NEW YORK: May 16, 2008
Epistle of the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia to the God-loving Flock
"This is the day that the Lord has made,
We will rejoice and be glad in it."
In these joyous Paschal days, we address you, beloved-in-Christ pastors, monastics and faithful flock, with the Paschal greeting: Christ is Risen!
Having gathered from various countries of the Russian diaspora in the God-saved city of New York to decide on important church matters after the death of the fifth Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus of blessed memory, we sense profoundly that great sorrow which has befallen all of us when we learned of his untimely, in our view, passing from the earthly life into the eternal life.
Our sorrow would be almost inconsolable if we did not remember the words from Holy Scripture: "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain" (Revelations 21:4).
We especially feel this consolation from the Lord in these joyful Paschal days, when "We feast death’s slaughter, the overthrow of Hell, the first fruits of a new eternal life." As we saw off our First Hierarch, Metropolitan Laurus, who was loved by everyone, we were witnesses to that filial devotion and profound love for the reposed that a thousand worshipers had, who had traveled from throughout the world for his funeral. Metropolitan Laurus possessed all the virtues and qualities of an archpastor referred to in Holy Scripture: " A bishop then must be blameless… sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach… not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre" (1 Timothy 3:2-3).
The greatest achievement of his fervent service to the Church over the course of many decades was the reestablishment of unity within the Local Russian Church. By the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion together with His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia on May 17, 2007, in the rebuilt Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Metropolitan Laurus earned a place not only in the history of the Russian Church, but in the history of Russia. During his ceremonial visits to the various cities and monasteries of Russia after the signing of the Act, Metropolitan Laurus was greeted everywhere with surprising inspiration, deep respect and genuine love, seeing in this humble archpastor a hero of the spirit, who overcame all obstacles for the achievement of the desire ecclesiastical unity.
It is noteworthy that Metropolitan Laurus of blessed memory departed for the Lord on the day of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, when the Holy Church celebrates victory over false teachings and heresies, and when the Church prays specially for the conversion of those who had gone astray and for their return to the bosom of the Holy Church, "that they may all be one" (John 17:21).
For this reason, it is particularly fitting for us once more to appeal to those who have not accepted the path of ecclesiastical reconciliation and have separated from us with a call to return to the bosom of our Church, which has not departed from its legacy in any way and faithfully adheres to the course laid down by Her former First Hierarchs.
Having prayed for the repose of the bright soul of our deeply-revered late First Hierarch, Metropolitan Laurus, and having performed a moleben invoking the Holy Spirit upon us, the archpastors present, and praying to the
Most-Holy Mother of God before Her Miracle-working Kursk-Root Icon of the Sign, and invoking the prayerful aid of the Holy New Martyrs of Russia, we commenced with the important task of electing a new Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
By God's mercy, His Eminence Archbishop Hilarion of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand was elected on the first vote, in one spirit, and elevated to the rank of Metropolitan.
One cannot ignore the providential significance of the fact that the donning of the white Metropolitan's klobuk and the light blue mantle of the newly-elected First Hierarch will occur precisely on May 4/17, the exact day of the first anniversary of the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion. This providential event underscores the continuity of the newly-elected Primate in the work of his predecessor.
In connection with this, we, the archpastors of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, note with great joy that on the day of his election, the new First Hierarch said the following:
"I piously and lovingly prostrate myself before the blessed memory of my predecessor, whose great task I intend to continue, with God's help, relying on the support of my brother archpastors, clergy and flock."
The new Primate also said:
"Following the testament of Christ on preserving unity, we await with open arms those brothers and sisters of ours who left the Church. The main thing in the life of our Church is to make an example of love, unity, patience and humility, for the Lord said: 'By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.' If we actively strive towards God and commit good works to the best of our abilities, manifesting the laws of the Gospel and the Holy Fathers, then our Church will blossom. And the aroma of this blossoming will show the spiritual benefit and saving grace of the great task of reestablishing the fullness of brotherly communion of the Local Russian Orthodox Church achieved by His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II and His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus. I believe that those who left us with time will see the rich fruits of church unity, of joint witness of the Truth of Christ and the preaching of our ideals of Holy Russia. But for this to happen, both parts of the Russian Orthodox Church must speak their great word, 'Hearken,' they must speak their Holy Russian word to the world, not so much vocally as through our lives and service, by being an example of the love of Christ."
And we, the archpastors of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, attest to the fact that we are fully prepared to support our new First Hierarch as he occupies the lofty post of Helmsman of the Russian Church Abroad, calling also upon our God-loving flock to do so, and we ask the holy prayers of all the pastors and flock, in the words of the Apostle: "pray always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit" (Ephesians 6:18), that the Lord grant the elected the strength and wisdom to guide the Russian Church Abroad for many good years.
We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you" (Colossians 1:3).
Indeed He is Risen!
+Metropolitan Hilarion April 30/May 13, 2008
+Archbishop Mark +Bishop Gabriel
+Archbishop Kyrill +Bishop Agapit
+Bishop Michael +Bishop Peter