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Official Delegation of the ROCOR Russia Visited the Moscow Patriarchate

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  • Rev. Sergei Overt
    Europaica 42 6/2/2004 The First Hierarch and the Official Delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia Visited the Moscow Patriarchate On 14-28
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      Europaica 42 6/2/2004

      The First Hierarch and the Official Delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia Visited the Moscow Patriarchate

      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 understanding.

      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 many others.

      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 sisters,

      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 4:2)

      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 Moscow Kremlin.

      Joint Discussions

      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 Academy.

      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 Russia.

      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 godless regimes.

      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 Russia.

      Joint press-conference

      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 us.

      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 Russian people.

      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 York.

      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 Russia.

      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 Putin.

      '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 times.'

      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 being.

      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 and Confessors.

      '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 Russia.

      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 released:

      '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 our Homeland.

      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 made.

      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 theological schools.

      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 world.

      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.'


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    • Fr. Gregory Williams
      Please enlighten concerning source and authoritativeness (or lack thereof) of source. Europaica doesn t mean anything to me.
      Message 2 of 2 , Jun 2, 2004
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        Please enlighten concerning source and authoritativeness (or lack thereof)
        of source. "Europaica" doesn't mean anything to me.
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