Appeal of the Conference of the Diocese of Geneva and Western Europe of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

Gathering for our diocesan conference, we, the archpastors, pastors and representatives of the laity of the Western European Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, prayed to the Lord during Divine Liturgy that He send down upon us His peace, and that He guide us along the path of the Holy Fathers of the VII Ecumenical Councils, whom we commemorated today, in our striving for "the unity of all," especially within the Local Russian Orthodox Church.

Indeed, "it would be monstrous to feel pleasure in the schisms and divisions of the Churches, and not to consider that the greatest of goods consists in the knitting together of the members of Christ’s body," said St Basil the Great, who also wrote to his correspondent, "I exhort you then, drive out of your mind the idea that you need communion with no one else!"

This is why, recognizing the need for unity within the Body of Christ, the archpastors of the Diocese of Geneva and Western Europe, first St John of Shanghai, then Archbishop Anthony of Geneva of blessed memory, labored on behalf of ecclesiastical peace. Let us remember the words of Archbishop Anthony spoken at the III All-Diaspora Council in Jordanville in 1974: "The unity of the Church is not an empty sound, they are not idle words—this is her nature and her foundation!"

Still, if at that time one could hope for the unity of the Russian Orthodox Churches of the diaspora, there could be no thought of any discussions with the Moscow Patriarchate. In fact, the God-battling state tried to physically destroy the Church in Russia herself and to cause strife within church life outside its borders. For that reason, contact between the two parts of the Russian Church was undesirable, both for the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, and for the Church in Russia, which would have lost the free voice that denounced the persecutions it was subjected to.

Through the mercy of God, these terrible persecutions have ceased, and the uncounted martyrs are now glorified in the Russian Land. May we not be worthy of "condemnation, for not shewing all possible anxiety for the unity of the Churches, with all zeal and eagerness in mutual unanimity and godly agreement!" as St Basil also wrote.

In light of the above, the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, headed by His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, entered into dialog, "speaking the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15), with the hierarchy of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Nonetheless, in such dialog there can be no victors nor vanquished; only the triumph of the one Truth of Christ. Besides, in contrast to the ideologies of this world, which only dream of the destruction of their enemies, the Church sees salvation only in common repentance, so that the errors of one side and another would serve as lessons for the future.

Still, the unity we desire cannot be achieved alongside dogmatic confusion—this is the great temptation of the modern world. The negotiating commissions were yet able to overcome a series of differences in matters of the relationship between the Church and the civil authorities. Still, although both sides are also in agreement to confess the sole Church of Christ which is the Orthodox Church, rejecting the so-called "branch theory," the matter of the World Council of Churches is still not resolved.

Dialog will therefore continue, and its results will be subjected to consideration by the IV All-Diaspora Council to be held is San Francisco in May, 2006, with the participation of all the bishops of the Russian Church Abroad, and also representatives of the clergy and laity of each diocese. After conciliar contemplation, final decisions will be made by the Council of Bishops.

Still, a portion of the flock expresses concern over the hastened process of reconciliation even as some important questions remain unresolved. They also believe that Providence, through the tragic fate of the Russian emigration, gave them the freedom of conscience to confess their faith—this gift which we wish to preserve at all costs.

We implore the Council of Bishops not to ignore our warning against new divisions among our communities. For we do not forget those who departed from us, and pray to the Lord that He heal this wound inflicted upon our Diocese.

Rejoicing with all our hearts over the progress of dialog today, we cannot anticipate its final result, and, therefore, the decisions that the Council of Bishops will make. That is why we call upon our flock to earnestly pray to our Heavenly Father that His sole Will be done. May our prayers be lifted as spiritual incense, and may the Lord send down upon us Divine Grace and the Gift of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Vevey, October 17/30, 2005

† Bishop Ambroise,
Administrator of the Diocese of Geneva and Western Europe

† Bishop Agapit of Stuttgart
The clergymen and lay delegates of the Diocese of Geneva and Western Europe