Patriarchal Epistle to the Archpastors, Pastors, Deacons, Monastics and the Faithful Flock of the Russian Orthodox Church on the 100th Anniversary of the All-Russian Council of 1917-1918
His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia issued an epistle
to mark the 100th anniversary of the All-Russian Council of 1917-1918.
Reverend Archpastors, Honorable Pastors and Deacons,
Pious Monks and Nuns, Dear Brothers and Sisters:
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the commencement of the All-Russian Council of 1917-1918, one of the most important milestones in the history of Russian Orthodoxy.
Despite the century dividing us from the events of that epoch, the importance of the All-Russian Council of 1917-1918 has not been yet properly evaluated and appreciated by the people of the Church. I am deeply convinced that its legacy requires profound and considered study, and many of the ideas expressed therein would be beneficial and necessary today. Great efforts are now being expended to disseminate the work of the Council: in particular, the very first fundamental scholarly study of the Council’s documents has been published, very important for the preservation of the posterity of this truly great event of the turn of the last century.
The Council was preceded by a long period of preparatory work, during which data was gathered and opinions collected on the most vital questions in Church life, from among archpastors, theologians, canon experts and historians. Both the ecclesiastical and lay press at the time featured discussions of the most urgent and challenging questions of the time. Many articles were published which set the tone and determined the vectors of the debates that followed.
A special institution was established a few years before the Council called the Pre-Council Presence, the aim of which was to gather together materials necessary for the proper discussion of various topics. The spiritual heir to this collegial organ is today’s Inter-Council Presence of the Russian Orthodox Church, in which not only archpastors, but clergymen and even laymen participate. The documents prepared jointly by the members of the Presence, with the invitation of commentary by the broad public, are being presented for further deliberation by the Holy Synod or the Council of Bishops, manifesting thereby the conciliar spirit in the life of Russian Orthodoxy.
By no means have all the decisions taken a century ago been enacted. There were many different reasons for this. The most obvious obstacles were the Civil War that followed the revolutionary events of the time and the subsequent unprecedented persecutions of the Church and the faithful.
We fulfill our service now in a completely different historical context. Most of our compatriots, by Divine mercy, have no experience of persecution for the confession of their faith. Today, with prayer, we can make sense of the work of the Council, we can answer the question: Why, despite the many obstacles, did certain results of the Council manifest and take hold in the Church, while others proved too feeble and could not be adopted by the Church.
Many participants of the Council bore witness to their devotion to the Gospel by their martyrdom, or through their podvig of confession, showing us, their descendants, an example of staunchness and courage in the face of tribulation. We are to follow the words of Scripture as we ponder our own death, revere those who labored in the harvest-fields of the Lord before us, emulate them in their unerring hope in Christ (Hebrews 13:7), lest we falter in God’s promise through weakness of faith, let us instead be strong in faith, giving glory to God (Romans 4:20). Amen.
PATRIARCH OF MOSCOW AND ALL RUSSIA