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5933Re: Interview with Vl. Mark

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  • goossir
    Jun 19, 2002
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      This is an article written in 1998 which is foretelling the drama our
      church is going through at the present time. I humbly think it is
      worthwhile reading.

      Yours in Christ

      News Release

      Divisions within Orthodox church abroad


      by Alexander Soldatov
      Nezavisimaia gazeta--religiia


      15 April 1998

      Attempts at dialogue with Moscow patriarchate provoke sharp criticism

      The past year has brought many trials to the Russian Orthodox Church
      Abroad (RPTsZ), headed by the 88-year-old primate Metropolitan Vitaly
      Ustinov. RPTsZ lost the Holy Trinity monastery in Hebron, which was
      turned over by the Palestinian authority to the Russian Orthodox
      church of the Moscow Patriarch (RPTs MP), and the Saint Nicholas
      cathedral church in Montreal, in all likelihood torched by unknown
      antagonists. Archprist Alexander Zharkov, a prominent RPTsZ priest in
      St. Petersburg, and Iosif Munoz Cortes, the curator of the greatest
      shrine of the Russian emigration, the Iverian Myrrh-streaming icon of
      the Mother of God, perished at the hands of bandits. The icon itself
      disappeared and its location is unknown. This spring, by decision of
      Metropolitan Vitaly, Archbishop Mark Arndt of Berlin and Germany was
      expelled from the bishops' synod of RPTsZ. [Archbishop Mark's

      It is not surprising that these sad events, viewed by many in RPTsZ
      as the "end of the world," became the catalyst for processes of
      internal division among the clergy and flock of the Russian
      emigration on the question of mutual relations with RPTsMP. It may be
      strange, but the part of RPTsZ that was most politicized in the past
      has become the most active advocates of rapprochement and even
      unification with the Mother church after the fall of USSR and the
      democratic reforms in Russia. The aging priests in Europe and America
      and parishioners from among the first and part of the second "wave"
      of emigration are hoping to live to see the "desired unification." We
      recall that the distinguished arch-presbyter Alexander Kiselev, a
      pastor who is extremely authoritative and popular within RPTsZ and
      the long-time clergyman of the synodal cathedral in New York, has
      moved toward an open rupture with Metropolitan Vitaly because of his
      burning love for the motherland and for Patriarch Alexis II

      By way of contrast, the new generation, especially the so-called
      converts (Protestants and Catholics who have transferred into
      Orthodoxy) speak about the dogmatic and canonical differences between
      RPTsZ and RPTsMP that prevent unification. But every rule is
      extremely approximate and reflects reality only relatively. An open
      protagonist of the process of reconciliation with the Mother church
      in RPTsZ is the sometime "convert," an ethnic German who converted to
      Orthodoxy, Archbishop Mark Arndt of Berlin and Germany. In his time
      Archbishop Mark, an activist in the National Labor Union, was
      extremely radical in his negative attitude toward USSR and
      the "soviet church."

      Judging by the tendency of the publications of the "Vestnik of the
      German Diocese," edited by Master Mark, his attitude began to change
      in 1993. It is obvious that the archbishop suffered profoundly for
      the failures of RPTsZ in Russia, the alliance of the synodal
      representative Bishop Varnava with Vasilev's "Pamiat" organization,
      and conflicts among bishops. These experiences forced him to turn his
      face toward RPTsMP.

      Since 1994, on the initiative of Archbishop Mark, there have been
      ongoing conversations between the clergy of the German dioceses of
      RPTsZ and RPTsMP. The bishops themselves led these conversations
      (from the patriarchal side was Archbishop Feofan). This has given a
      basis for making a preliminary summary in an official joint
      declaration, published in the middle of December 1997. The theme of
      the declaration was the relativity and historical conditioning of the
      division existing in the one Russian church: "People in Russia and
      abroad have conducted their church service in completely different
      circumstances and have assessed the situation differently. Hence
      diverse paths of the Russian church have appeared."

      It is clear that the authors of the declaration are simplifying the
      historical facts extremely: the line of the church division by no
      means follows state boundaries. Participants in the conversations
      declared their full recognition of the validity of one another's
      sacraments. However in practice such a recognition is absent.
      Existing precedents of a transfer into RPTsMP of clergy from RPTsZ in
      Russia (e.g., Oleg Steniaev and Dimitry Goltsev), when they were
      reordained to the clerical rank (in the case of Steniaev the
      ordination was performed by the patriarch himself), testify to the
      nonrecognition of the sacraments of RPTsZ. On the other hand,
      Metropolitan Vitaly in his letter to Archbishop Mark in December 1996
      directly declared that the time had come for a declaration to the
      world of the "lack of grace in the Moscow patriarchate." It is
      natural that the publication of this document evoked a storm of
      responses within RPTsZ and beyond its boundaries. Already in December
      1996, when Archbishop Mark met Patriarch Alexis II in Moscow, the
      most radical opponents of the activity of the German bishop accused
      him of rapprochement with "Sergians." This included in first place
      Metropolitan Vitaly himself, who sent to Archbishop Mark an extremely
      sharp indictment in which he declared that he had fallen into
      spiritual illness. Archbishop Mark also was indirectly condemned by
      clergy of the West European diocese, who distributed an open letter
      against reconciliation with RPTsMP, over the signatures of Bishop
      Varnava Rokofev of Cannes and 14 priests. No less sharp was the
      reaction in Russia at the time. Russian parishes of RPTsZ which had
      just broken with the patriarchate had no desire to admit to
      error. "We are for unification," wrote, in particular, the Russian
      members of the brotherhood of Saint Iov of Pochaev, "but not at any
      price. No price is worth betrayal and contempt for truth." Fr Stefan
      Krasovitsky, head of the RPTsZ mission in Russia, even sundered
      prayer fellowship with Archbishop Mark, considering him "in no way
      better that a Sergian." Archbishop Mark's enthusiastic impressions of
      Chisty Lane evoked a certain amazement even among the conservative
      circles of RPTsMP.

      As at that time, so in the present case of the publication of the
      joint declaration Metropolitan Vitaly was the first to respond. In
      his letter of 6 February of this year he reminded Archbishop Mark
      that no one had given him authority "to conduct these conversations."
      The patient primate decided to resort to punishment: he expelled
      Archbishop Mark from the bishop's synod of RPTsZ.

      Archbishop Mark wrote a rather sharp retort, addressed to all bishops
      of RPTsZ, in which he accused the metropolitan of inability to
      administer the church and, in essence, called for his removal. The
      only bishops, besides the metropolitan, who decided to speak openly
      against Archbishop Mark, who has acquired influence within RPTsZ, was
      the young bishop of Seattle, Kirill, vicar of the North American
      diocese, whose voice earlier had not been very much noticed. He
      delivered a devastating assessment of the joint declaration: "I am
      profoundly convinced that this declaration is an irresponsible
      collection of demagogic sentences that do not contain a single
      healthy idea which would lead to the resolution of the numerous
      ecclesiastical problems of the Russian Orthodox church at the end of
      the twentieth century."

      And so, the circle of opponents of Archbishop Mark's line in RPTsZ
      has been approximately set. There is Metropolitan Vitaly, vicar
      bishops Varnava and Kirill, the conservative clergy of West European
      diocese, practically all the Russian clergy of RPTsZ and "converts"
      (mostly Americans). Among the supporters of master Mark no one
      actively has declared himself so it is possible to draw conclusions
      only by indirect indicators. Obviously, that number includes several
      influential synodal bishops, whose support gives the German bishop
      confidence, the aging liberal Russian clergy (mostly in America and
      Australia) and, of course, clergy of the German diocese. Between
      these relative camps a fault line has formed, threatening in the near
      future to reveal to the world new branches of Russian Orthodoxy.
      Several observers from among clergy and laity of RPTsZ in Russia
      confirm that at this council the question of Metropolitan Vitaly's
      retirement will serve as a cutting edge. If that is so, then they
      must be correct who affirm that the extraordinary effort for
      overcoming the schism, in accordance with the law of the dialectic,
      will inevitably result in a new schism.

      (tr. by P D Steeves, Stetson University)


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