of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of
Russia to the God-loving Flock on the Overcoming of Spiritual Division
in the Russian Orthodox Church
be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and
the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all them that love our Lord
Jesus Christ in sincerity. " (Eph. 6:23-24).
These words of the Apostle prefaced the Epistle of the Council of
Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia of August
27/September 9, 1927, when it became necessary to respond to the
Epistle published in July of that year by Metropolitan Sergius and
the Temporary Patriarchal Synod, which became known as the "Declaration
In the conclusion of the responding Epistle written on behalf of
the Council of Russian Bishops Abroad, under the presidency of Metr.
Anthony (Khrapovitsky), it was said:
examining the Epistle of the Deputy Locum Tenens of the Patriarchal
Throne and the Temporary Patriarchal Synod, and taking into account
that the supreme ecclesiastical authority in Russia is under grave
imprisonment by the enemies of the Church, is not free in its actions,
and also that we have no possibility of having normal contact with
it, the Holy Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church abroad
part of the All-Russian Church abroad must cease its relations with
the authority of the Moscow Patriarchate in light of the impossibility
of normal relations with it and in view of its enslavement by the
godless Soviet state, which deprives it of the freedom of will and
the canonical operation of the Church.
order to free our hierarchy in Russia of responsibility for the
non-recognition of the Soviet state by the part of our Church that
is abroad, until the reestablishment of normal contact with Russia
and until the emancipation of our Church from persecution by the
godless Soviet authorities, the part of our Church abroad must govern
itself, in accordance with the holy canons, the decisions of the
Holy Council of the All-Russian Local Orthodox Church of 1917-1918
and the decree of His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon, the Holy Synod
and the Supreme Church Council of November 7/20, 1920, with the
assistance of the Synod of Bishops and the Council of Bishops under
the presidency of Metropolitan Anthony of Kiev.
part of the Russian Church abroad considers itself an indissoluble
and spiritually-united branch of the great Russian Church. She does
not separate herself from her Mother Church and does not consider
herself autocephalous. As before, she considers her head to be the
Locum Tenens of the Patriarchal Throne, Metropolitan Peter, and
commemorates his name during divine services."
We feel it necessary to remind our flock of these foundations for
the autonomous existence of the part of the Russian Church that
is abroad. Although it continued for many decades, it was conditioned
by the unprecedented situation of the Church under the God-battling
totalitarian regime in the Homeland, and the Russian Church Abroad
never considered itself to be outside of the All-Russian Local Church.
If the division of the Russian people as a result of the revolution
and civil war was a division of the flesh, the appearance of the
Declaration introduced an ideological, spiritual division. The state
wished to deprive the Church of her independence, to discredit her,
to divide and conquer her, and for this reason the Declaration that
was forced upon her confused the essence of the interrelationship
of the Church and state.
The demand made in the Declaration "from the clergymen abroad
to make a written oath of complete loyalty to the Soviet State in
all their social activities" was unacceptable for Russian people
abroad as an attempt to deprive them of their freedom to denounce
atheism, to unmask the persecutors of the Church, and bear witness
to the podvig [spiritual struggle] of the New Martyrs.
On the anniversary of his election as the head of the Russian Orthodox
Church/Moscow Patriarchate, His Holiness Patriarch Alexy criticized
the Declaration, saying that "lies were included in his [Met.
Sergius'] Declaration," and that in it is expressed "the
submission of the Church to the interests of state policy"
(Izvestia, 6/10/1991). In 2000, the Council of Bishops in Moscow
adopted the "Basic Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church"
in which the norms of church-state relations are described, essentially
condemning the Declaration and the path it announced. Among the
New Martyrs of Russia glorified that year were those who did not
accept the path of Metropolitan Sergius, but continued—as did the
Russian Church Abroad—to commemorate Metropolitan Peter as the head
of the Russian Church. For this reason, the prerequisites appeared
for fruitful dialog on new foundations. Two historical conferences
were devoted to its development (in 2001 and 2002), which included
independent historians along with clergy of both parts of the Russian
Church. Then, at the end of 2003, joint Committees were designated
for dialog towards the resolution of all problems hindering further
rapprochement and in the long term, prayerful-eucharistic communion.
The overcoming of long-term divisions is a serious and laborious
process. The differences in historical experience of the sides cannot
but have an effect. The work must also be conducted cautiously yet
purposefully. The hierarchies of both sides are attentively following
the development of dialog. The report by His Eminence Metropolitan
Kirill, President of the Department of External Church Affairs of
the Moscow Patriarchate, during the Council of Bishops of 2004,
clearly attests to this, not least of which is the matter of the
"Declaration of loyalty" as a phenomenon of the totalitarian
period, the consequences of which must be overcome. We see that
the work of the joint Committees is also moving in a positive direction.
The Council of Bishops in Moscow approved the documents presented
jointly by the Committees.
The Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia,
on its part, having approved these documents, will present them
to the Council of Bishops of our Church for examination. In September,
the joint committees met in Munich, and in November of this year
their next joint meeting will be held in Moscow.
The mutual readiness for the amicable resolution of existing conflicts
over property issues in some places, partly connected with lawsuits,
should be viewed as one positive result of this dialog. These conflicts
were created by the same past history, whose consequences must be
overcome with all due responsibility for the good of the flock and
to bear the witness of Orthodoxy.
From all this it is clear that the church committees are working
with piety, in the name of the truth of God and the worthiness of
the Local Russian Church. For this reason, we bless them to continue
to work in the same spirit, prayerfully wishing them God's help
and the blessings of the New Martyrs, whose lives, service and death
are the seeds of genuine fraternal dialog, which we hope will lead
to the making of peace and prayerful-eucharistic communion.
We will pray to Lord that He, as the Psalm-singer said, "bless
His people with peace," with His unearthly peace, of which
He Himself spoke to the Apostles before His sufferings: "Peace
I leave with you; My peace I give unto you."