GERMAN DIOCESE: January 4 2004

Orthodox Conference in the German Diocese

The annual Orthodox Conference held every year in Munich came to an end. The Conference opened on the morning of 26 December with a solemn service of supplication at the Cathedral of the Holy New Martyrs of Russia. All the Conference members sang at this moleben, over a hundred people having gathered from all over Germany,. Both bishops of the German Diocese were present: Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Bishop Agapit of Stuttgart. Protopriest Nikolai Artemoff headed the Conference.

After the moleben, Archbishop Mark read a lecture at the parish hall: “The Unity of the Russian Churchóthe Situation Today.” Vladyka gave a brief overview of the history of the division of the Russian Church in the 20th century, then told of recent events in the life of the Russian Church, of which he was a direct participant: the meeting with President Putin, the delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia to Moscow, the recent Pastoral Conference in the USA. After many weeks of anxiety over these events, which were widely discussed on the internet, the seminar participants were eager to hear about all this through the personal impressions and thoughts of their archpastor. The thoughtful position of Archbishop Mark, which is devoid of any extremes, stressed both the need for as well as the difficulties in conducting dialog with the Russian Orthodox Church/Moscow Patriarchate. In part, Vladyka noted, on the basis of Ukase No 362, “we cannot speak of being granted autonomy from the Moscow Patriarchate, only that the autonomy which in fact exists be recognized.”

After lunch, the eldest priest of the German Diocese, Protopriest Ambrosius Backhaus, gave a speech on the topic: “Half a Century of Church Life in Germany; a Personal Account.” †Possessed of a rare gift for language, Fr. Ambrosius spoke about his pastoral experience in the German Diocese in a lively and interesting manner, and with a great sense of humor. The lecture was delivered in German, with concurrent translation into Russian. Fr. Ambrosiusí lecture was very well received.
After a brief recess, the Conferees went to the Cathedral for vespers and matins. Vladyka Mark and two priests took the confessions of the Conference participants. Sixty people partook of Holy Communion at liturgy, which began at 7:15 am on Saturday.
After breakfast, Alexander Vladimirovich Zhuravsky, Professor of Theology and History, who was invited from Moscow, spoke on “The Ecclesiology of Holy Martyr Kyrill, Metropolitan of Kazan, as the Basis for the Unity of the Russian Church.” The young historian was a participant in two history conferences held by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in Hungary and Moscow. Having studied the case and all the surviving letters of St. Kyrill of Kazan, Zhuravsky wrote a dissertation on the ecclesiology of the holy bishop. †In his lecture, Zhuravsky first of all pointed out that St. Kyrill held fast to the “royal path” in his ecclesiology, veering neither to the right nor to the left. For this he was assailed from both sides.

The main position of St. Kyrill was that, while recognizing the validity of the Mysteries of Sergiusí jurisdiction, he refrained from liturgical contact with Metropolitan Sergius and those under him. The fact that St. Kyrill was glorified by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and by the Moscow Patriarchate attests to the fact that the ecclesiology of Metropolitan Kyrill can serve as the foundation of dialog between the two parts of the Russian Church. The lecturer noted that one does not hear calls for the glorification of Metropolitan Sergius at the present time, while Metropolitan Kyrill was in fact glorified. The lecture also touched upon the recognition of those who previously did not commemorate Metropolitan Sergius, for example, the commemoration by St. Afanasii (Sakharov) of Patriarch Alexii (Simansky). St. Afanasii was a particular point of interest in the lecture, since he was a student of St. Kyrill. Zhuravsky explained that the decision of St. Afanasii to commemorate Patriarch Alexii was conditioned upon the fact that during the election of Patriarch Alexii I, not one lawful locum tenens of the patriarchal throne survived. Therefore, said the lecturer, there was no usurpation of church authority. The young scholar A.V. Zhuravsky showed a great deal of erudition, yet he spoke clearly, with an apparent love for his topic.

While discussing the interrogations of St. Kyrill, Zhuravsky spoke of the deep impression Metropolitan Kyrillís responses had on the Chekists: “One gets the impression,” said the lecturer, “that each word was spoken for posterity. Metropolitan Kyrill keenly sensed the need for Christian witness, that is, he bore witness to Christ consistently, evenly and with dignity. Here I saw what the true value of an Orthodox Archpastor is. I examined hundreds of cases of other clergymen. But such a person as Metropolitan Kyrill I had not seen. It cannot be related in words.” †A question-and-answer period followed, with a lively discussion. Archbishop Mark expressed his bewilderment at the decision of St. Afanasii (Sakharov), noting the structure of ecclesiastical administration was nonetheless inherited from Patriarch Sergius. Questions were also posed to Zhuravsky on contemporary church life.

After lunch on Saturday, a concluding session was held after which many participants hurried home to their parishes for vigil. Hopes and suggestions were offered for the nextOrthodox Conference in Germany.

-Nun Vassa