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SAN FRANCISCO: MAY 7, 2006

Greeting From the Optina Hermitage

To His Eminence, the Most Reverend Metropolitan Laurus, and all members of the IV All-Diaspora Council of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

There was a time when the historic ways of our Motherland, Russia, drove a significant number of its sons, people dedicated to the Church and to their Homeland, to leave their cherished country and with unspeakable sorrow in their souls - to look for shelter outside of its borders. Even though these people left their country, - where their families had lived for centuries, left behind their homes and many friends and relatives, - painful wounds remained on their hearts even when living in foreign, alien countries. However, the Lord, Whom one cannot escape, one cannot hide from, Who always remains close to us, His people, gave to those who had left their Homeland the most secure, the strongest and the most needed consolation in all the sorrowful circumstances of the emigration.

The Russian emigres were like the sons of Israel, who in theBabylonian captivity never stopped thinking of Palestine, of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and could find no other consolation except singing their song to the Lord. Almighty God, Who both punishes and shows mercy, returned His Chosen People from the Babylonian Captivity to their Homeland. Thus, we can say that our Fatherland Russia, once imprisoned not by the Chaldeans, but cruelly and forcefully thrown into a savage prison, has now liberated itself from the terrible red Bolshevik yoke.

Our compatriots, who emigrated and were innocent, were called "enemies of the Motherland" in the official Soviet press. It was impossible to say anything positive about them without the risk of being sent to forced labor camps in the Siberian regions of Kolyma, Magadan or at the Solovki Islands.

Today, by the Grace of God, the wall which stood between us, and had hindered any possible contacts, has been destroyed, and we now have an opportunity to have free and fraternal spiritual relations. Common sense tells us that such relationss can only be of benefit to both the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia and to those who have remained abroad and have kept in purity the Orthodox Faith. It will also be of absolutely great benefit, when we here in Russia, and you, living beyond its frontiers, will have one, in strict Orthodoxy, communion, and we help each other.

In September 2005 our group of five visited the USA. One of the main reasons for this visit was to venerate the relics of Saint John, the Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco. The American way of life, which seemed strange and unusual to us, evoked many different feelings in our hearts. But all of this became fleeting and unimportant when we met face to face with our Russian compatriots. Then would even begin to forget that we were not in our Homeland, but in the United States. In this environment we were surrounded by the Russian soul, the Russian temperament and the Russian Orthodox mentality, as if we were not in the United States of America, but in one of the central regions of Russia, perhaps Kaluga, Moscow, Oryol or elsewhere. Among the Russian ?migr?s we noticed absolutely no antipathy for Russia and its people. We only felt their desire to establish spiritual relations with us, warm and dear relations. We shall be praying fervently to be together soon.

Christ is Risen!

Schema-Abbott Ely,
Spiritual father of the Optina Hermitage
Pascha 2006