Europaica 42 6/2/2004
The First Hierarch and the Official Delegation of the Russian
Orthodox Church Outside of Russia Visited the Moscow
On 14-28 May 2004 an official delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church
Outside of Russia, headed by its First Hierarch, Metropolitan Laurus of
Eastern America and New York, visited Russia at the invitation of the
Russian Orthodox Church.
On May 14, the day the delegation arrived in Moscow, His Eminence
Metropolitan Laurus had a meeting with His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II.
The discussion was held in a warm atmosphere of mutual
Divine Liturgy in Butovo
On May 15 the delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
attended the Divine Liturgy celebrated by His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II
of Moscow and All Russia in the Butovo shooting field, which became the
place of martyrdom of many Orthodox archpastors, pastors and laymen, who
suffered for the faith of Christ. Concelebrating were archpastors of the
Russian Orthodox Church, hundreds of clerics from the churches of Moscow
and Moscow Region.
According to the tradition, the Divine Liturgy, at which several
thousands of faithful were praying, was celebrated in the open air near
the wooden church of the New Russian Martyrs and Confessors. Then His
Holiness Patriarch Alexy conducted a prayerful service to the new Russian
martyrs. Then a memorial service was conducted during which all the
present prayed for all 'who suffered for the faith and truth in the times
of persecution of the Church of Christ and died as martyrs.'
The Butovo shooting field is called 'the Russian Calvary.' According to
the official information, 20 765 people were executed and buried there
only from 8 August 1937 to 19 October 1938. A great number of them were
condemned to death for their faith. Among those who died in the Butovo
shooting field were hundreds of clergymen, including now canonized
Metropolitan Seraphim (Chichagov), Archbishop Nikolay (Dobronravov),
Archbishop Dimitry (Dobroserdov), Bishop Arseny (Jadanovsky), who was the
last Father Superior of the Chudov Monastery, Bishop Arkady (Ostalsky)
and Bishop Nikita (Dilektorsky), Archimandrite Kronid (Lubimov), who was
the last Father Superior of St. Sergius Laura of the Holy Trinity, and
In 1994 a wooden cross was raised in the place of executions in Butovo.
On 5 May 1994 on the 2nd Sunday after Pascha the place of executions of
Russian martyrs for faith was consecrated. A great number of Orthodox
clergymen were present at the event. The wooden church of New Russian
Martyrs and Confessors was erected there in 1995-1996.
After the Divine Liturgy His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and
All Russia delivered the following address:
'Your Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, Your Excellences Brothers
Archpastors, Honourable Fathers, Beloved in Christ brothers and
Christ is Risen!
"O breath, breathe upon these slain, that they may live" (Ezek.
37:9), said prophet Ezekiel waiting for the wonder of resurrection of the
God-chosen people. Today, lifting up the Chalice of Christ on this field
studded with the bones of victims of atheistic madness, we are echoing
the voice of the prophet with strong hope for the universal resurrection
and we again witness to the victory of Life over death and sing the words
of paschal hymns.
These words have special meaning here in the place of mortal tortures of
the great number of our compatriots. The shooting field in Butovo has
become one of the symbols of suffering Russia, our national Calvary.
Seven archpastors of the Russian Orthodox Church, hundreds of priests,
dozen thousands of laymen met martyr death here and found final rest. Our
Church has already canonized more than 200 of them. And as far as we
investigate into the extant documents the number is growing.
The pages of investigative acts of these martyrs show their unconquerable
faith. Neither tortures, nor threats, nor fair of death made them
renounce God or abuse the Church of Christ and separate them from the
love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:39). The soil of the
shooting field in Butovo is abundantly soaked in blood of martyrs and
keeps their holy relics. It is not only a place of the great tragedy of
Russia, but also a place of great fame of Russian Orthodoxy. Here the
powers of death were released, but they could not prevail against the
Church of Christ. (Mt 16:18)
Among those executed here, there were people, who accepted the way of
arranging the church life of Metropolitan and later Patriarch Sergy.
Others did not consider possible to agree to the forced concessions with
atheistic regime. However, both of them embodied their faithfulness to
Christ and now together stand before the Altar of God and pray for the
salvation of their earthy Motherland, revival of the Russian Orthodox
Church and reunion in truth of all Russian people.
The wonder of resurrection of the crucified Russia, turning to the
paternal faith of millions of its children became an answer to the
prayerful intercession of the innocent sufferers. The dry bones came to
life again as in the vision of prophet Ezekiel (Ezek 37:4).
Especially dear to us is that today for the first time members of the
delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia headed by its
Primate Metropolitan Laurus have been praying with us. Here and now we
feel especially acute pain of division between our people, caused by
revolution and bloody civil war. And here we gain hope that this wound
will also be healed in the rays of the Sun of Righteousness. (Mal
Our duty before the memory of the victims of the atheistic terror is to
work for the great affair of spiritual revival of our Motherland and
unity of people in saving faith so that the tragedy of fratricide could
never repeat. I believe that through the prayers of New Russian Martyrs
and Confessors the Lord will fill up our feebleness and will multiply the
fruit of our work. "May the Lord give strength to his people! May
the Lord bless his people with peace!" (Ps 29:11).
As we finish our common prayer here on this tragic place, I would like to
greet those who prayed with us today and those, who suffered here in the
years of trouble and repression with victorious and joyful paschal
greeting: "Christ is Risen!"'
Then the procession with cross to the place of laying the foundation
stone of the Church of the New Russian Martyrs and Confessors took place.
After a prayerful service the Patriarch consecrated the foundation stone
of the new church.
On May 15-16 the delegates of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of
Russia made a pilgrimage to Donskoy and St. Daniel's Monasteries, the
Laura of the Holy Trinity and St. Sergius and the holy sites of the
On May 17-18, joint discussions between the delegates of the Russian
Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and those of the Moscow Patriarchate
were held. On May 18, these discussions were held under the chairmanship
of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia.
Participating in the discussions on behalf of the Moscow Patriarchate
were Metropolitan Juvenaly of Krutitsy and Kolomna, Chairman of the
Synodal Commission on the Canonization; Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk
and Kaliningrad, Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations
of the Moscow Patriarchate; Archbishop Innokenty of Korsun, Chairman of
the Synodal Commission on Dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church
Outside of Russia; Archpriest Vladislav Tsypin of the Historical-Judicial
Commission of the of the Moscow Patriarchate; Archimandrite Tikhon
(Shevkunov), Superior of Sretensky Monastery; Archpriest Leonid Roldugin,
Dean of the Preobrazhensky Deanery of Moscow; Archpriest Nikolai
Balashov, Secretary of the Inter-Orthodox Relations of the Department for
External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate; Archpriest Georgy
Mitrofanov, a teacher of St. Petersburg Theological Seminary and
Archpriest Maksim Kozlov, Associate Professor of the Moscow Theological
The official delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
at the discussions was headed by Metropolitan Laurus of Eastern America
and New York. Comprising the delegation were also Archbishop Mark of
Berlin, Germany and Great Britain, President of the Committee on
Discussions with the Moscow Patriarchate; Archbishop Kyrill of Western
America and San Francisco; Protopriest Alexander Lebedeff, Rector of Holy
Transfiguration Cathedral in Los Angeles and Secretary of the Committee
on Discussions with the Moscow Patriarchate; Protopriest Peter
Perekrestov, Secretary of the Western American Diocese; Protopriest
Nikolai Artemoff, Secretary of the German Diocese; Protopriest Peter
Holodny, Treasurer of the Synod of Bishops; Priest Serafim Gan, member of
the administration of the Synod of Bishops, and Priest Pavel Ivanov,
clergyman of Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY.
Expressed at the joint discussions was the common desire of the Moscow
Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia to
overcome the tragic division, which arose as a result of the revolution
and civil war, and the desire to achieve the reestablishment of
Eucharistic communion and canonical unity within one Local Russian
Orthodox Church, an indissoluble part of which the Russian Orthodox
Church Outside of Russia always sensed itself. It was stated that the
common goal of both of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox
Church Outside of Russia is to draw nearer that day when with one mouth
and one heart their faithful would glorify God.
An important role in the resolution of various problems that hinder the
restoration of the fullness of communion was reserved for the Commissions
established in December 2003 by the hierarchies of the Moscow
Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. The
Commissions, having earlier worked separately, will in the near future
commence working jointly. The Commissions are charged with developing a
common understanding on the following matters, based on the historical
experience of the Russian Church and the tasks facing the Church today:
1) The principles of the relationship between the Church and the state in
accordance with the teaching of the Church; 2) The principles of the
relationship between the Orthodox Church and heterodox communities and
inter-confessional organizations in accordance with Church tradition; 3)
The status of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia as a
self-governing part of the Russian Orthodox Church; 4) The canonical
conditions for the establishment of Eucharistic communion.
The Commissions must prepare, with God's help, a joint statement on the
above questions of principle, which is to reflect their current
understanding of both the Church in Russia and the Church Abroad. This
statement will be presented for confirmation to the hierarchies of the
Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of
It was recognized as necessary to continue the joint academic-historical
study of church events of the 20th century, especially the examination of
the exploits of the holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia and the
experience of the Church existing under conditions of persecution by the
Witnessing with joy the growing mutual understanding in discussing those
topics which in the past were causes of division, the participants of
these talks noted the importance of refraining from steps which could
harm the further process of rapprochement, in particular, from the
expression of animosity. A special responsibility in this regard lies
upon the clergymen and representatives of church institutions.
The participants of the joint discussions in Moscow expressed their faith
that mortal weakness and limitations will be overcome by the power of God
through the prayers of the New Martyrs and Confessors of
On the evening of May 18 His Eminence Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and
Kaliningrad Kirill and His Eminence Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany
gave a joint press-conference at which they evaluated the results of
conversations between delegations of the Moscow Patriarchate and the
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. 'The tasks of the first stage
of negotiations have been fulfilled. A door to the negotiation process
has been opened,' Metropolitan Kirill stated. He noted that it was not
the task of these conversations to reunite the church; their main result
was that a common language was found and the sides expressed a common
desire 'to overcome the tragic division of our people that came about as
a consequence of revolution and civil war and to achieve a restoration of
Eucharistic communion and canonical unity within a united local Russian
Orthodox Church, of which the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
always considered itself an inseparable part.'
In his turn, Archbishop Mark stated that as a result of the negotiations
'all conditions for common labour have been created.' Responding to a
question about the time that will be required for completing the
negotiation process, Archbishop Mark pointed out that the process has
'its own internal dynamic that is not determined by us but by God.'
However, he indicated that the question will be discussed by the Council
of Bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate in October 2004 and by a similar
Council of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia that will be
held in 2005.
Responding to questions about ecumenism, the representative of the
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia stressed that his church
recognizes mutual action with other faiths only to the extent that it
bears witness 'to the exclusivity of Orthodoxy.' In the archbishop's
opinion, ecumenism is dangerous where it 'erases boundaries,' and
concelebration by Orthodox clergy with other faiths is 'a seduction.'
Archbishop Mark noted that his church is ready to share about experience
of fellowship with other faiths with the Moscow patriarchate. As regards
representatives of other religions and non-believers, he said that it is
possible to have 'moral and cultural' cooperation.
Questions at the press conference were posed regarding relations between
the Orthodox and the Catholic Churches. Archbishop Mark stated that, in
his opinion, discussion of a meeting between Patriarch Alexis II and Pope
John Paul II is 'inappropriate' because 'there is too much opposition and
proselytism by Catholics on the territory of the Moscow Patriarchate,
particularly in Ukraine.' Only a resolution of these essential questions
will make possible a meeting of the heads of the two churches.
In this regard, Metropolitan Kirill recalled the positive results of the
recent visit to Russia by Cardinal Walter Kasper, during which they
managed to get beyond the 'stalemate' and recognize the existence of
problems on both sides and to plot a path to dialogue.
Services and pilgrimages on May 19-26
On May 19 the delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
headed by His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus and the group of pilgrims
accompanying him attended the consecration of the Church of the
Life-Giving Trinity in Borisovskiye Prudy, dedicated to the Millenium of
the Baptism of Russia, and on the day of the Ascension of the Lord, May
20, attended the patriarchal service in the Great Church of the Ascension
at Nikitskiye Gates.
On May 21-26 the delegation visited the holy sites of Yekaterinburg,
Saint-Petersburg, Sarov, Diveevo and Kursk.
Final meeting of two delegations
On 27 May 2004 a final official meeting of the delegation of the Moscow
Patriarchate and the delegation of the Russian Church Outside of Russia
headed by Metropolitan Laurus was held in the Synodal residence in St.
Daniel's Monastery under the chairmanship of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy
II of Moscow and all Russia.
Opening the meeting, His Holiness said: 'Your Eminence, brothers
archpastors, all-honourable fathers!
We are happy to greet you upon the completion of your long pilgrimage to
the holy places of Russia, which are so close and dear to all of
You saw the restored old churches of God, which were destroyed and
desecrated in the period of the persecution of the Church. You visited
new churches, which have been built in commemoration of the tragic events
of our recent historical past. You witnessed the spiritual revival that
is taking place in Russia and saw it with your own eyes.
On the eve of your departure we are happy to meet with you again and
discuss the ways of the development of our relations.
While on the pilgrimage, the members of the official delegation and the
pilgrim's group of the Russian Church Outside of Russia prayed at the
divine services, venerated the holy relics of St.Seraphim of Sarov and of
other saints of God. It has become possible to talk about the restoration
of our communion in prayer. We should also think about the restoration of
the Eucharistic communion and about small but real obstacles on the way
to the cherished unity.
To overcome these obstacles, the two working commissions were set up: the
Synodal Commission on the Dialogue with the Russian Church Outside of
Russia headed by Metropolitan Innokenty of Korsun and the Commission on
Discussions with the Moscow Patriarchate headed by Archbishop Mark of
Berlin and Germany. I hope that common work of these commissions will be
held in the spirit of mutual understanding and fraternal love and will be
crowned with success.
In spite of the present difficulties, extremely important is the fact
that it is for the first time in the history of our relations that an
official visit to Russia of the representatives of the Russian Church
Outside of Russia has become possible. We participate in the meetings on
the official level and this holds out hope for successful development of
our relations in future. The present event will undoubtedly occupy a
worthy place in the chronicles of the Russian Orthodoxy.'
His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus said in his address:
'We thank God for an opportunity to visit the holy places of Moscow and
St.Petersburg, the place of a martiric death and burial of the holy
Emperial martyrs, the places of birth and exploits of St.Seraphim of
Sarov. St.Seraphim used to say 'Acquire the spirit of peace, and
thousands around you will be saved.' Indeed, peace of the soul and
fraternal love are necessary today for us so that together we could serve
God and the Russian people.'
The members of the Russian Church Outside of Russia cordially thanked His
Holiness Patriarch Alexy for an opportunity to personally observe the
process of revival of the spiritual life in Russia at present.
Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany noted that thanks to the trip to
Russia he could even more deeply comprehend the life and hopes of the
Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America underlined that
the Russian people had cherished in their souls the true living faith.
'Earlier I only heard about this great faith, but now I saw it for
myself,' Archbishop Kyrill said.
Archpriest George Larin, Rector of the Church of the Protecting Veil of
the Mother of God in Nayak and secretary of the Eastern America and New
York diocese, said that during his stay in Russia revealed to him were
fruitful relations of symphony between the Church and the state in
Russia: secular authorities, aspiring to enhance the moral level of
society, receive spiritual support of Orthodoxy.
Archpriest Alexander Lebedev, rector of the Holy Transfiguration
Cathedral in Los Angeles took note of a large number of children in the
churches and Sunday schools. This testifies to the successful formation
of a new generation of the Orthodox people, he said.
While commenting on these impressions, His Holiness Patriarch Alexy
noted: 'As we look in the eyes of children whom you mentioned, our hope
become stronger that this generation will not be lost either for the
Church or for society. These children will be the believing people, in
spite of the temptations of the modern world.'
Presented in the Synodal residence in St. Daniel's Monastery was an album
dedicated to the life and exploits of St. Seraphim of Sarov. The book
contains forewords of the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church and of
the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Outside of Russia and is timed
to the 250th anniversary of the birth of the saint of God, which is
celebrated by the Orthodox world.
Meeting with President Vladimir Putin
On 27 May 2004 at the Novo-Ogarevo residence the President of the Russian
Federation Vladimir V. Putin met with His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of
Moscow and All Russia and with the First Hierarch of the Russian Church
Outside of Russia Metropolitan Laurus of Eastern America and New
Taking part in the meeting were also Metropolitan Juvenaly of Krutitsy
and Kolomna and Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations
of the Russian Orthodox Church Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and
Kaliningrad on behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church and Archbishop Mark
of Berlin and Germany on behalf of the Russian Church Outside of
President Vladimir Putin of Russia greeted the guests and expressed his
hope for successful completion of the process of conversations between
the representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Church
Outside of Russia.
'I am very glad that the process of rapprochement of the two parts of the
Russian Orthodoxy is going positively. I shall not talk about the two
Churches, as the Russian Church is one in the consciousness of our
people. I note with pleasure that after our meeting in New York the
clergymen who protect, defend, and propagate Orthodoxy beyond the
frontiers of Russia, visited the Russian Federation and saw with their
own eyes the spiritual revival of our Fatherland,' noted Vladimir
'Nevertheless, under no circumstances the state intends to intervene in
any form into the affairs of the Church,' the President added. 'We are
not going and cannot exert influence on the processes within the Russian
Orthodox Churches, but we are prepared to render our utmost assistance to
the creation of conditions for the restoration of unity of the Russian
Orthodoxy,' he emphasized.
'The process of rapprochement of the two parts of the Russian Orthodox
Church means more than a solution of the inner ecclesiastical problem.
This is a symbol of the revival of Russia and the unity of the Russian
people,' President Vladimir Putin said.
His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia cordially
thanked the Head of the Russian state for handing Metropolitan Laurus the
invitation to visit Russia and for an invitation to visit the
presidential Novo-Ogarevo residence on the eve of his departure from the
country, while calling an official visit of the delegation of the Russian
Church Outside of Russia with its First Hierarch at the head an
historical event. His Holiness said that this visit was paid officially,
rather than incognito, for the first time.
The members of the delegation had an opportunity to get acquainted with
the life of the Russian Orthodox Church, to pray together with us at the
divine services, to see the Russian Orthodox people who are coming back
to their spiritual sources and traditions,' His Holiness the Patriarch
said. 'The programme of the visit was very busy and rich, as less than in
seven days the delegation visited Yekaterinburg, Sarov, Nizhny Novgorod,
Diveyevo, St.Petersburg and Kursk.'
His Holiness Patriarch Alexy spoke about a meeting, which was held
earlier that day with the official delegation and with the pilgrim's
group in St.Daniel's Monastery and noted: 'All participants of the
pilgrimage are in bright spirits. The trip has not tired, but rather
inspired them. The participants in the trip were astounded and moved by
the piety of the people and by the general revival of the spiritual life.
How fair is the saying: 'It is better to see once, than hear one hundred
We thank Metropolitan Laurus and the members of the delegation for the
spirit of openness, benevolence and mutual understanding in which the
visit took place, as well as for the wish to bring our positions closer
and find a way for the resolution of contradictions, which appeared as a
result of the tragic events of the Revolution of 1917 and the Civil War,
when a great number of our compatriots were forced to leave their
Motherland, and the Russian Church Outside of Russia took spiritual care
for them,' Patriarch Alexy said. 'But the love to Russia has always been
preserved and passed from generation to generation. I think that the
first generation, which was forced to leave the Fatherland, would have
been happy to see the present way to the reunion with the Motherland and
with the Russian Orthodox Church.
In the documents published on the results of the discussions, we
underlined that the Russian Orthodox Church is one, and that only the
circumstances divided us,' the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church
emphasized. 'Let us hope that we were divided only for the time
Metropolitan Laurus and Archbishop Mark shared their impressions of the
visit and the pilgrimage, during which the members of the delegation
venerated the Orthodox holy places, prayed at the relics of the zealots
of piety and visited the sites of the exploits of the New Russian Martyrs
'We have got very good impressions. The churches and monasteries are
being revived, a lot of the restoration is being done, the divine
services are celebrated,' the First Hierarch of the Russian Church
Outside of Russia said. 'It is not only that the external grandeur is
being revived, but a spiritual wealth is being built up.'
His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus thanked President Vladimir V.Putin of
Russia and His Holiness Patriarch Alexy for the invitation to visit
Metropolitan Laurus announced his intention to exert all efforts for the
achievement of peace and mutual understanding between the Russian Church
Outside of Russia and the Moscow Patriarchate. 'We shall undertake all
possible measures to complete this process happily.'
Departure and final statement
On May 28 the delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
headed by Metropolitan Laurus left Moscow.
On the same day the following 'Statement by the delegation accompanying
His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus on his trip to Russia' was
'At the invitation of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All
Russia and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, a delegation of the
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia headed by His Eminence
Metropolitan Laurus visited Russia to meet with the Patriarch,
archpastors and clergymen of the Church in Russia, in order to acquaint
themselves with church life and to conduct prayers at the holy sites of
The delegation consisted of representatives of almost all the dioceses of
the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia: besides the Metropolitan,
there were two archpastors, eminent protopriests and young priests,
protodeacons and readers. With one exception, all were born and raised
outside the borders of Russia. At the same time, all, with one exception,
had visited Russia before.
The trip was twice delayed and only upon our arrival in Russia did it
become clear why we came, by God's providence, specifically in May. The
first service at which we prayed was a divine liturgy at Butovo Polygon,
at the site of the murder by atheists of thousands and thousands of
Russian Orthodox people, including bishops and priests. The Patriarch
served along with other bishops and more than 300 priests. After liturgy,
one protopriest of the Moscow Patriarchate said to us: "Today the
earth itself was a living antimension for us." The blood of the New
Martyrs became a banner under which our visit, our pilgrimage was
Besides prayers at the site of the massive executions at Butovo, we
prayed, in Moscow, at the relics of St. Patriarch Tikhon the Confessor,
whose memory is so dearly held by all the faithful of the Russian
Orthodox Church Outside of Russia; in Ekaterinburg at the site of the
Russian Golgotha, where the Royal New Martyrs were brutally killed; at
the mineshaft in Alapaevsk, where the bodies of the Holy Grand Duchess
Elizaveta, Nun Varvara and those with them were thrown; at the relics of
St. Seraphim of Sarov, the God-pleaser; the pastor of All Russia, St.
John of Kronstadt; at the chapel of St. Xenia the Blessed at Smolensky
Cemetery and at the site of the appearance of the Miracle-working
Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God.
At every one of these sites we elevated our fervent prayers for our
clergymen, our parishioners, our families, our children. We prayed that
all the actions, thoughts and words of our delegation would fulfill the
will of God. To these prayers we added the one that never ceased in every
parish of the Russia diaspora over the course of 80 years - the prayer
for the much-suffering Russian people.
The fate of the Russian people is inseparably tied to the fate of the
Russian Church, and the Russian Church bears the wound of division for
over 75 years, unhealed to this day. The spiritual guides and our parents
passed on their love for the saints and holy sites of our Fatherland -
these sites are not simply memorials of days past.
They are bound together with the fate of living people and even today, as
before, the people of God in Russia - selflessly, with faith and love -
restore these sites, they build churches, strive in their lives to follow
in the footsteps of the saints. Our love cannot only be turned to the
past - it must be an active, living love, acting in the present, at the
time and place in which the Lord situates us.
Everywhere we visited we heard from the mouths of the archpastors and
pastors of the destruction by the godless regime of the holy sites,
especially of the holy image of God in people's souls. Calls for
repentance and the emulation of the struggles of the New Martyrs in their
sermons were accompanied by remarkable tidings of the piety and faith of
the Russian people of today, of their striving towards the faith in
Christ. An example of this is the story of the Russian people who walked
on foot from Ekaterinburg to Diveevo for the 100th anniversary of St.
Seraphim of Sarov. Many who visit holy sites such as Alapaevsk go there
with one goal, yet leave completely transformed, renewed. We were
especially heartened that in the dioceses we visited, instead of friction
and abstract discussions, there is action focused on educating the
faithful, work with children and youth, help for the needy and publishing
work. In the Ekaterinburg Diocese, for example, there are hot meals
served daily to the poor, while Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra created a
whole centre for orphaned boys.
In each diocese, on the steps of every church we communed with the people
of the church, spoke with parishioners, youth and children. This contact,
however brief, brought us great joy. At Moscow Theological Academy we had
the opportunity to speak before 500 people - all participants of
Against this background, we felt with particular pain the wound of
division upon the body of the Russian Church. Indifference towards the
return of health of church life in Russia is impossible. We cannot but
participate, hold out a helping hand, as far as we are able, and support
all those who labour for the glory of God. From the mouths of youth and
church people in Russia we heard words and saw tears of Paschal joy that
there is finally hope for the attainment of spiritual unity of the two
parts of the Russian Church. Both we and they have faith that the blood
of the New Martyrs was not spilt for naught. We cannot allow ourselves to
believe that the Lord does not heed the prayers and groans of millions of
souls. Our Church Abroad was thanked for its standing in Orthodoxy and
for its witness to the persecutions, for its publications, its radio
broadcasts. The glorification of the saints was noted, not least of which
was that of the Royal Family in 1981. This conciliar action served as an
impetus for the recognition of the podvig of the Royal Family and their
veneration in Russia. We were also frequently told that the church
division, besides all else, pushes young people away from the Church,
weakens the witness of Orthodoxy both in Russia and in the entire
At the same time, along with positive phenomena in the life of Russia,
there is much which is difficult and even tragic. This is recognized in
practice by all the archpastors and pastors with whom we met. They do not
deny the problems and difficulties in church life, but the belief is
growing fast in the possibility of overcoming the difficulties of
internal church life, and that the Church can act upon the Russian people
and society more than it does now, if the experiences of the two parts of
the Russian Church flow together into a single effort.
Our delegation had two discussions with the corresponding delegation of
the Moscow Patriarchate on the matter of the rapprochement of the two
parts of the Russian Church. Over 50 years ago, Metropolitan Anastassy of
blessed memory, the second First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church
Outside of Russia, said that any unity begins with personal meeting.
Looking each other in the eyes, hearing each other and speaking openly,
we felt the softening of hearts, the mutual good will, pain for the
ecclesiastical division and the desire, with God's help, in the spirit of
repentance and truth to overcome the division caused at one time by
bitter necessity under terrible conditions.
At the discussions with the delegation of the Moscow Patriarchate, a list
of the important topics which were in need of mutual agreement and
recognition by the Church was prepared, which was later confirmed during
the meeting with His Holiness Patriarch Alexy and handed down to the
joint committees of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox
Church Outside of Russia. This list includes the relationship of the
Church and state, the attitude towards heterodoxy and the self-governance
of the part of the Russian Church which is abroad. The desire was
expressed that the committees begin their work in the end of June. The
committees will report on their progress to the Supreme Church Authority,
and then concrete proposals will be discussed at the Councils of Bishops.
It is best not to guess the timeframes and results of the work of the
committees and the decisions of the Supreme Church Authorities, but to
recall the words of a bishop of the Moscow Patriarchate: "We
sometimes think in human terms that we decide the fate of the Church. We
are mistaken - the Lord decides."
Our delegation thanks the Lord God for the possibility of accompanying
His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus and the bishops of the Russian Orthodox
Church Outside of Russia during this first official visit. Our First
Hierarch and the delegation was greeted with honour both by
representatives of the Church in Russia and by highly-place government
officials, for which we thank His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II and
President Vladimir V. Putin of the Russian Federation.
We sensed the growth of mutual trust and we began everything with prayer.
The members of our delegation are of one spirit in its observations,
evaluations, joys and troubles. We call upon our brethren and
parishioners to trust our hierarchy, to strengthen their prayers and to
rejoice that the Lord, by His grace and in ways invisible to us, gives us
now real hope for the reestablishment of church unity, for which we
prayed always and will continue to pray.'