WESTERN EUROPEAN DIOCESE: October 4, 2017
Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York and Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America Send an Archpastoral Epistle to the Clergy and Flock of Elevation of the Holy Cross Cathedral
From the Editors: In connection with the temporary leave of absence of Archbishop Michael from the administration of the Western European Diocese, the President and Secretary of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia issued an epistle to the clergy and flock of Elevation of the Holy Cross Cathedral in Geneva, Switzerland, which was read from the ambo of the churches of that diocese on September 18/October 1, 2017.
During an extraordinary session of the Synod of Bishops that followed, held on Monday, September 2, 2017, the administration of the Western European Diocese was entrusted to His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. While the state of affairs at Elevation of the Holy Cross Cathedral in Geneva, Switzerland, is being investigated, the Synod of Bishops has designated St Elizabeth Convent in Buchendorf, Germany, as the residence of Archbishop Michael. Protopriest Pavel Tsvetkov was appointed Deputy Rector of the Geneva cathedral, and Protopriest Emelian Pochinok of the cathedral is the Chancellor of the Western European Diocese. Archbishop Michael is also invited to a session of the Synod of Bishops to convene on November 19/2 December of this year.
Archpastoral Epistle to the Clergy and Flock of the Western European Diocese
Dear in the Lord Fathers, Brothers and Sisters:
We send our heartfelt greetings on the continuing celebration of the Elevation of the Holy Cross, the feast day of your cathedral.
We wish you all the all-strengthening aid of God in your labors, and especially in your bearing of your cross, both personal and ecclesiastical. For the Lord entrusts each person with a cross in his life, which, as we believe, leads one to eternal life. Feodor Dostoevsky wrote: “Where there is a cross, there is also resurrection.” Now the Lord has given a special cross to bear not only for the community of the cathedral in Geneva, but to the clergy and faithful flock of the Western European Diocese of the Russian Church Abroad.
As we continue to investigate the complicated problems connected with the administration of the Elevation of the Holy Cross Cathedral in Geneva, the Synod of Bishops, during a recent conference, decided to temporarily remove Archbishop Michael from his archpastoral obedience in Western Europe, granting His Eminence leave of absence. Protopriest Pavel Tsvetkov, one of the most senior clergymen of the Russian Church Abroad, is consequently appointed Acting Rector of the cathedral and administrator of the Western European Diocese. Fr Pavel will be subject to a special Synodal commission established by the Council of Bishops held in Germany in June of this year. The Synod of Bishops calls upon the clergymen and parishioners to assist Fr Pavel in his service, and lend him trust and obedience [as of September 19/October 1, the administration of the Western European Diocese was entrusted to His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York—Editors].
We deem it important to stress that the Synod of Bishops does not seek to find blame in this complicated situation. The sole aim of our decision is, upon exhaustive examination of the situation, to restore the Divinely-prescribed peace to the cathedral parish in Geneva which is so dear to our hearts. According to Apostle Paul, all the faithful of the Church of Christ form a single body, to keep “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3), not to exacerbate differences nor abandon prayer and communion with each other, and not to refuse ecclesial accord through disobedience to their Hierarchy. Therefore, we must all together strive for the reestablishment of peace, accord and brotherly unity in Christ, remembering that temptation in Church life is permitted by God towards our benefit, so that the Church community could spiritually strengthen, come closer to God and to one another, so that the people choose the path of the Gospel and of the Church together. This sort of temptation or tribulation calls upon parish members to truly become the Church of Christ.
The first step in our joint effort will be to convene a parish meeting to be held on Sunday, October 15. His Eminence Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany, a permanent member of the Synod of Bishops, will preside.
In his “Sermon on Obedience,” Archbishop Anthony (Bartoshevich, +1993) of Geneva and Western Europe of blessed memory said: “The Mother of God gave us an example of obedience, when Archangel Gabriel not only announced to Her the coming Nativity of a Divine Son, but revealed to Her the sufferings and tribulations of Her life’s path as the Mother of our Savior. The Virgin Mary was not frightened, but humbly and meekly responded: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.’
“It is our task, beloved brothers and sisters, to submit ourselves to Divine Will, to say to Him as He said in His most dire earthly moment to His Heavenly Father: ‘Thy will be done!’ We should conclude all our prayers with these words. How often do we fail to subject our will to the Will of God while praying, but on the contrary, seek to subject Divine Will to our own. We dare to ask, to demand, and when the Lord does not fulfill our wishes, we make bold to resent our own Creator.”
And so, let us be obedient to the Holy Church, to the Synod of Bishops and the clergymen of the cathedral, headed by Fr Pavel, and follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, of Whom Apostle Paul says: “He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8). Then, God willing, we will together find the proper path for continuing to build our Church life, and may the blessed power of the Cross of Christ help us. Amen.
With love in the Lord,
Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York,
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
Archbishop of San Francisco and Western America,
Secretary of the Synod of Bishops.
October 1, 2017