MOSCOW: January 28, 2009
Epistle of the Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church
Dear in the Lord Pastors, Divinely-Wise Monks and Nuns, Beloved Brothers and Sisters, faithful children of our Holy Church!
The Local Council [Pomestny Sobor], held on January 27-28, 2009, at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, addresses you with the words of the Apostle: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all" (2 Corinthians 13:14).
The Council has deemed worthy the fruits which, by the mercy of God, our Church has brought to the Lord over these last eighteen years since the last Local Council. At that Council, by the will of the Holy Spirit, the Hierarchy and the people of God chose His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia of blessed memory. This Council approved the works of the Councils of Bishops from 1990-2009, and the ecclesiastical efforts in various areas made during the Patriarchal service of His Holiness the late Patriarch. Expressing due gratitude to him for all his labors and cares, we appeal to our pastors and children of our Church to prayerfully remember our late Patriarch. His Holiness strove tirelessly to preserve the unity of the Church, protecting her from schisms and divisions, uniting people of various nationalities, generations and social strata. The main deed achieved by His Holiness the Patriarch, together with the late Metropolitan Laurus of blessed memory, was the reestablishment of the unity of the Russian Church Abroad and the Church in the Fatherland. And today, remembering the legacy of our late Patriarch, we must preserve and strengthen church unity, not allowing anyone to sow the seeds of discord among us.
Keeping "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3) is a sign of the presence of Christ Himself in the community of His followers. Even as we preserve unity in the main thing—the Holy Orthodox Faith—we can have differences in individual questions relating to the life of the Church or society. But these differences must lay the foundation for enmity, division and unfair accusations. The Local Council supports the document of the Holy Council of Bishops of 2008 "On the Unity of the Church" and calls upon the Fullness of the Church to follow it.
On January 27 of this year, by the will of the Holy Spirit, the Council elected His Eminence Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad as the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.
We ask the entire Church flock to fervently pray that our Chief Pastor, the Lord Jesus Christ, bountifully pours forth His mercies on the service of the new, sixteenth Patriach of Moscow and All Russia, that He grant him undiminished help in all his efforts, strengthen his spiritual and physical powers towards service to the Holy Church, that the Patriarchal labors of His Holiness Vladyka, our Father, the newly-elected Patriarch Kirill, bring fruits blessed by God.
During the last century, our Church passed through the furnace of tribulations, preserving faith and devotion to Christ. Today, new possibilities arise before her: missionary work, which we must actively pursue, for the Christian mission is the direct legacy of the Savior. The Resurrected Christ calls upon His disciples to follow Him and preach Divine Truth. The Lord came to save, but, in the words of the Apostle, "How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?" (Romans 10:14). May we all be servants and preachers of Christ the Savior, "by whom we have received grace and apostleship" (Romans 1:5).
The pastoral word and the example of Christian good works must reach the hearts of those who call themselves Orthodox Christians, but do not live a churchly life. For they are also a part of our Church, called by the Lord towards salvation. Rejoicing at the growing number of churches and priests, we must remember that it is the condition of the souls of men, their participation in the Mysteries and divine services, their moral and spiritual image that are the essential criteria of the efforts of the Church. We are called upon to bear witness to the truth of the Gospel of Christ, "that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). We must declare that only by following the eternal and unchanging moral values granted by Divine Revelation will we be able to overcome internal individual crises, the disintegration of the family and social problems. The Church carries this testimony to the entire world, to all people, especially children and youth. This is precisely why we must take the opportunity today to boldly turn to the young generation through preaching, through school, through the mass media.
Service to the church has always been yoked to care for people, those who need help and sympathy. Our duty is to feed the hungry, give shelter to the homeless, defend the unfairly injured, help the elderly, support the lonely, lighten the burden of the ailing, console those in despair.
The Local Council calls upon all the devoted flock of our Church to strengthen their unity in the name of Christ under the omophorion of our new Primate, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia. Through unified effort we must "work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12) and participate in the spiritual education of those near and far. "Pray," said the Apostle, "that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified" (2 Thessalonians 3:1). The most important thing is that we abide in the love of Christ, which supersedes state borders, national or other divisions, that we may fulfill the testament of the Savior, Who prayed his Heavenly Father for those who believe in Him: "that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us" (John 17:21).
May the Lord God, glorified in the Holy Trinity, through the intercession of the Most-Pure Mother of God, by the prayers of the New Martyrs and Confessors and all the saints of our land, have mercy upon us and save us, through His grace and love for mankind. Amen.
Press Service of the Local Council