was called a ‘department,’ the ‘Department of the Orthodox Confession’—one of the departments of the complex and grandiose governmental machine. This led to the conviction that all Russians, wherever they might be, were unchangeably and always subject to the Russian Church hierarchy and to it alone. The sacred functions and even the sacraments performed by clergy of other Orthodox churches over Russians were not always recognized in Russia—and not only by the civil authorities, but even by the Russian Church leadership (in the case of tonsures on Mount Athos and Greek marriages). It is possible that due to all of this, Patriarch Tikhon, in his archpastoral concern over providing care for the entire Russian diaspora, met them halfway, so to speak. He appointed Metropolitan Evlogii for Western Europe and Metropolitan Platon for North America, but said nothing about the other parts of the Russian diaspora, thereby failing to indicate the ways and means for the Russian exiles to create and preserve the unity and oneness of their church. It is true that the well-known and aforementioned Decree No. 362 of November 7/20, 1920, does provide certain definite instructions for this, but it did not foresee the presence of Orthodox Russians within other autocephalous churches. And the long years of exile and wanderings that we have lived through have convinced us with undisputable clarity of how necessary unity is and how pernicious our divisions are.
So what, therefore, had to be done to preserve our church unity and to eliminate the possibility of any “jurisdictions”—other than, of course, those that emerge after an obvious falling away from the fulness of the Church, and are therefore not jurisdictions, and not the manifestation and realization of ecclesiastical authority, since having fallen away from the Church, they are now outside it, and therefore not of the Church?
For this, Patriarch Tikhon, as the Supreme Leader and Head of the Russian Church, or rather and more appropriately, of the Russian hierarchs who found themselves beyond the borders of their country and of their Church, should have submitted a request concerning the organization of church life throughout the Russian diaspora to the voice of God’s entire Church, through its First Primate, the Holder of the First Throne of God’s Church: the Ecumenical Patriarch. For the right to receive such requests belongs only to the First Throne, and on it alone lies the obligation to provide care for organizing church life within other autocephalous churches if required by circumstances and necessity.
I know that such an assertion on my part will arouse not only perplexity and denial among many but also speeches about ‘papist tendencies’ and ‘eastern papism’. Such speeches have already been made, especially on the part of those in the “Karlovcian”/“Conciliar” camp. But primacy and focus are not papism. The essence of papism is in something else, in the assimilation of all the features of the Church, which is the pillar and ground of truth, by the person of the pope. Primacy and focus are requirements for the normal life of any organism, while the Church is the Body of Christ. Metropolitan Antony himself, who headed the “Karlovcian”/“Conciliar” institutions up to his death, wrote about the advantages of the Most Holy Throne of the Patriarch of Constantinople in the following manner:
The See of Constantinople, which, according to the teaching of Christ’s Church as laid out in the rulings of the seven Ecumenical Councils, is not only one of the Church’s provinces, but is regarded as an unchangeable element of the fulness of the Orthodox Church, as an instance that is linked not only with its diocese, but also with the entire Orthodox Church throughout the entire universe. That is why it has been named the See of the Ecumenical Patriarch since the fifth century. It was named this way because, long before the separation between the East and Rome, the Patriarch of Constantinople, as the Bishop of the New Rome, was acknowledged by the Ecumenical Council as being equal in honor and power with the Bishop of the Old Rome (2nd Ecum. 3, 4th Ecum. 28, 6th Ecum. 36), and, especially importantly, he alone has the right of receiving appeals from bishops unhappy with decisions made regarding them by Local Councils (6th Ecum. 17)
In this last sense the Patriarch of Constantinople is the chief justice for the Orthodox of each country.
From the earliest times, the Russian Church has been accustomed to turn to the Ecumenical Patriarch for clarification of ecclesiastical and religious questions and its most honored hierarch, Patriarch Nikon of Moscow and All Russia, appealed the decision of the Council of Russia Bishops to Constantinople in 1681.Tserkovnye Vedomosti, Sremski Karlovci, 1923.
The same Metropolitan Antony writes elsewhere:
Many do not appreciate this Orthodoxy, through which the Hellenes, the Slavs, and the Syrians do but shine, and for the sake of which it may become necessary under circumstances to sacrifice one’s ethnicity and one’s home, cast away everything as useless rags, so as to obtain the pearl of salvation which is preserved in the Ecumenical Church. We do not refuse to recognize the hegemony of the Greeks in preserving divine truths. We cast ourselves into the dust before the Most Holy Throne of the Patriarch of Constantinople and continue to see him as the Supreme Pastor. We will regard the Ecumenical Church as our fatherland and intact Orthodoxy as our the patrimony of our people.Vozrozhdenie, Paris, November 5, 1937.
What wonderful words, suffused with a genuine, pure, and integral Orthodox ecclesiastical consciousness, and how much actual practice in real life has departed from them!
In reality, both according to general canons and to age-old practice, the Ecumenical Patriarch possesses indisputable rights and privileges to take upon himself the care for other autocephalous churches even on his own initiative. In the canons, the Ecumenical Patriarch is called the ‘leader and head’ (αρχηγὸ καὶ κεφάλι) of the Church of God. Professor I. I. Sokolov, a renowned authorty on the established life, customs, rights, and powers of the Patriarch of Constantinople—whom Metropolitan Antony, incidentally, greatly valued and respected—writes the following in this regard:
History bears witness that not only in those cases when the matter at hand concerned dogmas, canons, traditions, rulings, or in questions of a general nature affecting the entire Greco-Eastern Church, but also in private questions of great importance affecting one or another autocephalous church, the Ecumenical Patriarch displayed his solicitous care and attention, both voluntarily and as if out of a sense of duty, or else by invitation of interested parties, providing appropriate counsel to resolve and end differences that arose between God’s Holy Churches, to bring order to relations between pastors and their flocks, to eliminate difficulties along the path of canonical guidance of church matters, to arouse the energy of spiritual leaders, and to strengthen the weak and wavering in Orthodoxy. (On the Current Direction of the Church of Constantinople, chap. 11, “The Rights of the Ecumenical Patriarch”; subsequent quotations are from that work)
Patriarch Samuel I of Constantinople, whom Professor Sokolov cites, said the following in this regard in a synodal act of 1768 on the case of the Metropolis of Aleppo, which had asked the Ecumenical Patriarch for help in view of disorders that were taking place there:
According to ancient privilege, the Ecumenical Patriarch is accustomed to extend his helping hand with all thoughtfulness and solicitous attention, becoming concerned well in advance and providing necessary assistance to dioceses and provinces everywhere.
Quite a few instances of such assistance and aid to dioceses and provinces “everywhere,” in other words to autocephalous churches, can be pointed out here. Besides the already mentioned matter of the Metropolis of Aleppo in the Patriarchate of Antioch, there was the case of Patriarch Dositheos II of Jerusalem and Bishop Ananias of Sinai, the matter of resolving disagreements in the autocephalous Church of Cyprus under Patriarch Matthew II of Constantinople and Archbishop Athanasios of Cyprus, the matter of the continuous disputes of the Church of Alexandria with the Sinaiites regarding their encroachments on the rights of the patriarchs of Alexandria, etc., up until the present day, the matter of resolving the disagreements regarding the election of a patriarch to the See of Antioch after the repose of Patriarch Gregory IV, and regarding church issues in the Dodecanese. It is notable that the heads of autocephalous churches who turned to the Ecumenical Throne found this to be neither in violation of church canons, and certainly not degrading for them, so to speak. For instance, Patriarch Dositheos of Jerusalem and the Synod of the Church of Sinai made a request to Ecumenical Patriarch Iakovos I to “impose his just penalty, according to divine laws and the holy canons, with respect to the erring [Archbishop Ananias of Sinai and those with him] and those who prefer their own wishes to the holy state of the Church.”
The patriarchal and synodal document issued by Patriarch Iakovos in 1687 says in this regard that the patriarch and synod of the Church of Constantinople “condemning and rejecting the innovations of Archbishop Ananias of Sinai have in mind the preservation of all privileges of churches everywhere, as they are defined by apostolic rules and patristic and conciliar rulings,” and their interference in the matters of another church are motivated by the established practice of “discussing issues, brought to the Ecumenical Patriarch as an intermediary in resolving conflicts (eti dietisin), eliminating disorders that arise in other of God’s churches, and correcting appropriately deviations that arise.”
A Greek scholar, Archimandrite Kallinikos Delikanis, also justly notes the Ecumenical Patriarch’s contribution in supporting and even preserving ancient Eastern patriarchal thrones and Orthodoxy itself in them. He supposes that without the care, sacrifices, and struggle of the Ecumenical Patriarchs, the Holy Sepulchre itself, and all of the holy places in Jerusalem, would probably have long since fallen into the possession of the Latins and Protestants. The patriarchal throne of Alexandria would have been turned into a mere metochion of the Sinai Monastery several centuries ago or would have become totally latinized. The Church of Cyprus would have become subject to total downfall and deterioration (if we recall the time of Venetian lordship, especially in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries), and as for the Church of Antioch, where the disciples were first called Christians, there would probably remain just a historical memory that there was once a time when it was one of the four (of the most ancient) patriarchal thrones of the Orthodox Church.
This makes evident the current status of the Ecumenical Throne, the first throne of God’s Church, which we have somewhat forgotten. As “the final judge” for the Orthodox in all countries, to borrow an excellent turn of phrase from Metropolitan Antony, he has the right to receive appeals from dissatisfied parties regarding decisions by local institutions on their matters. He also has the duty to come, on his own initiative, to the aid of any local church that finds itself in difficult or straitened circumstances.
What conclusions can and should be drawn in light of everything that has been mentioned so far?
Our ecclesiastical disorders and divisions, whose reality is before us to this day, are, of course, nothing other than an illness of our ecclesiastical self-awareness. Of course, the issue here is not whether one hierarch or another is right, and not whether they all are or not, but an inability to correct one or another part of God’s Church at certain times and in certain circumstances, so that it would not be only “good in appearance”, but “in order,” and so that the norms of church structure that are here on this earth and are set out for us by the holy canons, might be observed. It is in this that we are in error. At the present time, in the whole Russian diaspora, there is a canonical basis for the existence of the North American Metropolia and the Orthodox Church in Japan as undisputable parts of the Russian Church. It is only to their dioceses that the well-known Decree 362 of November 13–20, 1920, by the Supreme Russian Church Institutions with Patriarch Tikhon’s blessing can apply, as is obvious from its very text. Besides these regions, there are also the churches and parishes under the direction of Metropolitan Vladimir, which had previously been under Metropolitan Evlogii’s care. All of these parishes are under the omophorion of the Ecumenical Throne. This requires a few words of its own.
Prior to the war of 1914 and the Revolution, there were quite a few churches in Western Europe. These were consular, court (in those countries where Russian grand duchesses were married to the local sovereign), gravesite (for instance the church in Hungary over the grave of Grand Duchess Alexandra Pavlovna, the wife of Hungarian Palatine Archduke Joseph), memorial (Leipzig), and resort churches. From a strictly ecclesiastical perspective, they had the status of metochia, similar to the metochia of the eastern patriarchs who had been in Moscow at some point. There was already an instance of Orthodox hierarchical authority, namely that of the Ecumenical Patriarch, in Europe long before the Russians turned up there. Orthodox parishes, such as those in Marseilles, London, and Budapest, had been there for many centuries, while the church in Venice (the actual building) had existed since 1203. In the vast expanses of Kiev and the forests of Suzdalʹ, there was probably hardly any awareness of the glorious city of Venice, and, of course, no thought of parishes getting started in Western Europe would enter the minds of the inhabitants of Kievan-Suzdal Rusʹ. On the other hand, after the Roman Pontifex fell away from the fulness of the Church, the Orthodox who may have remained and actually were present in Western Europe were cared for by no one other than the Ecumenical Patriarch, and the churches listed above that had existed in their respective cities for centuries provide confirmation of this. Therefore, Western Europe cannot be regarded as a pristine and open missionary field, a kind of res nullus. This was how the Russian Church authorities regarded it, establishing its churches there as metochia.
Unfortunately, this view was not maintained until the end, neither in its inner meaning nor in its external manifestation. As it established churches in Western Europe as embassy, consular, or court metochia, the Supreme Russian Church Authority did not inform the personnel of these churches about who their diocesan hierarch was according to their location, whose name ought to be commemorated in each church in his region. The instruction was to commemorate the Russian Holy Synod and the Metropolitan of St. Petersburg. Amidst the self-awareness of imperial greatness and might, the existence of the one Church of Christ, catholic and apostolic, of which the Russian Church is only one part, and which has been manifesting its grace-filled effects and archpastoral guidance for its flock within Western Europe, was forgotten. This was a direct consequence of the Petrine reform of Church governance, when in place of the Holy Patriarch of Moscow as Lord of Father, an Ecclesiastical Collegium was instituted with the name of “Holy Synod”, and placed under the command of a kind of “ober-officer.” Naturally, this collegium could no longer remain in canonical brotherly relations with the ancient Eastern patriarchal thrones in the same manner as before. With the publication of the so-called “Fundamental Laws” by Emperor Paul, this alienation became even more pronounced. Owing to these circumstances and conditions, the Russian churches in Western Europe were regarded as being in and were in a state of some kind of ecclesiastic exterritoriality, which was based, of course, on governmental exterritoriality, while the Church in Russia was merely one of the departments of the grandiose governmental machine. All this led the Holy Synod, in a sincere, bona fide manner, to consider it totally extraneous to consult anyone about the construction of churches or the “elevation of altars” outside the boundaries of the Russian Church. Even if the churches that were yet in Western Europe before the war of 1914 could be equated to metochia, it is clear that the numerous Russian parishes that were formed in all the Western European countries after all of our evacuations between 1918 and 1920 could not possibly be called metochions. These were Russian parishes consisting of Russians who were outside the boundaries of the Russian Church in territory where the jurisdictional authority and hierarchical service of another local church, in this case the Ecumenical Throne, had already been evident for a very long time. Due to the conditions and circumstances indicated above, this circumstance was somehow ignored by everyone, and Patriarch Tikhon appointed Archbishop Evlogii “with the rights of a diocesan hierarch” for Western Europe—which was totally canonical and correct—yet did not inform the Ecumenical Throne about this at all, which was not only an omission, but a violation of canonical norms, since a national and political attribute, rather than an ecclesiastical one, was being imposed as a basis for organizing churches on earth. Phyletism, which is a way of defining a Church according to nationality, was always regarded by the Church as uncanonical and was forbidden, leading to the Bulgarians remaining in schism for almost half a century. This was imposed as a basis for structuring and defining church life by Russian church figures and leaders, Russian hierarchs.This brings us to an event in the life of Metropolitan Antony. During his stay on Mount Athos (I was there with him at the time), he happened to be at the Bulgarian Monastery of Zographou, having … Continue reading
Inde irae, hence come illnesses, disputes, and divisions. This was the basis and beginning of all the disorders and divisions in our church, which were deepened and strengthened when the “Conciliar”/“Karlovcian” institutions and organizations compounded this with an element of arbitrariness which by its very nature excluded them from the life of the Church.
Due to circumstances, Metropolitan Evlogii was forced to turn to the Ecumenical Throne, and in this, of course, we cannot but see the providential action of God’s love for the Russian refugees, their being instructed by God’s wisdom instead of the “commitment of excesses” and “falling away from the Church,” as Metropolitan Antony expressed it in the heat of polemics on this subject, as if forgetting for a time his own words about the significance and position of the Ecumenical Throne in God’s Church that we cited above. Our Lord has led us from our wanderings over the provincial roads of national self-determination onto the clear expanses of ecumenical freedom. And the zealots for the Kingdom of God started speaking “unmindfully” about falling away from the Church as well, so that Metropolitan Evlogii became “like a heathen and a publican.” (This is what was written, along with things about committing excesses and much else besides.) All this is already in the past. Much has been smoothed over and relaxed, but that which is essential, our divisions, has remained, for we do not display unity.
The indisputable parts of the Russian Church (North America and Japan) are thus the regions under Metropolitan Vladimir, while “Karlovcian”/“Conciliar Jurisdiction,” which does not feel itself to be restricted by any church boundaries, extends the expressions of its will (not always successfully) into the territory of other autocephalous churches, since that the basis of its existence is not ecclesiastical but national and political.
In addition to all of the evils and disorders in the church life of the Russian diaspora, we should also mention the “patriarchal jurisdiction.” It did not appear yesterday. Long ago, about 15 years ago, Metropoitan Elevferii and Metropolitan Veniamin, the founder of various Higher Church Authorities Abroad, persistently tried to convince the Russian émigrés not to oppose the Soviet regime, because doing so would be in opposition to God’s will (“There is no authority except from God”). To this day, loyalty to the Soviet regime implicite and openly remains an indispensable condition for “reunification with the Mother Church,” as Moscow hierarchs express it now, when they fly over here from Moscow. It is this loyalty to a regime which is opposed to God its very essence that speaks very obviously for the absolute lack of any churchly dimension in these efforts. For if we allow for even a moment that their arguments might be true, then all of the martyrs and confessors of the era of Justin the Apostate and the iconoclastic emperors (iconoclasm lasted 120 years!) opposed the will of God. But they are glorified and beatified by the Church! What is most important, if these arguments are true, those who do worship the beast, to which God will give authority for three years and six months, will likewise turn out to be opposed to the will of God! Preserve us, O Lord, from such unrighteousness!
Long ago, about 15 years ago, Metropoitan Elevferii and Metropolitan Veniamin, the founder of various Higher Church Authorities Abroad, persistently tried to convince the Russian émigrés not to oppose the Soviet regime, because doing so would be in opposition to God’s will.
How would have it been possible to unite these disparate and disunited parts of a single whole in such a way that the urge by each of these parts to unite with the others and establish the unity required by all, which is natural to all of them, would be realized, and that the guiding norms that are indicated to us in the canons would be observed, not violated, so that the unity thus accomplished was truly of the Church, dwelling in its fulness and not falling away from it, and being and remaining life-creating?
It is our deep conviction that there is only one way to accomplish this goal, which is so desired by all of us, and not only desired, but insistently and unfailingly deemed necessary: to appeal, through our hierarchs, to the voice of God’s whole Church with a request to put us in order. This appeal can (and, understandably, must) have no other route than through the Ecumenical Patriarch. As the first among all the autocephalous churches, as was shown above, he has the right to receive such appeals and the duty to set them in motion and grant the necessary permission. The result of such an appeal would be a certain judgment by God’s Church regarding the arrangement of the church life of the Russian diaspora. For we Russians must always remember that this matter of arranging our church life, when we are dispersed all over the entire world, that this business is no longer just our business, but the business of God’s entire Church.The creation and establishment of a unifying church center for the whole Russian diaspora cannot, of course, be regarded as a manifestation of phyletism, when a national characteristic is imposed as … Continue reading
To bring unity to the Russian wanderers who live literally across the entire face of the earth and within each of the Local Churches, to show care for believers who are lacking leadership and a necessary relationship with their patriarch, to examine—as will be inevitable—and perhaps solve the question of whether an open and definite stance of the entire Church of God on the teachings of godless Communism is required, and to give a unanimous verdict about this worldwide evil — to whom other than to the entirety of God’s Church can this task belong, and who, other than its primate, can raise these questions, and, most important, move others to take part in this matter and bring it to a satisfactory conclusion? It stands to reason that not a single one of the “Holy Churches of God that are everywhere present” can consider itself to be uninvolved in this. This matter has to do with the structuring of church life in difficult and troubled times, which are capable, as we now see, of spreading to each local church. It is a matter of ordering life and putting a stop to the disorders which are always tempting us, instilling unity and peace, which are commanded to us by our Chief Shepherd. The hour has come to give a response in our hope — how can we avoid this or remain silent? Understandably, the duty to approach our elders lies upon us, the Russians in the diaspora. It is apparent that the time has come for us to turn to the Ecumenical Church, having renounced any pretensions of ecclesiastical “great nationhoood.” We should do this not only out of impotence and unknowing, but also because it is not ours to decide. We have no right settle our own affairs outside our borders while we are within the territory of other churches.
The relatively proximate past prevents us from making such an appeal. We have forgotten the example of Patriarch Nikon, who had sought the judgment of the Eastern patriarchs, or of Peter the Great, who asked the Ecumenical Patriarch’s permission for troops to eat meat during campaigns. We now allow such deliberations as to say that the Ecumenical Throne in its insignificance is no more than a “child’s chair” or a “bench” and that we should not see any advantages in it or turn to it in difficult or perplexing circumstances. The events of the last decades of our Synodal period are more prominent in our memory when it was possible for there to be discussion in the Synod’s own sessions (in the expectation that Russian troops would occupy Constantinople during the War of 1914–1918) about whether our Synod should send its decrees to the Ecumenical Patriarch or if he should be invited to Petrograd for its sessions. But it is perfectly clear that we should forget all of this, and, aware that we are inseparable from the Ecumenical Church, we should ask it, through the primates of the Holy Churches of God throughout all the world, to order us in this period of our dispersion and wandering, of our forced separation from our Mother, the Russian Church. Perhaps this will serve as an occasion for and will initiate the great task of bringing about a living and active, lifelike relationship among all Local Churches, a revelation of the single countenance of the One Orthodox Church, the One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of God. In its day, the Russian Church, owing to various causes and grounds, failed to do this, and, as far as we know, made no attempt to do so. No forms and methods were established for unconstant, unceasing mutual relations among “God’s Holy Churches, existing everywhere,” and, it would seem, there were not ever any attempts to do so. We presently see attempts to do this on the part of Moscow. But it is clear that owing to the godless and God-opposing regime, all these attempts will remain lifeless, lacking in results, and, given the current conditions, essentially blasphemous. Therefore, in the Russian diaspora, the duty of building such unity through obtaining a definitive verdict by God’s entire Church is a matter of absolute necessity. Would we not serve, by turning to the Ecumenical Church through its leaders, as a cause of the truly great feat of awakening in all Orthodox Christians the awareness of their unity and the necessity of a living and efficacious mutual relationship in faith and love, in hope and life?
We repeat that the affairs of our Russian Church in the diaspora should in no way be regarded as our private, ‘domestic’ affairs. The unification of the Russian people, who are dispersed, literally, over the entire face of the earth, with the provision that such unification should be in keeping with the canons, is an affair of the entire Church. Only it alone, in its entirety, with the agreement of the leaders of the local churches, can create such oneness and unity in the Russian diaspora. Such unification, created by it and it alone, would be canonical, and therefore proper to the Church, while our national features and our national unity would be preserved. If instituted by the voice of the Ecumenical Church, such a unification would rule out any possibility of various “movements” and “jurisdictions,” which at one point (in 1935–1936) numbered six or seven here in America. Once there is an open pronouncement for all to hear regarding this issue, that “the optional attitude toward the Church’s norms and the absence of Church discipline,”Rossiia, 102, Nov. 2, 1935. which Archbishop Vitalii justly pointed out at one point as being the prime cause of church disorders in our diaspora, will cease to be possible for each and every one of us, whether bishop, clergyman, or layman. Moreover, Archbishop Vitalii quite correctly pointed out that these negative features are present only among bishops (“the optional attitude toward the Church’s norms and the absence of Church discipline among us hierarchs give birth to more and more jurisdictions”) as persons to whom, as archpastors, individual parts of God’s Church are entrusted—provided only that a violator of these norms should have the desire to abide within the Church and remain in obedience to it.
A coordinated and unanimous attitude of the Church of God toward godless Communism is a matter for the whole Church to an even greater extent, and this will be inevitably shown if ecclesial order is brought to the Russian diaspora, which by its very existence so vividly speaks of the impossibility of any kind of loyalty to the godless enslavers of our fatherland and persecutors of our Mother Russian Church.
All of this — our ordering, our unification, the abolition and cessation of the emergence of totally unknown and baseless “movements” and “jurisdictions,” and the manifestation in deed of a living awareness of our unity with the Ecumenical Church, as well as the realization of this unity by each of the local churches in loving care for us pilgrims and wanderers, and the open declaration to the whole world of the Church’s attitude toward the godlessness and theomachism that are destroying Russia — this can be attained by creating a central body for the entire Russian diaspora with the blessing of the Ecumenical Patriarch, given by him with the consent of all of the local churches.
This is a matter of great importance and worldwide scope. This is why it is impossible to indicate right away exactly everything required to bring it about. Perhaps once it is realized, something may need to be changed, added, or corrected. But this is a matter for the future, when it becomes possible to discuss all of the details of such an organization. The basic idea that it is not within our competence to do this by ourselves, and that were are therefore powerless to resolve our disorders and troubles, and that the resolution of our church situation in our diaspora is a matter for the entire Church of God, is, of course, correct. There is no other route, nor can there be one.
I recall what I wrote on this very issue long ago, about 14 years ago, to one of the most notable hierarchs of the “Conciliar” jurisdiction:
I agree with you totally. Many kinds of obstacles and, as you write, temptations must be overcome in order to come close to the desired peace and calm. But I think that with God’s help, this is not impossible, if we ourselves will strive, with one mind and in agreement, for this desired peace, doing everything that is possible for us in this direction. And I also think that this desired one-mindedness by the entire Russian diaspora Church, about whose desirability there is no argument, is not unrealizable, even in the presence of all our disagreements at this moment.
It is perfectly clear and not debatable to any degree that outside the boundaries of the Russian Church, its Church leadership, while preserving the entire fulness of its grace, has no right to any ruling authority, and any attempt in this direction will always contain an element of arbitrariness and falsity. But, on the other hand, all of us in the Russian diaspora are, of course, something singular in our essence, and as children of the Russian Church are united by one spirit and the commonality of beliefs, hopes, and customs. From the purely practical perspective of resistance against a common enemy, it is far from indifferent to us and not unimportant to present a single whole, a monolith of faith and hope.
Therefore, I think that if the whole entirety of Russian hierarchs beyond the boundaries of the Russian Church, who are dispersed over the entire face of the earth and in the territory of other autocephalous churches, appealed to their representatives and, first of all, to the Ecumenical Patriarch, as the holder of the first throne of God’s Church, with a request regarding the ordering of our Church, this request would not be left without attention. Such an appeal seems to be the only correct and canonical approach. Here one can envision neither the lessening of the dignity and privilege of the Russian Church nor an incursion into its inner life by the Ecumenical Patriarch. But it is perfectly clear that in unique times and extraordinary situations, such as those which we are experiencing, setting up a part of any local church that needs it and is not able to do this on its own for a number of reasons is a matter for the whole Church of God. Thus, if the formation of our canonical existence were to take place and occur with the blessing of the Ecumenical Throne (as the first in God’s Church), there would not be, and could not be, any obstacles to our unification.
Let us actually imagine the following scenario for a moment. The hierarchs of the Russian Church, exiled from their borders and finding themselves within the borders of other local churches, specifically in Constantinople, the location of the Ecumenical Throne, appeal to its patriarch and through him to all the first hierarchs of the Holy Churches of God found everywhere, with a request to set up and give a formal canonical shape to the church life of Russians dispersed across the face of the earth by the turmoil of the world. We can state with confidence that the result of such an appeal would be the establishment of a certain exterritorial district, a temporary Exarchate of the Ecumenical Throne, for the scattered flock of the Russian Church. Our councils, synods, and various types of authorities would then become possible, and, most importantly, totally legitimate and canonical.
During the initial years of our dispersion, such an appeal, perhaps, was not feasible for us psychologically. But now, when the moment of our return to our father’s house has been relegated to a remote uncertainty, I assume that we must definitely do this. We will not add anything to the Ecumenical Throne by doing so. It was and will remain the First Throne in God’s Church with all of the privileges that follow from this and that pertain to it. We are not taking anything away from the Russian Church by doing this, since a request to set up and care for its wanderers who have been denied its motherly care cannot be regarded to any degree as belittling and subjecting the Greeks. The Ecumenical Throne is not Greek, but the First Throne of Christ’s Church, as Metropolitan Antony wrote with all thoroughness and validity, calling him the final judge for all Orthodox. It should be noted that in the election of the Ecumenical Patriarch after the war of 1914–1918, there was one candidate who was clearly not Greek at all: the very same Metropolitan Antony.
Would not such an appeal (and, we should say, such an arrangement) be a perceptible and living example of genuine unification and unity, when there are no more barbarians and wanderers, Hellenes and Jews, “Russians and Greeks,” but “all are in Jesus Christ”? I recall the inspired words of our mutual instructor and abba, the same Metropolitan Antony, about the unsurpassed significance Holy Orthodoxy for man and about the primacy of the Ecumenical Throne in it. He said this in our distant student years, and it was he who graphically expressed this with his characteristic brilliance and captivation, even when he had already emigrated.
And so, if this modest and humble idea of mine about effecting our unification through such a direct and royal way of structuring church life that is free of worldly motives and elements resonated at least somewhat in your heart—which is filled, as is apparent to everyone, with the spirit of universality—I would find such comfort in this! And this would be comfort deriving not only from oneness of mind, but also from the certainty that the hour of our unity is at hand, for barriers and temptations will have been overcome in that will have taken the genuine ecclesiastical and canonical road in terms of our existence as the church. It would also be a comfort for all the faithful children of God’s Church to have such a living and perceptible example of its unity, such a unification of its separate parts and members. And it would be a comfort in that, God-willing, while nations may waver and perish and all the powers of hell may rear up, the Church of Christ is near, filled with the spirit of unity and love, not leaving any of its members without care and guidance, both in their exile from their native land and in their wanderings amidst all of the crossroads of life.
If the “Synod of Bishops Abroad” did not exist on its own right, but with the blessing of the Church of God, and if its existence and activity were blessed by the Ecumenical Patriarch and all local churches, what would keep each one of us from recognizing it and becoming subject to it?
Perhaps, my idea might appear unusual and even unattainable. But it seems to me that only through its realization will we abide in all canonicity and demonstrate a living example of oneness and unity, which would be common not only to all Russians but, what is undoubtedly more important and the only important concern, to our entire Church. Any other course of action and conduct in this matter is already fated in advance to failure and fruitlessness!
This was written long ago, more than fourteen years ago. It received no response, and to this day, we remain divided and separated, consumed by “movements” and “jurisdictions,” bringing us before judges in courts of law in violation of the norms of church life, which do not allow the faithful to appear in secular courts on church business.
What, then, can be said in conclusion? What should we do? How should we order our church life in the future?
Are unification and unity necessary for us? They are not only necessary but obligatory. Any division we have is a sin against the Church that is especially terrible and destructive, for when we separate ourselves from the fulness of the Church, from its “plenitude,” for whose preservation we pray at the end of each liturgy, we lose the very possibility of salvation, since we separate ourselves from Christ, our Savior, Himself. The Church is His body, and we can participate in eternal life and its endless divine joy only by not being separated from this body. If only we would remember this not just rationally, but wholeheartedly! And if unification is so necessary, we must seek it, strive for it, and realize it in our lives. The regrettable experience of the entire period of our dispersion convinces us beyond any doubt that we are powerless to bring this about through our own efforts, for in attempting to accomplish this by our own strength alone, we separate ourselves from the fulness of the Church and end up outside it. This is the cause of our failed attempts, and this is the cause of our insistent demand, which is imperative for us, to turn to the voice of the entire Church and humbly accept its decision, whatever that might be. If the Church proclaims that the “Russian Synod Abroad” has all of the rights to rule over the Russian diaspora and is, ultimately, fully canonical, then nothing will remain to be done for those who do not recognize it and do not submit to it other than to repent of their sin of insubordination and opposition, and to submit to it. If the voice of the Church indicates other routes and forms of ecclesial organization for the Russian diasbora, the “Russian Synod Abroad”, if it does not wish to be outside the Church, will have to take these routes and accept these forms. There can be no delay in implementing this. We all know of Moscow’s attempts to create an outward appearance of ecclesial unification and concentration in Moscow, as if a concentration of church life were possible there, in the global center of militant atheism. Let us not allow foot-dragging and persistence in our divisions to empower these blasphemous efforts.
|↵1||A. Niv′er. Pravoslavnye sviashchennosluzhiteli, bogoslovy i tserkovnye deiateli russkoi emigratsii v Zapadnoi i Tsentral′noi Evrope [Orthodox Clergy, Theologians, and Church Figures in the Russian Diaspora in Western and Central Europe]. Moscow, 2007, pp. 64, 295, 296.|
|↵2||Amerikanskaia mitropoliia i Los Anzhelosskii protsess [The American Metropolia and the Trial in Los Angeles], Jordanville, 1949, p. 16.|
|↵3||“Po povodu resheniia vysshego suda shtata Kalifornii po Los-Anzhelosskomu delu” [“On the Resolution of the California Supreme Court on the Los Angeles Affair”], Russko-Amerikanskii pravoslavnyi vestnik [Russian-American Orthodox Bulletin] 6/1949, pp. 88–101.|
|↵4||Cf. Priest Daniel Franzen, The Mayfield Parish, Congregationalism, and the American Orthodox Experience in the Twentieth Century.|
|↵5||“Skorbnoe poslanie Sviateishemu i Blazhenneishemu Arkhiepiskopu Konstantinopolia – Novogo Rima i Vselenskomu Patriarkhu Kir-Kir Konstantinu VI” [“Sorrowful Epistle to His Holiness and Beatitude Kyr-Kyr Constantine VI, Archbishop of Constantinople, the New Rome, and Ecumenical Patriarch”], Tserkovnye vedomosti [Church Bulletin] 11–12/1925, pp. 1–4.|
|↵6||“Vysokopreosviashchennyi Mitropolit Antonii o Soedinenii Tserkvei” [“His Eminence Metropolitan Antony on the Union of the Churches”], Tserkovnye vedomosti 19–20, October 15/28, 1923, pp. 17–18.|
|↵7||Kanonicheskoe polozhenie Vysshei Tserkovnoi Vlasti v SSSR i zagranitsei [The Canonical Position of the Supreme Church Authority in the USSR and Abroad], by Archpriest M. Polsky, p. 13; available at: https://www.rocorstudies.org/2021/04/27/the-canonical-position-of-the-supreme-church-authority-in-the-ussr-part-iii-its-paths-abroad/|
|↵8||/Kanonicheskoe Polozhenie…, p. 113|
|↵9||How broadly the participants in the Karlovci Council understood their rights and the competence of their institutions can be seen in “Polozhenie o kruge del, podlezhashchikh vedeniiu Arkhireiskogo Sobora i Sinoda” [“A Statement Regarding Matters Subject to the Oversight by the Council and Synod of Bishops”], Tserkvovnaia Zhiznʹ [Church Life], 1933, No. 9. Among other things, we find the following there: “Section 1. Matters that are subject to the oversight by a Council: 1. All matters coming up at the present time regarding the Ecumenical Orthodox Church concerning legal doctrine, church administration, and church discipline. 2. Matters of a principled nature concerning the Russian Church in the sphere of international relations. 4. Matters of a principled nature concerning the relationships of the Orthodox Church with heterodox confessions. […] 8. The establishment and closure of episcopal sees abroad, and changes to their borders and composition.”|
|↵10||Although usually translated as “abroad” or “outside Russia,” this is actually an adjective which literally means “beyond the border”(trans.).|
|↵11||Tserkovnye Vedomosti, Sremski Karlovci, 1923.|
|↵12||Vozrozhdenie, Paris, November 5, 1937.|
|↵13||This brings us to an event in the life of Metropolitan Antony. During his stay on Mount Athos (I was there with him at the time), he happened to be at the Bulgarian Monastery of Zographou, having been welcomed by the Bulgarian Athonite Monks with love and honor. Metropolitan Antony was observing the monastery cells, and in one place a young Bulgarian monk, pointing to a portrait of Bulgarian Exarch Joseph, said, “And this is our exarch, who has already reposed, a holy man!” “He’s not a saint, he’s a schismatic,” Metropolitan Antony replied sharply. “What kind of saint is he, when he fell away from the Church, established a see of his own volition in Constantinople,where the Ecumenical Throne is situated, thereby making the principle of nationality the basis of church life?” The sharpness of his assessment as well as his irritated and haughty tone had a negative effect on all present, especially on the Bulgarian monks. But out of monastic humility, none of them rejoined anything to the irritated hierarch, except for the abovementioned young monk, who rose up with all the fire of youth against Metropolitan Antony’s statement about the fire of hell being Exarch Joseph’s destiny. Why was the establishment of his see in Constantinople a heavy sin of schism for Exarch Joseph, while the establishment of a Supreme Church Authority in the same city without the Ecumenical Patriarch’s blessing was allowable for Russian refugee hierarchs? Why is the national basis for Bulgarians a violation of church spirit and the order of church life, while for Russians it is close to being a necessary act of valour?|
|↵14||The creation and establishment of a unifying church center for the whole Russian diaspora cannot, of course, be regarded as a manifestation of phyletism, when a national characteristic is imposed as a basis of structuring church life. Such a unifying center of church life, established according to the judgment and decision of God’s entire Church, according to its voice, would be aimed at structuring church life for the offspring of the given (Russian) Local Church who are in need of it, rather than the life of political émigrés. That is to say, far from a national political one, a canonical attribute would be taken as the basis for such a unifying church institution that would head the entire Russian diaspora.|
|↵15||Rossiia, 102, Nov. 2, 1935.|
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