NEW YORK: November 18, 2008
Open letter from Bishop Gabriel of Montreal and Canada to Protopriest Igor Chitikov
Dear in the Lord Fr Igor:
After our long conversations over recent weeks, I have felt it my archpastoral duty, and responsibility as a friend, to address you in the form of a missive, and have decided to make it an open letter. I do this because the situation in which you find yourself is the result of errors committed, unfortunately, not only by you.
I will not repeat here how saddened I was when I heard of what happened. Without warning to either Vladyka Metropolitan, whom, by the way, you have known personally for many years, nor me, a bishop who, as instructed by our Synod, has ministered to your parish for many years (not to mention our own friendship of many years), you arbitrarily convened a meeting of the parishioners, where a decision was adopted which completely violates the Holy Canons to which you constantly refer in your articles, and the Regulations of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, the paragraphs of which you often cite. You did not await my arrival in Florida, you did not give me an opportunity to address the parish, knowing that then, the false, hasty decision that was made that day probably would not have occurred.
Dear Fr Igor, let us call things by their proper name. Under the influence of feelings of aggravation and insult which have gripped you, you abandoned the confines of the Church and you now lead a portion of the flock entrusted to you into the abyss of schism. Having brought down upon yourself suspension by your lawful Bishop, you continue to conduct services; this is a fatal action both for you and for the flock you have deceived, for it directly harms your salvation. You commemorate the name of a suspended bishop, who dared to head an unlawful, sinful assemblage, the so-called VVTsU [Temporary Supreme Ecclesiastical Administration—transl.], which even calls itself the "traditional" or "genuine" Church Abroad, which is an intentional deception of the flock. No matter how you try to justify your actions by saying that you were treated unfairly, you remain a violator of basic church rules on the relationship of a presbyter to his Bishop. For you know these laws well: the presbyter shall not condemn his own Bishop (1st & 2nd Council, 14), he must do nothing without the will of his Bishop (Apostolic 39, Laodicea 57) and if any presbyter, despising his own bishop, shall collect a separate congregation, and erect another altar, not having any grounds for condemning the bishop with regard to religion or justice, let him be deposed for his ambition (Apostolic Canon 31). May the Lord protect us from such consequences for your actions. You cannot be ignorant of the fact that to stand for ecclesiastical truth while at the same time being outside of the lawful Church is a temptation and error. No political, administrative, managerial, property or other quarrel arising between servants of God, members of the Church Militant, that is, as human beings on earth, who are subject to sin and death, none of the above diminishes or abrogates the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
References to "tradition" and "authenticity" is always wickedness. For instance, over the course of many centuries, the Church established the list of books which comprise the Holy Gospel. What would you now sayto those who, under the banner of "tradition," would include in the list of books of the Gospel something that the Church already declined or rejected in the 1st or 2nd centuries?
The Russian Church Abroad could not at one time be in communion with the Russian Church in the Fatherland due to various forms of persecution on the part of the state, which hindered the Church's freedom. Today, the Russian Orthodox Church in the Fatherland is free in Her holy service to the benefit of our much-suffering people. You cannot deny this obvious fact. Can we reject communion with Her with the excuse that She, in Her human composition, has not yet thrown off all the consequences of this brutal persecution? Is it acceptable on this basis to think and act like the Pharisee from the Lord's parable in the Gospel?
Again and again I earnestly beseech you to reconsider. In the name of your salvation, for the sake of holy obedience, submit to the suspension laid upon you, no matter how unfair it would seem to you. Break all ties with the schismatic groups. Then your right to appeal to the Hierarchy with a request to reexamine your case will be restored, when you can provide additional arguments, if you have any.
For the faithful flock, pastors and archpastors of the Church of Christ, there is no other way.
I pray the Lord that He give you wisdom.
You are ever in my prayers and I wish you well.
+ Bishop Gabriel