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S T. PETERSBURG:

Deacon Nikolai Savchenko clarifies the text of the Seminar of the Office of External Church Affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate on the relationship between the Russian Church and the State

The Relationship of the Russian Orthodox Church and the State in the 1920's and 30's.

The official website of the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church published a report on the seminar on the relationship of the Russian Orthodox Church and the State in the 1920's and 30's, paying close attention to the relationship between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. This seminar was organized by the Synodal Theological Committee of the Office of External Church Relations of the MP on 27 May 2002. The Minutes of the conference were confirmed by the Synod of the MP on 18 July 2002. Unfortunately, this theological conference, touching upon the question of the relationship between the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia did not examine or take into consideration the following important points, which were always paramount and decisive for the the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in its attitude towards the the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church:

1. Metropolitan Sergius was not the First Hierarch of the Russian Church, but had the authority from the First Hierarch, Metropolitan Peter of Krutitsa to conduct current ecclesiastical affairs. The First Hierarch Metropolitan Peter himself, along with two other locum tenenses protested some of the actions of Metropolitan Sergius, including the formation of a Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate. Breaking off relations with Metr. Sergius but remaining in communion with Metr. Peter, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia did not separate itself from all of the Russian Church but only from that part which permitted canonical and moral sins.

2. The Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate, created not by a Council of the entire Russian Church and not even by an ukase of Metropolitan Peter of Krutitsa, but by the decision of Metropolitan Sergius alone, having no basis in authority, is the supreme ecclesiastical authority only over those dioceses, parishes and communities which are under his rule, but not over the entire Russian Orthodox Church, which includes in itself the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. The parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia within Russia and the parishes of the True Orthodox Church do not violate the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church, since they belong to the other part of the local Russian Orthodox Church and canonically follow the many New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia.

3. The Russ ian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia accused Metr. Sergius and the Moscow Patriarchate not for their effort to improve relations with the state, but for their agreement to sacrifice the Church to enslavement of the State and for their demand to support the state according to conscience. The events of 1927 led to the handing over of the Church's authority to atheists, whose primary goal was the rooting out of the Faith. This violated one of the main principles of the Church: its God-given freedom from hostile powers.

4. The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and those who separated from Metr. Sergius rejected not the principle of transferring bishops, but the fact that these transfers were manifested by order of those fighting against God and in their interests.

5. The decisions and appeals of the Councils of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, directed against communism, were not political statements but statements on fundamental religious and spiritual/moral questions. For the Orthodox Church, God-fighting communism is Antichristianity, not plain politics.

6. The interrelationship of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the authorities in Germany and other countries were always founded upon the principles of the freedom and independence of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia from these authorities, in contrast to the enslavement by the Soviet state of the leadership of the MP of the Russian Orthodox Church.

7. The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia became somewhat isolated from the Local Orthodox Churches solely as a result of pressure on the part of the Soviet state and the coerced leadership of the MP of the ROC, therefore, recriminations for the isolation from the Local Churches in which the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia found itself must be directed towards the Soviet state and the executors of its will. From Point 4 of the Seminar of the OECA: “Suspensions imposed by Metr. Sergius did not assume the character of sentences by ecclesiastical court, but were preliminary decisions in accordance with the canon rules for ecclesiastical court, a fact confirmed by the subsequent canonization of some of those who were suspended (including some of the so-called “non-commemorators”).” Wonderful words! In other words, the suspensions by Metr. Sergius of the hierarchs of the True Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia were not proper suspensions recognized by the whole Church. It might even be said that they did not exist. From Point 15 of the Seminar, “The fears connected to the fact that Metr. Sergius and his successors on the first hierarch's cathedra of Moscow sinned somehow against the truth of Christ cannot be dispelled through purely historical or canonical arguments. This is a matter of Christian conscience, but all Christians, both in abroad and in the homeland, are called upon to manifest this judgment.” More wonderful words! This is an admission that it is impossible to refute the accusations of Metr. Sergius. One can only speak of the force of accusation or about condescension. At the end of the document, however, there is a step backwards. In the final phrase are the words: “reunification of the church communities abroad with the Mother Church.” Yet in the Brotherly Epistle of the Synod of the MP it states that the children of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia are already the children of the Mother Church, so what is the Mother Church? It is not only the MP of the ROC, but the entire Russian Church, that is, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the True Orthodox Church.

Deacon Nikolai Savchenko