Received June 23, 2001. The Russian version is HERE. Some background information in English may be found HERE. If you are a member of the ROCOR and wish to thank the Metropolitan and express your support for him, please fill out a form located HERE.

UPDATE: On June 26, 2001, Bishop Gabriel, Deputy Secretary of the Synod of Bishops, posted at the official Synod web site a "Statement from the Chancery of the Synod of Bishops" in an attempt to prove that the Epistle presented below was not written by the Metropolitan. But this is completely IMMATERIAL! It is common knowledge that public statements by heads of governments and large organizations (including ecclesiastical) are often written by their staff. The leaders then go over statements written for them, make corrections, and sign. The FACT that the Metropolitan was unhappy with the decisions of the October 2000 ROCOR Council of Bishops was clearly demonstrated by his Postsobor Epistle of December 4, 2000 (of which Bishop Gabriel is very well aware). What matters is not WHO WROTE the Epistle, but WHO SIGNED it. Let's note in passing that Bishop Gabriel does not give a link to the latest Epistle, although he does say that he read it on the Internet.

 

Contents of this section (in Russian)

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An Epistle
by the Most Reverend Metropolitan
VITALII
First Hierarch
of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

Reverend Hierarchs!
Beloved Fathers, Brothers and Sisters!

Desiring to preserve peace and unity among us, I again turn to you as the First Hierarch of our Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, since I consider it my duty to express my opinion about the situation, which arose after the Council of Bishops which took place in October 2000.

Recognizing that the Council of Bishops is the highest authority, to which I, as the First Hierarch, am also subordinated, I want nevertheless to remind you that there is no earthly church organization which is infallible in truth. History recorded many examples, when whole regional churches were infected by heresies and other spiritual ailments for a long time, and this was reflected in council resolutions. In such cases, the subsequent councils were forced to rescind the incorrect decisions of preceding councils.

With much sadness, we observe today the confusion and temptation, caused among our clergy and laymen by the decisions and the epistle of the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

We must with deep regret admit that some of our brothers deemed possible to accept and to try to chart a different course for our church, than that which was commanded by our predecessors.

Without having the authority to correct what has been done, I cannot remain silent anymore, seeing that the consequences of our errors are disrupting the spiritual life of our flock and are causing disorder. Having critically reexamined the basic decisions and documents, I consider it essential to convene another Council [of Bishops], which will have the legal right to rescind some of our decisions.

Upon deep reflection, we now view as erroneous some acts of the Council, which represent attempts at a rapprochement with the world ecumenical organizations as a whole, and at unjustified contacts with the Moscow patriarchate in particular. These are reflected in the following documents and decisions of the Council:

  1. The so-called "social concept" of the Moscow patriarchate is a purely Roman Catholic concept, foreign to the Orthodox Church and, in spite of its possibly good pronouncements, by no means does it bring by itself anything good for orthodox believers. This doctrine does not contain any sign of repentance for the past errors and in no way can cross out the treacherous Declaration of 1927.
  2. The "Glorification" of the Holy New Martyrs by the Moscow patriarchate, carried out under the pressure from the believers, accompanied by a number of humiliating stipulations, completely excluding the eschatological significance of the tsar's murder, cannot give us neither joy nor comfort. We all know that the holy martyrs - the tsar and family - suffered specifically because of their kingly service; their murder was a symbolic part of the planned destruction of the God-established Orthodox State. By their compromises and lies about the kingly martyrs, by the non-recognition of the podvig of tsarist servants, the Moscow patriarchate consciously hides from their flock the spiritual significance of the perpetrated crime. The Moscow patriarchate, which in its own time participated in the persecution of confessors, now, without any repentance, glorifies them! This cannot be called by any other name than spiritual cynicism, which is completely out of place in the church! Neither can we fail to notice that the same imprint of lie is evident also on the "glorification" of the New Martyrs, among whom the Patriarchate does not hesitate not to include the holy martyr Joseph of Petrograd.
  3. We are not inclined to share the opinion of some of our brethren about the "spiritual revival", allegedly taking place in Russia. According to the information which is reaching us, what is taking place in Russia now is not a "spiritual revival", but only a "gilding of cupolas" in churches, into which, according to the words of saint Ambrose of Optina, one should not enter. Consequently, in connection with this, we support, pray and attempt to strengthen spiritually those of our small communities, which, in spite of the shameless persecution by the post-soviet laws, still manage to survive in communion with us, is spite of all the burdens of their lives.
  4. The establishment of a so-called Commission "for unity" with the Moscow patriarchate must be clearly recognized as an error committed by the Council of Bishops. No such commission should have been established, since there is nothing for it to do.
  5. The Serbian patriarchate in 1920 has received us as homeless exiles, permitting us to preserve the canonical status of a Russian Church according to the 39th rule of the Sixth Ecumenical Council. For this, we are very grateful and we remain eternally indebted to it. But after the Second World War, the Serbian Church, which was under the Communist regime of Tito, is no longer the same Serbian Church of the holy patriarch Barnabas, who gave refuge to the Russian refugees. Its subordination to the government and participation in the inter-church ecumenical movement do not allow us to request an Eucharistic union with the Serbian patriarchate under patriarch Pavel.

It is sad for us to realize, that precisely now, when apostate processes in the world have reached a destructive intensity, a council resolution has not been made to encourage believers to be three times as vigilant in the face of this apostasy; and also to realize that our new appointments of bishops in Western European Dioceses and in Russia caused so much turmoil and problems.

Our pastors and pious flock have always worked closely with their bishops. This was the source of the strength of the Russian Orthodox Church. Our pastors are not the irresponsible executors of the orders of higher church authority: they are in the first ranks of the servants and children of Christ. They are not clerks, which can be ordered around by a stroke of the pen, and who can be kept in obedience by threats; they are God’s servants as are all of us. They are our vital force and we must take the greatest care of them, not to allow them to fall into despair and to go away into a schism. Otherwise, we would be burdened with this terrible responsibility.

As the fourth First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, I continue unflinchingly along the path chosen by the most reverend Metropolitans Anthony, Anastasii, and my saintly predecessor Metropolitan Filaret, whose remains have been found incorrupt in 1998, which is a clear sign that the path that he followed in his life was the correct one. Therefore, I am asking all of you to be patient, and to avoid any hasty conclusions and acts. We live in difficult times. And the enemy of our salvation is always ready to catch us in his nets.

I am again reminding you of the following: "Fear not, little flock!" (Luke, 12,32) The Lord is with us! And if the Lord is with us, who is against us?! Don’t forget, that the most terrible for us would be to fall away from the Truth, and the Truth is Christ".

June 22, 2001
Saint Cyril, archbishop of Alexandria.

 

Metropolitan VITALII
First Hierarch
of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

(Signature, see facsimile below)

[NOTE ADDED IN METROPOLITAN'S HANDWRITING]:

I am asking all parish priests to read this epistle from the amvon [pulpit]. It would be good to make copies of this text for distribution among parishioners.

vitaly.jpg (16701 bytes)

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