BY THE DELEGATION ACCOMPANYING HIS EMINENCE METROPOLITAN LAURUS
ON HIS TRIP TO RUSSIA
invitation of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All
Russia and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, a delegation of
the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia headed by His Eminence
Metropolitan Laurus visited Russia to meet with the Patriarch, archpastors
and clergymen of the Church in Russia, in order to acquaint themselves
with church life and to conduct prayers at the holy sites of our
delegation consisted of representatives of almost all the dioceses
of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia: besides the Metropolitan,
there were two archpastors, eminent protopriests and young priests,
protodeacons and readers. With one exception, all were born and
raised outside the borders of Russia. At the same time, all, with
one exception, had visited Russia before.
trip was twice delayed and only upon our arrival in Russia did it
become clear why we came, by God's providence, specifically in May.
The first service at which we prayed was a divine liturgy at Butovo
Polygon, at the site of the murder by atheists of thousands and
thousands of Russian Orthodox people, including bishops and priests.
The Patriarch served along with other bishops and more than 300
priests. After liturgy, one protopriest of the Moscow Patriarchate
said to us: "Today the earth itself was a living antimension
for us." The blood of the New Martyrs became a banner under
which our visit, our pilgrimage was made.
prayers at the site of the massive executions at Butovo, we prayed,
in Moscow, at the relics of St. Patriarch Tikhon the Confessor,
whose memory is so dearly held by all the faithful of the Russian
Orthodox Church Outside of Russia; in Ekaterinburg at the site of
the Russian Golgotha, where the Royal New Martyrs were brutally
killed; at the mineshaft in Alapaevsk, where the bodies of the Holy
Grand Duchess Elizaveta, Nun Varvara and those with them were thrown;
at the relics of St. Seraphim of Sarov, the God-pleaser; the pastor
of All Russia, St. John of Kronstadt; at the chapel of St. Xenia
the Blessed at Smolensky Cemetery and at the site of the appearance
of the Miracle-working Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God.
one of these sites we elevated our fervent prayers for our clergymen,
our parishioners, our families, our children. We prayed that all
the actions, thoughts and words of our delegation would fulfill
the will of God. To these prayers we added the one that never ceased
in every parish of the Russia diaspora over the course of 80 years--the
prayer for the much-suffering Russian people.The fate of the Russian
people is inseparably tied to the fate of the Russian Church, and
the Russian Church bears the wound of division for over 75 years,
unhealed to this day. The spiritual guides and our parents passed
on their love for the saints and holy sites of our Fatherland--these
sites are not simply memorials of days past. They are bound together
with the fate of living people and even today, as before, the people
of God in Russia--selflessly, with faith and love--restore these
sites, they build churches, strive in their lives to follow in the
footsteps of the saints. Our love cannot only be turned to the past--it
must be an active, living love, acting in the present, at the time
and place in which the Lord situates us.
we visited we heard from the mouths of the archpastors and pastors
of the destruction by the godless regime of the holy sites, especially
of the holy image of God in people's souls. Calls for repentance
and the emulation of the struggles of the New Matyrs in their sermons
were accompanied by remarkable tidings of the piety and faith of
the Russian people of today, of their striving towards the faith
in Christ. An example of this is the story of the Russian people
who walked on foot from Ekaterinburg to Diveevo for the 100th anniversary
of St. Seraphim of Sarov. Many who visit holy sites such as Alapaevsk
go there with one goal, yet leave completely transformed, renewed.
We were especially heartened that in the dioceses we visited, instead
of friction and abstract discussions, there is action focused on
educating the faithful, work with children and youth, help for the
needy and publishing work. In the Ekaterinburg Diocese, for example,
there are hot meals served daily to the poor, while Holy Trinity-St.
Sergius Lavra created a whole center for orphaned boys.
diocese, on the steps of every church we communed with the people
of the church, spoke with parishioners, youth and children. This
contact, however brief, brought us great joy. At Moscow Theological
Academy we had the opportunity to speak before 500 people--all participants
of theological schools.
this background, we felt with particular pain the wound of division
upon the body of the Russian Church. Indifference towards the return
of health of church life in Russia is impossible. We cannot but
participate, hold out a helping hand, as far as we are able, and
support all those who labor for the glory of God. From the mouths
of youth and church people in Russia we heard words and saw tears
of Paschal joy that there is finally hope for the attainment of
spiritual unity of the two parts of the Russian Church. Both we
and they have faith that the blood of the New Martyrs was not spilt
for naught. We cannot allow ourselves to believe that the Lord does
not heed the prayers and groans of millions of souls. Our Church
Abroad was thanked for its standing in Orthodoxy and for its witness
to the persecutions, for its publications, its radio broadcasts.
The glorification of the saints was noted, not least of which was
that of the Royal Family in 1981. This conciliar action served as
an impetus for the recognition of the podvig of the Royal Family
and their veneration in Russia. We were also frequently told that
the church division, besides all else, pushes young people away
from the Church, weakens the witness of Orthodoxy both in Russia
and in the entire world.
same time, along with positive phenomena in the life of Russia,
there is much which is difficult and even tragic. This is recognized
in practice by all the archpastors and pastors with whom we met.
They do not deny the problems and difficulties in church life, but
the belief is growing fast in the possibility of overcoming the
difficulties of internal chuch life, and that the Church can act
upon the Russian people and society more than it does now, if the
experiences of the two parts of the Russian Church flow together
into a single effort.
delegation had two discussions with the corresponding delegation
of the Moscow Patriarchate on the matter of the rapprochement of
the two parts of the Russian Church. Over 50 years ago, Metropolitan
Anastassy of blessed memory, the second First Hierarch of the Russian
Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, said that any unity begins with
personal meeting. Looking each other in the eyes, hearing each other
and speaking openly, we felt the softening of hearts, the mutual
good will, pain for the ecclesiastical division and the desire,
with God's help, in the spirit of repentance and truth to overcome
the division caused at one time by bitter necessity under terrible
discussions with the delegation of the Moscow Patriarchate, a list
of the important topics which were in need of mutual agreement and
recognition by the Church was prepared, which was later confirmed
during the meeting with His Holiness Patriarch Alexy and handed
down to the joint committees of the Moscow Patriarchate and the
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. This list includes the
relationship of the Church and state, the attitude towards heterodoxy
and the self-governance of the part of the Russian Church which
is abroad. The desire was expressed that the committees begin their
work in the end of June. The committees will report on their progress
to the Supreme Church Authority, and then concrete proposals will
be discussed at the Councils of Bishops. It is best not to guess
the timeframes and results of the work of the committees and the
decisions of the Supreme Church Authorities, but to recall the words
of a bishop of the Moscow Patriarchate: "We sometimes think
in human terms that we decide the fate of the Church. We are mistaken--the
delegation thanks the Lord God for the possibility of accompanying
His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus and the bishops of the Russian
Orthodox Church Outside of Russia during this first official visit.
Our First Hierarch and the delegation was greeted with honor both
by representatives of the Church in Russia and by highly-place government
officials, for which we thank His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II and
President Vladimir V. Putin of the Russian Federation.
the growth of mutual trust and we began everything with prayer.
The members of our delegation are of one spirit in its observations,
evaluations, joys and troubles. We call upon our brethren and parishioners
to trust our hierarchy, to strengthen their prayers and to rejoice
that the Lord, by His grace and in ways invisible to us, gives us
now real hope for the reestblishment of church unity, for which
we prayed always and will continue to pray.