NEW YORK: April 26, 2007
On the So-called “RT-OC”
Having left the episcopacy of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and joining the schismatic “Russian Orthodox Church in Exile” (ROCiE), Archbishop Lazar (Zhurbenko) and Bishop Veniamin (Rusalenko) arbitrarily formed their own jurisdiction, the “True Russian Orthodox Church” (TROC). Living in Russia, far from the retired Metropolitan Vitaly, whom they recognized as their primate, Archbishop Lazar and Bishop Veniamin decided to consecrate a few new “bishops” for themselves. One of these was Tikhon, in the world, Leonid Olimpovich Pasechnik (born in 1948, he finished the Kharkov school of engineering). Pasechnik worked in construction, was married in 1985, and became a widower in 1993. In that same year he joined the Omsk parish of ROCA and in 1998 he was tonsured a monk. In 1999, Bishop Evtikhy of Ishim and Siberia ordained him a priest, but because of his lack of education, decided not to assign him to his own parish. The following year Fr Tikhon left the Russian Church Abroad and joined Archbishop Lazar—in schism.
Although Bishop Veniamin asked Metropolitan Vitaly for a blessing for the proposed consecrations in 2002, Metropolitan Vitaly indicated that in order to choose a new candidate for the episcopacy, the agreement of the entire Council of Bishops was necessary. Nevertheless, the “consecrations” took place. Metropolitan Vitaly refused to accept their legitimacy two times. The first time (28 July 2003), Metropolitan Vitaly wrote that the actions of Lazar and Benjamin placed them outside the Russian Orthodox Church, and in his second letter (19 November 2004), the Metropolitan declared: “I consider the consecrations of Hieromonks Dionisy, Germogen, Tikhon, and Iriney, performed by Archbishop Lazar and Bishop Veniamin, to be illicit, and I declare that I have no prayerful or liturgical communion with them.”
Thus, neither the Synod of ROCOR under Metropolitan Laurus nor the “Synod” of Metropolitan Vitaly recognized the self-proclaimed assertion of Tikhon Pasechnik that he is a canonical bishop of the Holy Church, especially that he is a supposed heir to the Catacomb Church in Russia. That means, logically, that the organization headed by Pasechnik and which he calls the “Russian True-Orthodox Church” has no basis to consider itself to be the Church, since it has neither historical succession nor a legitimate or canonical foundation, which means that it does not have the grace to be the Church.
In conclusion, it is important to emphasize two principles which guide the Church since the time of Holy Pentecost. First, there is the understanding of subordination. The fullness of grace in the Church abides in the hierarchs who form an unbroken chain of Apostolic succession, and receiving the Grace of the Holy Spirit, they pass it on from one generation of hierarchs to another. The essence of the episcopacy is collegiality, where each hierarch serves in accordance with the other hierarchs, and does nothing which might disturb the harmony of the Church. In the Russian Church we call this sobornost' . In this collegial system every hierarch has his rights and obligations, and he is likewise responsible to all the other hierarchs so that his actions do not violate the oneness of mind of the Church and create a schism.
This means that every hierarch governs his diocese in accordance with the accepted canons, but he is responsible before his fellow hierarchs, who themselves comprise a Synod or a Council of the region or jurisdiction to which it belongs. At his consecration, every hierarch vows to preserve the Unity of the Church. Departure from ones lawful superior to whom one is bound by an oath of loyalty, without a canonical release, is considered a violation of the canons, which are the laws of the Church, and therefore, uncanonical. The punishment for such a violation of (Church) discipline is the suspension from serving, awaiting full repentance for the sin; but if the bishop ignores the suspension and continues his uncanonical actions, he is subject to a trial by his peers, and can be deprived of his hierarchal rank. Such rules exist also for priests and deacons who unlawfully leave the jurisdiction of their hierarch, with whom they are spiritually bound through their priestly oath of loyalty. They are likewise subject to suspension from serving, and in the case of non-compliance, with defrocking. The principle of Church subordination pertains to all clergymen. Neither a patriarch, nor a bishop, nor a priest, nor a deacon, nor a layman can be above the Unity of the Holy Church.
Second, there is the understanding of schism. Schism stands in opposition to the collegial governing of the Church, and in the words of the Holy Fathers, it is a “rending of Christ's garment.” St. John Chrysostom strictly warns that the sin of schism is not washed away even with the blood of martyrdom. Therefore, any schism in the Church is uncanonical. Schism cannot be justified either with personal opinion or self-justification.
Those who have gone over to the “Suzdalites,” or the “Lazarites,” or the “Mansonvillites,” or to the “Russian True-Orthodox Church,” the contemporary false-“Tikhonites”—they have all fallen away from the canonical Russian Church. They have done this by neglecting their vows of loyalty, given by them at their ordination, thereby rending the Garment of Christ. Their sin is made worse by the fact that they have led some from the flock of Christ into the schism. It is worthy of pity that many laymen, being innocent souls, have trusted unworthy men, and have ended up outside the walls of the saving Grace of the Holy Church, until the time of repentance and turning back.
The evil enemy of mankind sows dissension and division in the Church in order to catch souls. In times of temptations a pure mind and a strong heart are needed in order to defend the Unity of the Church. If this or that event leads a person away from obedience to his hierarch in search of new, sometimes exotic alternatives, this will always be uncanonical and illegal. If the actions of a man lead him outside the boundaries of the Church, that person is already outside the Church, and there is no other alternative. There is no list of Churches, for him to choose which one he likes. There is only One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, guided by the Holy Spirit.