Letter from St. Catherine's/Moscow
[The letter on behalf of the Representation Church of St. Catherine in Moscow
written by the members of that community speaks for itself of the affection they
have for their pastor, Archimandrite Zacchaeus, and the "sadness and confusion"
they feel regarding the decision to remove him from their parish.]
>To His Beatitude Jonah
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of America and Canada
Orthodox Church in America (OCA)
Syosset, NY 11791
Your Beatitude –
We petition you in the name of the parish community of St. Catherine’s, the
Moscow Representational Church of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA).
We have learned with great sadness that our dear pastor has been taken to
hospital (infectious disease ward) and thereafter transferred to another
hospital for therapy – where is now able to receive visitors.
With sadness and confusion we read the announcement in the ‘News’ section of the
official OCA web-site that Archimandrite Zacchaeus has been recalled to the
United States, and that he is prohibited from celebrating or concelebrating at
liturgies and from engaging in any other pastoral activities. Having known
Father Zacchaeus and associating with him face-to-face for many years, we can
assert with complete certainty that he is a true Dean and Pastor, that he hears
our confessions and absolves our sins, covering them with his love, baptising
our children, performing the burial rites for our departed loved ones, and
beautifying our church structure.
The work that Father Zacchaeus performs cannot be assessed or measured on a
human scale. Within a short period of time, our church has been transformed
into a true House of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Our services are performed with
dignity, not rushed, and accompanied by our excellent choir. (Everyone who
visits our church makes these sorts of comments.)
Love, mutual support and understanding reign among our parishioners. Many of
our parish families socialize with each other. Our parish has become a living,
vibrant Orthodox community, greeting each new guest and new member with love.
Our Father Zacchaeus has taught us in these ways. And we have also greeted you
in love; and we remember that you yourself, during your visit with us, made note
Besides rare pastoral skills, Father Zacchaeus possesses unique administrative
facilities, which are all blended together harmoniously and productively.
Russia– and not only Russia – knows of the Orthodox Church in America in large
part via the untiring service – ‘Service that does not spare the servant’ – and
not only through the good works of Father Zacchaeus. Within a short period of
time Father Zacchaeus has attained a high level of respect among the pastors and
archpastors of the Russian Orthodox Church, among other Regional Orthodox
Churches, as well as among many laymen and high state officials.
We wish to defend our church, which at the moment is in a state of disrepair
that requires immediate attention and restoration. And Father Zacchaeus, thanks
to his authority and personal dedication, has successfully commenced and almost
completed negotiations with Russian state authorities toward obtaining
government funding that is desperately needed for completion of our church’s
restoration. The decision to recall our parish church’s Dean places a state
grant in the amount of ten million roubles – toward restoring the church’s
façade, which is currently in critical condition – into question.
At your blessing, the work undertaken by Father Zacchaeus is currently underway;
and a ‘Committee of Consultants to the Dean on Financial Matters and Management
Policy’ has been formed from among active parish members. The Committee is
dedicated to assisting our Dean in generating funds for parish projects as well
as toward helping him identify and support high-priority necessities. Under
Father Zacchaeus’ leadership this Committee has taken significant steps toward
enhancing spiritual values within our parish life. Our plans include expanding
the number of parishioners participating in these activities. This could only
be accomplished if Father Zacchaeus remains as Dean of the OCA Representational
Church. The poorly reasoned and random decision to recall Archimandrite
Zacchaeus to the United States can only reflect negatively on our parish life.
Father Zacchaeus’ unquestioned authority, his ceaseless love and the respect
which our parishioners have for him are the driving force of all our activities.
An indication of our collective love for Father Zacchaeus is the long line of
parishioners that inevitably awaits him as he leaves the altar after services,
seeking his blessings, sharing their sorrows and joys with him, and asking his
advice, which is always given in a spiritual and salutary manner. And Father
Zacchaeus accords each parishioner as much time as may be necessary for that
person’s spiritual support and nourishment.
Notwithstanding his overburdened schedule, Father Zacchaeus always finds the
energy and time to mingle with us – with love, careful attention and openness –
strictly following the Gospel’s words: ‘11 I am the Good Shepherd. The Good
Shepherd gives His life for the sheep. 12 But a hireling, he who is not the
shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the
sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. 13 The
hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. 14 I
am the Good Shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.’ (John 10:11
– 14) We now feel defenseless and orphaned. Many of our parishioners have not
yet learned of this terrible news because they are away on vacation. Upon
returning to Moscow, this news will come as a huge shock to them, as well.
We are extremely distraught by this turn of events and we miss Archimandrite
Zacchaeus, our spiritual father, enormously. We ask you to forgive us and to
understand us. We love you very much and hope that you will understand us and
show your love for us as well.
* * *
The undersigned parishioners of the St. Catherine’s Orthodox Representational
Church in Moscow:
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