OF METROPOLITAN PHILARET
FIRST HIERARCH OF THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHUCH OUTSIDE OF RUSSIA
TO THE BRETHREN IN CHRIST, ORTHODOX BISHOPS AND ALL WHO HOLD
THE FATE OF THE RUSSIAN CHURCH
In recent days the Soviet Government in Moscow and various
parts of the world celebrated a new anniversary of the October
Revolution of 1917 which brought it to power.
We, on the other hand, call to mind in these days the beginning
of the way of the cross for the Russian Orthodox Church, upon
which from that time, as it were, all the powers of hell have
Meeting resistance on the part of Archpastors, pastors, and
laymen strong in spirit, the Communist power, in its fight
with religion, began from the very first days the attempt
to weaken the Church not only by killing those of her leaders
who were strongest in spirit, but also by means of the artificial
creation of schisms.
Thus arose the so-called ''Living Church" and the renovation
movement, which had the character of a Church tied to a Protestant-Communist
reformation. Notwithstanding the support of the Government,
this schism was crushed by the inner power of the Church.
It was too clear to believers that the "Renovated Church"
was uncanonical and altered Orthodoxy. For this reason people
did not follow it.
The second attempt, after the death of Patriarch Tikhon and
the rest of the locum tenens of the patriarchal throne, Metropolitan
Peter, had greater success. The Soviet power succeeded in
1927 in sundering in part the inner unity of the Church. By
confinement in prison, torture, and special methods it broke
the will of the vicar of the patriarchal locum tenens, Metropolitan
Sergy, and secured from him the proclamation of a declaration
of the complete loyalty of the Church to the Soviet power,
even to the point where the joys and successes of the Soviet
Union were declared by the Metropolitan to the joys and successes
of the Church, and its failures to be her failures. What can
be more blasphemous than such an idea, which was justly appraised
by many at that time as an attempt to unite light with darkness,
and Christ with Belial. Both Patriarch Tikhon and Metropolitan
Peter, as well as others who served as locum tenens of the
Patriarchal throne, had earlier refused to sign a similar
declaration, for which they were subjected to arrest, imprisonment,
Protesting against this declarationwhich was proclaimed
by Metr. Sergy by himself alone, without the agreement of
the suppressed majority of the episcopate of the Russian Church,
violating thus the 34th Apostolic Rule many bishops
who were then in the death camp at Solovki  wrote to the
Metropolitan: "Any government can sometimes make decisions
that are foolish, unjust, cruel, to which the Church is forced
to submit, but which she cannot rejoice over or approve. One
of the aims of the Soviet Government is the extirpation of
religion, but the Church cannot acknowledge its successes
in this direction as her own successes" (Open Letter
from Solovki, Sept. 27, 1927).
The courageous majority of the sons of the Russian Church
did not accept the declaration of Metr. Sergy, considering
that a union of the Church with the godless Soviet State,
which had set itself the goal of annihilating Christianity
in general, could not exist on principle.
But a schism nonetheless occurred. The minority, accepting
the declaration, formed a central administration, the so-called
"Moscow Patriarchate," which, while being supposedly
officially recognized by the authorities, in actual fact received
no legal rights whatever from them; for they continued, now
without hindrance, a most cruel persecution of the Church.
In the words of Joseph, Metropolitan of Petrograd, Metr. Sergy,
having proclaimed the declaration, entered upon the path of
"monstrous arbitrariness, flattery, and betrayal of the
Church to the interests of atheism and the destruction of
The majority, renouncing the declaration, began an illegal
ecclesiastical existence. Almost all the bishops were tortured
and killed in death camps, among them the locum tenens Metr.
Peter, Metr. Cyril of Kazan, who was respected by all, and
Metr. Joseph of Petrograd, who was shot to death at the end
of 1938, as well as many other bishops and thousands of priests,
monks, nuns, and courageous laymen. Those bishops and clergy
who miraculously remained alive began to live illegally and
to serve Divine services secretly, hiding themselves from
the authorities and originating in this fashion the ../resistance/cat_1974.htmCatacomb
Church in the Soviet Union.
Little news of this Church has come to the free world. The
Soviet press long kept silent about her, wishing to give the
impression that all believers in the USSR stood behind the
Moscow Patriarchate. They even attempted to deny entirely
the existence of the Catacomb Church.
But then, after the death of Stalin and the exposure of his
activity, and especially after the fall of Khrushchev, the
Soviet press has begun to write more and more often on the
secret Church in the USSR, calling it the "sect"
of True-Orthodox Christians. It was apparently impossible
to keep silence about it any longer; its numbers are too great
and it causes the authorities too much alarm.
Unexpectedly in the "Atheist Dictionary" (State
Political Literature Publishers, Moscow, 1964), on pp 123
and 124 the Catacomb Church is openly discussed. ''True-Orthodox
Christians," we read in the "Dictionary," "an
Orthodox sect, originating in the years 1922-24. It was organized
in 1927, when Metr. Sergy proclaimed the principle of loyalty
to the Soviet power." "Monarchist" (we would
say ecclesiastical) "elements, having united around Metr.
Joseph (Petrovykh) of Leningrad'' (Petrograd) 'Josephites,''
or, as the same Dictionary says, Tikhonites, formed in 1928
a guiding center, the True-Orthodox Church, and united all
groups and elements which came out against the Soviet order"
(we may add from ourselves, "atheist" order). "The
True-Orthodox Church directed unto the villages a multitude
of monks and nuns," for the most part of course priests,
we add again from ourselves, who celebrated Divine services
and rites secretly and "conducted propaganda against
the leadership of the Orthodox Church," i.e, against
the Moscow Patriarchate which had given in to the Soviet power,
"appealing to people not to submit to Soviet laws,"
which are directed, quite apparently, against the Church of
Christ and faith.
By the testimony of the "Atheist Dictionary," the
True-Orthodox Christians organized and continue to organize
house, ' i.e., secret, catacomb churches and monasteries...
preserving in full the doctrine and rites of Orthodoxy."
They "do not acknowledge the authority of the Orthodox
Patriarch," i.e., the successor of Metr. Sergy, Patriarch
"Striving to fence off" the True-Orthodox Christians
"from the influence of Soviet reality," chiefly
of course from atheist propaganda, "their leaders...
make use of the myth of Antichrist, who has supposedly been
ruling in the world since 1917." The anti-Christian nature
of the Soviet power is undoubted for any sound-thinking person,
and all the more for a Christian.
True Orthodox Christians "usually refuse to participate
in elections," which in the Soviet Union, a country deprived
of freedom, are simply a comedy, "and other public functions;
they do not accept pensions, do not allow their children to
go to school beyond the fourth class..." Here is an unexpected
Soviet testimony of the truth, to which nothing need be added.
Honor and praise to the True-Orthodox Christians, heroes of
the spirit and confessors, who have not bowed before the terrible
power, which can stand only by terror and force and has become
accustomed to the abject flattery of its subjects. The Soviet
rulers fall into a rage over the fact that there exist people
who fear God more than men. They are powerless before the
millions of True-Orthodox Christians.
However, besides the True Orthodox Church in the Soviet Union
and the Moscow Patriarchate, which have communion neither
of prayer nor of any other kind with each other, there exists
yet a third part of the Russian Churchfree from oppression
and persecution by the atheists the Russian Orthodox Church
Outside of Russia. She has never broken the spiritual and
prayerful bonds with the ../resistance/cat_1974.htmCatacomb
Church in the home land. After the last war many members of
this Church appeared abroad and entered into the Russian Church
Outside Russia, and thus the bond between these two Churches
was strengthened yet morea bond which has been sustained
illegally up to the present time. As time goes on, it becomes
all the stronger and better established.
The part of the Russian Church that is abroad and free is
called upon to speak in the free world in the name of the
persecuted Catacomb Church in the Soviet Union; she reveals
to all the truly tragic condition of believers in the USSR,
which the atheist power so carefully hushes up, with the aid
of the Moscow Patriarchate, she calls on those who have not
lost shame and conscience to help the persecuted.
This is why it is our sacred duty to watch over the existence
of the Russian Church Outside of Russia. The Lord, the searcher
of hearts, having permitted His Church to be subjected to
oppression, persecution, and deprivation of all rights in
the godless Soviet State, has given us, Russian exiles, in
the free world the talent of freedom, and He expects from
us the increase of this talent and a skillful use of it. And
we have not the right to hide it in the earth. Let no one
dare to say to us that we should do this, let no one push
us to a mortal sin.
For the fate of our Russian Church we, Russian bishops, are
responsible before God, and no one in the world can free us
from this sacred obligation. No one can understand better
than we what is happening in our homeland, of which no one
can have any doubt. Many times foreigners, even Orthodox people
and those vested with high ecclesiastical rank, have made
gross errors in connection with the Russian Church and false
conclusions concerning her present condition. May God forgive
them this, since they do not know what they are doing.
This is why, whether it pleases anyone or not, the Russian
Orthodox Church Outside of Russia will continue to exist and
will raise her voice in the defense of the faith.
She will not be silent:
1. As long as the Soviet power shall conduct a merciless battle
against the Church and believers, about which the whole Soviet
press also testifies, except for the Journal of the Moscow
2. As long as, by the testimony of the same press, there exists
in the USSR a secret, Catacomb True-Orthodox Church, by its
very existence testifying to persecutions against the faith
and to complete absence of freedom of religion.
3. As long as the Soviet power shall force the hierarchs of
the Moscow Patriarchate manifestly to lie and affirm that
there are no persecutions against the Church in the USSR and
that the Church there supposedly enjoys complete freedom in
accordance with the Soviet constitution (Metropolitans Pimen,
Nikodim, John of New York, Archbp. Alexy, and others).
4. As long as the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate, at the
demand of the authorities, does not mention even a single
church that has been closed and destroyed, while at the same
time Soviet newspapers speak of hundreds and thousands.
5. As long as churches in the USSR shall be defiled by atheists,
being converted into movie-houses, storehouses, museums, clubs,
apartments, etc., of which fact there are living witnesses
in the persons of tourists who have been to Soviet Union.
6. Until the thousands of destroyed and defiled churches shall
be restored as churches of God.
7. Until the representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate in
clerical robes shall cease agitating in the free world in
the interest of the godless Soviet power, in this way dressing
the wolf in sheep's clothing.
8. Until the hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate end their
evil denial of the terrible and dreadful devastation of the
Pochaev Lavra and other monasteries, and stop the almost complete
liquidation of monks there and the terrible persecutions of
her pilgrims, even to killing and murder (letters from the
9. Until priests accused by Soviet courts shall receive the
right to defend themselves freely though the Soviet press.
10. Until there shall cease calumny and ridicule of faith,
the Church, priests, monks, and believing Christians in the
11. Until freedom shall be given to every believer in the
USSR openly to confess his faith and defend it.
12. Until it shall be officially permitted children and young
people to know the foundations of their faith, to visit the
churches of God, to participate in Divine services and receive
communion of the Holy Mysteries.
13. Until it shall be permitted parents who are believers
to baptize their children without hindrance and without sad
consequences for their official careers and personal happiness.
14. Until parents who raise their children religiously shall
cease from being accused of crippling them, parents and children
both being deprived of freedom for this and shut up in mental
institutions or prison.
15. Until freedom of thought, speech, action, and voting shall
be given not only to every believer, but also to every citizen
of the Soviet Union, first of all to writers and creative
thinkers, against whom the godless power is now waging an
especially bitter battle using intolerable means.
16. Until the Church and religious societies in general in
the USSR shall receive the most elementary rights, if only
the right to be a legal person before Soviet laws, the right
to own property, to direct one's own affairs in actual fact,
to designate and transfer rectors of parishes and priests,
to open and dedicate new churches, to preach Christianity
openly not only in churches, but outside them also, especially
among young people, etc. In other words, until the condition
of all religious societies shall cease from being, one and
the same, without rights.
Until all this shall come about, we shall not cease to accuse
the godless persecutors of faith and those who evilly cooperate
with them under the exterior of supposed representatives of
the Church. In this the Russian Church Outside of Russia has
always seen one of her important tasks. Knowing this, the
Soviet power through its agents wages with her a stubborn
battle, not hesitating to use any means: lies, bribes, gifts,
and intimidation. We, however, shall not suspend our accusation.
Declaring this before the face of the whole world, I appeal
to all our brothers in ChristOrthodox bishopsand
to all people who hold dear the fate of the persecuted Russian
Church as a part of the Universal Church of Christ, for understanding,
support, and their holy prayers. As for our spiritual children,
we call on them to hold firmly to the truth of Orthodoxy,
witnessing of her both by one's word and especially by a prayerful,
devout Christian life.
+ Metropolitan Philaret
19/14 XI 1965