VICARIATE OF ERIE: May 11, 2007
Statement by Protopriest Pimen Simon
CHRIST IS RISEN!
I am writing this letter from two perspectives. First of all, I write as the rector of the Church of the Nativity of Christ under the direct authority of Metropolitan Laurus and his Vicar Bishop for Erie and the Old Rite, Bishop Daniel. Secondly I write as a former priestless Old Believer and former nastavnik of a priestless Old-Believer parish who knows firsthand the heartbreak caused by division in our Lord's Body—the Church.
First of all I have been contacted today in regard to events that happened regarding Vladyka Daniel on Saturday May 5/April 22. Before explaining those events, let me again state clearly and categorically, as I did in a post I recently sent to the ROCOR clergy group list, about the position of Vladyka Daniel in regard to the impending reconciliation with the Moscow Patriarchate. Vladyka disagrees with the reconciliation on the timing and reasoning for the reconciliation. He has always stated that he supports the concept of being "in communion" with the MP, but believes that the over 80 year history of ROCOR has created an independent role for ROCOR. He fears that ROCOR will lose its independence by "uniting" with the MP. He has never stated on any occasion that he believes the MP to be graceless, or a "pseudo-church" merely created by Stalin. Please remember that Vladyka spent his youth in the Soviet Union and was baptized
by an MP priest in an MP parish.
For several years he has struggled with what he would do if and when the reconciliation should take place. On Forgiveness Sunday, before Vespers, all of our parish clergy met with Vladyka to tell him of our deep love for him and our desire that he would remain with us. At that point, he advised all seven clergymen present that he would not leave ROCOR and that he would continue to come to the divine services in the Church of the
Nativity and would commune there together with us. Vladyka did indicate a possibility that he would submit his resignation as an active bishop because of his continued opposition on the grounds stated above. Vladyka actually wrote a letter of resignation, but then decided that he desired to remain the Bishop of Erie and was not going to resign. In the past several weeks in discussions with me and with others who care for him, Vladyka stated categorically that he would not separate himself from the Church Abroad under Metropolitan Laurus. On numerous occasions since then, he has stated that he knows there are clergy and laity hoping that he would do so, so that he would play a role in forming a new jurisdiction. He also has stated that he knows there are opponents of the
reconciliation who would suggest that after the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion, it is Metropolitan Laurus and those following him who are leaving ROCOR. Thus, perhaps Vladyka Daniel would be willing to play a significant part in performing episcopal acts for those who will separate themselves from Metropolitan Laurus' ROCOR. Repeatedly Vladyka Daniel has stated clearly and strongly that any attempts at performing such episcopal acts would be, as he has stated using both terms, "uncanonical" or "unlawful". He has indicated that those who would seek to "use him" (his words) must be ignorant that this would be an uncanonical act on his part
which he refuses to even consider.
Last Saturday, after having several conversations initiated by his cousin in regard to Vladyka moving to Tolstoy Farm, a group of five people came, ostensibly to take Vladyka on what he was told was a 45-minute drive to view Tolstoy Farms. The word of this trip was received by Vladyka only on the previous day, and not one of the caretakers of the bishop was advised as to what would occur when his cousin was to come on Saturday. Absolutely no request was made to have Vladyka ready for a trip, nor was any
information sought about the numerous medications which must be taken by Vladyka several times a day. When the five people arrived on Saturday morning, without previous notice of their arrival time, as had been requested, we finally learned, after sifting through various conflicting accounts of where Vladyka was to be taken and for how long, that they had purchased a one-way ticket for Vladyka. He was to fly from Pittsburgh (a 2-plus-hour drive from Erie) to New York and then was to be taken to Tolstoy Farm.
Since we were not sure who was coming to Erie nor the purpose of the visit, we suspected actions might be taken against Vladyka's stated desire to many of us on numerous occasions that it was his desire to remain in Erie and finish out his days with his flock, the clergy and parish of the Church of the Nativity. Vladyka remains the Bishop of Erie, and those who came to take Vladyka never even consulted with the Metropolitan as to the propriety of taking him from the parish for which he was consecrated to act as a Vicar bishop. Therefore, the president of the parish council, Fr
Deacon Markel Wassell, Fr Theodore Jurewicz, the assistant priest of the parish, Luke Gehring, Vladyka's personal caretaker, Fr Deacon Stefan Klimczak, who prepares meals on a daily basis for Vladyka , Reader Seraphim Wing and Justina DiPlacido, a highly-trained nurse who knows every aspect of Vladyka's medical conditions, and I rushed to the house as soon as we learned of the arrival of the "visitors." Once we learned what the real intention of this visit was, I proceeded to explain to Vladyka several times that this group planned on taking him to Tolstoy Farm, and that although supposedly this was only for a visit, it was clear that this was part of a much broader plan by numerous people
present and numerous people out of sight to get Vladyka away from our parish. On every single occasion that I explained this to Vladyka, I told him that if he wanted to leave or live at Tolstoy Farm, that, of course, was his prerogative. Our concern was that this was completely opposite his stated intention to everyone of us present, and to others in the parish, that it was his desire to remain in Erie and to remain as the Vicar Bishop under Metropolitan Laurus for Erie and the Old Rite. Furthermore, we were deeply concerned that such a trip would be extremely taxing to his fragile health. Once Vladyka understood the purpose of this party's visit, he stated several times that he wanted to remain and live in Erie, and that he wanted no part of any plan to use him as a bishop for those who plan to disassociate themselves from the Synod of Bishops under Metropolitan Laurus. One of the party was apparently the financier of Vladyka's trip to Tolstoy Farm. He stated clearly after hearing Vladyka's answer that it was very clear to him that Vladyka had no desire to leave Erie and no desire to be part of any "schism" from ROCOR. Vladyka's cousin and the other members of the visiting party were given adequate time to meet with Vladyka alone after we left, and they eventually left Erie after realizing that Vladyka wanted no part of this plan.
Contrary to any rumors, or outright lies being disseminated, Vladyka is not under "house arrest" or being controlled in any way. The day before the events described, Vladyka had an Old Calendar Greek bishop come to visit him. Luke, Vladyka's caretaker, prepared tea for them so that they might have a cordial visit. I never asked Vladyka the purpose of the visit or the content of their conversation. Vladyka speaks to whom he pleases. Vladyka attends services every Saturday and Sunday and every feast day. He is the shepherd and we are his flock, not vice versa. Vladyka Daniel is the Bishop of Erie and the Old Rite. Has anyone removed him from that office so that he may be taken elsewhere?
Finally, on a personal note, as indicated at the beginning of this long letter, I would like to make my personal plea to those who plan on leaving ROCOR to reconsider. I have certain concerns about this reconciliation as do others. As an Old Ritualist I am very troubled by the common practice of "pouring" baptism, rather than immersion, and I hope that that practice is being eliminated. Like so many others, I wish that the MP would leave the WCC. But I have read all of the documents from the MP and the documents and explanations from our commission members and cannot find heresy being preached as part of the official teachings of the MP.
And I know how commonly bandied about the word "heresy" can be. Remember, my forebears were convinced that the reforms of the Patriarch Nicon were heresy, and to be honest, many of those reforms were reckless and ill-advised. And so my forebears, convinced that the last times had come, refused to follow the "government Church" and a division began in the Russian Church that has not been healed 350 years later. The old saying that "schism breeds schism" is without a doubt true, and all one need do is look at the history of the Greek Old Calenderists during the past century and all of the new jurisdictions that have sprouted from ROCOR in the last 15 years to certify the inevitability of such continuing schisms.
I have prayed since the first day that priesthood was restored to our parish and I became an Old Rite priest rather than an Old Believer nastavnik , that unity might be restored to the Church inside and outside of Russia, and that the Old Believers could then be reconciled to one, Holy Russian Orthodox Church. Certainly, false unity must be avoided, but let us be careful to reject a healing of the divisions of the Lord's Body when possible. In 1982 when I first attended Divine Liturgy at a ROCOR conference in Ipswich, MA, while we were still priestless, I cried one morning at Liturgy when I thought of all my forebears who had lived their entire lives without ever having partaken of the Eucharist. And on the next morning I cried when I thought of all the innocent children in my parish and in so many priestless parishes who had never partaken of the
Eucharist. I then became determined that this would be the last generation in our parish that would exist so sadly as part of a schism—however and whoever one might argue caused the schism. I beg those of you about to leave ROCOR to remember the Old Believers and their tragic experience. You may be convinced that these are the last times and you need not concern yourselves with a long term future, but so thought my forebears and 350 years later this world still exists. You may think it impossible that you will end up priestless, but so also thought the original leaders of the Old Believer movement. If the MP betrays their agreements, we can leave, but for now I believe that we must be obedient to our bishops, our shepherds. And if I, a person raised as a priestless Old Believer understands the need for obedience to the "Niconian" bishops who direct
ROCOR, how can I understand that you who have been born, or converted to Orthodoxy under ROCOR cannot trust that they are guided by the Holy Spirit and we must obey, unless heresy is the fruit of their teaching. You don't really believe that do you?? These men such as the Metropolitan whose entire life has been spent as a faithful son of ROCOR would now recklessly betray his Church? I pray that we may all continue to partake of the Holy Eucharist from the one chalice set before us by our Holy Church.
Christ is Risen!
With love in Christ,
Fr Pimen Simon