SAN FRANCISCO: MAY 7, 2006
Greeting from the Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarch
An Epistle of His Eminence Archbishop Gabriel to His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus and Members of the IV All-Diaspora Council of the Russian Orthodox Church
To His Eminence, The Most Reverend Metropolitan Laurus, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia:
Your Eminence, dear Brother in Christ,
We send Your Eminence, the Honourable Episcopacy which is with you, as well as the gathered members of the IV All-Diaspora Council, our heartfelt and fraternal greetings. We wish the Council good and fruitful labours.
It is with sincerity that we rejoice at the process of restoration of eucharistic unity between the Russian Church Abroad and the Moscow Patriarchate, a process which began under your wise hierarchal leadershipá and we hope that this process will culminate in the restoration of eucharistic unity with the fullness of the Universal Orthodox Church. That will allow us to jointly partake of one Chalice.
We can only repeat the words with which our Exarchate replied to the Appeal of the Third All-Diaspora Council in 1974: "We truly confess that every ecclessiastical organism is in need of live communion with the Universal Orthodox Church. What is needed is not simply "recognition" by all of the Orthodox world, but a real living communion with the universal Pleroma of the Orthodox Church". For this reason we rejoice of the news that today you are striving to establish such necessary canonical ties with universal Orthodoxy.
Here in Western Europe we were given such a tie through our uniting to the Holy See of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. This enabled our ecclessiastical body to live indepedently and to be protected from forces foreign to the Church.
It is very difficult to overcome division and estrangement. This is only possible to attain in the spirit of love, truth and common trust. The founders of our church domains acted in accordance with their consciences in tragic and extremely difficult circumstances, at a time when the Holy Church in Russia was being persecuted, when there were schisms in Her ranks and when millions of Her children were scattered throughout the whole world. An assessment of the past belongs to historians, but judgement belongs to Our Lord and Saviour and it is only He who tries the loins and the reins of every man.
We should strive to preserve the spirit of forgiveness and joint repentance which prevailed at the meeting of Metropolitans Anthony and Evlogy of Blessed memory in Sremski Karlovci in 1935, or the feelings of mutual honor and respect between Metropolitans Anastassy and Vladimir of Blessed memory. May the Lord give them rest and forgive their voluntary and involuntary sins and number them in the bosom of the righteous.
We would also like to express to you our conviction that your presence here, in different parts of the world where the Lord brought you and your forefathers, was not brought about by chance, but by God's will. He has called you to witness the holy Orthodox faith here and today and it is up to you, and you alone, together with pious Orthodox bishops and their flock in different countries where you live, to build the Church of Christ, a Church which can exist only in a local and territorial perspective. We received this testament from the Holy Apostles, the Holy Fathers and our Teachers of the faith, in part from the Holy Patriarch Tikhon, who labored so earnestly for the establishment of Orthodoxy on the North American continent. Indeed together we must build Church life on the basis of canonical norms in those circumstances in which it was pleasing to the Lord to allow us to live today. In our abovementioned reply to the Third All-Diaspora Council (which was published by our Exarchate) we read: "Our place is here and it is here that we are called to fulfil our calling".
Therefore, we would like to remind you of the appeal of Metropolitan Vladimir of Blessed memory that together, while observing an Orthodox ecclesiology and canonical order, we would take part in the building up of the Church, nonwithstanding the differences in language, nationality and ethnic backround of those places where we live. At the same time we should not back away from the practices and customs that we have inherited from the rich and much valued Russian Church tradition, a tradition that we all, both you and we, love and cherish.
I pray that the Lord send you gracefilled help in your labors and that the expression of His All-Holy Spirit's Will is revealed to you.
I ask you, beloved Vladyka, to accept an assurance of my feelings of brotherly love in the Lord.
Archbishop Gabriel of Komana
Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarch
Russian Orthodox Exarchate in Western Europe