Epistle of His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, to the Special Conference of the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand
Your Eminence Vladyka!
Dear in the Lord Fathers, Brothers and Sisters!
I extend to you, Eminent Vladyka, to the brethren and all the participants of the Conference of the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand my heartfelt greetings.
I write to you from distant New York, and regret that I cannot be with you now for the Diocesan Conference and the regular Orthodox Youth Conference being held in Melbourne. Visiting our large flock in Australia and New Zealand always brings me great joy and consolation, for, my dear ones, you love Christ, His Holy Church and our suffering Fatherland. Your strong faith, piety and churchliness attest to this. Although I am deprived of the joy of joint prayer and direct contact with you now, I am full of gratitude to God that I have the opportunity to address this epistle to you, which is to be read by my representative.
I raise my prayers to the Lord and to His Most-Blessed Mother that your Diocesan Conference proceeds well, the main goal of which is to elect delegates from your Diocese to the IV All-Diaspora Conference, which will be held in May of next year at the Cathedral of the Mother of God "Joy of All Who Sorrow" in San Francisco. Also, Protopriest Alexander Lebedeff, Secretary of the Commission on discussions with the Moscow Patriarchate, will deliver a detailed report on the progress of talks with the Church in Russia, while Priest Serafim Gan, former clergyman of the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand, will speak to you about the work of the Pre-Council Committee, which is organizing the All-Diaspora Council.
I call upon you, dear in the Lord brothers and sisters, to consider these matters calmly.
I wish to remind everyone that at this moment, we are not talking about "unification," "merging" or "union" with the Moscow Patriarchate, but of reconciliation of the two parts of the Russian Orthodox Church. Our Church, observing the positive processes of church life in Russia, decided to embark upon this road of peacemaking through dialog, which, thank God, is being conducted in a frank and constructive spirit. If all questions and problems which now hinder prayerful and Eucharistic communion are resolved in accordance with our positions of principle, then, in all likelihood, our relations with the Church in Russia will take the following form—one Chalice, that is, joint services, but two entirely separate ecclesiastical administrations. In short, our Church will preserve its independence in all administrative, property, educational and pastoral matters, and we will remain what we were before reconciliation—a self-governing part of the Russian Church. No one can meddle in the internal workings of our beloved Church, the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia will continue to appoint bishops to their sees, and our ruling bishops will appoint priests to their parishes. As far as property is concerned, ownership of real estate and other ecclesiastical property is regulated by the local laws of the countries in which our Church is found. Any changes in this regard would not only make no sense, but would in practice be extremely difficult. That is why this should be of no concern at all.
Some refer to the seizure of church property in the Holy Land in the late 1990's, saying that they have no trust in the Moscow Patriarchate. Indeed, these events disappointed those who were receptive to the idea of reconciliation and of spiritual unity with the Church in Russia. That is why we hope that steps are taken to encourage such trust. But it is necessary for us on our part to work towards developing trust through the process of coming to know each other, through constructive cooperation and fraternal meetings, which we must not shy away from.
Let us not, dear fathers, brothers and sisters, heed the slander spread by the enemies of our Church who are trying their utmost to lead us into quarrels amongst ourselves and divide us, let us instead try to spend this time leading up to the IV All-Diaspora Council piously, through fasting and prayer, in the solemn Communion of Christ's Holy Mysteries. Let us pray to God that He bless this Church Council and that His will be done in the life of our Church. We know that it will manifest itself, for it is not mankind that leads the Church, but the Lord Himself. In Him shall we place our hopes .
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
November 25/December 8, 2005
Feast Day of the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God