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Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky)

The Free Part of the Russian Church

His Eminence Metropolitan Philaret, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, gave this interview to the West German Catholic weekly "Publik." The journal published this interview on 30 October 1970.

-Your Eminence, what is the ecclesio-canonical basis for the independence of the Russian Orthodox Church which does not submit to the Moscow Patriarchate?

-Anticipating the looming situation under which the "Supreme Ecclesiastical Authority...for some reason would cease its activity," the Holy Synod and the Supreme Ecclesiastical Council of the Russian Church, with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon, on 20 November 1920, through a special decree, obligated all the bishops of the Russian Church who preserve their freedom to "organize a supreme instance of Ecclesiastical Authority for several dioceses which find themselves in similar conditions." The responsibility for the organization of such a body was placed by the Decree of 20 November 1920 on "the senior in the aforementioned group by rank of bishop." The Decree of 20 November 1920 was executed to the letter by the eldest of the 34 bishops of the Russian Church who found themselves abroad, the blessed Metropolitan Anthony of Kiev and Galizia. The Decree foresaw that the conditions necessitating such a decision "will assume an extended or even permanent character," and stipulated the term of activity of any measures and authorities emanating from the Decree as until a normally-operating central Church authority in Russia.

Various suspensions and sanctions imposed by the Moscow Patriarchate upon the organization abroad were all issued under conditions of captivity and of the imprisonment of the Patriarchate and so could not repeal the ecclesio-canonical foundation for the existence of the free part of the Russian Church abroad--the Decree of 20 November 1920. This document did not "grant the right" to the free bishops to self-rule, but was a mandate for a very specific path upon which, under any circumstances, they were obligated to follow until the Church in Russia itself became free and convened a free Local Council, to whom and only to whom was the Russian Church abroad to be answerable.

-What circumstances hinder the communion of the part of the Russian Church which is abroad with the Moscow Patriarchate?

The Moscow Patriarchate in its present form consists of persons selected by the atheist state and is absolutely controlled by the latter and imprisoned. The main feature of this imprisonment of the Patriarchate is that it not only does not glorify the countless New Martyrs of the Russian Church, but even mocks their memory, stating that there are no persecutions of the Church in the USSR and that there have been no such persecutions.

It is not the Church that speaks through their mouths, but the "deceiver and father of deceivers." Communion with them would mean communion with him.

-Along with the officially-recognized church organization in the Soviet Union, there are other groups of church opposition. What is the cause of this?

The reasons for the formation of such secret "Tikhonites," "Josephites," "True Orthodox Christians," are the same that prevent the free part ofthe Russian Church to commune with the present leaders of the Patriarchate.

-Is it safe to assume that the Russian Church in the decades to follow will try to transform ethical and moral underpinnings of Christianity into socio-political demands?

The late Parisian historian of the Church, Professor Anton Vladimirovich Kartashev, in his book "The Reestablishment of Holy Rus'," proposed the notion that the traditional effort of Orthodox consciousness towards creating a "symphony" between the Church and the State, in the future, if the government remains secular, will need to find its manifestation not in the mutual relationship of the Church with the State, but in the mutual activity of the Church and society. The vehicles of this mutual activity, according to Prof. Kartashev, could be brotherhoods of Orthodox laymen. Brotherhoods, guided by the Church, but independent in their concrete activities, have more than once played a role in the history of Russia and the Russian Church.

The Orthodox Church leaves the initiative in deciding socio-political matters in the hands of the laity. The initiatives of laymen which correspond to the spirit and teachings of the Church may be blessed and supported by the Church.
-The Roman Catholic Church strives towards a brotherly dialog with the Russian Orthodox Church. Might one expect that contacts and cooperation will overcome purely formal relations?

That, which the Orthodox Church strives for, is not described by the word "dialog," since dialog is usually understood as the effort to reach compromise. In the spiritual realm, compromises to not draw one towards Truth. We strive to live in Christian love, to respect the Christian soul in every baptised Christian, to overcome those divisions that do not relate to the witnessing of the faith, but might be viewed as the relics of historical mistunderstandings. Hasty actions, whether from Moscow (for political reasons), or Constantinople (for other, but possibly also political, reasons), do not contribut to a genuine healing of schism, which is possible only through the mercy and grace of God in Spirit and Truth.
-How would you evaluate certain trends in the Roman Catholic Church which arose along with the changes in the relationship between the Church and society?

We are wary of chasing apparent populatiry, we see the dangers arising from the application of inadequate methods towards the mission and ministry of the Church, we fear chasing the times. The Church is outside of time. The Church knows that heaven cannot exist on Earth, but that the Kingdom of God is real. The sole aim of the Church is to bring its children to this Kingdom.

"Pravoslavnoye delo," issue No. 1, 1971.