Statement from the Office of the Chancery of the Synod of Bishops
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STATEMENT from the Office of the Chancery of the Synod of Bishops
of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad - February 9/22, 2002
ROCOR - During recent months, the Synod of Bishoops has become the object of persistent and severe attacks from those who call themselves zealots and protectors of His Eminence Metropolitan Vitaly from so-called "Synodal pretensions." They endlessly repeat that the Synod of Bishops allegedly "strives to seize the personal property and money of Metropolitan Vitaly that he had put aside for his old age." The regrettable disingenuity of these accusations ought to be, it would seem, clear to all church-minded servants of God. For if one allows that the retired Metropolitan Vitaly "set aside" Church property registered in his own name, donated by God-fearing people, then his false-defenders implicate the elder bishop in a grievous crime. Moreover, according to Sacred Canons, if a bishop, abiding in his place of service, received any money or property, he must absolutely return it to his Church. Otherwise he will be regarded a thief of ecclesiastical property. It can be supposed that these zealots are not well-versed in Sacred Canons, but it is impossible to imagine that Metropolitan Vitaly did not know them. When under past circumstances donations and bequests left by generous lovers of God of good memory intended solely to serve the needs of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia were registered in the name of Vladyka Vitaly, he clearly could not imagine that he could "put aside for his old age" this church property given to him for preservation. The truth, diligently hidden from naive and bewildered people is that the grave infirmities suffered by the elder-Metropolitan unfortunately render him incapable of acting independently. This fact is being taken advantage of by those who are possessed by pride, who have lost the ability to reason, who are tempted by status. Still, we hope that they simply do not see what they do, for their insane deeds are being directed in turn by those, unseen by them, who are the original enemies of the Lord, coldly plunging our Church into the abyss of schism, hoping to deal a final blow at the pastors and scatter the flock of Christ.
The Synod of Bishops has already twice stated its attitude towards the regrettable events of November 9/22 in Mansonville, recognizing that any violence in connection with Metropolitan Vitaly is inadmissible. The Synod also has decided temporarily to divide the Canadian Diocese into two parts: Eastern and Western. The Western half is under the care of Bishop Kyrill of Western America and San Francisco, and custody of the Eastern portion is entrusted to Bishop to Gabriel of Manhattan. But we will follow the ancient rule: "May the other side be heard." It is necessary to take into account that the events of that day in many respects could have resulted from the provocation of ill-intentioned individuals. This is what was said in the Statement from the Office of the Canadian Diocese at the time (quoted in part): "Already at the entrance [to the Monastery] Bishop Michael was prevented from approaching Metropolitan Vitaly in every possible way. Nevertheless, he managed to do so, and the Metropolitan agreed to the expressed desire to a private conversation. They intended to set off to the Metropolitan's chambers. But this was prevented by Fr. Vladimir (Tselistchev), who asked the Metropolitan to bless him to accompany him with Sergei Agu, bearing a videocamera, and with Fr. Sergius (Kindjakov). For this reason, a portion of the conversation in the Metropolitan's chambers was conducted in their presence. Bp. Michael and Fr. Pavel Iwasjewicz spent only about fifteen minutes [alone] with him. In the course of the conversation with Vladyka Metropolitan, in response to his question as to what was happening, Bp. Michael said that despite the Metropolitan's own announcements of his retirement, those surrounding Vladyka Vitaly placed him at the head of some parallel church structure in exile. All this had created a schism and conflict. Bp. Michael also offered to Vladyka Metropolitan to go with him to the Synod, where they could go immediately. The Metropolitan agreed to this. He donned his skufia and, with the help of those around him, the coat of Fr. Pavel Iwasjewicz. But as soon as Vladyka Metropolitan, Bishop Michael and Fr. Pavel Iwasjewicz left the room, they were literally beset by a crowd. The Metropolitan was shoved also, and, tripping, he fell. Passions reached their climax near the car, and Bishop Michael was struck hard in the face, which caused injury to his eye. Still, he was able to sit inside the car next to the Metropolitan. At this time the police arrived and prevented the visitors from leaving. Negotiations lasted about an hour. Then word arrived that the court received an appeal of the other side, which was accepted for consideration."
In publishing the present statement, the Synod of Bishops in no way wishes to prolong the conflict, but again and again calls for everyone to come to their senses and to turn to the Lord with the words of the Psalm-singer: "Show me the way, Lord, and I will follow."
In order to prevent the theft of church property entrusted to him by the Church Canons, the Synod of Bishops was forced, against its wishes, to turn to the civil authorities. This does not mean that we are involving them in internal church troubles, for the false-protectors themselves have publicly stated that they left our Church. We also categorically deny accusations that allegedly "the Synod is suing the Metropolitan." This is not so, brothers and sisters. In seeking to protect Church property, which belongs to the whole Church, intended only for the needs of Church life, at the same time we hope to protect our beloved elder-Metropolitan from being included among the thieves of this property. As was already stated many times, we would be happy to receive Vladyka Vitaly in the United States. We would do everything humanly possible to provide him with care and attention suitable to his rank, his years and his service to the Church. Should His Eminence Vladyka Metropolitan so desire, he could of course stay in Mansonville. But then let the above-mentioned individuals not separate him from the other bishops, his long-time spiritual friends and colleagues. To our great sorrow, those who are in fact holding Metropolitan Vitaly captive, possessed by unrighteous fury which has made them alien to the Church, are prepared to take any steps to achieve their goals. But "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts." (James 4:3) To those who as a result of confusion or bewilderment have found themselves among these people, we turn your attention to other words of the Apostle: "For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile." (1 Peter 3:10)
+Bishop GABRIEL, Secretary Synod of Bishops
February 9/22, 2002
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