Archbishop Gabriel: Towards the Prayerful Commemoration of Tsar Paul I Petrovich
March 11/24, 2021, marks the 220th anniversary of the martyric death of pious Emperor Paul I. The Emperor fell victim to a conspiracy organized by enemies of the Divinely-established Russian Sovereignty and Orthodox faith, bolstered meanwhile by external forces, England in particular. With the exception of the Holy Royal Passion-Bearers, Tsar-Martyr Nicholas and Tsaritsa-Martyr Alexandra, the history of our Fatherland will likely not find a Russian ruler whose glorious deeds to the benefit of the Russian Orthodox Church and our much-suffering Fatherland were so distorted and denounced by the enemies of Christ. At the same time, by the mid-19th century and the first decades of the 20th century, a series of historical tracts were written in which the falsehood of all such calumnies was exposed, which were intentionally directed at the Knight-Tsar, as Emperor Paul was called by Alexander Pushkin. Many good books have recently been published in Russia as well. But Russian consciousness, particularly among those with little faith, continues to err when the discussion turns to Emperor Paul.
But by Divine mercy, the situation is changing. There are testaments of miraculous aid given to Russian Orthodox Christians who appeal in prayer to Tsar Paul. One can say that the holiness of the Knight-Tsar is more clearly and inarguably being presented to our people. We remember that most saints have been recognized as such by the Russian people themselves even before their official recognition. Among these are in particular St Seraphim of Sarov the Blessed, Righteous St John of Kronstadt, St Xenia the Blessed, St Matrona of Moscow, St John of Shanghai and San Francisco.
More than once opinions have surfaced to include Tsar Pavel Petrovich I among the Royal Passion-Bearers. Supporters of this position are plentiful in the Russian Church, both in the Fatherland and abroad. “One can say that in the souls and consciences of thousands and thousands of Orthodox Christians, Tsar Paul is already included among the saints. He is turned to in prayer with appeals, and there are many accounts that such prayers did not go unanswered,” reads a letter we received last autumn from Russia from one of the enthusiasts for the canonization of Emperor Paul.
Dare we say: the time will come when the question of canonizing Tsar Passion-Bearer Pavel Petrovich will finally be raised at the highest ecclesiastical level.
But to this day, clumsy and utterly unproven rumors and slander spread which besmirch this Orthodox monarch, which he was even until the last moments of the martyric of this earthly life, continuing to hold forth in the history of his reign. This is not an accident.
“The brief rule of Paul I is remarkable in that he tore off the mask of the previous phantasmagorical world, brought forth new ideas and new concepts,” wrote Yakov Ivanovich de Sanglen in his old age, in 1860. He was the director of the Special Chancery of the Ministry of Police, who well knew many secrets of the domestic and foreign policies of Russia. Indeed, in administrative, military, and what is especially important for us, ecclesiastical spheres of statecraft, Emperor Pavel Petrovich introduced beneficial changes. I would add that it was in fact Tsar Paul who first granted Russian peasants civil freedom, ordering that the mandatory labor period of peasants working the land of noblemen not exceed three days per week. He granted Russian clergymen the pectoral “Pauline Cross.”
In the list of “sins” of the Knight-Tsar are his election as Grand Master of the Order of St John of Jerusalem. Such accusations have even spread among Orthodox Christians, and so the image of Emperor Paul continues to be distorted where he should actually have been honored. But Emperor Paul I, elected Grand Master, did everything possible that this ancient--and, it is important to point out, Orthodox--brotherhood that welcomed pilgrims, first blessed by Patriarch of Jerusalem, which became the foundation for the defense of the Divinely-ordained Royal power from the revolutionaries.
That is how Russian patriots saw his actions. Among the more notable Russian researchers of Masonry was General Nikolai Filipovich Stepanov (pen name: N. Svitkov), Knight of the Order of St John of Jerusalem. The works of Sir Stepanov (Masonry in the Russian Emigration, Paris, 1932; his report at the Second All-Diaspora Council of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, which concentrated on the new problem of the connection between Masonry and ecumenism, 1938), will help future historians.
It is difficult to imagine this eminent Orthodox monarchist as a member of an association to be suspected of adhering to Catholicism and the Masonic movement. Knight of St John, General NF Stepanov (born Alexander) died in the mid-1960’s in Jerusalem, in the senior home of the Russian Convent of St Mary Magdalene in Gethsemane.
On October 6, 2020, a conference took place titled “Tsar-Emperor and Sovereign of All Russia Pavel the First, a Pre-Celebration of the 226th Anniversary of His Birth.” The event began with a pannikhida to the murdered Emperor. After opening remarks, the organizer of the event, Igor Evgenievich Smykov, President of “Orthodox Mission in Renewing the Spiritual Values of Russia,” read an account of the miraculous salvation of a space station by prayers addressed to Emperor Pavel Petrovich, after which the Medal of St Paul I was awarded. Having died prematurely from the global coronavirus, Igor Evgenievich wrote to us: “From ancient times, almost to the time of the death of the Pious Tsar Emperor Pavel I Petrovich (11 March 1801), many people of various background, status, callings and professions, came to SS Peter and Paul Catherdal (the place of entombment of the Russian Tsars and members of the Royal Family), and asked priests in the cathedral to serve pannikhidas at the crypt of Emperor Paul I, recounting instances of intercession and aid after prayers were offered to him, in difficult moments, especially in legal cases, especially where the powerful oppressed the weak. Sometimes letters would come from various regions of Russia asking that a pannikhida be served at his tomb.
“And still the letters come. In recent years, pilgrimages to this site have increased, a week doesn’t go by when someone would not request a memorial service to Emperor Paul I.”
The Russian people turned to Tsar Paul, and continue to do so, with prayers for support. Now it is time for the Church to speak.