The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
This article was written under the auspices of the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia , Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky) (+1985).
The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, headed now by Metropolitan Philaret, and earlier by Metropolitan Anthony and Metropolitan Anastassy, bears witness to itself as an indissoluble part of the historical Russian Church, which nourished and educated the Russian people and created her great state.
The Church Abroad views with attention, love and devotion every movement of the life of the Church in our Homeland, rejoices at her successes, and grieves at her errors. She bows down before the spiritual feats [podvigi] of those martyrs and witnesses who fearlessly followed the name of Christ to indescribable sufferings in concentration camps.
The representatives of our Church untiringly recount these podvigi of the Russian people in international and inter-confessional circles, where the latter often close their ears and refuse to hear of these sufferings, yet their half-slumbering consciences are still troubled.
The Church Abroad carefully preserves the Divinely-inspired ecclesiastical legacy received from her thousand years of Orthodox Christian life in Russia, and does not succumb to those winds of modernism and reformation which buffet from all sides. The Church Abroad with all her might struggles for the purity of the faith and for her independence from the forces of evil reigning in the world.
The Church Abroad does not recognize as lawful the hierarchical leadership of the contemporary official Russian Church, headed now by Patriarch Pimen, and before him by Patriarchs Sergius and Alexii, considering them enslaved by the God-battling forces and entering into impermissible agreements and compromises with the forces of evil.
The Church Abroad has for a long time paid dearly for her uncompromising stance and the purity of her position in the depraved world. Some would like to force her either to submit to the Moscow Patriarchate or join the ranks of the existing Local Churches.
But the Church Abroad does not retreat from her positions, highly valuing her complete independence from anyone, as well as her profound unity with the children of the martyred Church of Russia , with those archpastors, pastors and laypersons who witness their faith in Christ amidst persecutions, not compromising in any way with evil.
Those faithful Russian people in the emigration who submitted to the church authorities of Moscow who are enslaved call us renegades and schismatics. Those Russians who left the Russian Church and joined the Church of Constantinople or declared themselves autocephalous call our position uncanonical.
But we hold to this position with love, firmly and unwaveringly. We are an indissoluble part of the Russian Church , which does not recognize her uncanonical official leadership, and we are the only ones in the entire world who are completely independent representatives and spokesmen for the Russian Church .
How did the Church Abroad come into existence? In November 1920, the remains of the defeated, but unsubmissive White Army left Russia . They departed into exile on Russian and foreign ships, hundreds of thousands of Russians, officers and soldiers, Cossacks, peasants, landowners, workers, tradesmen. Clergymen left for foreign lands with their flocks. But the clergy did not emigrate in disorganization. While still on Russian territory, on the open expanses formerly under White control, a Supreme Church Authority of the South of Russia was formed, with the blessing of Patriarch Tikhon.
But finding themselves outside the borders of Russia , what were the representatives of the Russian Church to do?
Were they to submit to the Patriarch of Constantinople? Were they to join the existing Local Churches? These Local Churches lived their own lives, they had their own concerns, their own interests. The pains and problems of Russian church life, which gripped the hearts of Russians, were not felt by them, for them they were not immediate, they were not of the utmost importance, as they were for the hearts of the Russian people.
There were not only emigre bishops in the exiled part of the Russian Church, but those parts of the Russian Church that remained outside of the borders of Soviet Russia; many parishes in Western Europe, the diocese in America, two dioceses in the Far East (Vladivostok and Peking)--incidentally, from the Vladivostok diocese, which until November 1922 was under White control, a third diocese was carved out—that of Harbin, Manchuria. The Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Palestine and a parish in Teheran also joined the Church Abroad.
The hierarchy of the Church Abroad appointed Archbishop Eulogius of Volhyn as the ruling bishop of the Russian churches in Western Europe , and Metropolitan Platon of Odessa as the Metropolitan of North America. These appointments by the Church Administration Abroad were confirmed by His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon in his Act of 26 March 1921.
The Russian Church Abroad was then strong in her unity, and her voice was resounding.
In April 1924, Patriarch Gregory of Constantinople, in the heat of the struggle of His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon with the Living Church, appealed to our Patriarch with the request that he “immediately depart from leading the Church,” that he dissolve the Patriarchate and hand over the fullness of Church authority to the Living Church. In July of that same year, the Metropolitan of Athens went even further, requesting that the Russian clergy in Greece recognize the “synod” of the Living Church , threatening otherwise to suspend all of them from their priestly functions.
Both the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Metropolitan of Athens, taking up the side of the Living Church in their battle against the True Church , were guided by official government directives from Russia . We see in this example how valuable it is to understand church matters as they arose in Russia to have personal experience and a vital organic connection of the Russian people with the Church which is subjected to persecution.
This example also shows clearly how far-sighted, how wise was the directive of His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon, who commanded the Russian Church abroad to preserve her independence from the Local Churches and her vital bond with the persecuted Church of Russia.
Preserving her independence, and boldly expressing the defense of truth and the denunciation of lies, the Russian Church Abroad convinced the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Metropolitan of Athens of the correctness of Patriarch Tikhon and the deceit of the Living Church .
The power of the witness of the Church Abroad grew also in that she was headed by Metropolitan Anthony, who was renowned, respected and authoritative throughout the Orthodox world. He raised his voice several times against the attempts of the Patriarch of Constantinople to introduce non-ecclesiastical reforms to the Church. As a result, in 1936, Patriarch Varnava of Serbia said of the importance of Metropolitan Anthony: “When at the beginning of the post-war period, a wave of modernism washed over almost all the Churches of the East, it broke upon the cliff of Metropolitan Anthony.”
Yet the main strength of the Church Abroad was in her unity. Alas, this unity did not last long.
In 1926, a division occurred between the Synod of Bishops and Metropolitan Eulogius as a result of the necessity to exclude the Russian parishes in Germany from the Western European Diocese. The decision of the Synod of Bishops was appealed by Metropolitan Eulogius to Metropolitan Sergius, who headed the Russian Church in Moscow at the time, following the death of Patriarch Tikhon and the arrest of Metropolitan Peter. During this initial period of his leadership of the Russian Church, Metropolitan Sergius still firmly stood on strict canonical positions, and responded to Metropolitan Eulogius' complaint with an epistle in the spirit of the Ukase of Patriarch Tikhon, touching in its earnestness: “In light of the absence of actual contacts between the Orthodox emigration and the Moscow Patriarchate, the bishops abroad should in general consent create for themselves a Central organ of ecclesiastical administration...” Further, Metropolitan Sergius says that the Moscow Patriarchate has enough of its own burdens, and could not assume the responsibility of problems abroad.
Then Metropolitan Eulogius, and the head of the Russian Church in America , Metropolitan Platon, with whom he found solidarity, left the Russian Church Abroad.
The Synod of Bishops corresponded with the schismatic metropolitans for a few months, encouraging them to making peace and submission. Finally, on 13/26 January, 1927 (Metropolitan Eulogius) and 18/31 March of the same year (Metropolitan Platon), the Synod came to decisive measures, replacing them in the cathedras they occupied and suspending them from their priestly functions.
It was at this time that Metropolitan Sergius, who had been arrested in November, was released from prison, having given a promise to closely cooperate with the atheistic state.
If he had a few months earlier declined to make decisions on church disagreements in the emigration, here he decisively took the side of Metropolitan Eulogius in the latter's dispute with the Synod of Bishops.
At the same time, Metropolitan Sergius requests of all the clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate, and that of the emigration, signed oaths of loyalty to the Soviet government.
In his infamous declaration of 16/29 July 1927, Metropolitan Sergius writes: “We requested of the clergy abroad that they give their written obligation in total loyalty to the Soviet state in the entire scope of their social activity. Is it not time for them to review the matter of their relationship to the Soviet state, so as not to break from their native Church and Homeland?”
Metropolitan Eulogius signed this oath of loyalty to the Soviet state on his own behalf on that of all his clergymen. The Synod of Bishop decreed (27 August/9 September 1927): “To decisively reject the proposal of Metropolitan Sergius and his Synod to give a signed oath of loyalty to the Soviet state, as uncanonical and very dangerous for the Holy Church .”
And so the Church Abroad found itself divided into two parts. Two years later, the error of the position adopted by Metropolitan Eulogius became clear. A wave of protests spread throughout the world over the persecution of the faithful in Russia . There were prayers organized for the persecuted Christians in Russia , and the head of the Anglican Church invited Metropolitan Eulogius to take part in these prayers. Metropolitan Eulogius found himself in a difficult situation. To refuse to take part in these prayers was shameful, but to participate meant to violate the oath of loyalty to the Soviet state. Metropolitan Eulogius joined the prayers, and was summoned to court in Moscow . But instead of going to Moscow , he went to Constantinople , and transferred himself and his diocese to the authority of the Patriarch of Constantinople.
Still, a part of the clergy under Metropolitan Eulogius did not follow him but remained under the Moscow Patriarchate. So the Russian Church abroad found itself divided into three parts.
Those parts that separated from the Church Abroad had to change their main positions several times. The Church Abroad itself over the entire 55 years of her existence remained unfailingly true to the path she had chosen for herself once and for all.
The headquarters of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia was located at Sremskije Karlovtsy , Yugoslavia , until World War II, under the fraternal, loving protection of the Serbian Church , which Russians in the diaspora always remember with a kind word.
Over the course of several years, the Church Abroad tried its best to heal the wounds dealt to the work of the Church by the schisms. In 1934-35, this goal seemed to be achieved.
In 1934, Metropolitan Anthony wrote a friendly letter to Metropolitan Eulogius, calling upon him to make peace. Metropolitan Eulogius came to Yugoslavia and made peace with Metropolitan Anthony, the two reading prayers of absolution over one another. Thus was prayerful communion reestablished between the Church Abroad and Metropolitan Eulogius' group.
The following year, in Belgrade , under the chairmanship of the loving friend of the Russian Church , Patriarch Varnava of Serbia, a meeting was held of the representatives of the Russian Church . Participating were: from the European group, Metropolitan Eulogius; from the American group, the successor to Metropolitan Platon, Metropolitan Theophilus; from the dioceses of the Far East, Archbishop Dimitri (the father of our present First Hierarch, Metropolitan Philaret); and from the parishes of the Church Abroad in the Near East and in Europe, Archbishop Anastassy, who had been elevated by Patriarch Varnava to the rank of metropolitan, and becoming the successor to Metropolitan Anthony after the latter's repose.
This meeting reestablished order in the Russian Church Abroad, and all of the archpastors present signed the decrees of the Conference, and it seemed that the unity of the Russian Church abroad was restored.
His Holiness Patriarch Varnava said at the time: “Among us are Metropolitan Anthony, this great hierarch, an adornment of the Universal Orthodox Church. This great mind reminds one of the first hierarchs of the Church of Christ in the early days of Christianity. In his mind is ecclesiastical truth. All of you, not only those living in our Yugoslavia, but those in Europe, in America and in Asia and in all the countries of the world, must form an indivisible whole, headed by your archpastor, Metropolitan Anthony, and you must not succumb to the assaults and provocations of the enemies of the Church.” Unfortunately, returning to Paris from Yugoslavia ,
Metropolitan Eulogius rejected the unity that had been achieved. Still, these efforts, though unsuccessful, were beneficial. The American part of the Church remained within the Church Abroad until 1946, and the lifted suspensions in Europe allowed Russian clergymen to concelebrate during the war, and when waves of Russian prisoners of war, and the so-called “Ostarbeiters” (that is, those workers who were forcibly brought to Germany from Russian and the Germany-occupied territories), washed over Europe, the Russian Church was able to greet them as one, and did not demonstrate for them division, which could have led many astray.
In 1936, the founder of the Church Abroad, the great bishop Metropolitan Anthony, died, and his place was taken by Metropolitan Anastassy, the eldest of the bishops of the Russian Church, who had been consecrated into the episcopacy in Moscow in 1906.
During the war, all the efforts of the Church Abroad were devoted to the spiritual care of the many millions of Russians who found themselves in territories seized by the Germans.
Some 5 million persons, “Ostarbeiters,” were transported from Russia to Germany for forced labor. Even more Russian soldiers and officers suffered in prison. It was difficult to penetrate both types of camps for representatives of the Russian emigre clergy, since Germans categorically prohibited contact between Russian emigres and those Russians who suddenly found themselves abroad.
In 1943, German authorities requested of Metropolitan Seraphim of Berlin (a German by birth) that he prohibit Ostarbeiters from entering emigre churches. Vladyka Seraphim replied: “I am an Orthodox bishop, and my obligation is to call upon all Orthodox people to attend church. For this reason, I cannot hinder anyone from participating in divine services. If you feel that this is necessary, post your own guards to prevent Ostarbeiters from entering our churches. I can do nothing about that.” But the German authorities could not bring themselves to do so.
Knowing that such demands would be made of parish rectors, and having no ability to issue directives to them not to obey the authorities in this matter, Metropolitan Seraphim found a way out by publishing a description of this exchange in his diocesan bulletin, hoping that parish priests would reach the correct conclusion. And so it happened.
Ostarbeiters were forced to wear insignias reading “Ost,” meaning East. A priest gave a good sermon on this in Berlin once: “You have been labeled with the word ‘Ost,' with the hope that you would be humiliated. Yet they don't understand what a great honor they give you, for until now, only One Person was referred to in this way ‘East is His name.'”
The Monastery of St Job, part of the Church Abroad and located at the time in Slovakia , at the very border with Galicia , printed a significant number of religious books. They printed Gospel books, in several editions, reaching 100,000 copies, 60,000 prayers books. Various apologetic brochures were published, each in an edition of 5-15,000.
The Germans strictly prohibited the sending of any sort of literature to the territories they occupied. But thanks to the fact that the Russian population paid a high price for such books, many Slovak soldiers came to the Monastery of St Job before departing for the front and took religious publications, passed them on to the population living in German-occupied territories, and the Monastery received touching messages of gratitude, even from as far as Stalingrad.
During World War II, the ecclesiastical headquarters of the Church Abroad remained in Serbia . The Serbian Church during was persecuted by the Germans during this time. To a lesser degree, they also pressured the Russian Church leadership, which had strictly preserved a fraternal, loving relationship with the leadership of the Serbian Church . Patriarch Gabriel of Serbia spoke of this in London in 1945 during an interview with British and Polish journalists:
“Metropolitan Anastassy, with great wisdom and tact, held on under the German occupation, he was always loyal to the Serbs, for which he did not gain the trust of the Germans and was subjected several times to humiliating searches.”
At the end of the war, Metropolitan Eulogius, succumbing to the enthusiasm of certain emigres for Soviet victories and rumors of the complete change of ecclesiastical policy in Russia , ended his subjugation to the Constantinople Patriarchate and submitted to the Patriarch of Moscow. But after his death, his successor, Metropolitan Vladimir, once again returned to Constantinople .
At the same time, the Church in America once again broke apart. One part, headed by Metropolitan Theophilus, broke with the Church Abroad and attempted to submit to the Moscow Patriarch, placing as a condition its complete practical independence. When these attempts failed, this part of the Church, headed by Metropolitan Theophilus' successor, Metropolitan Leonty, was left without any canonical authority over it.
Jumping ahead, we will say that in the 1960's, a similar fate befell a part of the Church in Europe which submitted to the Patriarch of Constantinople.
In response to a demand from the Moscow Patriarchate, the Patriarch of Constantinople refused the Western European Russian Exarchate and ordered Archbishop George, who headed it at the time, to submit to the Patriarch of Moscow. Archbishop George and his flock refused, remaining without any canonical authority over it.
Chafing under this situation, the archbishopric of Vladyka George more than once appealed to the Patriarch of Constantinople with appeals to accept them once again under his authority. Finally, the Constantinople Patriarch agreed and accepted this part of the Russian Church , but not as a Russian exarchate, but simply as a vicariate of the Greek Metropoliate in Europe .
The part of the Church in America separating from the Church Abroad turned to the Moscow Patriarchate with an appeal to grant them autocephaly. With the permission of the Soviets, this appeal was granted, but almost none of the Local Church recognized this autocephaly.
And so, at the present time, the American group of former Russian dioceses considers itself an autocephalous Church , the European Archbishopric is a part of the Greek Patriarchate of Constantinople in the capacity of a vicariate, and only the Church Abroad continues to witness itself as an inseparable part of the much-suffering Russian Church .
After the end of World War II, the Russian Church Abroad also underwent the temptation to submit to the Moscow Patriarchate.
In the final days of the war, the Germans, not wishing to leave Metropolitan Anastassy in Soviet hands, yet still indifferent to his fate, transported the Metropolitan from Karlovtsi to Fussen, a small town in southern Bavaria, and left him with an old man as his cell-attendant, who spoke German and could not help the Metropolitan at all.
At first, Vladyka did not even have a roof over his head. Only on the next day, due to the fortunate help of a believing Russian youth in Fussen, who spoke German, Vladyka Metropolitan was given an attic room at the local Catholic priest's home. Here, Vladyka Anastassy received a letter from Patriarch Alexii of Moscow, addressed to “Their Eminences the representatives of the so-called Karlovtsy orientation,” calling for reconciliation.
It would have been sufficient to make one conciliatory step towards this offer, and the impoverished, post-war situation of the Russian Church Abroad would have become glorious, for the Western Allies were eager to please the Soviets. But such a step would have lost for the Church Abroad her Divinely-granted freedom, and she would have become a coconspirator with the enslaved Moscow hierarchy.
Metropolitan Anastassy replied to the call of Patriarch Alexii with the dignity suited to an archpastor, as worthy as that of the archpastors of the ancient Church of Christ .
Vladyka Metropolitan wrote:
“...Being always prepared to respond to thos asking what our hopes are, and possessing zeal for the good not only before the Lord, but before men, we feel that it is our duty first of all to declare that bishops as well as clergymen and laypersons under the jurisdiction of the Council and Synod of Bishops Abroad never felt and do not feel that we are ‘outside of the fence of the Russian Orthodox Church,' for we never broke the canonical, prayerful and spiritual bond with our Mother Church. The representatives of the Church Abroad were obliged to break off communion only with the Supreme Ecclesiastical Authority in Russia, since the latter began to depart from the path of the truth of Christ and in this way to tear away from the ‘Orthodox episcopacy of the Russian Church,' for which we do not cease to raise our prayers during each service and are together with the believing people of Russia, from the days of old remaining the ‘preservers of piety' in Rus'. If most of the bishops, clergy and laymen followed them, this does not yet give them the right to be the true representatives and spokesmen of the spirit and will of the Russian Church, for most of the hierarchs there were selected for their unity of mind with them, and the removal of undesirable firm and courageous bishops, with threats and pressure upon the consciences of the weaker ones. Clergymen followed their bishops in obedience, but the people, or course, could not always discern the complicated situation of the Church.
“...Since the present leader of the Russian Church emulates the example and legacy of his predecessor in his relationship with the Soviet state and goes even further in accommodating the spirit of the times, we do not deem it possible to enter into canonical communion with him and submit to his authority. We well know the price of ecclesiastical peace and unity and least of all wish to hinder it in any way on our part, but there are circumstances in the life of the Church when division becomes morally necessary, and so it is our duty, on the basis of the words of Her Founder and eternal Head: ‘Think not that I come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword' (Matth. 10:34).
“In view of these divine words, St Gregory the Theologian says that there is evil peace and good discord...
“...Only a free and lawfully-convened, independent All-Russian Church Council can be the rightful judge between the bishops Abroad and the present head of the Russian Church, a Council that includes the participation, if possible, of all the bishops abroad and especially of those now imprisoned in Russia, before whom we are prepared to give an accounting at any moment of all our acts during our time abroad. But such a Council is of course impossible under the present circumstances...
“...In the thunder and fury we survived and a part of the continuing sufferings, we still hear the heavenly voice addressing the whole world: ‘Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of afflication...O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! Then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea” (Is. 48:10, 18).
“In these words we must seek the key to understanding the fate of our Fatherland. Separated from direct communication with our native land, Russian exiles have yet never betrayed her and did not forget her heavy fate.
“Even less could the Russian Orthodox archpastors and clergymen remain indifferent to her fate. It was for this that they left in voluntary exile, to remain faithful to the holy legacy of our history, the building of which our Church partook of with such life and fruitfulness...
“...Our prayer is still as earnest, as is our love for our homeland. It is expressed in the following words; ‘God, illumine, impart wisdom, pacify and unify us all with Thy grace, and those who seek Thee not, do Thou reveal Thyself, so that they would turn to Thee with all their hearts and witnessed Thy power and strength and glory, which Thou showed in the fate of our great Homeland.'”
The first years after the war, the main goal of the Russian Church Abroad was to save Russians, whom the Western Allies, the Americans, British and French, returned to face bloody revenge to the Soviet Union .
The priests of the Russian Church Abroad took risks, which they understood to be deadly, going to camps designated for return to the East, achieving the revocation of such repatriations. Sometimes, as in Hamburg , they were able to cancel the return to the USSR even of those people who were in Soviet transit camps.
During the betrayal of the Cossacks by the British in Lienz, and of the Ostarbeiters by the Americans in Campton and Plattling, priests stood with crosses in their hands before tanks headed for the crowds.
British and American soldiers beat them with rifle buts and rubber rods alongside other Russians who did not wish to be turned over to the KGB for revenge.
When in Dachau, everyone, and in other camps, a part of the Russians committed acts of mass suicide to avoid repatriation, Metropolitan Anastassy gave his permission for funeral and commemorative services, saying: “Their actions are closer to the podvig of St Pelagia of Antioch (8 October), who threw herself out of a tower to avoid defilement, than to the crime of Judas.”
At the same time, the Russian Church Abroad turned to the leaders of the countries of the New World asking that they accept Russian emigres. The government of Argentina responded most positively, where the wife of the President, Eva Peron, managed to obtain 25,000 visas for our Synod.
In the early 1950's, the USA , Canada and Australia opened their doors to Russian immigration. In the late 1950's, Metropolitan Anastassy and the Holy Synod followed the majority of the emigres to the USA .
By the 1960's, the bulk of the Russian emigration had settled in those countries that they had selected. Joining the emigres from Europe in the end of the 1940's and 1950's were a multitude of emigres from the Far East .
In the Far East, especially in Harbin and Shanghai , church life blossomed between the wars. There were some 100,000 Russians in Harbin , emigres, Soviet and Chinese citizens. There were 26 Russian Orthodox churches, some fifteen middle schools and 6 institutions of higher learning. The Church greatly developed charitable work. Parishes had cheap or free cafeterias for the poor, there were 4 church orphanages, two church hospitals. The Higher Pastoral Theological Program, later the Theological Institute, graduated many young clergymen.
Church building and church charitable work also flowered in Shanghai . Alongside the Russian Orthodox priests, Chinese Orthodox priests labored in the Lord's harvest fields, in Harbin , but especially in Shanghai .
All this was destroyed, in Harbin in 1945, and in Shanghai in 1949, with the coming to power of the Communists.
During the 1960's, the so-called Cultural Revolution, Chinese Orthodox priests were subjected to cruel persecutions. They were stripped naked, covered in tar, and dragged along the streets, then burned alive.
Archbishop John (Maximovich) was able to obtain visas to the USA for emigres in Shanghai , which was a real miracle, because access to the USA for people from China was difficult to begin with, moreso for those of Chinese origin, for whom immigration was absolutely forbidden. Over the course of two years, with untiring efforts of Vladyka John, several thousand Russians from Shanghai came to await their fate on the Philippine Islands, until they received their visas in 1951 to go to San Francisco .
The Harbin emigration happened slowly, from 1946 until 1962. That wave generally went to Australia . Archimandrite Philaret, now the head of the Church Abroad, joined this wave in 1962, when he went to Brisbaine. He had gained the love and pious respect of the people of Harbin through his courageous, fearless standing for the truth of the Church both before the Soviets and the Chinese Communists. He was then consecrated Bishop of Brisbaine.
In 1964, Metropolitan Anastassy, hobbled by his 90 years of age, decided to pass on the leadership of the Russian Church Abroad to a successor, whom the Council of Bishops was to elect. The Council unanimously decided upon the youngest bishop by consecration, His Grace Philaret, Bishop of Brisbaine.
One of the first acts of the new head of the Church Abroad was the glorification of the great man of prayer and miracle-worker of Russia , St John of Kronstadt.
The desire for his glorification was felt long ago in the Russian Diaspora, but the question remained: how would the Church in Russia respond to this act, not the official leadership, but the real Church in the persons of the bishops, clergymen and laymen faithful to God. Even before the Second World War, we began to receive information that the believers in Russia revere Fr. John of Kronstadt as a saint, and that this veneration was not fading away with the years, but strengthening and broadening in scope. Just before the war, a service written for St John of Kronstadt the Miracle-worker was smuggled out of the country, prepared by witnesses of the faith in Russia .
Then, expressing the will not only of the Church Abroad, but of the all of the faithful in Russia, the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, on 5/18 June 1964, decreed to conduct a solemn glorification of St John of Kronstadt, which was scheduled for the day of St John of Rila, whose name Fr. John of Kronstadt bore.
During the celebration, Metropolitan Philaret said that this celebration is one not only for the Church Abroad, but for all children of the Russian Church , of all the Russian Orthodox people.
Since that time, the Church Abroad ceaselessly prays to the great pleaser of God, asking that he intercede through his all-powerful prayers before the throne of God for the much-suffering Russian people and their holy Church.
Unfortunately, both the American Church and the European Archbishops refused to recognize as a saint the righteous Father John of Kronstadt. The Russian Church Abroad also, as in the matter of the glorification of St John of Kronstadt, reverently heeds the voices coming from Russia to learn what the attitude there is to the possibility of the glorification of the great righteous woman of Russia , Blessed Xenia of St Petersburg, Fool-for-Christ.
A new area of activity opened for the Church Abroad in the early 1960's. Correspondence with people in Russia increased, since the Soviet government, in its aim of strengthening ties with the West, began to allow such communication. The fact of one's corresponding with someone in the West was no longer a crime, but of some benefit.
Thanks to this, it has become possible to send letters of a religious nature, enclosing some religious brochures and leaflets. Alas, a great portion of these disappears, since these letters are sent to incidental addresses, while people in Russia, having grown accustomed over the preceding years to the notion that all contact with foreign countries was a crime, receiving an unexpected letter from France, Germany, America or Australia, would rush to the nearest KGB office and turn over the envelope. But still, one cannot say that these missives are completely lost, because those whose hands they fall into read them first, and this could have a sobering, inspiring effect on them.
The reaction of the faithful to our sending of letters is cherished and touching. From very many letters we receive over the years, we selected one to share. A believer apparently unfamiliar with the Church Abroad writes:
“Our region is basically under assault by Baptist literature. But now we are receiving yours–an Orthodox brotherhood. This has elated us Orthodox Christians. You should know that it is impossible to get anything here. For this reason, your booklets and leaflets are copies and distributed as much as possible. The Orthodox now know that they are not alone. Who are you? Frenchmen or Germans who have adopted Orthodoxy, or Russians living abroad? Judging from your letters, you have a Russian church and Russian clergyment there. Have your pastors write to our Patriarch, so that he has Gospels and other Church literature printed, which we don't have. And for the youth, they should write like you do, that all intelligent people should believe in God, that atheism is a lie, and ignorant. Where is Solzhenitsyn now? Is he with you or not? Where does he live? Your letters bring us great joy and hope. We will send you addresses of people to whom you should also send your booklets. We read them all together, and one of us explains them.”
Speaking of these letters, the person most involved in sending religious literature to the East writes:
“I am filled with joy from such letters, and there are many of them now. The time has come when we must use all our powers to increase our packages to the Homeland. The ice has broken, all our gazes must be turned there. A great deal depends on us. We must, to the end, fulfill our duty before the Church and the Fatherland. We need good and pure religious and apologetical literature. We ned people who would assume the obedience to send letters with this literature. There is no other path for us now. Later, we believe, the Lord will show other ways...”
The matter of sending religious literature to Russia is conducted mostly by the brotherhood “Orthodox Work,” founded by the great righteous man and podvizhnik, Archbishop John (Maximovich), and is now headed by his successor, Archbishop Anthony of Geneva . This organization was created to attract laymen to Church work to aid our priests.
Its work is concentrated mostly in two areas: the sending of religious literature to the East and the support of the Orthodox Palestine Society.
This is the life and work, and prayer, of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.
From the book Conversations on Holy Scripture and Faith, vol. V, Russian Orthodox Youth Committee, New York , 1995.