Diocese of South America : September 12, 2004
"Epistle to the South American Flock"
St Alexander Nevsky
Reverend Fathers, Dear Orthodox Christians of the South American Diocese!
I hasten to appeal to you with an epistle in connection with the alarming news that the Mansonville group (the "Russian Orthodox Church in Exile," ROCiE) has "consecrated" for South America a "bishop" Anthony (former clergyman of the Western American Diocese, Priest Nikita Orloff, who had disobeyed his spiritual authority, Archbishop Kyrill).
The consecration of "Bishop" Anthony is uncanonical and unlawful, and therefore, invalid. This means that all his clerical functions are without grace, and clergymen concelebrating with him are in danger of losing their priestly grace.
The Orthodox Church always strictly observed its apostolic succession (the unbroken chain of episcopal grace beginning with apostolic times) and for this reason established rigorous rules for consecration. Among these rules, I note the following:
- The candidacy of a proposed new bishop must be approved by the Council of Bishops of the Local Church of which this bishop will be a part.
- A candidate for the episcopacy may not be a person under suspension.
- The bishops consecrating him, being at minimum two in number, must themselves be canonical bishops and not be under suspension.
- A retired bishop may not, without permission of the ruling bishops, perform a consecration.
- In just such a manner, a vicar bishop may not perform a consecration without the permission of his ruling bishop.
The violation of any of the above conditions render the episcopal consecration invalid. The rules of consecration are strictly observed by the Orthodox Church, for once a link in the chain of apostolic succession is torn, it cannot be reestablished, and all subsequent consecrations following an uncanonical bishop are invalid. Consequently, a church headed by uncanonical bishops is left without grace and falls from the Universal Church .
Russian Orthodox Christians must know that all the above-mentioned conditions for lawful con-secration were violated by the Mansonville group ("ROCiE"), and so ALL its "bishops" "consecrated" within it are unlawful and without grace .
It is worth remembering that in departing into schism, the Mansonville group did not receive the support of the Russian Church Abroad, and so hurried to begin ordaining even unsuitable individuals only in order to fill its ranks with an "episcopacy," in order to appear to people to be a "genuine Church."
The first "consecration" was performed by the defrocked vicar Bishop Varnava of Cannes (in November 2001) in the presence of Metropolitan Vitaly, standing beside him in his mantle (but in his old age unable to serve and retired at his own request). So, an unlawful vicar, Bishop Varnava, unilaterally "consecrated" as bishop the suspended Archimandrite Sergius (Kindjakov). Soon after, this "Bishop" Sergius participated in the consecration of two other "bishops" of the Mansonville group (see the addenda). The new South American "Bishop" Anthony is also the creation of this uncanonical group, and as such is an unlawful bishop.
One asks: why did this so-called bishop take the title "of South America ," when six years ago, the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia already appointed a lawful bishop for this cathedra? Clearly, this "Bishop" Anthony intends to introduce confusion among the parishes of the South American Diocese.
This is why I appeal to you, faithful children of the Russian Church Abroad: beware of this "Bishop" Anthony and do not allow him into our parishes!
Here one must admit that, unfortunately, our materially-strapped South American flock is, among the other dioceses of our Church, apparently also the most poorly informed on church matters in the Fatherland. Indeed, many of our South American parishioners, especially those of the older generation, absolutely and earnestly believe that there is little difference in Russia today despite the change of government, and have no idea what changes have occurred there and what effect they have had on the church life of the Russian people.
Relatively few of our parishioners or pastors have had the opportunity to visit the Russia of today. Church news reaches South America with great delay and often in very limited or distorted form. (By the way, the Russian flock in California stands in stark contrast, for it is by comparitively well informed. That is why the Western American Diocese, thank God, is accepting the question of the rapprochement of our churches calmly.)
On the matter of the rapprochement of our Church with the Church in Russia , the newspaper Nasha Strana ["Our Nation"] has a negative influence. This patriotic newspaper, for over sixty years honorably battling communism, has with the fall of communism in Russia found itself without a specific enemy. What is left, then, for the editors and writers of this paper—to close up shop? That would be a shame! So in the former spirit of intolerance towards communism, the newspaper has directed all its energies towards the "denunciation" of today's ecclesiastical and political administrators of Russia . The soul of the newspaper has become dark and mean-spirited.
Naturally, the South American flock, in the midst of which this publication operates, absorbs the negative attitude towards everything happening in Russia . Some believers truly fear that, taking advantage of the nearing of the two Churches to each other, agents of the KGB will take vengeance against our emigration. These fears are strengthened by the Mansonville group.
Fortunately, people are beginning to understand the essence of current events, and over the last two years the authority of the Mansonville group has noticeably fallen. Even in Canada , for instance, where the center of the Mansonville group resides, their followers are scattering. In the USA they have a very meager following. In Russia and in France , their group has splintered into two and continues to crumble. Only remote South America gives them hope, where almost no one knows them personally. And so in order to recruit new members in South America , they produced their own new "Bishop," Anthony (Orloff).
It is reassuring that, by the mercy of God, the main bulk of believers are on our side, the side of truth, and the Mansonville group will gradually diminish to nothingness, as do all schismatic groups.
Since the fall of communism in Russia , a great deal has changed for the better—I have in mind, first of all, in a spiritual sense. If anyone doubts my opinion, I suggest that they go to Russia themselves, to see the churches, the monasteries and religious book stores, to spend time with the clergy and believers. Then it will become apparent that Russia is transforming spiritually, as our saints had foretold.
I personally try to view the question of the rapprochement of the churches in a historical sense, asking myself: with whom and for what are we drawing near? We are speaking of rapprochement with the entire Russian Church , with which we had always been one, but temporarily divided by the militantly-atheist state. It should be clarified that we are talking about rapprochement per se, not "convergence," "unification" or "swallowing up" as our opponents relentlessly call it. Today the Russian Church consists of millions of believers, a host of clergymen and monastics. In this Church the grace of God breathes copiously, miracles are performed, miracle-working icons are appearingÉ Oh, if only we who live abroad, sated and content, had such spiritual fervor as do those believers who overfill Russian churches! And this is why the aim of our rapprochement is the desire of spiritual union with our People in the Fatherland.
I already wrote, and I repeat, that we must rejoice at the miracle of the nascent spiritual renewal in Russia . This is a great mercy of God for which we must unfailingly thank the Lord. I am saddened that after the fall of the communist regime, those of us abroad did not conduct molebens of gratitude everywhere, that we did not establish a day of thanks just as we had designated a "day of irreconcilability," that we continued to read the same prayer for the salvation of Russia during liturgy, which were read during the period of the most brutal persecutions of the Church—without a single phrase in thanks to God for the miracle that had transpired! Besides, in ÎmigrÎ publications, both ecclesiastical and lay, we describe in detail the problems in Russia and the Russian Church , yet positive aspects seemed to go unnoticed. Naturally, reading this one-sided reporting, the Russian emigration doubts the positive transformations in Russia .
The spiritual renewal of Russia is a work of the mercy of God. Unfortunately, not all see this. May that which happened to the people of Israel not happen to us, when the Messiah promised by the prophets arrived, and many did not recognize HimÉ
So, what sort of rapprochement are we talking about? Naturally, we must hold talks with the ad-ministration of the Moscow Patriarchate, as the official representatives of the Russian Church . But in fact, we are seeking to draw together the two divided parts of the once-unified and mighty Russian Church . With time, the present Patriarch and the other hierarchs of the MP will pass to the other world, as will we. What will be left after us? A unified Russian Orthodox Church must remain to resist the advances of the forces of the Antichrist!
We argue a great deal about whether or not to seek rapprochementÉ But let us think about what truly unites us and what divides us who angrily quarrel with each other?
What unites us, first of all, is our Orthodox faith; then, our love for historical Russia : her glorious past, her saints, her language, her great cultureÉ We agree that cooperating with a godless state is evil and that the ecumenical movement contradicts Orthodox teaching on the one, holy conciliar and apostolic Church. Everyone agrees with these most important positions of principle—not only those of us living abroad but those who live in the homeland.
What do we argue and quarrel about? It is over personalities: this one is a communist, this one, an ecumenistÉ But the hearts of men can only be known to God. Let us leave this judgment to Him. We are already in agreement in principle. Let this main thing be the foundation in the matter of rapprochement. Arguments over this are in and of themselves timely and beneficial for an objective decision. It is unfortunate, however, that these arguments, through the slander of the enemy of mankind, turn into enmity and divisions. We must in every way try not to lose our mutual respect, not offend each other or quarrel. The Lord said: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God."
It is the duty of each of us to be a peacemaker. We should focus ourselves entirely on preserving church unity and not break up into numerous warring church factions, like the Old Calendar Greeks, among whom every year a new "most true and only correct" church arises, fighting the other "churches" unto death. Apostle Paul warns: "But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another" (Gal. 5:15).
Let us remember the words of the Lord: "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." Love, and not enmity and division! I believe in the omnipotent grace of God, "which healeth that which is infirm, and completeth that which is wanting." I believe in the wisdom of the path of Divine Providence.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you!
+ Bishop Alexander
P.S. I ask the reverend rectors of the South American Diocese to bring this to the attention of all the clergymen and parishioners.
1. Appeal of Metropolitan Vitaly on his Retirement
In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Dear Brethren Archpastors!
In accordance with my announcement at the last Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in 27 June/10 July 2001, I now reiterate before all of you, before the entire Council of Bishops, that I am retiring. And I ask the holy prayers of all of your, brethren archpastors.
I also pray for all of you and now let us pray and beseech the Head Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, that He help our Council of Bishops to elect a new president of our much-suffering Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. On my part, I call on all of you to unite around our Council's electee and for all of us together to concern ourselves with the reestablishment of peace and unity among us and our flock. Only in unity is our strength and we, with God's help, will be able to resist all the intrigues of our enemies, both seen and unseen. Amen.
I ask all of you, dear brethren, for your holy prayers and forgiveness.
October 10/23 2001
- After his retirement, Metropolitan Vitaly did not retain the right to return from his retirement and assume the occupied position of First Hierarch. For, in accordance with par. 14 of the Regulations of the ROCOR, with his knowledge and consent, an extraordinary Council of Bishops was convened, the election of the new First Hierarch was conducted and Metropolitan Vitaly himself, after the election, congratulated Metropolitan Lavr with his election as First Hierarch and promised his support.
- In fact, the above document is the very last document that can be confirmed as having been signed by Vladyka Vitaly. His signature can be attested to by a large group of witnesses. Later, when Vl. Vitaly found himself in Mansonville, none of the bishops was able to freely meet with him, speak with him without outside eavesdroppers, and not only document bearing the signature of Metropolitan Vitaly has been received under anything but the most hostile circumstances. It is even unknown whether Vl. Vitaly himself knows of the existence of the documents over his signature published by Mansonville.
2. Act of the Election of Metropolitan Laurus
On Wednesday, 11/24 October 2001, the day of the commemoration of the holy Apostle Philip of the Seventy and the Venerable Theophanes the Confessor, having assembled in the city of New York at the Synodal Cathedral of Our Lady of the Sign, in honor of her Kursk-Root Icon, at an open extraordinary session of our Council, praying after the Divine Liturgy, and having served a panikhida for the ever-memorable Metropolitans Anthony, Anastasy and Philaret and a service of supplication to the Mother of God before her miraculous Kursk-Root Icon, and also to the holy hierarchs Tikhon the Patriarch and John of Shanghai of San Francisco, the wonderworker, and having invoked the gracious aid of the Holy Spirit, we, the hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, proceeded to the election of a new First Hierarch of the ROCOR, after this cathedra became vacant on the decision of His Eminence, Metropolitan Vitaly, to go into retirement.
There were eighteen hierarchal electors, of whom six were not present but sent in their votes in writing.
At the first ballot, the votes of Their Graces were distributed as follows: Archbishop Laurus - 12 votes; Archbishop Mark - 1 vote; Archbishop Hilarion - 1 vote; Bishop Benjamin - 1 vote; and three hierarchs abstained. Thus, the Right Reverend Laurus, having received 2/3 of the votes on the first ballot was, in accordance with the Order for the Election of the First Hierarch, elected the fifth First Hierarch of the ROCOR.
We beseech Almighty God to send down His blessing upon the further ministry of our First Hi-erarch, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus. Amen.
[handwritten:] I give thanks, accept and say nought against it
3. Statement of the Synod Chancery
As has become known from publications in the internet, anti-ecclesiastical acts were performed at Holy Transfiguration Skete in Mansonville , Canada —the "consecration" of two suspended clergymen. On November 3 of this year, the retired Metropolitan Vitaly and the defrocked former Bishop of Cannes Varnava (Prokofiev) "consecrated into the episcopacy" Archimandrite Sergius (Kindjakov) who was suspended from his priestly functions.
The following day, a similar "consecration" was performed over Archimandrite Bartholomew (Vorobiev), who was suspended from his priestly functions [note: in fact, Archim. Bartholomew was "consecrated" a week later—Bp. Alexander]. The Council's decision on his defrockment was delivered to former Bishop Varnava in the presence of three witnesses, on the very day of the first consecration at 9 am, that is, before the beginning of the service.
For this reason, both of these "consecrations" must, in full accordance with the Holy Canons, be considered invalid.
We also with to remind everyone that Vladyka Vitaly was hardly in any condition to perform a "consecration" properly, since he has not performed divine liturgy for three years now. It is noteworthy that at one of the meetings of the last Council of Bishops, on 16/29 October, 2001, both of the mentioned clergymen (Archim. Sergius and Archim. Bartholomew) were removed as candidates, having been several years earlier proposed as possible candidates by the Council of Bishops several years earlier.
So, these false consecrations were yet further evidence that the wicked earthly forces that for long have tried to destroy our Church are attempting to exploit all possible human failings and passions to introduce schism into the walls of the church.
For this reason, we appeal to the faithful clergy and God-loving flock of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia with the warning not to recognize these unlawful acts and not to suc-cumb to the calls of those who have fallen to temptation, possessed by the spirit of schism, who know not what they do, tearing the seamless Garment of Christ and in their madness participating in the destruction of that very Church which they ostensible try to defend.
+ Bishop Gabriel Secretary, Synod of Bishops 23 October/5 November 2001
A chronology of events:
- Archimandrite Sergius (Kindjakov) is "consecrated" on November 3, 2001 with the par-ticipation of Vladyka Vitaly and the suspended/defrocked Vicar Bishop Varnava, who was unilaterally "restored" by Vl. Vitaly;
- Hieromonk Vladimir (Tselishcheff) was "consecrated" on November 6, 2001, by "Bp. Sergius" and the defrocked Bp. Varnava;
- Archimandrite Bartholomew (Vorobiev) is consecrated on November 11, 2001 by Vladyka Vitaly, "Bishop Sergius" and "Bishop Vladimir."
4. The "ROCiE" Suspends Bishop Varnava from his Priestly Functions (Again!) on June 25/July 8, 2004
25 June/ 8 July 2004
The Venerable Virgin-Martyr Fevronia
We heard: the Report concerning the destructive activities of Archbishop Varnava and, in part, concerning his refusal to recognize the decisions of the Sobor, the majority of which he himself signed, as well as his spreading of false information regarding the handling of affairs by the Synod of Bishops.
The following charges are brought against Archbishop Varnava:
1) His refusal to recognize the Sobor's decision of 8/21 August 2002 concerning Archbishop Lazar's group and the corresponding Ukaz of 1/14 November 2003, as well as the fact of his providing all sorts of support to Lazar's group, up to and including the publication of his declarations and Epistles upon their official internet website.
2) His refusal to recognize the decisions of the Sobor of 16-20 May 2003, which were re-solved upon and signed by Vladyka Metropolitan and Bishops Sergii, Vladimir and Varfolomey, with some of them having been signed by [Archbishop Varnava] himself.
In a letter dated 14/27 December 2003, Archbishop Varnava declared that "[Their] candidacies were 'accepted' in the month of May in entirely abnormal circumstances', which he himself had been responsible for creating, and that "one can speak of such a 'Sobor' only conditionally". He contested the hierotonia of Fr. Viktor Pivovarov, which he himself had proposed, rejecting it in June in Paris , and, at the same time, slandering Fr. Victor in the matter of his family situation and his ordination.
3) His refusal to recognize the 15/28 November 2003 decisions of the Synod and calling this Synod of Bishops (at which he himself was present, sealing all its decisions with his signature) "a conference of proto-priests" and the manner in which it conducted its affairs - "a glaring outrage" (Letter dated 14/27 December 2003) In part:
- In the matter of changing the status of eparchies in accordance with the Regulations Concerning ROCA , given the available written responses from all the Hierarchs, Archbishop Varnava declares that the decisions adopted concerning the creation of new eparchies in Russia, being groundless, are unlawful and, consequently, void". (a letter to the Secretary of the Synod, dated 9/22 December 2003).
- In the matter of Hieromonk Seraphim (Baranchikov), Archbishop Varnava, having himself signed the decision concerning his defrocking, subsequently permitted him to serve sacrilegious "divine services".
4) Despite the decision of the Sobor of 1998, concerning the release of the Rumanian epar-chy from ROCA control, Archbishop Varnava, on his own authority, arbitrarily placed it under his omofor on 20 January/2 February 2002, thus violating common ecclesiastical regu-lations, and, at the same time, assured the Rumanian priests that Metropolitan Vitaly's letter of 26 March/8 April 2002, also bearing the signatures of Bishops Sergii and Vladimir and pointing out the immutability of the decisions of the Sobor of 1998, possesses only an historical significance.
5) The false declaration that the Ukazes concerning his being retired bear forged signatures: "Neither Vladyka Metropolitan..., nor the other Hierarchs signed them, nor could they have signed them, inasmuch as that would have been a lawless act on their part", thus changing the subject from being one of a conciliar decision to being one of a supposed interference in another's eparchy.
6) His refusal to recognize the decisions concerning the removal of sanctions imposed upon mitred Proto-priest Veniamin Joukoff, for, as is evident from the Ukaz of 6/19 January 2004, numbered _ 24/04/_: "a thorough investigation of the charges brought against Fr. Veniamin revealed that they were groundless and unlawful, for, in accordance with Canon 16 of the Council of Carthage, the imposition of sactions cannot be based "upon animosity or bias".
We have resolved:
In view of the above-indicated violations, which clearly bear witness to Archbishop Varnava's refusal to submit to the Supreme Ecclesiastical Authority, regarding an entire array of vital issues dealing with the ecclesiastical well-being and moral arrangement of church life, and taking into account the written responses of all the Hierarchs:
- To prohibit Archbishop Varnava from conducting any further sacred services until such time as he repents.
- To remind Archbishop Varnava that one who dares to conduct Divine Services while under ban is deprived of his priestly rank.
+Metropolitan Vitaly, First-Hierarch of ROCA
Mitred Proto-priest Veniamin Joukoff, Secretary of the Synod of Bishops
P.S. My note: Please note that those "consecrated" by Bishop Varnava themselves were finally forced to suspend their "spiritual father"—and for the very same violations for which he had previously been defrocked by the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia!--Bishop Alexander.