SAN FRANCISCO: May 11, 2006
Day 4 of the IV All-Diaspora Council
On Thursday, May 11, 2006, at the Cathedral of the Mother of God "Joy of All Who Sorrow" in San Francisco, in the presence of the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God, the fourth day of plenary sessions of the IV All-Diaspora Council of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) was held.
Eleven bishops of ROCOR, headed by His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus and 126 delegates, were in attendance.
His Grace Bishop Agapit of Stuttgart spoke at the beginning of the morning session. Vladyka noted that the Church has its own ways which differ from those of worldly organizations. He recalled the fears connected with the first visit to Russia of the official delegation of ROCOR headed by His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus. Vladyka Agapit admitted that he feared at first that His Eminence, having agreed to this trip, assumed a great risk because of various misunderstandings which might have sabotaged the entire negotiation process. Vladyka said that with time he came to understand the wisdom and courage of His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus. The visit to Russia allowed the official ROCOR delegation reach into the heart of the ROC/MP and see how she lives and breathes. Bishop Agapit said that the IV All-Diaspora Council (ROCOR) is establishing the groundwork for convening a future All-Russian Council. If the Council adopts a resolution to reestablish Eucharistic communion with the ROC/MP, the ROCOR could then participate in the future All-Russian Council as a full-fledged member, and if the resolution is rejected, she will lost the opportunity to participate in that Council, at which both parts of the Russian Church will answer for their actions during the 20 th century.
His Grace Bishop Gabriel stated that the archpastors and pastors of ROCOR must first of all tend to their flock and do everything possible to avoid division. He reminded everyone that a significant part of the flock, including monastics, feels that the ROCOR is moving too fast to reconcile.
After the bishops spoke, the President of the Pre-Council Committee, Archbishop Hilarion of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand read the draft resolution on the normalization of relations between the ROCOR and the MP.
His Grace Bishop Michael of Boston commented on the draft. He shared his joy that the document contains a mention of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia. When in 2004, His Grace accompanied the holy relics of Saints Elizabeth and Barbara throughout Russia, he saw firsthand and was convinced that the New Martyrs truly unite the two parts of the Russian Church.
His Grace Bishop Agathangel of Odessa said that the ROC/MP and the ROCOR are institutions that operate differently. The Hierarchies of the ROC/MP continue to confess Sergianism and ecumenism. We cannot submit to their leadership or include language in the resolution that the "Act on Canonical Communion" will be adopted.
Discussion on the resolution then proceeded.
The Bishops' Assembly decided to announce a short recess to give the Editorial Committee of the IV All-Diaspora Council time to prepare an amended version.
Afterwards, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus gave his blessing to read an appeal from the nuns of Lesna Convent of the Mother of God in France. The letter expressed sorrow that female monasticism is not represented at the Council and contained the request not to force the reconciliation process with the ROC/MP.
His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus said that the bishops of ROCOR will heed all the remarks in the Convent's letter.
His Grace Bishop Evtikhii of Ishim and Siberia read the final version of the unanimously-approved resolution (129 delegates voted for, 6 against):
"We, the participants of the IV All-Diaspora Council, having gathered in the God-preserved city of San Francisco, in the blessed presence of the Protectress of the Russian Diaspora, the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God, and the holy relics of Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco, in trembling recognition of the duty laid upon us, in obedience to our Archpastor, Christ, with complete trust and love of the pastors and laity to our First Hierarch, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, and the Council of Bishops, attest that as loyal children of the Holy Church, we shall submit to Divine will and obey the decisions of the forthcoming Council of Bishops.
We archpastors, pastors and laymen, members of the IV All-Diaspora Council, unanimously express our resoluteness to heal the wounds of division within the Russian Church—between her parts in the Fatherland and abroad. Our Paschal joy is joined by the great hope that in the appropriate time, the unity of the Russian Church will be restored upon the foundation of the Truth of Christ, opening for us the possibility to serve together and to commune from one Chalice.
Hearing the lectures read at the Council, the reports made by the Commission on negotiations with the corresponding Commission of the Moscow Patriarchate, and the various points of view expressed during the discussions, we express our conciliar consent that it is necessary to confirm the canonical status of the Russian Church Abroad for the future as a self-governing part of the Local Russian Church, in accordance with the Regulations of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia currently in force.
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.
We hope that the forthcoming Local Council of One Russian Church will settle remaining unresolved church problems.
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.
And we, the members of the IV All-Diaspora Council, address our brothers and sisters in the faith in our renascent Homeland with the Paschal hymns: "Pascha! Let us embrace each other joyously!"
At the afternoon session of the IV All-Diaspora Council, it was decided to examine the mission and ministry of ROCOR. The session opened with a speech by Protopriest Victor Potapov, Rector of St John the Baptist Cathedral in Washington, "The Task of an Orthodox Parish in Our Day." Fr Victor stressed that one must restore in the conciliar consciousness of ROCOR—in the consciousness of her pastors and flock—the lofty ideal of church community and the parish. Only a parish which sees itself as the inseparable part of the larger Body of Christ will be able to struggle against that which hinders our salvation—evil and sin. Only in the parish that remembers that its roots go back to the times of the Acts of the Apostles can take serious measures to help the poor, the unfortunate and those who simply need to hear a kind word.
After a discussion, the members of the Council heard two more lectures devoted to Orthodox youth—"Church, Youth and Its Needs" by Reader George Skok (Canada) and "Youth Problems and the Means to Their Resolutions" by Protopriest Gabriel Makarov (Australia).
Skok spoke of the need to keep youth in the Church while also assimilating. The speaker said that it is very important, for the spiritual stimulation of young people, to organize ROCOR conferences: the annual St Herman's Conferences, musical and All-Diaspora Conferences, which occur every three years.