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San Francisco: May 19, 2006

Epistle to the God-loving Flock
of the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church
Outside of Russia of May 15-19, 2006

The Council of Bishops, having gathered in the house of St Tikhon of Zadonsk under the protection of the Directress of the Russian Diaspora, the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God, in the city of San Francisco, greets its flock preserved by God, scattered over the face of the earth, with the bright Paschal words: "Christ is Risen!"

Basing our decision upon the support of the IV All-Diaspora Council and expressing its unanimous desire, we have taken certain positive steps towards achieving the desired ecclesiastical peace within our Local Russian Orthodox Church. With God's help, general agreement has been reached on the step-by-step development of canonical and Eucharistic communion between the sundered parts of the one Russian Church. The Commission on talks with the corresponding Commission of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate has been given specific tasks for immediate consideration at the next joint session to resolve remaining questions.

Hope in the God-pleasing healing of forced separation makes possible for us the inspiring opportunity for edifying effort in one spirit on the harvest fields of Christ. It is difficult to measure and assess how much time and energy has been wasted on confrontation on both sides in those decades of division during the godless regime, which tried to destroy, but was unable to overcome Church of Christ in the much-suffering land of Russia.

The people of the Church and of the entire Orthodox society which are being released must focus on the courageous battle against sin, which has struck a blow against human society more profoundly than ever before, not even sparing Christian families.

The opposition towards each other of Russian people of one faith after the fall of the Soviet-atheistic totalitarianism has already wrought much damage, especially in the area of educating children and teenagers. It is impossible to reconcile ourselves anymore to the fact that we Russian Orthodox people, were if not participants, at least indifferent onlookers of the rending of the seamless garment of Christ in the internecine strife between brothers in Christ of one faith and of one blood.

It has become especially clear to us what we were witnesses of the visible influence of the Holy Spirit upon the members of the IV All-Diaspora Council, which revealed to us that unity in Truth and love is the will of God, and all human endeavors must submit to it.

We do not intend to idealize the situation; without a doubt, there are problems in both parts of the Russian Church which demand correction.

Let us then heed Christ, Who said to us: "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" (Matthew 7:3), and act in accordance with the instruction of the Apostle [Paul]: "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2).

We, the bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, are not simply attempting to capture and take into consideration the mood of our flock, in order to maneuver upon the waves of ever-changing majority opinion, but must more than anything else seek the will of God will in prayerful concentration, and in the spirit and not the letter of the Gospel, of the Holy Fathers and of the Church Canons.

This influence is what we are striving to impart to you, our dear pastors and laity, so that we may walk together upon the earth, bearing the cross of obedience to Christ (Luke 9:23; Matthew 10:38).

A pastoral approach dictates that we proceed prudently upon the path of reconciliation with the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, so as not to "break a bruised reed" (Matthew 12:20); yet prudence by no means signifies a reversal of direction or a setting aside of the God-pleasing task of reconciliation. No deadlines established or prescribed by anyone dictate our actions. We intend to achieve the unity of the Russian Church without delay, upon the satisfactory and mutually-acceptable resolution of remaining problems. They are well known and clearly outlined. We have no intention of putting forth new pretensions.

The canonical, and consequent Eucharistic, unity of the Russian Church Abroad and the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate is absolutely essential as the sole means of bringing about the convocation of a Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church with the participation of all its parts, which was spoken of by our predecessors, the spiritual leaders of the Russian Diaspora. The path towards such a Council is a path of unity, and not of polemic. "For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?" (1 Corinthians 3:3).

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.

As King Solomon said: "Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins" (Proverbs 10:12).

The Word of God teaches us that the times are changing: "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven" (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

There was a time for resistance; now the time has come for reconciliation.

The world which lies in sin requires testimony to our unity, to the fact that we who are in the diaspora and our brothers and sisters in our renascent Homeland are truly "Of one body, and one Spiritů one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (Ephesians 4:4-6).

And we archpastors appeal to you, our flock beloved of God-beloved, imploring you, in the words of the Apostle, "that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:1-3).

Christ is Risen!

+ Laurus, Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

+ Alypy, Archbishop of Chicago and Detroit
+ 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
+ Agathangel, Bishop of Tavrichesk and Odessa
+ Michael, Bishop of Geneva and Western Europe
+ Daniel, Bishop of Erie
+ Gabriel, Bishop of Manhattan

+ Agapit, Bishop of Stuttgart
+ Peter, Bishop of Cleveland
+ Bishop Ambroise

May 4/17, 2006
San Francisco