Appeal of Bishop Agathangel of Odessa to the Synod of Bishops
- Bishop Agathangel's Appeal to the Synod of Bishops was posted in russian at PORTALCREDO.RU.
The following English translation was done by Fr. Thomas Marretta.
Bishop Agathangel of Odessa and the Crimea
to the Synod of Bishops
Your Eminence, Your Graces!
I am writing this appeal out of concern that the documents submitted by our commission for negotiations with the Moscow Patriarchate may, if made public, lend themselves to more than one interpretation.
The session of the Synod of Bishops held on June 22/July 5 of this year "approved documents compiled at the joint sessions of the two committees, noting their essential agreement with the basic positions of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad." I think it is nonetheless essential to stress that the documents in question do not express in all its fullness the position of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, but rather reflect merely a few of the most general aspects of the stance our Church took in its relations with the world in the twentieth century. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the documents submitted by our commission are characterized in many places by a lack of frankness and a tendency to pass over in silence matters connected with issues of primary concern. For example, in the document entitled, "About the Relations Between the Church and the Government," nothing is said either about Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky) or his Declaration. Does this mean that the question of "Sergianism" has been removed from the agenda and the discussion transferred to the level of abstractions about "the relations of the Church and government?" The ever-increasing veneration of this hierarch within the Moscow Patriarchate tells us that the problem of "Sergianism" is far from resolved. Furthermore, our document, with its ambiguous expressions, indirectly sanctions the legitimacy of "two paths" with respect to "seeking an understanding of the relationship of the Church to the government." It does so by failing to condemn clearly and definitely the path of collaboration with the militant atheists. This is already in and of itself something altogether novel for the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad in relation to the Soviet authority.
Meeting in 1927 at Sremski-Karlovtsi, the Sobor of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad noted that the Declaration of Metropolitan Sergius "has as its object an unattainable goal: an alliance between the godless Bolshevik government and the Orthodox Church, and aims to make the Church a tool of this government, not only within the boundaries of suffering Russia, but also abroad." Beyond this, the Sobor decided upon the following: "Henceforth, the part of the all-Russian Church that finds itself abroad shall no longer have administrative relations with the Moscow Church authority, in view of the impossibility of maintaining normal dealings with it and in view of its enslavement to the godless Soviet government, which deprives it of freedom of operation and canonical direction of the Church." This decision remains in force for us to this day. "The alliance between the godless Bolshevik government" and the Moscow Patriarchate was a reality from 1927 until the beginning of the 1990's: until the moment when not the character of the Moscow Patriarchate, but of the Soviet government changed. It would have seemed that the main obstacle, that is, the very existence of an "alliance," was eliminated. But as it says in the Encyclical of the 1933 Sobor of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, in comparison with all other forms of subjugation of the Church which have occurred in the past and consist of physical persecution and punishment, "Metropolitan Sergius in his Declaration has gone much further. He has pronounced this government to be derived from God on a level with every other lawful authority and has demanded that all clergy submit to the Soviets not simply out of fear, but in obedience to conscience; that is, out of inner Christian conviction." And so it happened. Precisely because of the Declaration of 1927, the Moscow Patriarchate became a part of the Soviet authority-its "tool." And after the liquidation of the Soviet authority, the Moscow Patriarchate maintains in itself the traits and characteristics of the Soviet system. For example, among the metropolitans of the Moscow Patriarchate there are those who still participate in the celebration of the founding of the All-Soviet Leninist-Communist Union of Youth-VLKSM. In summoning the Moscow Patriarchate to repentance, we in essence call upon it to liberate itself from the consequences of its enslavement to the godless; to renounce-out of obedience to conscience-its alliance with the militant atheists. Although this alliance has in fact collapsed, the present-day Moscow Patriarchate does not acknowledge that it was sinful and criminal. It demonstratively refuses to condemn at the synodical level the Declaration and all its consequences. This, incidentally, is also an example of residuum from the Soviet past: instead of striving for the truth, a dread of losing one's authority. "Let's not repent of anything, but forget everything." But is it possible to forget?
In the most general terms, everything is presented correctly in the documents of our commission, and I believe the Sobor of the Moscow Patriarchate will vote to adopt them. But because they are not specific, they commit the bishops of the Patriarchate to nothing. The bishops will readily sign beneath the words, "We declare that we cannot accept actions of the representatives of the Church that violate ecclesiastical truth and have the effect of enslaving the Church; neither can we accept justifications of such actions. Such actions must openly be acknowledged as erroneous, because if the Lord permits new persecutions, it is necessary to avoid adopting a similar approach." So doing, however, the Patriarchate bishops may proclaim that these words do not apply to Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky) since he undertook a great struggle to preserve the Russian Orthodox Church. The unprecedented building of temples and the guilding of domes are testimony to his success. Metropolitan Sergius did not violate "ecclesiastical truth," they may say; "he took a great responsibility upon himself, and the results justify him."
The same applies to the document "The Relationship of the Orthodox Church to Heterodox Confessions and the Possibility of Participating in Interconfessional Organizations," which concludes that "we consider it necessary to review on a conciliar level the forms of participation of the Russian Orthodox Church in interdenominational organizations." Yes, the representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate may agree to this, but then say, "Let us wait until the General Assembly of the World Council of Churches meets in the year 2006. At that time the structure of this organization will be completely revamped and, depending on how it is recomposed, we shall proceed. In the meantime let us leave everything as it is."
This is how matters stand. But if this Fall the Sobor of the Moscow Patriarchate accepts the documents submitted by our side, then some will certainly say-and not only say, but proclaim-that all the obstacles dividing our churches have been successfully overcome, and that now only narrow-minded persons and incorrigible sectarians can oppose union. In view of the fact that the Moscow Patriarchate is about to hold its sobor, the impression is created that the commission is busy with producing compromise documents, thanks to which it will be possible to whitewash the present and past positions of the Moscow Patriarchate and, at the same time, to have in hand weighty arguments against the enemies of union. Do we need diplomacy of this kind? If we take this path, we will inevitably lead our Church to schism.
Certainly, if the Sobor of Bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate accepts the documents submitted by our commission, this will represent a significant step forward for that part of the Church. We, however, must do everything possible to avoid this leading to our taking a step backwards.
Since, as the situation has developed, the opinions of both sides have been defined, I propose that it would be more correct to halt negotiations until there is a definite, unambiguous condemnation of the Declaration of Metropolitan Sergius and all its consequences by the Sobor of the Moscow Patriarchate, and likewise, the Moscow Patriarchate leaves the World Council of Churches. After this, talks can be resumed. Then the time will have come to acquaint ourselves better with the other side. Then personal contacts with representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate may prove extremely useful.
In concluding this appeal, I wish to repeat the concern I expressed at the beginning. To avoid the possibility of a range of interpretations of the documents submitted by our committee for negotiations with the Moscow Patriarchate, and to avoid the possibly grievous consequences of such interpretations, I propose making the work of the committee readily accessible to all members of our Church, especially since our Sobor has not decided upon any secrecy in negotiating with the Moscow Patriarchate.
The lowly servant of the Synod and Sobor of Bishops,
Commemoration of the Holy Royal Martyrs
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- --- In email@example.com, "Fr Anastasy" <fr_anastasy@b...> wrote:
> Bishop Agathangel's Appeal to the Synod of Bishops was posted in russian atPORTALCREDO.RU.
Bishop Agathangel wrote:
>>I am writing this appeal out of concern that the documents submitted byour commission for negotiations with the Moscow Patriarchate may, if made
public, lend themselves to more than one interpretation.<<
Which is *exactly* why these documents have not been, are not
now, and will not be made public, by mutual agreement between
the Synod and the MP.
Archimandrite Luke has made this absolutely clear.
I am surprised that Bp. Agathangel is not aware of this,
and that his concerns in this regard are completely groundless.
- Dear List,
I am confused as to what will be made «public» and what will not.
Please see below apparent contradictions, for which, I am sure,
there is an explanation. Could any informed person of this List
My second question is about the concept of "Public". Do we have a
Church with two classes of humans: the hierarchy on one side and
the "Public" on the other? What about the faithful? Are they members
of the "Public" in the same way as my neighbour (who is not
orthodox), or are they Christ's friends, those to whom He has made
What are those "mutual agreements between the Synod and the MP"?
What about an agreement with Christ in humility, faith and
repentance? Agreeing with Christ is what garantees agreement between
men. We need an agreement in Christ's Truth. The orthodox calling is
to show this "to the Public", not to negotiate agreements and mutual
concessions as politicians do.
Louis XVI used to say: "I would like my bishops at least to pretend
that they believe in God". Before his execution, he refused to
receive the last sacraments from a priest who had given his oath of
allegiance to the revolution.
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his
master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for
everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
If documents are ambiguous, should they be kept in that way and be
hidden or made univocal and exposed? Are secret negociations with
ambiguous documents part of the orthodox tradition? What good can
come out of such a process?
Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond
this comes from the evil one.
"There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden
that will not be made known.
"I am writing this appeal out of concern that the documents
submitted by our commission for negotiations with the Moscow
Patriarchate may, if made public, lend themselves to more than one
interpretation. 'Vl Agafangel)"
Which is *exactly* why these documents have not been, are not now,
and will not be made public, by mutual agreement between the Synod
and the MP.
"Telling subordinates (i.e. the flock) that there is no need to know
what the leaders are doing, frankly, sounds like the Communist
communication strategy to me".
JRS: Once some actual decision is made, it certainly will be made
public in all detail.
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "Athanasios Jayne"
> --- In email@example.com, "Fr Anastasy"<fr_anastasy@b...> wrote:
> > Bishop Agathangel's Appeal to the Synod of Bishops was posted inrussian at
> PORTALCREDO.RU.submitted by
> Bishop Agathangel wrote:
> >>I am writing this appeal out of concern that the documents
> our commission for negotiations with the Moscow Patriarchate may,if made
> public, lend themselves to more than one interpretation.<<
> Which is *exactly* why these documents have not been, are not
> now, and will not be made public, by mutual agreement between
> the Synod and the MP.
> Archimandrite Luke has made this absolutely clear.
> I am surprised that Bp. Agathangel is not aware of this,
> and that his concerns in this regard are completely groundless.