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Synodal Letter to Bishop AMBROSE

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  • Fr. David Straut
    Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia To His Grace, the Right Reverend Ambrose Bishop of Geneva & Western Europe Christ is risen!
    Message 1 of 57 , May 22, 2003
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      Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

      To His Grace, the Right Reverend Ambrose
      Bishop of Geneva & Western Europe

      Christ is risen!

      Your Grace,

      Having reviewed your report on the letter of Patriarch Alexis II, dated 1 April 2003, #1378, the Synod of Bishops shares your opinion that this document is capable of causing doubts and further turmoil.

      When this document first appeared, it was unclear whether it was the personal initiative of the head of the Moscow Patriarchate, and whether this letter expresses an official position which coincides completely with the opinion of the Synod and the Council of Bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate.

      The letter was received by FAX, and hitherto neither you nor our Synod of Bishops have had access to the original letter. At the same time, the letter of the Patriarch was widely publicized in the mass media, being directed to "all the Orthodox parishes of the Russian tradition in Western Europe".

      Your diocese is one of the dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. In your capacity as its diocesan bishop you are a member of the long-functioning Council of Bishops. In the light of conciliar, ecclesiastical order, questions of the organization of dioceses, and, all the more, of ecclesiastical regions, fall under the jurisdiction of the supreme ecclesiastical authorities. As you have correctly noted, the fact that they are addressing to Your Grace such a question, by-passing the head of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Church Abroad, places you in an unacceptable position from the ecclesio-canonical point of view.

      No less lamentable is that the document is submitted without regard to your rights and powers as a ruling bishop vis-à-vis the flock. It must be left to you, as a hierarch who has received such a written appeal, to publish it with your own considerations. Actions circumventing your hierarchal position divide you from the flock entrusted to your episcopal care, and likewise introduce division in the midst of the flock. The woeful events in the British diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate itself further convince us that caution is required in dealing with these questions.

      The variant readings you have pointed out are, in this sense, cause for further caution: while the Russian original of this letter speaks of "the tradition of Russian Orthodoxy in the lands of the West", the French translation speaks directly of "Orthodox parishes of Russian origin and tradition in Western Europe". It is obvious that your apprehension that the letter of the Patriarch may be used to influence parishes and their internal life, and not in an edifying way, are not groundless.

      The Synod of Bishops is in agreement with you that the consideration of questions of the unity and wholeness of the Church of Russia cannot be fruitfully resolved by way of precipitous administrative transformations. All the more, it ought not to introduce division among bishops who constitute a single Council, the succession of which may be traced back to the Pan-Russia Council of 1917-1918.

      You rightly note that the allegation that the independence of the Russian bishops abroad from Moscow's ecclesiastical administration is supposedly based "more on political than any other reasons" is incorrect. We cannot term "political" the struggle of the confessor-bishops and people of the Church of Russia. And the Russian Church Abroad has felt itself obligated to them, has striven to be of one mind with them. It has never broken with its Mother, the Church of Russia, preserving the legacy of the confessor-bishops of Solovki, that "Her [the Church's] power does not lie entirely in an external organization, but in the unity of faith and love of Her children, who are devoted to Her."

      The unity of the various parts of the Church of Russia already exists among the Russian Orthodox people in the homeland and in the diaspora. The grace of the Mysteries in the churches in Russia is not questioned by the Russian Church Abroad, just as the Moscow Patriarchate accepts the Mysteries performed by clergymen of the Russian Church Abroad. Any further rapprochement must originate from our common growth in the Truth of Christ and, in particular, through a spiritual comprehension of the historical paths of our Church of Russia.

      The Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad has blessed various initiatives whose purpose is the elucidate the paths toward the "restoration of the historical succession" of Russia, mentioned in the letter of Patriarch Alexis. We wish to continue efforts in this direction.

      The concept of the desirability of an orderly ecclesiastical state for the Russian diaspora, spoken of by Patriarch Alexis in his letter, is in and of itself good; but this question must develop while taking into account the ecclesiastical comunity of pastors and flock. At the foundation of this process must lie the Truth of Christ, mutual respect and mutual understanding.

      Internal questions of the unity of the Church of Russia-an integral part of which we and our fathers have considered and still consider ourselves to be-are not viewed by us as "external". Consequently, the Department of External Church Ties (DECT) must not meddle in them. Questions of the internal life of the Church of Russia fall exclusively within the competence of the Council of Bishops, and not the DECT, which is not envisioned by the canons.

      Our ecclesiastical way of life is defined by the decisions of the major conciliar entities of the Russian Orthodox Church (1917-1920). We are bound to strive toward the restoration of this conciliarity, and look forward to a Pan-Russia Church Council which will prove to be the culmination of various undertakings which serve for "the healing of the onerous division", not only of the Russian diaspora in Western Europe, but of the Church of Russia as a whole.

      In this spirit, you are blessed and entrusted with the task of actively participating in all possible conversations on the topic of the further fate of the Russian Orthodox diaspora. As regards measures of an ecclesio-administrative character, you should adopt the position of a benevolent observer.

      With fraternal love in the Lord,

      +Metropolitan Laurus
      +Bishop Gabriel
      Munich, 1/14 May 2003
      Holy Prophet Jeremiah

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • ochichernie2
      ... then they ... _______________________________________________ If what I have seen is correct, the Synod had already met and voted on the suspension before
      Message 57 of 57 , Jun 27, 2003
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        --- In orthodox-synod@yahoogroups.com, "Michael Nikitin"
        <mikeniki@h...> wrote:

        > The fact remains that they left ROCOR and were under a bishop,
        then they
        > were suspended.
        If what I have seen is correct, the Synod had already met and
        voted on the suspension before they left. The fact that Metr.
        Vitaly delayed signing it long enough for them to leave doesn't
        completely (if at all) take away the fact that Synod had already
        voted to suspend them.
        > Metr. Vitaly, the HEAD of ROCOR came to a realization that serving
        > Ecumenical Serbs is a violation of the Anathema to Ecumenism. He
        knew that
        > all bishops in MP were KGB agents and when he realized that
        > Laurus and other bishops were seeking union with MP, he organized
        his own
        > jurisdiction - free of seeking union with MP.

        I had really wanted to believe that, but it seems that the real
        reason Metr. Vitaly left ROCOR is because he was extremely upset and
        offended that his secretary was taken away from him and how Bishop
        Michael brutalized him. He had 3 months from July to October to
        figure out that serving with ecumenical Serbs is a violation of the
        Anathema, yet he actually *congratulated * Metr. Lavr at his
        As far as the MP goes, the decision of the Synop of Bishops of
        ROCOR in 1981 under CB. Metr. Philaret says, "...Yet any departure
        from atheism and "Sergianism" must be seen as a positive step
        towards pure Orthodoxy even though it *not yet be the opening of the
        way of ecclesiastical union with us.*"
        "Not yet" means that the Synod was looking *towards* that even
        then. ROCOR has *always* had its goal to be the reunion of all the
        separated parts of the historical Russian CHurch, when the Communist
        power is fallen and MP has repented of sergianism and ecumenism.
        It's whether and when those conditions will be fulfilled that is the
        key question, *not* whether ROCOR will eventually re-unite with (a
        purified, repentant) MP and the Catacomb Church.
        To this date, all I can find is that ROCOR still finds
        obstacles to union with MP and has not united with it. So what's
        the problem?
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