MUNICH: February 1, 2005

"We Cannot Remain Silent After Such Statements—
This Will Turn Our Flock Against the Ongoing Talks."
Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany, President of the Committee of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia on Discussions with the Moscow Patriarchate, Reacts to the Statement Made by His Holiness Patriarch Alexy During a Meeting with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.

As reported by the official websites in Russia, while on a trip to Russia on Monday, Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas visited Danilov Monastery in Moscow, where he met with His Holiness Patriarch Alexy of Moscow and All Russia. Over the course of their conversation, His Holiness the Patriarch expressed gratitude to the leadership of the Palestinian Autonomy for transferring to the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission of the Moscow Patriarchate church property in Hebron and Jericho, which had been preserved and protected for many years by the Russian Church Abroad. In 1997, representatives of the Palestinian Authority forcibly ejected monks and nuns belonging to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia from Holy Trinity Monastery in Hebron (who had been collecting fruits there that day) and turned it over to the Moscow Patriarchate. In January 2000, on the day of St Seraphim of Sarov, soon after the celebration of the 2000th year of the Nativity of Christ in Bethlehem, monastics (mainly those who had been ejected from Hebron in 1997) were arrested by Palestinian forces, again with the use of physical force, at the premises of the Russian Church Abroad in Jericho, which was then turned over to the Moscow Patriarchate. "I presume that the time has come when it is legally necessary to secure this property in the name of the Mission (of the ROC/MP—ed.)," stated His Holiness Patriarch Alexy.

The members of the Committee of the discussions with the Moscow Patriarchate had expected that the Moscow Patriarchate, as a symbol of peacemaking, would return at least one of the properties seized unlawfully in the Holy Land, which would be a noble gesture on the part of the ROC/MP and would heal the most recent wound on the Body of the Russian Church. For this reason, the statement made by the Moscow Patriarchate elicited a protest on the part of the President of the Committee of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. The request made by the Moscow Patriarchate is even more stunning since, as far as it is known, the ROC/MP has not yet succeeded in formalizing the legal ownership of church property either in Russia or in Israel or in lands controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

"I am very disappointed," stated Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany to Kommersant correspondent Pavel Korobov, "For at the beginning of the process a declaration was made that we must refrain from any actions and statements that could insult the other side. And this is precisely such an action. We cannot remain silent to such a statement—this will turn our entire flock against the talks," added His Eminence Archbishop Mark. "But if this is a misunderstanding, a corresponding statement should be issued."

"Very recently," continued Archbishop Mark, "the Moscow Patriarchate expressed its opinion that one must re-ordain all our priests in Russia. But not one of our bishops would agree to this. Sometimes I ask myself, maybe this is someone's attempt to sabotage the process of negotiations."

In a recent interview given to NG-Religiya, Archbishop Mark noted: "There are such fears [within the flock of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia—ed.] regarding property. The President of Russia, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, during a meeting with us in May of this year, in the presence of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II and of the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, unequivocally spoke out on this topic, stressing that neither the Russian Government nor the ROC/MP will make any claims on the property of the Church Abroad. Still, many are not convinced! It is necessary that steps be taken to ensure such trust."

Press Service of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.