MOSCOW: February 4, 2011
Epistle of the Council of Bishops to the Clergy, Monastics, Laity and All the Faithful Children of the Russian Orthodox Church
Adopted on February 4, 2011, by the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Beloved in the Lord fathers, dear brothers and sisters, faithful children of the Russian Orthodox Church!
The Holy Council of Bishops, having convened on February 2-4, 2011, in the city of Moscow, invokes upon all of you God’s mercy, peace and love, glorifying together with the Apostle our Lord and Creator, Who, “according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you!” (1 Peter 1:3-4).
By the mercy of the Lord, the witness of the Truth of Christ continues to be manifested. The Church, fulfilling the legacy of her Divine Founder by preaching the Gospel to all of creation (Mark 16:15), turns her voice to the broadest circles of humanity. Striving to manifest the blessed and perfect will of the Almighty, that all people “be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1Timothy 2:4), she does everything possible that this will be incorporated in human lives and in human communities.
The Council appeals to every Orthodox Christian to remember the words of Holy Scripture, that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26), and so we must “as every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10).
Everything the Church lives by, everything she does is infused with care for the salvation of mankind. Living upon the earth, Orthodox people must strive towards Heaven. Concerned by events in society, expressing care for the suffering and needy, considering ways of better establishing church life, all of this comprises the visible continuation of their prayerful boldness and participation in the salvific Mysteries which unite man with God. Our words and deeds must show us to be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-14), so that everyone around us, beholding the lives of Orthodox Christians, would glorify the Father in Heaven (Matthew 5:16).
The Council discussed paying due tribute to the New Martyrs and the innocent victims of the 20th century, the social service of pastors and laity, care for church helpers and for the life of small native populations, the attitude of the Church towards blasphemy and slander, and perfecting various forms of church activities. Many hierarchs, pastors and laypersons participated in preparing the most important Council documents, for its successful labors were preceded by the work of an established ecclesiastical organ, the Inter-Council Presence. Guided by the principal of full openness to the opinions of the children of the Church, the Council adopted many of their wishes and proposals. We call upon the clergy and laity, people young and old, those possessed of experience and knowledge, as well as those who have only recently come to embrace salvific grace, to continue to participate, actively, thoughtfully and with a sense of duty, in the general ecclesiastical discussions of the Council.
The Church is all of us: the children of various nations, representatives of various generations and professions, those who live in various countries. The Apostle reminds all of us: “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord” (1 Corinthians 12:4-5). We have a common ancient tradition, having its origins in the Kievan baptismal font. We have a common spiritual ideal, based on the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and manifested in the life by our holy ancestors. Let us preserve this ideal. Let us preserve our unity. Let us accept the mission of the church as our duty and our calling, infusing with the spirit of the Orthodox faith all of our labors, all those around us, the life of the entire world, which awaits from us the words of truth and works of love. For therein lies the investment in our salvation. Therein, too, lies our hope to come to hear the words of the Lord Himself: “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).
Once again we turn to you with the words of the Apostle and the beloved disciple of our Savior: “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) and from the Holy Spirit.
PATRIARCH KIRILL OF MOSCOW AND ALL RUSSIA
Members of the Presidium of the Council of Bishops:
Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev and All Ukraine
Metropolitan Vladimir of St Petersburg and Ladoga
Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk and Slutsk, Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus
Metropolitan Yuvenaly of Krutitsa and Kolomensk
Metropolitan Vladimir of Kishinev and All Moldova
Metropolitan Ilarion of Volokolamsk, President of the Department of External Church Relations
Metropolitan Alexander of Riga and All Latvia
Metropolitan Alexander of Astanaisk and Kazakhstan
Metropolitan Lazar of Simferopol and Crimea
Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York
Archbishop Prokl of Simbirsk and Melekess
Bishop Alexander of Bakinsk and the Caspian
Bishop Daniil of Arkhangelsk and Kholmogorsk
Metropolitan Varsonofy of Saransk and Mordva, Chancellor of the Moscow Patriarchate