Re: Mr. M. Nazarov's letter to Mr. N. Ohotin
- Who Is Rejecting the Reason for the Existence of the Russian Church Abroad?
An Answer to Mr. Nicolas Ohotin
(Transl. by Timothy Fisher)
My electronic address received Mr. N. Ohotin's call to sign [a
petition] in support of the present fraternization of our bishops with the
MP and with the government of the R[ussian] F[ederation]. Ohotin asserts
that many of us who disagree with this, have no idea of the true state of
affairs in the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, and do
not know the reason for the existence of the Russian Orthodox Church
Mr. Nicolas Ohotin assumes that he, as a citizen of the USA, from
America evidently [knows] better "the true situation" of matters in Russia,
than we, the Russian citizens living here, who consider the present
fraternization a legitimization of a criminal anti-Russian regime.
It would seem that each sees that which corresponds to his choice of
citizenship and residence: some try to fight for a healthy Russian church
in the Russian land, others worry about the welfare of the church buildings
in the countries of their residence and to this end need to curtail
opposition there to the institutions of the MP.
To Mr. Ohotin those who allegedly "advance conditions for association
with the MP, based on ignorance or incorrect information" "are shameful and
offensive". But we only remind our bishops of those conditions which were
repeatedly formulated at our episcopal councils.
We suggest Mr. Ohotin become acquainted, for example, with a document of
the Council of 1990, which prescribed to our parishes in Russia not to
enter into Eucharistic contact with the MP, "so long as it has not rejected
Metropolitan Sergius's declaration; [so long as] it has not repented of the
errors added by it subsequently; [so long as] it will not remove itself
from the control of hierarchs who have compromised themselves by
uncanonical and by immoral acts, who are involved in corruption and
embezzlement, who have set up means of interference from secular
authorities, and also have allowed distortions in the liturgical practices
of the Russian Orthodox Church ". ("Prav Rus" 12, 1990).
Even the documents of the Episcopal Council of 2000 that caused an
unnecessary disturbance said: "There remain still other serious ulcers in
the management of the Russian church, which prevent our spiritual
In particular they noted: the "absence of an understanding by the
Moscow Patriarchate of the position of the Russian Church Abroad, which
with great care preserves the spiritual heritage of the Orthodox Russian
church" - the "acts of aggression of the Patriarchate in forcibly taking
from the Church Abroad its churches and monasteries" - "The Moscow
Patriarchate at its council actually confirmed its adherence to extensive
participation in Ecumenism and is not concerned to protect its younger
generation from this pan-heresy".
They drew from this the following conclusion: "Henceforth we must
fulfill our historical mission of remaining steadfast in the truth, until
all have returned to it... to be faithful to the end... We remain the true
church, which possesses the completeness of soul-saving grace".
This steadfastness in the truth and its preservation for the sake of
curing the church in Russia is the reason for the existence of our Church
Abroad, about which, in the opinion of Mr. Ohotin, we have no idea.
And in 2001, even after the disturbance had begun in our church, in
answer to a message from the MP, our episcopal council emphasized that the
problems of differing relations to participation in the Ecumenical
Movement, to the policy of Metropolitan Sergius and to the unrepented
collaboration by the Russian bishops with the KGB still remain
unsurmounted: We only pray God to send to these hierarchs the courage to
expose and condemn the sin of this collaboration, otherwise it is very
difficult to speak about our mutual understanding ("Prav. Rus." 21, 2001).
Perhaps something in the MP has changed since then?
The purpose of the declared dialogue with the MP was correctly stated in
the same answer of the Abroad council: We see no benefit in an unprincipled
compromise of "fraternization". We inseparably connect progress toward our
unity with progress in the celebration of truth.
We believed this promise of our bishops and protected them from the
accusations of our colleagues, who without just cause saw in the very
dialogue "betrayal" and went into schism, forming their uncanonical
However, in the fall of 2003 this conciliar promise was suddenly
broken: an accelerated process of rapprochement with the MP began on its
terms, i.e., without attaining the truth. The members of the Abroad
delegation which went to the RF stated in May, 2004, that the fundamental
problems had already been removed, only technical intra-church questions
remained (Protopr. Nikolai Artemov, www.pravoslavie.ru).
In June the very same, after arriving in Moscow as a co-worker in the
negotiating commission of the RPTsZ [ROCOR], in a personal conversation
frankly clarified for me its position: they say, since we cannot force the
MP to change, it is necessary to be united with it such as it is, since the
people support the Patriarchate.
We cannot agree with this, in the first place, because, in reality, a
substantial portion of the people do not support the unrepentant conformist
politics of the management of the MP, and it is precisely this healthy part
of the Church people the on-going fraternization betrays. It was just those
parishioners of the Abroad parishes in Russia who demonstrated no small
spirit of sacrifice in faithfulness to our Church. Is not this treachery
shameful to you, Mr. Ohotin?
And in the second place, even if no one remained in Russia who would
resist this policy of the upper echelons of the MP, then all the more would
it be important for the Abroad part of the Russian Orthodox Church to
preserve the true criteria of truth. Refusal to do this will indicate the
end of the restraining and constant [????????????]* mission of the Russian
Church Abroad for the entirety of oecumenical Orthodoxy - this purpose is
persecuted by both the ruling circles in the democratic world, which are
preparing a new world order, and their proteges, who have seized authority
in the RF.
And all of us, Mr. Ohotin, will have to give an answer before God for
how we acted in this instance.
This is why many (as you correctly admit), listening to the voices of
their consciences, protest against so sad an end to the Russian Church
Abroad, remaining its members without going into schism. You, for this
action, call us "unworthy", and your Patriarchal nationalist-conformists
call us even "agents of the CIA; and "opponents of the strengthening of
Russia" - but indeed there will not be a strong Russia without a healthy
Church, which will be most of all weakened by a denial of the Truth.
We will pray and hope that the All-abroad Council we were promised will
return our bishops to observing the promises they made in council.
Otherwise, according to Canon 15 of the First-Second Council of
Constantinople,** it is clear that it will be necessary to consider as
schismatics those who have departed from the decisions affirmed in council
about the goals of dialogue with the MP, but not those who remain faithful
to these decisions.
M. V. Nazarov, Moscow, 22/6-5/7, 2004
* I have used two words to translate this single Russian term as it carries
both meanings, both of which have great significance to Russian ears. The
first meaning, for example, perhaps would suggest the restraining mission
of the Orthodox Tsars of the 19th c.
** ...But as for those who...sever themselves from communion with their
president, that is, because he publicly preaches heresy and with bared head
teaches it in the Church, such persons are not only not subject to
canonical penalty..., but are worthy of due honor among the Orthodox. For
not bishops, but false bishops and false teachers have they condemned, and
they have not fragmented the Church's unity with schism, but from schisms
and divisions have they earnestly sought to deliver the Church. Canon XV of
the First-Second Council of Constantinople (681)