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Tuesday, 5 June 2007

The Reunion of the Moscow Patriarchate with the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad

Fr John Salter writes:

On Ascension Day 2007 the two portions of the Russian Orthodox Church signed a document of reunion, bringing together the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (The Zarubeshniki) and the Moscow Patriarchate. This solemn event took place in the recently rebuilt church of the Holy Saviour in Moscow. The main signatories to the Act of Canonical Communion were His Holiness Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and All The Russias and the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church, with its headquarters based in New York, His Eminence Metropolitan Lavr. But how were these two sections of the Russian Church divided in the first place, because despite their division they held the same Orthodox Faith in its entirety?

Following the turmoil of the Revolution the Sacred Church Council and Higher Church Administration was formed on 18/24 May 1919. Eighteen months later the White Army was evacuated from the Crimea in November 1920 and in the same month the first session of the Higher Church Administration Outside Russia was convened and on the 20 November (Old Style) a directive was issued , Number 362, and accepted by His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon (pictured above)and the Holy Synod, ratifying the independent governing of dioceses, which found themselves out of contact with the Patriarch and the Holy Synod, and on this basis can be regarded as the establishment of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, formerly known as The Russian Church-in-Exile.

Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky)

Exiled Bishops, Clergy and Laity at first based themselves in the once Christian city of Constantinople, but it was unsatisfactory for two reasons: it was the See City of the Ecumenical Patriarch and it was governed by Muslims. However, Metopolitan Dorotheos, acting Locum Tenens for the Eceumenical Patriarchate, gave his blessing for the Higher Church Council to continue its work under the leadership of Metropolitan Antony Khrapovitsky. A year later at the invitation of the Patriarch of Serbia, Varnava, the exiles moved to what had been the seat of the Serbian Patriarchate before it moved to Belgrade, the town of Sremsky-Karlovsky; and it was here on 26 July 1921 that the first session of the Higher Church Authority was held in exile. At this time, too, Patriarch Tikhon refused to grant autocephaly to the Polish Orthodox Church, although this Church later was to go under the omophorion of the Ecumenical Throne. Again, in the same year, on 26 November (Old Style) the General Church Council approved the Canonical Documents:” The Statutes Regulating the Government of the Russian Church Abroad”.

Established now in their new home at Sremsky-Karlovsky, the hierarchs issued the following documents : ”An Epistle of the General Council of the Church Abroad to the Peace Conference at Genoa”, with the request to help free Russia from the Bolsheviks; “An Epistle to All the Rulers and Peoples of the World who Believe in God”, with the request to aid the starving peoples of Russia.

Seeing the direction in which the Mother Church of Russia was heading, the Finnish Orthodox Church sought to go under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople, and has remained under His All Holiness’s jurisdiction ever since, which has caused considerable ill-feeling between Moscow and the Phanar.

In 1922 Patriarch Tikhon thanked the Patriarch of Serbia for granting asylum to his exiled hierarchs, demonstrating that he recognized their right to exist as a Church in exile. In Harbin, Manchuria, away from the Bolsheviks tyranny, Metropolitan Methodius established a new Diocesan Cathedral for other exiled Russians and native Orthodox Manchurians. A blow to the exiled hierarchy was to fall on 5 May 1922 when Patriarch Tikhon was forced by the Soviet Government to issue a further Directive (Number 348) ordering the disbanding the Higher Church Administration in Exile, and thus rescinding Directive 362 issued merely less than two years earlier. Patriarch Tikhon’s action did not save him from the Bolsheviks as he was arrested in Moscow just over a month after his Directive had been published, and the exiled administration issued an urgent appeal to the Heads of all non-Orthodox Churches and World rulers to come to the defence of Patriarch Tikhon.

Metropolitan Anastassy (Gribanovsky)

During the early 1920s The Higher Church Administration recognized Metropolitan Agathangel as Locum Tenens of Patriarch Tikhon, and following Tikhon’s directive 348 abolished the Higher Church Administration and created the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Church Abroad. This gave rise to their Church being referred to as “The Synodalists”. In the United States a further rupture was to occur in the Russian diaspora when the Russian North American Diocese declared itself autocephalous under the Metropolitan Platon.

In 1923 a commission of the Synod of Bishops in Exile looked into the question of union with the Anglican Church. Nothing came of it, but the Anglican & Eastern Churches1 Association did provide a printing press for the headquarters in Sremsky-Karlovsky, due to the initiative of Father Fynes-Clinton. In 1925 the recognized Locum Tenens of the Moscow Patriarchate was Metropolitan Peter of Krutitza, who replaced Agathangel, as far as the exiles were concerned, but two months later on 16 January 1926 Metropolitan Peter was also arrested. Then in the summer of that year the Russian community in Paris headed by Metropolitan Evlogy followed the example of Metropolitan Platon and left the Russian Church in Exile and placed himself under the Ecumenical Throne, where that jurisdiction remains to this day. But the numbers of Russian monks in Sremsky-Karlovsky was swelled when thirty Finnish monks left Valaamo monastery due to the introduction of the Gregorian Calendar (The Russians in Exile stuck firmly to the Julian Calendar).In Serbia a monastery was established for the exiles at Milkovo under the Abbot Schema-Archimandrite Ambrose (Kurganov).

Back in Moscow on 29 July 1926 Metropolitan Sergius, Locum Tenens as far as the Soviet Government was concerned, of the Patriarchate, issued a Declaration demanding loyalty to the Soviet Government not only from the bishops resident in the Soviet Union, but also those in exile abroad. This resulted in what the Exiled Church referred to as “Sergianism”. But Sergius was in an impossible position, and there was no way that Russians living abroad would promise loyalty to a government under whose rule they were not living, for their loyalty lay with the countries which had granted them asylum. The Ecumenical Patriarch, resident in Turkey, does not demand from the Greeks outside Turkey loyalty to the Turkish government, nor does the Patriarch of Antioch based in Damascus expect his flock in the United States to swear allegiance to the Syrian regime, nor the Patriarch of Jerusalem expect loyalty from the Arab diaspora to the Israeli Knesset. The matter was aggravated, however, by the Exiled hierarchy continuing to recognize the imprisoned Metropolitan Peter rather than Sergius. Metropolitan Sergius retaliated by abolishing the Council of Bishops and the Synod of the Russian Church Abroad.

From Serbia the Synod suspended Metropolitan Platon and blamed him and his followers for causing a schism in the diaspora in the United States, but at the same time the Hieromonk Panteleimon bought a piece of land in Jordanville, USA, on which was established the Monastery of The Holy Trinity with the blessing of Archbishop Apollinary in 1930; so there was gradual expansion despite the defections. By 1934 a Diocese of Brazil had been established under Bishop Theodosius, Protopresbyter Constantine Irastov having built the first church there. But in that same year Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky) of Moscow suspended the clergy of the Russian Church Abroad from serving the liturgy and all liturgical services, nevertheless the Exiled Church expanded in China where a Chinese Christian Brotherhood was established in Shanghai on October 28 1935.

Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky)

In 1935 on l5 November back in Sremsky-Karlovsky under the Chairmanship of Patriarch Varnava of Serbia a council was held at which Metropolitan Anastasy, First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, and the former “schismatics” Metropolitans Evlogy of Paris and Platon of the USA had returned to communion with the exiled hierarchy, and joined in signing the “Temporary Regulations of The Russian Orthodox Church Abroad”. At this session the teachings of the Russian Theologian Archpriest Sergius Bulgakov of the Russian seminary of St. Serge in the Rue de Crimee in Paris, were condemned as heretical on the Wisdom of God, Sophia. Whether because of this condemnation Metropolitan Evlogy once again broke with the Sremsky-Karlovsky Synod, and this time it was permanent. In February 1936 a new Russian church was built in Brussels and dedicated to the Tzar Martyr Nicholas II Romanov; five months later Blessed Metropolitan Antony (Khrapovitsky) died and was succeeded by Metropolitan Anastassy (Gribanovsky).

In 1942 the Convent of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God which had been founded in the Ural Mountains of Russia and then re-located in China was established in San Francisco, thanks in no small part to the tireless work of Abbess Rufina and the Anglican Mother Superior Cicelyof the St Saviour’s Anglican Priory in Haggerston, who had rallied the Anglican religious communities between the wars to raise money to rescue the Russian nuns and their Chinese orphans and bring them to the United States.

At the height of World War II on October 16 1943, the Council of Bishops in Exile stated that they did not recognize Patriarch Sergius, as he had become. In 1946 Sergius’s successor, Patriarch Alexis I, issued an appeal from the Moscow Patriarchate to the Clergy and Laity of the Karlovsky Orientation to return to communion, but without effect and the Metropolia jurisdiction of Metropolitan Platon again broke off communion with the exiled Church.

At the end of World War II in 1946 a Diocese of Australia was established and the Holy Trinity Monastery at Jordanville was increased in number by the arrival of fourteen monks from the St Job of Pochaev, Vienna, the brotherhood from Ladomirovo. A further influx to swell the ranks of the Church came from the Ukrainian and Byelorussian Churches.

The political situation in Yugoslavia had deteriorated to the detriment of the Synodalists based at Sremsky-Karlovsky. The Serbian Orthodox monarchy had collapsed and Tito was to seize power. The Synod moved to Vienna, then to Munich and shortly afterwards to Geneva, then led by Metroplitan Anastassy re-located itself in New York in 1950, in which year the Lesna Convent moved from Serbia to France. This convent had been established by the Tzar Nicholas II’s chaplain St John of Krondstadt and had moved from Russia to Serbia, but were again overtaken by Communist hostility. The Church in Exile continued its ministry and continued to steadily grow, and work had to be done to help the immigrants arriving from China and settling in San Francisco. One of the rallying points for the exiled Russians was the beautiful miraculous icon of Our Lady of Kursk, which had been rescued from Russia and protected by Her Imperial Majesty the Dowager Tzarina Maria Feodrovna in Denmark and eventually housed in the United States in 1951.

In 1958 the needs of exiles in Peru was met to some extent by the opening of a church which was consecrated by Archbishop Leonty at Lima, the capital. A year later and shortly after Khruschev’s visit to the USA the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Sign was opened in New York. Five years later in 1964 Bishop Philaret was chosen as Chief Metropolitan. Meanwhile Archbishop (now a Saint since 2 July 1994) John (Maximovitch) formerly of Shanghai inaugurated the construction in San Francisco of the Cathedral of Our Lady Joy of Those Who Sorrow. 1964 saw the publication of an Encyclical drawing the attention of the Free World to the continued persecution of the Faithful in Russia, intensified during the Khruschev years, but it also witnessed the glorification of canonization of St John of Krondstadt and six years later in 1970 the glorification of St. Herman of Alaska, who had come to North America from Valaamo monastery. 1970 saw the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the Russian Church Abroad and this was greeted with celebrations throughout the diaspora, but Metropolitan Anastassy did not live to see it as he died on 22 May 1965.

Still there was no let-up in the exiles’ rejection of the official line of the Moscow Patriarchate and attention was drawn by various publications to the "Catacomb Church" in Russia itself and a group of Catacomb clergy were placed under the omophorion of Metropolitan Philaret, whilst remaining in Russia itself.

In 1974 the Third General Council of the Russian Church Abroad was held in Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, and the anathema against the Old Believers was lifted and the “Old Rite” permitted, and some of that Church were admitted to full communion with the exiled Church while keeping the old rites. There were further canonizations including that of Blessed Xenia and on Mount Athos the glorification of St Paisius Velichkovsky at the skete of the Prophet Elias on 2 August 1982. The huge skete was closed in 1992 and the Russian and American monks evicted by order of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos, for their refusal to commemorate his All Holiness as a New Calendar Patriarch in the diptyches On September 20 1982 the New Martyrs of Russia and the Imperial Russian Martyrs were canonized; whilst in the same year a secret consecration took place in Russia of Bishop Lazarus, who would take care of the Catacomb Church where its members could be found. In 1990 the Council of Bishops Abroad ratified the “Statutes for the Parishes of the Free Russian Orthodox Church” located in Russia, and the Bishops confirmed the Hierarchy in Russia.

On November 21 1985 Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky) died and Archbishop Vitaly of Canada succeeded him as Chief Hierarch. Vitaly had worked in London when the two jurisdictions used the former Anglican church of St. Philip, Buckingham Palace Road, (demolished in 1958 to make way for Victoria Coach Station’s extension and a new police station) which had been secured for the Russians by the patron of the living, the Duke of Newcastle and his cousin Father Fynes-Clinton, the then General Secretary of the Anglican and Eastern Churches’ Association. Archbishop Nikodem of Richmond headed the exile congregations in the United Kingdom and his opposite number was Metropolitan Antony Bloom. A unique figure was Archimandrite Nicholas Gibbes, former English tutor to the Imperial Grand Princesses and their brother the Tzarevitch Alexis Nicolaevitch, who moved between his chapel in Marston Street, Oxford, where several Imperial relics were housed, and his farm in Kent and his London house in Robert Street, Camden Town. He had left the jurisdiction of the Russian Church Abroad and placed himself under the Moscow Patriarchate. This did not seem, however, to prevent his being received by all members of the Russian community in England irrespective of jurisdiction. The Princely family of Galitzine mostly supported the Russian Church in Exile and Princess Nicholas Galitzine, who had endured with her family the Stalinist terror in internal exile in Perm was a devout member of the Russian Church in Emperor’s Gate, South Kensington, the main base in London of the exiles’ jurisdiction. She had had as her parish priest in Perm, Father Leonid, who had resisted the Bolsheviks and had spent several periods in gaol for his conscience. Her brother-in-law, Prince Vladimir Galitzine worshipped in both jurisdictions, and a cousin Prince George Galitzine was buried from the Russian Patriarchal Cathedral in Ennismore Gardens, Knightsbridge, London, by Metropolitan Antony Bloom of Sourozh.

Metropolitan Vitaly (Ustinov)

While not recognizing the election of Patriarchs Alexis I or Alexis II of Moscow the Bishops Abroad entered into communion with the Old Calendarists of Romania in 1992 and with the Old Calendarists of Bulgaria under Metropolitan Cyprian’s Synod in 1994. The missionary activity of the Russian Church Abroad was not curtailed and in 1994 a mission was established in South Korea , but also in Russia itself, where it ministered to the Catacomb Orthodox. At one stage the Convent of SS.Martha and Mary established before the Revolution by the Grand Princess Serge (St Elizabeth of the New Martyrs of Russia) the sister of the Tzarina Alexandra Feodrovna, was in the hands of both the Russian Church Abroad and the Moscow Patriarchate. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union a hundred centres of worship were established by the Russian Church Abroad in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States. Four Bishops had pastoral responsibility for these parishes, but two of them broke off communion with the then Chief Hierarch in New York, Metropolitan Vitaly (Ustinov) in 1994 and founded their own Church authority “The Free Orthodox Church of Russia” and consecrated three bishops. Seemingly they were reconciled with New York headquarters in 1994 and the three bishops’ consecrations were declared null.

Metropolitan Laurus & Archbishop Mark of Berlin & Western Europe

In 2001 Metropolitan Laurus was elected Chief Hierarch and negotiations with the Moscow Patriarchate became more serious. So much so that Metropolitan Laurus travelled to Moscow in May 2004 and met Patriarch Alexis II. The outcome of this meeting was to be the establishment of a joint committee to try to overcome the schism between these two sections of the Russian Church. Things ran fairly smoothly, but ecumenism in which the Patriarchate of Moscow was involved was a bone of contention for the Russian Church Abroad. Property ownership, particularly in the Holy Land, needed to be addressed. Just as with the formation of the Church of South India in the 1950s united some of the Churches of the Indian sub-continent, but left “Continuing Anglicans” outside the union, so the coming together in full communion of the Russian Churches caused some to be quite unable to accept the terms of intercommunion. Metropolitan Laurus’s predecessor, Metropolitan Vitaly was unable to accept the conditions of union and he and his supporters established a break-away group now known as the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile (a return to its old title). It is thought the San Francisco based Convent of Our Lady of Vladimir has followed Vitaly’s lead.

In the United Kingdom the monastery of St Edward the Martyr at Brookwood Cemetery, Woking, Surrey, has placed itself under one of the Greek Old Calendarist jurisdictions, as has the Convent of the Annunciation in Brondesbury Park, London, and another English parish. In Normandy the Lesna Convent has also left the Russian Church. Who owns which property is a problem which faces not only the reunited sections of the Church, but for those who have disassociated themselves from the mainstream of Russian Orthodoxy. On Mount Athos it could bode well for the possible restoration of the large Russian skete of the Prophet Elias, from which the monks were expelled by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

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