MUNICH: February 1, 2005
"We Cannot Remain Silent After Such Statements-
This Will Turn Our Flock Against the Ongoing Talks."
Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany, President of the Committee of the
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia on Discussions with the Moscow
Patriarchate, Reacts to the Statement Made by His Holiness Patriarch Alexy
During a Meeting with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.
As reported by the official websites in Russia, while on a trip to Russia
on Monday, Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas visited Danilov
Monastery in Moscow, where he met with His Holiness Patriarch Alexy of
Moscow and All Russia. Over the course of their conversation, His Holiness
the Patriarch expressed gratitude to the leadership of the Palestinian
Autonomy for transferring to the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission of the
Moscow Patriarchate church property in Hebron and Jericho, which had been
preserved and protected for many years by the Russian Church Abroad. In
1997, representatives of the Palestinian Authority forcibly ejected monks
and nuns belonging to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia from
Holy Trinity Monastery in Hebron (who had been collecting fruits there that
day) and turned it over to the Moscow Patriarchate. In January 2000, on the
day of St Seraphim of Sarov, soon after the celebration of the 2000th year
of the Nativity of Christ in Bethlehem, monastics (mainly those who had
been ejected from Hebron in 1997) were arrested by Palestinian forces,
again with the use of physical force, at the premises of the Russian Church
Abroad in Jericho, which was then turned over to the Moscow Patriarchate.
"I presume that the time has come when it is legally necessary to secure
this property in the name of the Mission (of the ROC/MP-ed.)," stated His
Holiness Patriarch Alexy.
The members of the Committee of the discussions with the Moscow
Patriarchate had expected that the Moscow Patriarchate, as a symbol of
peacemaking, would return at least one of the properties seized unlawfully
in the Holy Land, which would be a noble gesture on the part of the ROC/MP
and would heal the most recent wound on the Body of the Russian Church. For
this reason, the statement made by the Moscow Patriarchate elicited a
protest on the part of the President of the Committee of the Russian
Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. The request made by the Moscow
Patriarchate is even more stunning since, as far as it is known, the ROC/MP
has not yet succeeded in formalizing the legal ownership of church property
either in Russia or in Israel or in lands controlled by the Palestinian
"I am very disappointed," stated Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany to
Kommersant correspondent Pavel Korobov, "For at the beginning of the
process a declaration was made that we must refrain from any actions and
statements that could insult the other side. And this is precisely such an
action. We cannot remain silent to such a statement-this will turn our
entire flock against the talks," added His Eminence Archbishop Mark. "But
if this is a misunderstanding, a corresponding statement should be issued."
"Very recently," continued Archbishop Mark, "the Moscow Patriarchate
expressed its opinion that one must re-ordain all our priests in Russia.
But not one of our bishops would agree to this. Sometimes I ask myself,
maybe this is someone's attempt to sabotage the process of negotiations."
In a recent interview given to NG-Religiya, Archbishop Mark noted: "There
are such fears [within the flock of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of
Russia-ed.] regarding property. The President of Russia, Vladimir
Vladimirovich Putin, during a meeting with us in May of this year, in the
presence of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II and of the First Hierarch of
the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, His Eminence Metropolitan
Laurus, unequivocally spoke out on this topic, stressing that neither the
Russian Government nor the ROC/MP will make any claims on the property of
the Church Abroad. Still, many are not convinced! It is necessary that
steps be taken to ensure such trust."
Press Service of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church
Outside of Russia.