SYNOD OF BISHOPS: December 11, 2006
Address of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia to the God-loving Flock
"Grace be with you, mercy, and peace,
from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ,
the Son of the Father, in truth and love." (2 John 1:3)
The Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia greets its brother archpastors, reverend pastors, monastics and pious laypersons, and congratulates them on the feast day of the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God, the Protectress of the Russian diaspora.
It was in the presence of this great holy icon that the sessions of the expanded Synod of Bishops were held, expanded because of the importance of the matters at hand, primarily the reestablishment of the canonical unity of the Local Russian Church.
The Resolution of the IV All-Diaspora Council stated: "Bowing down before the podvig [spiritual feats] of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, glorified both by the Russian Church Abroad and by the Russian Church in the Fatherland, we see within them the spiritual bridge which rises above the abyss of the lethal division in the Russian Church and makes possible the restoration of that unity which is desired by all."
On the basis of this Resolution, the Council of Bishops of May 15-19, 2006, decreed: "To confirm the Act of Canonical Communion in principle, though with the stipulation that certain points be resolved…" This decision of the Council of Bishops also states that "the final confirmation of the text of the 'Act,' as well as details as to its ceremonial signing, is conferred upon the Synod of Bishops."
The Synod of Bishops, during its meeting of August 24/September 6, 2006, decreed: "On the basis of the decision of the Council of Bishops of May 15-19, 2006, to confirm and approve the 'Act on Canonical Communion' in its revised form as prepared by the church Commissions at the seventh joint meeting," and "[i]n accordance with the directions of the Council of Bishops of 2006, to instruct the Commission on discussions with the Moscow Patriarchate, jointly with the Commission on dialog with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, to work out the details of the ceremony of the signing of the 'Act' and the Rite of establishment of canonical communion of both parts of the Russian Orthodox Church." Further, in the same decision, we read: "To consider at the next expanded session of the Synod of Bishops, to be scheduled at the time of the feast day of the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God this year, on the proposals prepared by the joint Commissions at their next meeting."
The Synod of Bishops, gathering now in its expanded form, after exhaustive deliberation, on November 25/December 8, 2006, unanimously adopted the Resolution stating: "To approve the proposals of the Commissions on the time, place and Rite of the ceremonious signing of the 'Act of Canonical Communion,'" and instructed designated individuals to "develop a detailed plan for a visit to Russia of a delegation of the Russian Church Abroad headed by His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus for the ceremonious signing of the 'Act.'"
Of course, at this stage, it proved impossible to fully resolve all questions, as was noted in the Epistle of the Council of Bishops of 2006: "We do not intend to idealize the situation; without a doubt, there are problems in both parts of the Russian Church which demand correction." This is pointed to by the members of the IV All-Diaspora Council, who proposed in their Resolution that these matters be relegated to a future Local [ Pomestny ] Council: "We hope that the forthcoming Local Council of One Russian Church will settle remaining unresolved church problems."
One of these problems is the continuing participation of representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate in the World Council of Churches. The IV All-Diaspora Council addressed this fact in its Resolution: "From discussions at the Council it is apparent that the participation of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate in the World Council of Churches evokes confusion among our clergy and flock. With heartfelt pain we ask the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate to heed the plea of our flock to expediently remove this temptation."
Therefore, the Synod of Bishops viewed in a positive light the resolution of the Diocese of the Midwest of the Orthodox Church in America, in which the Diocesan Assembly requested the immediate withdrawal of the Orthodox Church in America from the National and World Councils of Churches. It becomes clear that the desire to remove this temptation is shared by the flocks of other Local Orthodox Churches.
We regard with pain that the discussion of the process of reconciliation of the two parts of the Russian Orthodox Church is not being conducted in the spirit of peace and mutual respect in all places. Especially harsh expressions are appearing in internet forums, in which some anonymous writers spread completely false information on the negotiating process, and also slander the First Hierarch, the bishops and clergymen of our Church.
In it September Address, the Synod of Bishops stated: "We do not intend to depart from our positions of principle, in particular with regard to the ecumenical movement. We intend to continue to firmly speak out in condemnation of the so-called 'branch theory' and of joint prayer with heretics, which is emphasized in our anathema of ecumenism adopted by the Council of Bishops of 1983. This is reflected in the documents of the church Commissions confirmed by both Holy Synods and published in the official publications of the two parts of the Russian Orthodox Church. From this we see that in the Moscow Patriarchate, our attitude towards the heresy of ecumenism has long ago been absorbed. That is why we are not compromising the inherited principles which have always guided us…
"We will continue to maintain the spirit of our great fathers, the founders of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, following their legacy and the historical path of our Church. To carry this great inheritance to Russia is the mission we strive to fulfill."
The participants of this expanded session of the Synod of Bishops confirm this good intention, hoping that the process of reconciliation between the two parts of the Russian Orthodox Church will further serve towards bringing into church life all the people of Russia, "in the Fatherland and in the diaspora."
In the spirit of love and peace, we speak all of you, dear fathers, brothers and sisters, the words of the Apostle:
"Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (I Corinthians 1:10).
The Epistle of the Council of Bishops of 2006 contains the following appeal:
"And so, we turn to our dear flock with the prayerful call to set aside quarrels and differences, and to join together for the salvific task of reestablishing the unity of the Russian Church."
We repeat this plea, and also these words of edification from the "Epistle of the Council of Bishops to the God-loving Flock":
"We now call upon our God-loving flock to prayerfully support the constructive task begun by our IV All-Diaspora Council. Its culmination will be the reestablishment of the unity of the Local Russian Church desired by all."
"Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you" (2 Corinthians 13:11). Amen.
Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York,
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
+ Mark, Archbishop of Berlin and Germany.
+ Hilarion, Archbishop of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand.
+ Kyrill, Archbishop of San Francisco and Western America.
+ Evtikhii, Bishop of Ishim and Siberia.
+ Michael, Bishop of Geneva and Western Europe.
+ Gabriel, Bishop of Manhattan.
+ Agapit, Bishop of Stuttgart.
+ Peter, Bishop of Cleveland.
November 26/December 9, 2006