In Defence Of Metropolitan Vitaly

In Defense of the Good Name of Metropolitan Vitaly


In Defense of the Good Name of Metropolitan Vitaly--January 2002
by Bishop Evtikhy

All throughout 2001, blows aimed at provoking an internal schism, shook our Church Abroad. Anyone who knows the history of the Church also knows that these are, alas, nothing new. From the very founding of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, there have been continuous attempts to destroy, or at least to weaken, the stronghold of Russian Orthodoxy. And, of course, it is well known to everyone, and especially to its enemies, that the most destructive weapon wielded against the Church is the inculcation of schism and dissension in its midst.

The treachery and baseness in the activities of the authors and instigators of the most recent schism lies in their achieving two goals: firstly, the schism itself, and secondly, the destruction of the good name of Metropolitan Vitaly. When I became a bishop of the Church Abroad in 1994, and began to be involved in its ecclesiastical affairs, I was amazed by its very conformity to the law, which I even mentioned to my fellow archpastors at the Council of Bishops held at Lesna in 1994: “Direct your attention to the fact that the stones being hurled into our garden are being cast with a single objective: they are aimed at Metropolitan Vitaly.” It is natural that the Council of Bishops, joining ranks around the Metropolitan, has always striven to defend him. The very ardor of this defense and the alarming signs of the extraordinary influence of the Metropolitan’s secretary, L. D. Rosniansky, on him, of the inaccessible registering of extensive real estate and considerable Church funds in the Metropolitan’s personal name, resulted in a broad “anti-Metropolitan” campaign. This prevented the members of the Council of Bishops from unanimously putting an end to these serious violations of Church order, which, alas, has not failed to produce their own evil fruit.

In the Sacred Scriptures it says that the children of wickedness are wiser than the children of light. The instigators of the anti-Church troubles carefully worked to locate the weak spot. When it was ascertained that Metropolitan Vitaly is becoming progressively senile, is losing the ability to analyze and properly assess events and documents, the children of wickedness quite adeptly took advantage of this situation. The former critics of Metropolitan Vitaly, who had assembled compromising material against him and subjected him to venomous criticism, smoothly transformed themselves into his “defenders” and began to accuse the hierarchs, who had always defended the dignity of the Metropolitan, of conspiracy and violence against him. The closer the inevitable and natural departure of the ailing Metropolitan into retirement, the more forcefully the lie was circulated than they wanted to remove the Metropolitan for his steadfast position. And when the Metropolitan’s illness developed further, when he began to forget even those he had spoken with a short time before, not to mention the topic of the conversation itself, a whole bacchanal began. The enfeebled Metropolitan summoned by phone persons whom, when he was in his right mind, he had considered enemies of the Church, and with their “help” began to endorse documents unacceptable from the point of view of Church order. These documents contained deceitful fabrications, violations of the Church canons, and contradicted well-known convictions Vladyka Metropolitan himself had held for many years. His decisive announcement of his retirement took place at the session of the Synod of Bishops in July of 2001. At that time, the members of the Synod of Bishops asked the President of the Synod how he could sign documents containing falsehood, documents which contradict the very decisions of the Council and the Synod, over which he himself had presided. To this Metropolitan Vitaly indignantly replied that he had never done what no hierarch has the right to do—i.e., that he had never overturned a decision of the Council and the Synod. The Metropolitan proclaimed what is well-known to all—that the decisions of the Synod and Council can be changed only by the Synod and the Council. However, documents were placed before him which bore his signature and seal, and which precisely contradicted his oral assertion of adherence to ecclesiastical Truth. After two or three repetitions of his confession, which could in nowise be reconciled with the documents which lay before him, Metropolitan Vitaly fell silent for some considerable time, at the end of which he stated decisively: “In this situation I see only one way out—I will go into retirement”, and he demanded that these very words be entered into the minutes, which was done. The composition of the Act of the First Hierarch’s Retirement, the convoking of an extraordinary Council of Bishops and the assignment of the duties of temporary administrative government during the pre-conciliar period to the First Deputy of the First Hierarch, were most faithful and lawful actions, which the Synod of Bishops had to take under the given circumstances.

The most persuasive, striking and, in my opinion, holy evidence that Metropolitan Vitaly, in the depths of his soul, in undisturbed consciousness, remained loyal to the consistent and irreproachable path of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, was revealed in his final appearance at the Council of Bishops in 2001, on the third day of its work. Seated in the president’s chair, Metropolitan Vitaly said that he congratulates the new First Hierarch, Metropolitan Laurus, on his election, and considers him to be a truly worthy successor. Later, he stated that he had come [to the session] to transfer the fullness of the authority of First Hierarch to the newly-elected. “Let it not trouble you,” continued Metropolitan Vitaly, “that I am not transferring documents or any material symbol of the ecclesiastical authority of the First Hierarch, because I am not transmitting authority symbolically, but spiritually, and this is incomparably more significant and important than all documents and symbols.” In response to Metropolitan Laurus’ request that he assist him in the governing of the Church, Metropolitan Vitaly assured him that he would be happy if he could in any way be of service to the new Metropolitan. To the other members of the Council of Bishops Metropolitan Vitaly said that he was confident of the loyalty of all the hierarchs present and wished that they would remain so thenceforward. Of his own departure into retirement, Metropolitan Vitaly said that he harbored not the least resentment, since he was truly in need of rest, being already far advanced in age. This is the Metropolitan Vitaly—conciliatory and faithful to the royal path of our Church Abroad—who must remain in our hearts.

All the other uncanonical actions and signatures of the Metropolitan on absurd “documents” we must simply ascribe to his senility and to the aggressive influence of the ill-intentioned clique which holds the Metropolitan in thrall. Denying Metropolitan Vitaly’s illness, they care only for their own plans and their own gain, using the elder Metropolitan as a living shield for their own blatantly iniquitous actions. Denying the indisputable fact of his illness, the supposed defenders of the Metropolitan by this very denial indirectly level against him terrible accusations of slander, duplicity, deliberate violation of the canons and intentional deviation from that participation in the liturgical life of the Church which is obligatory for all healthy clergymen. Those who are truly of one mind with him, the comrades-in-arms in his Church ministry, know that a healthy Metropolitan could not simultaneously sign contradictory documents—he was never duplicitous, nor could he ever consent to the activities of a vicar bishop who arbitrarily establishes his own diocese, since he knows that this falls only within the competence of the Council; nor could he include false assertions in his epistles, since he was never a liar; nor could he agree to the hierarchal consecration of candidates he himself had early disqualified—Archimandrites Sergius and Bartholemew. What filth they have besmirched the Metropolitan with by these supposed consecrations! Could a healthy-minded Metropolitan Vitaly ever have agreed that the former vicar bishop Varnava, who had been deposed from his rank and did not participate in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist at the service, perform a consecration?! Or would they have us believe that Metropolitan Vitaly, who over the past three years has not celebrated a single Liturgy due to illness, had in fact been avoiding the most important duty of each sacred minister, feigning illness and consciously trampling upon the canonical rules?! Would it not also be senseless for a healthy Metropolitan Vitaly to consort with the defrocked Valentin (Rusantsov) of Suzdal’, who just “happened” to be in the car of Archpriest Vladimir Shishkoff, the most active participant in the abduction of the ailing Metropolitan Vitaly from his residence at Synod? I also call attention to the fact that the organizers of this abduction, summoning the police at that moment, alleged that Metropolitan Vitaly was not simply ill, but was possibly even comatose.

It is astonishing that people so gullibly take as the basis of their own support for these schismatic actions disinformation blatant in its discrepancy and the crudely ignorant activity of the ill-intentioned clique surrounding the elderly Metropolitan. Now, by common assent, as for more persuasive agitation against the Council of Bishops, they are using published photographs of the incident of the forcible abduction of Metropolitan Vitaly from his notorious clique to Synod, which was undertaken by Bishop Michael. Although logically one may acknowledge as correct Bishop Michael’s desire to extricate Metropolitan Vitaly from the clique which is discrediting his name, and thus to halt the profiteering in the name of the Diaspora’s elder on the part of evil-doers, yet we must make an assessment not according to logic, but according to the Church. The Church’s assessment does not speak against, but in favor of the Council of Bishops. The matter lies in the fact that the opinion of Metropolitan Laurus against moving Metropolitan Vitaly anywhere at all, especially against the ailing will of the latter, was unanimously supported at the Council of Bishops. The events captured on film, and the widespread reaction to them, prove precisely that Metropolitan Laurus and the Council of Bishops which supported him, where correct in their precautionary decision not to apply any coercion to the retired Metropolitan Vitaly; and Bishop Michael was not correct in his (possibly) noble, ardent impulse, which was contrary to the decision adopted by the Council.

Is it really not obvious to the individuals who support the schism that those who are acting under the cover of the name of Metropolitan Vitaly have one thing in common: enmity toward the Council of Bishops and are alike in that they never before distinguished themselves in the arena of the edification of the Church?! And their first steps in the “unanimous” Church schism already bear witness to how each is seeking his own. The first announcement of the formation of a new Church organization under the name “The Russian Orthodox Church in Exile” was dictated by those who needed their own legal registration, their own bank accounts, their own property, their own by-laws; but, as is well known, it is impossible to register under one name two organizations which exist parallel to one another. At the same time, others lost their right to their former property at the time of the new registration. Some needed a connection with the Greek Metropolitan Kiprianos, the Romanian Metropolitan Vlasie and the Bulgarian Bishop Photii, who are in eucharistic communion with our Church, probably so as to impart some sort of serious appearance to their own outrageous acts. To others, on the other hand, such a connection would have hindered ties with the numerous Old Calendar groups.

In 1996 or ’97, Vycheslav Polosin, a former priest of the Moscow Patriarchate, who was then head of the State Duma of the Russian Federation’s committee governing religious and social organizations, and who later publicly converted to Islam, when I attended a reception at which he was present, insistently proposed that the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia remain itself the “Church in Exile”. For some reason he did not like the name “Church Abroad”. It is amazing where, when and in whose midst he has discovered those who share his ideas! And for every one of their wishes and gains the schismatics are writing their “decrees” and “mandates” and giving them to Metropolitan Vitaly to sign, thereby obscuring his truly great merits before the Church and transforming his well-deserved rest into a nightmare.

Dear brothers and sisters, do not cease your prayers for the ailing Metropolitan Vitaly, who has gone into retirement. Reject the attempts of the rebels who by their abuses of the sickness and infirmity of the elder are besmirching his good name. Their actions will be unmasked and will disappear like the works of the Joannite sectarians, who speculated on the holy name of the righteous John of Kronstadt. Even if Vladyka Vitaly does not manage to extricate himself from the clutches of the schismatics before his death, his name will remain bright and good in the history of the Church of Christ.
30 November/13 December 2001
Holy Apostle Andrew the First-called

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