SAN FRANCISCO: June 30, 2007
Epistle of the Synod of Bishops to the Pious Pastors and God-beloved Flock of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
"Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and
from the Lord Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:2).
Having convened in the God-preserved city of San Francisco, at St Tikhon House, residence of Righteous St John of Shanghai and San Francisco the Miracle-worker, we archpastors, in the days before his feast day, appeal to all with the words that the Resurrected Lord spoke to His beloved disciples: "Peace be unto you."
This session is the first after the ceremonial signing of the Act of Canonical Communion which reestablished the unity of the Russian Orthodox Church. Witnessing this great event were not only its participants and the multitude of clergymen and pilgrims who traveled to Moscow for the celebration, but millions of faithful throughout the world, who observed the event on television and through the internet. Indeed, that significant day was hailed all over the Orthodox world: "This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalms 118:24).
Still, one cannot but notice that not all the children of our Church, and not all of Her pastors have accepted what occurred in the same way. Some have even left Her, departing for various groupings which have no canonical foundation, or even formulating new pseudo-ecclesial entities. We grieve over every soul that leaves us and pray for their return to the bosom of the Church.
Zealots "not according to knowledge" (Romans 10:2) repeat endlessly that our Church has abandoned Her founders, betrayed Her legacy. It seems useless to debate with those who utter such accusations: such people hear nothing and no one but themselves: "Eyes have they, but they see not; they have ears, but they hear not" (Psalms 135:16, 17).
But let us ponder, beloved flock: what do these legacies consist of? Practically all the bishops of Russia during the epoch of troubles and persecutions, both in the Fatherland and abroad,never stopped saying: everything that the Lord has permitted to happen now with the Russian Church, and all that which was undertaken during those terrible times by the representatives of the holy hierarchy, will ultimately be brought to judgment and final decision by an All-Russian Pomestny [Local] Council. This pertains to the problem of ecumenism, and the relationship between the Church and state under the totalitarian regime. This is precisely what is stated in the Resolution of the All-Diaspora Council, and we do not depart from it by one iota.
But in order to commence preparing for such a Council, it is necessary for all the parts of the once-unified Russian Church to be in brotherly relationship with each other, standing together at one Chalice; it must be clear that it would otherwise be unimaginable to convene such a Council: there is no Council without conciliarity, conciliarity which is given to us only in Eucharistic and canonical brotherly communion. That is why the document signed in the pervoprestol'ny [reigning] city of Moscow envisioned not the "end of the Church Abroad" as some maintain, but the opposite, the beginning of the grace-filled process of the final healing of the wounds inflicted upon the Russian Church. In this sense, the Act of Canonical Communion may be viewed as the first pre-Council measure. Only now has it become possible to take practical steps towards convening an All-Russian Pomestny Council, which was desired by the New Martyrs of Russia, the hierarchs of the Russian Church Abroad of blessed memory, beginning with Blessed Metropolitan Anthony. The need for such a Council following the reestablishment of normal conditions of church life in Russia is stated in Patriarch Tikhon's Ukase No 362, that is, the very same Ukase which became the canonical basis for the creation of the separate administration of the Church Abroad.
The effort to reestablish the unity of the Russian Church after the abolishment of the godless state is the very essence of the legacy of our Church Abroad—the primary reason for Her origin and Her preservation to this day.
Again and again we remind you, beloved ones: our Church remains independent in "pastoral, educational, administrative, management, property, and civil matters." This means that any effort to seize our church property by the Moscow Patriarchate, which the false zealots constantly frighten people with, is a figment of their imagination. In fact, such intentions were to be feared more before the signing of the Act, which distinctly outline property matters.
We cannot forget that the Church Abroad always considered the absence of canonical and Eucharistic communion with the Church in the Homeland as an extreme and temporary situation, justified only until the liquidation of the godless regime in Russia, as is stated in Paragraph 1 of the Regulations of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. After the liquidation of the god-battling state and the cessation of brutal persecutions and enslavement of the Church by atheists, the artificial self-isolation of the Church Abroad would not only be canonically unfounded, but sinful, for this would be a violation of the law of love. "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" (1 John 4:20).
Let us fulfill the greater laws of Christ, laws of love for God and neighbor, and first of all for those of our own blood, our brothers and sisters of our own faith in the much-suffering Homeland who had endured so much in the years of cruel persecutions.
The actions of individuals persons, whether hierarchs or simple laypersons, in the face of the Red Terror, should be left for the judgment of God, Who is "slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy" (Psalms 103:8).
We call upon all of our beloved children in the world to peace and unity of mind, to stand within Divine truth and love.
" Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love" (2 John 1:3).