of the All-Diaspora Pastoral Conference
Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia
participants of the All-Diaspora Pastoral Conference,
who have gathered from the world over under the protection
of the Most Holy Theotokos, must first of all thank God for
all His mercy to us. On the Feast of our Protectress, the
Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God, we celebrated the Divine
Liturgy together at the Synodal Cathedral. We recalled the
words of St. John of Kronstadt that if all the wealth of the
world were placed on one side of a scale, and the Divine Liturgy
on the other, the side with the Divine Liturgy would outweigh
the earthly wealth. We bring thanks to the Lord that He has
given us, unworthy as we may be, the gift of the priesthood
and participation in the Mystery of mysteries and Miracle
of miracles--the Divine Liturgy.
thanks to God that we are members of His Holy Church, the
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia--a church which
has traveled a glorious--and at times thorny--path. We love
the Church and cherish the spiritual freedom God has granted
her as a part of the great Russian Church which is outside
of Russia. The main goal for Christians is the salvation of
their souls, thus the goal of the Church is to bring her children
to salvation.We also thank God for our archpastors and for
the chance to take part in the work of the Church. At our
Conference we took part in discussing important Church issues,
not on the basis of democratic rights, but in obedience to
Our Church is outwardly small, but in this seeming weakness
is also our strength. The Holy Apostle Paul says the following:
"For when I am weak, then I am strong" (II Cor.
12:10). Our Churchs strength has always been in her
infirmity. In the past, whenever we acknowledged our feebleness,
God would guide and protect us. If we repent of our own sins,
pray for the replenishment of the harvest, and labor in Christs
vineyard, then our Lord, now as before, will not leave His
Church. We firmly believe that in weakness Gods strength
Our archpastors have gathered us together in anticipation
of the Council of Bishops to discuss the matter of our relations
with the Church in Russia. For over 70 years, in all parishes
of our Russian Church Abroad, prayers with a special meaning
for the children of the Russian Church have been raised at
the Divine Liturgy--the petition at the Great Litany: "For
the peace of the whole world, the good estate of the holy
churches of God, and the union of all, let us pray to the
Lord," and the Prayer for the Salvation of Russia:
peace and tranquility, love and steadfastness, and swift reconciliation
to Thy people, whom Thou hast redeemed by Thy precious Blood.
But unto those who have departed from Thee and seek Thee not,
be Thou manifest, that not one of them perish, but all of
them be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth: that
all may glorify the most precious name of our Lord Jesus Christ,"
These words of prayer expressed our desire, our prayerful
hope and at the same time, our pain.
Was there complete oneness of mind at our Conference? Different
opinions and different misgivings were indeed expressed. At
the beginning of the Conference, we did not really know what
to expect. Many of the clergymen already had established opinions,
and there was tension in the air. We then began to listen
to each other more attentively, and if disagreement was expressed,
this was in most part done with suffering and love for the
Church of Christ, for the truth.
There was great interest in all the lectures and they were
genuinely appreciated. We became aware of many new aspects
of the tragic history of the Russian Church in the 20th century.
Special attention was given to the Blessed Metropolitan Anthony,
the Blessed Metropolitan Anastassy and St. John the Wonderworker
of Shanghai and San Francisco, and their views on the divisions
in the Russian Church. We tried not only to hear their words,
but to feel their spirit. We can say with one mind that the
unity of the two parts of the Russian Church, the part in
Russia and part that is abroad, is our desire. Discussions
and personal contacts between bishops, priests and the faithful
already exist to some degree and may and should continue.
At present, do impediments to unity exist? We heard a broad
spectrum of opinions on this issue at the Conference. Two
main impediments were singled out: "Sergianism"
and ecumenism. In regards to the first, great strides have
been made by the Church in Russia. The truth of the ecclesiastical
path of the Russian Church Abroad and the Catacomb Church
has been acknowledged--this is attested to by the fact that
in Russia members of the opposition to Metropolitan Sergius
path have been glorified. The canonization of these saints
in the year 2000 signaled a turning point in the ecclesiology
of the Church of Russia, although there are people who are
resisting this acceptance.
An important document was issued at the Council of the Moscow
Patriarchate in 2000. It speaks of the relationship between
the Church and the State: the government should not intrude
in the life of the Church. If the authorities force the faithful
to denounce Christ and His Church, the Church must refuse
obedience to the government. This is a return to the traditional
patristic understanding of Apostle Pauls words regarding
"authority from God" (Romans 13:1-7), as opposed
to any false interpretation of the passage.
In regard to ecumenism, we acknowledge that the Church in
Russia, as reflected by a great part of its clergy and faithful,
does not approve of it. The fact that the Moscow Patriarchate
is a member of the World Council of Churches, and particularly
of the Central Committee of this body, which counts among
its members--together with a bishop and clergy of the Moscow
Patriarchate--8 women priests, is a cause for sorrow. Perhaps
a withdrawal from membership in the WCC is not a simple matter,
but it is difficult to believe that for the Church in Russia,
unity with the Protestant world is more important than unity
with its Russian Orthodox brothers and sisters abroad.
Besides these issues, which have yet to be completely resolved,
it is not easy for some Conferees to have complete trust in
representatives of the Church in Russia. This lack of trust,
and at times even fear, can be partly explained by the absence
of real contact with the Church in Russia, and in part by
some actions by representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate.
Nevertheless, this mistrust can be overcome in part by personal
contacts as well as by acts of good will on the part of the
We, the participants of the All-Diaspora Conference, are aware
that our parishioners are not of one mind as to the relationship
between the two parts of the Russian Church. Since we are
pastors of human souls, we must take this into account, and
we are called upon to show both love and patience to the souls
entrusted to us. The enemy of man desires to divide us and
we must do everything possible to preserve our internal unity.
His Holiness Patriarch Alexy's letter to the Council of Bishops
of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia was read
at our Conference. We were encouraged by his words, which
express his recognition of the Russian Church Abroad as being
a part of the Russian Church, and his words of mutual repentance
for all those words and actions which did not promote reconciliation
of the two parts of the Russian Church.
We ask the forthcoming Council of Bishops to take into account
our views, our parishioners feelings and the Resolutions
of our Diocesan Conferences regarding the question of relations
with the Church in Russia. We understand that this matter
is an extremely difficult one and important decisions must
be made. As in the past, so now, the patristic royal path
is closest to our hearts.
Metropolitan Anastassy, St. John and a series of Epistles
of our Councils attest to the fact that the final resolution
of the relationship of the two parts of the Russian Church
belongs exclusively to an All-Russian Church Council. We feel
that we should strive to have such a Council convened and
are ready to do our part in preparation for the Council, including
participation in a Pre-conciliar Committee. We assure you,
our Archpastors, of our support and prayers and beg you to
speak in one voice.
Our First Hierarch, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, holds
a special place among our bishops. He is a disciple of Metropolitan
Anastassy and the ever-memorable Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko),
and is therefore a living carrier of the traditional spirit
of our Russian Church Abroad and the idea of Church unity
and service to Russia. We have both great trust and love for
We hope in Gods mercy and only wish for His will to
be done. It is not a coincidence that our Conference took
place when the Feast of the Kursk Icon was celebrated. A new
icon, the healing of the child Prokhor before the Kursk-Root
Icon, was painted for this years celebration. It depicts
priests carrying our Protectress, the Kursk-Root Icon--this
Icon is with us here. Prokhor, the future great Saint Seraphim
of Sarov, is depicted standing before the Icon--his relics
are in Russia. When the priests brought the Kursk Icon to
the ailing Prokhor, a miracle of healing took place.
Shall we not hope for a miracle of spiritual healing for all
the suffering Russian people, both in the Homeland and in
Most Holy Theotokos, save us!
Holy Father Seraphim, pray unto God for us!
The Participants of the All-Diaspora Pastoral Conference
November 29/December 12, 2003