In 1999, ten years since perestroika began to expose the secret corruption of the MP, the situation was back to “normal” – that is, homosexuality among the leading metropolitans and drunkenness among the priests, combined with tight cooperation with the leading elites in government and the mafia.
The MP was also completely dependent on the State financially. “Pravoslavnaia Gazeta [The Orthodox Newspaper], the official publication of the Yekaterinburg diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate, characterizes this situation as follows: ‘In 1917 all the property of the Orthodox Church was nationalized and de facto passed into the ownership of the state. In the last decade previously nationalized things have begun to be handed over to believers. But, as it turns out, not a single church is today owned by the Russian Orthodox Church. The churches are handed over only for use…”
Homosexuality, “the sin of Metropolitan Nicodemus”, as it is known in the MP, is very useful to the KGB. Preobrazhensky writes that for the last 70 years the KGB has been actively promoting homosexuals to the episcopate. “Even Patriarch Sergius is said to have been one of them. The homosexual bishops were in constant fear of being unmasked, and it made them easily managed by the KGB.”
In 1999, after persistent complaints by his clergy, the homosexual Bishop Nicon of Yekaterinburg was forced to retire to the Pskov Caves monastery. However, within three years he was back in Moscow as dean of one of the richest parishes. “The influential homosexual lobby of the Moscow Patriarchate saved Bishop Nicon.”
In 1998 the MP blessed a book compiled by Metropolitan Juvenal of Krutitsa and Kolomna, entitled A Man of the Church, consisting of fulsome tributes to the notorious Metropolitan Nikodem of Leningrad by several of his fellow-hierarchs. The Archbishop of Tver even wrote: “At present many are capable of accusing the former [clergy] of supposed collaboration with the KGB, including Vladyka Nikodem. But there was no other way out: the Church had to live somehow. Therefore there came into being a special mode of acting in order not to permit a total destruction of the Church…”
In view of this failure to repent, it is not surprising that the MP’s position in the Ukraine continued to deteriorate. As the new millennium dawned, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, supported by the secular authorities and Ukrainian nationalists, declared that the Ukraine was his canonical territory, and that the unification of the Kievan metropolia to the MP in 1686 had been uncanonical. In August, 2000, under strong pressure from the MP, he renounced this position.
But then in November he reached an agreement with the UOAC and the UOAC-KP, but excluding the UOC-MP, on the formation of a united local church that would provide for “a cessation of mutual accusations” and a halt to the process of transfer of parishes from one jurisdiction to the other. A commission would oversee the organisational work, and this Commission would then present its conclusions to himself, after which he would determine “the canonical questions and the status of bishops and clergy” of both churches. This united church was approved of by the Ukrainian authorities, and deputies calculated that if such a church came into being and was recognized by Constantinople, a majority of believers in the UOC would join it. The invasion of the Patriarchate of Constantinople into the canonical territory of the Russian Church exacerbated their already strained relations (because of the quarrel over Estonia, in particular). The already tense situation was exacerbated by the Uniate Cardinal Husar calling on all the Ukrainian Orthodox to unite in “One Orthodox Ukrainian National Church” with the Byzantine rite but in submission to the Pope. In June, 2001 the Pope met leaders of all the Ukrainian churches in Kiev with the exception of the UOC-MP. By the latest count the UOC-MP had 9047 communities in the Ukraine (an increase of 557 on the previous year), the UOAC-CP had 2781 (an increase of 290), the UAOC had 1015, the Uniates had 3317 and the Latin-rite Catholics – 807.
In this period an extraordinary increase in highly dubious miracles took place. For example, “as described in the newspaper Radonezh № 4 for 1999, in the Holy Entrance of the Mother of God monastery in Ivanovo diocese, in one of the cells myrrh-gushing takes place from any icons that are brought into it. By February more than 1000 such cases had been registered, and by April – more than 1600! That is, hundreds of times more that the number of myrrh-gushing, glorified icons that have appeared in the whole history of Christianity!”
While such occult manifestations multiplied, the grossest ecumenism continued to be practised – almost certainly because the FSB (KGB) still needed MP clergy to penetrate foreign confessions for espionage purposes. As we have seen, the anti-ecumenical protests of the early and mid-1990s were suppressed, the challenge of ROCOR was rebuffed, and the “Third Way” practised by the Bulgarian and Georgian Churches ignored. While anti-ecumenical elements still existed in the MP (as when Russkij Vestnik published a protest against the MP’s participation in the WCC by the Abbot and 150 monks of Valaam in 1998), along with renovationist, occultist, nationalist and communist elements, all were held together by the culture of obedience to the patriarch: all was permitted so long as no “schism” was created…
Some were impressed by the apparent hostility of the MP to the Roman Catholics’ proselytism of Russia. However, from the remarks of the leading hierarchs it became clear that the argument was simply over the Catholics’ supposed violation of a “mutual non-aggression pact”. Russia was the “canonical territory” of the MP, so the Catholics had no right there (as the patriarch put it: “Russia has historically been Orthodox for a thousand years, and therefore the Roman papacy has no right to make a conquest of it”): they should stick to their own “canonical territory”, the West.
That meant that the MP renounced any right to convert western heretics to Orthodoxy. As Metropolitan Cyril (Gundiaev), the future patriarch, put it: “In practice we forbid our priests to seek to convert people. Of course it happens that people arrive and say: ‘You know, I would like, simply out of my own convictions, to become Orthodox.’ ‘Well, please do.’ But there is no strategy to convert people.”
As the liberal era of the 1990s came to an end, the resurrection of the spirit of Soviet patriotism became more and more evident. This spirit, which seeks to justify the Soviet past and rejects repentance for its sins, was illustrated most vividly in an article entitled “The Religion of Victory” in which a new Russian religio-political bloc, “For Victory!” presented its programme. The victory in question was the victory of the Soviet forces over Nazi Germany in 1945, whose blood was considered by the bloc to have “a mystical, sacred meaning”, being “the main emblem of the Russian historical consciousness”.
Similarly, an article on an MP web-site produced this astonishing blasphemy: “The ‘atheist’ USSR, trampling down death by death, resurrected and saved the world. Only because ‘godly’ and ‘ungodly’ soldiers died in their millions do we live today and the whole population of the world, the whole of humanity, is alive. It would be no exaggeration to think that that terrible and great war and great Victory in that Great war caused the first sociologically large-scale micro-resurrection, a reproduction by the peoples of the USSR of the exploit of Christ.
“May 9, 1945 became the most convincing witness of the fact that 2000 years ago Christ was resurrected. Therefore our Great Victory is the feast of feasts, it is Pascha…”
The political and economic aspects of the bloc’s programme were communistic; but its nationalist and religious aspects were still more alarming. Yeltsin and his colleagues were accused of having betrayed ’45 and the “truly genius-quality” achievements of post-war Sovietism.
“However”, wrote Valentine Chikin, “the enemy [which is clearly the West] has not succeeded in destroying our Victory. Victory is that spiritual force which will help us to be regenerated. From Victory, as from a fruitful tree, will arise new technologies, will grow new schools, defence will be strengthened, a world-view will be worked out. A new communality embracing the whole nation will confirm the Victory of ’45 in the 21st century, too.
“Let us not forget: in the 40s a wonderful fusing together of Russian epochs took place. Of the pagan, with Prince Sviatoslav [‘the accursed’, as the Orthodox Church calls him], who defeated the Khazars. Of the Orthodox, in which the great Russian commanders and saints Alexander Nevsky and Dimitri Donskoj acted. Of the monarchist, with Peter, Suvorov and Kutuzov. In the smoke of the battles of the Fatherland war they combined with the brilliant ‘reds’ Zhukov, Vasilevsky and Rokossovsky, which Joseph Stalin so clearly and loudly proclaimed from the Mausoleum…
“Only the bloc ‘For Victory’ has the right to claim the breadth of the whole nation. The ideology of the bloc ‘For Victory!’ is the long awaited national idea… Victory is also that sacred word which overflows the Russian heart with pride and freedom.”
Alexander Prokhanov continued the theme: “Victory is not simply the national idea. Victory is a faith, the particular religious cast of mind of the Russians. Under the cupola of Victory both the Orthodox and the Muslim and the atheist and the passionately believing person will find himself a place. Of course, in order to reveal this faith, it needs its evangelists, such as John the Theologian. It needs its builders and organizers. In the consciousness of this religious philosophy there is a place for artists and sculptors, sociologists and political scientists, historians and politicians.
“We still have to finish building this great Russian faith – Victory! In it the miracle expected for centuries, which was handed down from the sorcerers from mouth to mouth, from Kievan Rus’ to the Moscow princedom, from the empire of the tsars to the red empire of the leaders (vozhdej). This is the hope of universal good, of universal love. The understanding that the world is ruled, not by the blind forces of matter, but by Justice and Divine righteousness….”
This Soviet patriotism was supported by the former idol of ROCOR’s liberals, Fr. Demetrius Dudko. “Now the time has come,” he wrote, “to rehabilitate Stalin. And yet not him himself, but the concept of statehood. Today we can see for ourselves what a crime non-statehood is and what a blessing statehood is! No matter how many cry that in Soviet times many perished in the camps – how many are perishing now, without trials or investigations… If Stalin were here, there would be no such collapse…. Stalin, an atheist from the external point of view, was actually a believer, and this could be proved by facts if it were not for the spatial limitations of this article. It is not without reason that in the Russian Orthodox Church, when he died, ‘eternal memory’ was sung to him… The main thing is that Stalin looked after people in a fatherly manner. Stalin legitimately stands next to Suvorov!”
“Ecclesiastical Stalinism” was the most horrific sign of the lack of repentance of the MP even now that it was free from Soviet oppression. That lack of repentance has continued and intensified in the first decade of the twenty-first century… Phenomena such as “ecclesiastical Stalinism” were the result, largely, of the return to power of the KGB, now renamed the FSB. For, as Preobrazhensky writes, “After the democratic reforms of the 1990s the KGB officers managed to get everything back. All the Directorates of the Soviet KGB are reunited now in today’s FSB, except two of them: the First, which managed intelligence, and the Ninth, which guarded the highest Communist bureaucrats. Both are formally independent, but keep close connections with the FSB… The former First Chief Directorate of the KGB is now called the Foreign Intelligence Service. It is successfully managing the operation ’ROCOR’” – that is, the absorption of ROCOR into the MP.
The intelligence experts Christopher Andrew and Vasily Mitrokhin confirm this assessment: “Ridiculed and reviled at the end of the Soviet era, the Russian intelligence community has since been remarkably successful at reinventing itself and recovering its political influence. The last three prime ministers of the Russian Federation during Boris Yeltsin’s presidency – Yevgeni Primakov, Sergei Stepashin and Vladimir Putin – were all former intelligence chiefs. Putin, who succeeded Yeltsin as President in 2000, is the only FCD [First Chief Directorate] officer ever to become Russian leader. According to the head of the SVR [Foreign Intelligence Service], Sergei Nikolayevich Lebedev, ‘The president’s understanding of intelligence activity and the opportunity to speak the same language to him makes our work considerably easier.’ No previous head of state in Russia, or perhaps anywhere else in the world, has ever surrounded himself with so many former intelligence officers. Putin also has more direct control of intelligence that any Russian leader since Stalin. According to Kirpichenko, ‘We are under the control of the President and his administration, because intelligence is directly subordinated to the President and only the President.’ But whereas Stalin’s intelligence chiefs usually told him simply what he wanted to hear, Kirpichenko claims that, ‘Now, we tell it like it is’.
“The mission statement of today’s FSB and SVR is markedly different from that of the KGB. At the beginning of the 1980s Andropov proudly declared that the KGB was playing its part in the onward march of world revolution. By contrast, the current ‘National Security Concept’ of the Russian Federation, adopted at the beginning of the new millennium, puts the emphasis instead on the defence of traditional Russian values: ‘Guaranteeing the Russian Federation’s national security also includes defence of the cultural and spiritual-moral inheritance, historical traditions and norms of social life, preservation of the cultural property of all the peoples of Russia, formation of state policy in the sphere of the spiritual and moral education of the population…’ One of the distinguishing characteristics of the Soviet intelligence system from Cheka to KGB was its militant atheism. In March 2002, however, the FSB at last found God. A restored Russian Orthodox church in central Moscow was consecrated by Patriarch Aleksi II as the FSB’s parish church in order to minister to the previously neglected spiritual needs of its staff. The FSB Director, Nikolai Patrushev, and the Patriarch celebrated the mystical marriage of the Orthodox Church and the state security apparatus by a solemn exchange of gifts. Patrushev presented a symbolic golden key of the church and an icon of St. Aleksei, Moscow Metropolitan, to the Patriarch, who responded by giving the FSB Director the Mother God ‘Umilenie’ icon and an icon representing Patrushev’s own patron saint, St. Nikolai – the possession of which would formerly have been a sufficiently grave offence to cost any KGB officer his job. Though the FSB has not, of course, become the world’s first intelligence agency staffed only or mainly by Christian true believers, there have been a number of conversions to the Orthodox Church by Russian intelligence officers past and present – among them Nikolai Leonov, who half a century ago was the first to alert the Centre to the revolutionary potential of Fidel Castro. ‘Spirituality’ has become a common theme in FSB public relations materials. While head of FSB public relations in 1999-2001, Vasili Stavitsky published several volumes of poetry with a strong ‘spiritual’ content, among them Secrets of the Soul (1999); a book of ‘spiritual-patriotic’ poems for children entitled Light a Candle, Mamma (1999); and Constellation of Love: Selected Verse (2000). Many of Stavitsky’s poems have been set to music and recorded on CDs, which are reported to be popular at FSB functions.
“Despite their unprecedented emphasis on ‘spiritual security’, however, the FSB and SVR are politicized intelligence agencies which keep track of President Putin’s critics and opponents among the growing Russian diaspora abroad, as well as in Russia itself. During his first term in office, while affirming his commitment to democracy and human rights, Putin gradually succeeded in marginalizing most opposition and winning control over television channels and the main news media. The vigorous public debate of policy issues during the Yeltsin years has largely disappeared. What has gradually emerged is a new system of social control in which those who step too far out of line face intimidation by the FSB and the courts. The 2003 State Department annual report on human rights warned that a series of alleged espionage cases involving scientists, journalists and environmentalists ‘caused continuing concerns regarding the lack of due process and the influence of the FSB in court cases’. According to Lyudmilla Alekseyeva, the current head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, which has been campaigning for human rights in Russia since 1976, ‘The only thing these scientists, journalists and environmentalists are guilty of is talking to foreigners, which in the Soviet Union was an unpardonable offence.’ Though all this remains a far cry from the KGB’s obsession with even the most trivial forms of ideological subversion, the FSB has once again defined a role for itself as an instrument of social control…”
In August, 2000 the MP held a “Jubilee” Hierarchical Council which seemed at least partly aimed at removing some of the last obstacles towards ROCOR’s unification with it. These obstacles, as formulated by ROCOR during the decade 1990-2000 were: 1. Ecumenism, 2. Sergianism, and 3. The Glorification of the New Martyrs, especially the Royal New Martyrs.
In the document on relations with the heterodox, which was composed by a small group of bishops and presented to the Council for approval on the first day, few concessions were made to the opponents of ecumenism, apart from the ritual declarations that “the Orthodox Church is the true Church of Christ, created by our Lord and Saviour Himself; it is the Church established by, and filled with, the Holy Spirit…” “The Church of Christ is one and unique…” “The so-called ‘branch theory’, which affirms the normality and even the providentiality of the existence of Christianity in the form of separate ‘branches’… is completely unacceptable.”
But, wrote Protopriest Michael Ardov (ROAC, Moscow), “the ‘patriarchal liberals’ will also not be upset, insofar as the heretics in the cited document are called ‘heterodox’, while the Monophysite communities are called the ‘Eastern Orthodox Churches’. And the ‘dialogues with the heterodox’ will be continued, and it is suggested that the World Council of Churches be not abandoned, but reformed…”
Although there has been much talk about anti-ecumenism in the MP, it is significant that only one bishop, Barsanuphius of Vladivostok, voted against the document on relations with the heterodox (six Ukrainian bishops abstained).
The MP’s Fr. (now Metropolitan) Hilarion (Alfeyev) explained the origins of the document on ecumenism: “The subject of inter-Christian relations has been used by various groups (within the Church) as a bogey in partisan wars. In particular, it has been used to criticise Church leaders who, as is well known, have taken part in ecumenical activities over many years.” In Alfeyev’s opinion, “ecumenism has also been used by breakaway groups, such as the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad and the Old Calendarists, to undermine people’s trust in the Church.” Therefore there was a need “for a clear document outlining the theological basis of the Russian Orthodox Church’s attitude towards heterodoxy, i.e. the question of why we need and whether we need dialogue with the non-Orthodox confessions, and if so which form this dialogue should take.” Alfeyev refused to answer the question whether the Council would discuss the matter of the participation of the MP in the WCC, but said that the patriarchate felt obliged to continue negotiations with Protestant and Catholic representatives in the WCC and to be a part of the ecumenical committee.
After the Council, there was no let-up in the MP’s ecumenical activities. Thus on August 18, “Patriarch” Alexis prayed together with the Armenian “Patriarch”. And on April 21, 2005, he congratulated the new Pope Benedict XVI on his accession, and expressed the hope that he would strive to develop relations between the two churches. When asked how he evaluated Pope John Paul II’s ministry, he replied: “His Holiness’ teachings have not only strengthened Catholics throughout the world in their faith, but also borne witness to Christianity in the complex world of today.” After ROCOR joined the MP in 2007, the MP noticeably increased its ecumenical activities and its relationship with the Vatican continued to improve…
Deacon Nicholas Savchenko summed the MP’s degree of immersion in ecumenism as follows: “In an inter-confessional undertaking there are two degrees of participation. One case is participation with the authority of a simple observer, that is, of one who does not enter into the composition, but is only an observer from the side. It is another case when we are talking about fully-entitled membership in an ecumenical organization.
“Unfortunately, at the present time the ROC MP takes part in the activity of the WCC precisely as a fully-entitled member of the Council. It is precisely on this problem that I consider it important to concentrate attention. After all, it is the membership of the ROC MP in the WCC which most of all, willingly or unwillingly, encroaches upon the teaching of the faith itself and therefore continues to remain an obstacle to our [ROCOR’s] communion [with the MP]. It is possible to list a series of reasons why membership in the WCC is becoming such an obstacle.
“1. The first important reason consists in the fact that the ROC MP today remains in the composition of the highest leadership of the WCC and takes part in the leadership, planning and financing of the whole of the work of the WCC.
“Official representatives of the ROC MP enter into the Central Committee of the WCC. The Central Committee is the organ of the Council’s administration. It defines the politics of the WCC, make official declarations relating to the teaching of the faith and gives moral evaluations of various phenomena of contemporary life within those limites given to it by the church-members. The composition of the last CC of the WCC was elected at the WCC assembly in Harare in 1998. As is witnessed by the official list of the members of the CC of the WCC, five members of the Central Committee come from the MP, headed by Bishop Hilarion (Alfeyev). In all there are about 150 people in the CC, including 9 women priests, which we can see from the list of the members of the CC. The last session of the CC of the WCC with the participation of the representatives of the ROC MP took place at the end of August, 2003.
“Besides participating in the CC, the representatives of the MP go into the make-up of the Executive Committee of the WCC, one of whose tasks is the direct leadership of the whole apparatus of the Council and the organization of all its undertakings. There are 24 people in the official list of the members of the Executive Committee of the WCC, including the MP’s representative Bishop Hilarion (Alfeev). Besides him, there are representatives of the Constantinopolitan Patriarchate, the Romanian Patriarchate and the American Autocephaly in the Executive Committee of the WCC. The last session of the Executive Committee with the participation of representatives of the MP took place at the end of August, 2003. At this last session a new ‘Committee for Prayer’ was formed. It was to occupy itself with the preparation of the text and rite of ecumenical prayers. There are 10 people in all in this committee, including a representative of the MP, Fr. Andrew Eliseev. Besides, the deputy president of the ‘Committee for Prayer’ is a Protestant woman priest. Because of this participation the ROC MP is inevitably responsible for all the decisions of the WCC that contradict the dogmatic and moral teaching of the Orthodox Church.
“2. The second reason for the incompatibility of membership of the WCC with the Church canons consists in the fact that the regulations of the Council presuppose the membership in it not of individual person-representatives, but precisely of the whole Local Church in all its fullness. Each Local Church in the WCC is considered in its complete fullness to be a member or a part of the heterodox community.
“In correspondence with the Basis of the WCC, it is a ‘commonwealth of Churches’. In this definition there is a significant difference from the original formulation offered by the commission on ‘Faith and Order’ in 1937, when the future WCC was offered as a ‘community of representatives of the Churches’. The difference is substantial. A community of the Churches themselves is not the same as a community of representatives of the Churches, as we said earlier. In the present case it turns out that the Orthodox Church is considered to be a part of a certain broader commonwealth under the name of the WCC. The legislative documents of the WCC even directly reject any other understanding of membership – after all, if it were not so, the Council would no longer be a Council of churches. And the declaration on entrance into the WCC is given in the name of a church, and not in the name of representatives. In the declaration the church asks that it itself be received into the composition of the WCC. The Council is not a simple association of churches. In the regulatory documents it is asserted that it is a ‘body’ having its own ‘ecclesiological meaning’, as is said about it directly in the heading of the Toronto declaration. The regulatory documents reject only the understanding of the Council as a ‘body’ in separation from the church-members. But in union with the church-members the Council is precisely a ‘body’ with its own ‘ecclesiological meaning’. And this ‘ecclesiological meaning’ of the WCC, by definition ‘cannot be based on any one conception of the Church’, as it says in point 3.3 of the Toronto declaration. That is, the Orthodox Church is considered in its fullness to belong to the ‘body’ with this ‘ecclesiological meaning’, which in accordance with the constitution cannot be Orthodox.
“Such an understanding of membership in the WCC as the membership of the whole Orthodox Church is contained in the documents on the part of the Local Churches. For example, we can cite the following quotation from the document ‘The Orthodox Church and the World Council of Churches’. This document was accepted at the session of the inter-Orthodoxy Consultation in 1991 in Chambésy. It says in point 4: ‘The Orthodox Churches participate in the life and activity of the WCC only on condition that the WCC is understood as a ‘Council of Churches’, and not as a council of separate people, groups, movements or religious organizations drawn into the aims and tasks of the WCC…’ (Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate, 1992, № 1, p. 62).
“Such an understanding of the membership of the whole of the Orthodox Church in the WCC was earlier officially confirmed by the Pan-Orthodox Conferences. Thus the Pan-Orthodox Conference of 1968 formulated its relationship with the WCC in the following words: ‘To express the common consciousness of the Orthodox Church that it is an organic member of the WCC and her firm decision to bring her contribution to the progress of the whole work of the WCC through all the means at her disposal, theological and other.’ (Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate, 1968,№ 7, p. 51). The following, Third Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference confirmed this formulation in the same sense in the Russian translation. ‘The Orthodox Church is a complete and fully-entitled member of the WCC and by all the means at her disposal will aid the development and success of the whole work of the WCC’ (Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate, 1987, № 7, p. 53). Although these formulations elicited disturbances at the time, nevertheless they have not been changed to the present day, insofar as only the Local Church herself can be a member of the WCC. Any other interpretation of membership is excluded. Either a Local Church is a member or part of the WCC, or it is not.
“From what has been said it turns out that membership in the WCC is not simply observation of the activity of the Council. Membership is precisely becoming a part of the ecumenical commonwealth. The ROC MP must not be a member of the WCC since this signifies becoming a member of the ecumenical movement.
“3. The third reason why membership in the WCC contradicts Orthodoxy is that membership inevitably signifies agreement with the constitutional principles of the WCC and its rules. For example, it says in the Constitution of the WCC (chapter 3) that the Council is created by the church-members to serve the ecumenical movement. Does this mean that the church-members must, or obliged in their fullness, to serve the ecumenical movement? It appears so. Further the Constitution of the WCC (chapter 3) describes the obligations of those entering the Council of churches in the following words: ‘In the search for communion in faith and life, preaching and service, the churches through the Council will… facilitate common service in every place and everywhere and… cultivate ecumenical consciousness’. From these words it follows directly that common preaching with the Protestants is becoming a constitutional obligation of the Orthodox Church. Obligations still more foreign to Orthodoxy are contained in the Rules of the WCC – a separate document that directly regulates the obligations of those entering into the Council of churches. Chapter 2 of the Rules of the WCC is called ‘Responsibilities of membership’. The following lines are found in it. ‘Membership in the WCC means… devotion to the ecumenical movement as a constitutive element of the mission of the Church. It is presupposed that the church-members of the WCC… encourage ecumenical links and actions at all levels of their ecclesiastical life’. These words of the Rules of the WCC oblige the Orthodox Church to perceive the contemporary ecumenical movement with all its gross heresies and moral vices as a part of the life of the Orthodox Church.
“One more important constitutional document is the declaration ‘Towards a common understanding and vision of the WCC’. This document was accepted by the Central Committee of the WCC in 1997 with the participation of representatives of the Local Churches. It also contains views which are incompatible with the Orthodox teaching on the Church. In the first place this concerns how we are to understanding the term that is the cornerstone of the Basis of the WCC, that the Council is a ‘commonwealth of Churches’. In paragraphs 3.2 and 3.3 the meaning of the term ‘commonwealth’ is described in the following words: ‘The use of the term ‘commonwealth’ in the Basis really convinces that the Council is more than a simple functional association of churches… We can even say (using the words of the Resolution on ecumenism of the Second Vatican Council) that ‘real, albeit incomplete communion (koinonia) exists between them [the churches] already now’. From this quotation it follows directly that the church-members of the WCC are considered as entering into limited ecclesiastical communion with other members of the WCC with all their plagues and heresies. The document ‘Towards a common understanding and vision of the WCC’ in point 3.5.3 even directly extends this ecclesiastical communion to the whole Orthodox Church with all her people. The document says that this ecclesiastical communion in the Council ‘is not something abstract and immobile, it is also not limited by the official links between the leadership of the churches and their leaders or representatives. It is rather a dynamic, mutually acting reality which embraces the whole fullness of the church as the expression of the people of God’.
“The most important document of the WCC having a constitutional significance continues to remain the Toronto declaration – ‘The Church, the churches and the WCC’. On the basis of this document the Local Churches in the 1960s entered into the WCC. In it we also clearly see the principles that radically contradict Orthodoxy. Thus point 4.8 of the Toronto declaration declares: ‘The church-members enter into spiritual mutual relationships through which they strive to learn from each other and help each other, so that the Body of Christ may be built and the life of the Church renewed.’ Evidently, this principle of the ‘building of the Church of Christ’ contradicts the Orthodox teaching on the Church. However, it is precisely this, as we see here, that is inscribed in the foundation document of the WCC and can in no way be changed. Besides, the document in its conclusion says the following about the principles of the Toronto declaration, including the principle of the ‘building of the Body of Christ’: ‘Not one of these positive presuppositions which contain in themselves the basis of the World council are in conflict with the teachings of the church-members’.
“From what has been said we can draw the conclusion that membership in the WCC presupposes agreement with its constitutional principles, which contradict Orthodoxy. The ROC MP should not be a member of an organization whose constitutional principles contradict Orthodoxy… “
The MP approved a “social document” which, among other things, recognised that “the Church must refuse to obey the State” “if the authorities force the Orthodox believers to renounce Christ and His Church”. Enormous significance was attached to this phrase by those in ROCOR who favoured union with the MP. However, on the very same page we find: “But even the persecuted Church is called to bear the persecutions patiently, not refusing loyalty to the State that persecutes it”. We may infer from this that the MP still considers that its loyalty to the Soviet State was right and the resistance to it shown by the Catacomb Church was wrong. So, contrary to first appearances, the MP remained mired in Sergianism. In fact, Sergianism as such was not mentioned in the document, much less repented of. This is consistent with the fact that the MP has never in its entire history since 1943 shown anything other than a determination to serve whatever appears to be the strongest forces in the contemporary world. Until the fall of communism, that meant the communists. With the fall of communism, the MP was not at first sure whom she had to obey, but gradually assumed the character of a “populist” church, trying to satisfy the various factions within it (including nominally Orthodox political leaders) while preserving an appearance of unity.
In this connection Frs. Vladimir Savitsky, Valentine (Salomakh) and Nicholas Savchenko write: “The politics of ‘populism’ which the MP is conducting today is a new distortion of true Christianity. Today this politics (and the ideology standing behind it) is a continuation and development of ‘sergianism’, a metamorphosis of the very same disease. Today it seems to us that we have to speak about this at the top of our voices. Other problems, such as the heresy of ecumenism and ‘sergianism’ in the strict sense, while undoubtedly important, are of secondary importance by comparison with the main aim of the MP, which is to be an ‘all-people’ Church, In fact, in the ‘people’ (understood in a broad sense, including unbelievers and ‘eclectics’) there always have been those who are for ecumenism and those who are against. Therefore we see that the MP is ready at the same time to participate in the disgusting sin of ecumenism and to renounce it and even condemn it. It is exactly the same with ‘sergianism’ (understood as the dependence of the Church on the secular authorities). The MP will at the same time in words affirm its independence (insofar as there are those who are for this independence) and listen to every word of the authorities and go behind them (not only because that is convenient, but also because it thus accepted in the ‘people’, and the authorities are ‘elected by the people’). In a word, it is necessary to condemn the very practice and ideology of the transformation of the MP into a Church ‘of all the people’.”
This analysis has been confirmed by events since the former KGB Colonel Putin came to power in January, 2000. The MP has appeared to be reverting to its submissive role in relation to an ever more Soviet-looking government, not protesting against the restoration of the red flag to the armed forces and approving the retention of the music of the Soviet national anthem.
There followed an official justification of Sergianism. Thus on July 18, 2002, the Moscow Synod ratified a document entitled “The relationships between the Russian Orthodox Church and the authorities in the 20s and 30s”, which declared: “The aim of normalising the relationship with the authorities cannot be interpreted as a betrayal of Church interests. It was adopted by the holy Patriarch Tikhon, and was also expressed in the so-called ‘Epistle of the Solovki Bishops’ in 1926, that is, one year before the publication of ‘The Epistle of the deputy patriarchal locum tenens and temporary patriarchal Synod’. The essence of the changes in the position of the hierarchy consisted in the fact that the Church, having refused to recognise the legitimacy of the new power established after the October revolution in 1917, as the power became stronger later, had to recognise it as a state power and establish bilateral relations with it. This position is not blameworthy; historically, the Church has more than once found herself in a situation in which it has had to cooperate with non-orthodox rulers (for instance, in the period of the Golden Horde or the Muslim Ottoman Empire).”
However, Soviet power was very different from that of the Tatars or Ottomans, and “bilateral relations” with it, unlike with those powers, involved falling under the anathema of the Church. Moreover, if the Church at first refused to recognise Soviet power, but then (in 1927) began to recognise it, the question arises: which position was the correct one? There can be no question but that the position endorsed by the Russian Council of 1917-18 was the correct one, and that the sergianist Moscow Patriarchate, by renouncing that position, betrayed the truth – and continues to betray it to the present day through its symbiotic relationship with a government that openly declares itself the heir of the Soviet State.
As late as January 24, 2005 Metropolitan Cyril (Gundiaev) of Smolensk, head of the MP’s Department of Foreign Relations, confirmed that the MP does not condemn sergianism: “We recognize that the model of Church-State relations [in the Soviet period] did not correspond to tradition. But we are not condemning those who realized this model, because there was no other way of preserving the Church. The Church behaved in the only way she could at that time. There was another path into the catacombs, but there could be no catacombs in the Soviet space…”
And yet the Catacomb Church did exist “in the Soviet space” and produced a rich crop of sanctity…
When Gundiaev became patriarch, his place as head of the Department for External Relations was taken by Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), who made this startling revelation to the American ambassador in Russia, as revealed by Wikileaks: “A (or the) main role of the Russian Orthodox Church is in providing propaganda for the official politics of the government.”
A clear example of how Sergianism continues to exist in practice is provided by the fact that the president of North Korea, Kim Chen Ir, though no friend of religion – in fact, religion is banned in North Korea – has nevertheless allow the MP to build a church to the Life-Giving Trinity in Pyonyang! Moreover, the beloved leader is devoting about $1,000,000.00 to its building! This is a country where millions of people are starving…
The question was: why should this avowed enemy of God be helping to build a church to the Life-Giving Trinity? Could it be that the black ryassas of Korean clergy provided a good cover for exchanges between the beloved leader of the Korean masses and the beloved leader of the Russian masses?
A clue is provided by the interesting fact that four students from North Korea were studying in the Moscow theological seminary, and then became deacons in the MP, serving in the St. Nicholas cathedral in Vladivostok. And why have they come to Russia to study Orthodoxy? It seems they are quite frank in their reply to this question: they are in Russia at the command of their secular masters. “Orthodoxy comes to us with difficulty, but our great leader comrade Kim Chen Ir has taken the decision to build an Orthodox church in Pyonyang,” declared Deacon Fyodor to journalists.
ROAC priest Fr. Michael Ardov commented well on this: “This is the sin of dual faith, for which the Lord punishes more severely than for lack of faith. A Christian cannot at the same time bow down to the Lord and to the powers of darkness. In North Korea there reigns the cult of the family of the Kims, which is accompanied by barbaric rites. The bishop of Vladivostok Benjamin should not allow the North Korean double-faithers over the threshold of the church even under threat of his being banned from serving. It is in this that his episcopal duty lies, and not in fulfilling the commands of the bosses like a soldier. But he has prepared the latter, demonstrating sergianism in action. It is noteworthy that this same Bishop Benjamin, being a professor of the Moscow theological academy, is glorified as a strict zealot of Orthodoxy. His example shows why in principle there can be no good bishops in the Moscow Patriarchate…”
- 3. The New Martyrs
The major problems here for the MP were the questions of the Royal Martyrs, on the one hand, and of the martyrs of the Catacomb Church who rejected Metropolitan Sergius, on the other. Non-royal martyrs killed before the schism with the Catacomb Church could be “safely” canonized. Thus in 1989, the MP canonized Patriarch Tikhon, and in 1992 it canonized three more martyrs and set up a commission to inquire into the martyrdom of the Royal Family, about which an MP publication wrote in 1998: “No less if not more dangerous as an ecclesiastical falsification is the MP’s Canonization Commission, headed by Metropolitan Juvenal (Poiarkov), which has suggested a compromise glorification of Tsar Nicholas Alexandrovich: ‘Yes, he was guilty of the tragedy on Khodynka field, he hobnobbed with Rasputin, he offended the workers, the country became backward. In general as a ruler of a state he was completely useless. Most important, he brought the country to revolution. But he suffered for Christ…’ Such a falsification will only continue that dirty stream of slander which the Christ-fighters began to pour out already long before 1917…”
After nearly a decade of temporising, the MP finally, under pressure from its flock, glorified the Royal New Martyrs and many other martyrs of the Soviet yoke. Having unanimously rejected this canonization at their council in 1998, two years later they unanimously accepted it.The glorification of the Royal New Martyrs was a compromise decision, reflecting the very different attitudes towards them in the patriarchate. The Royal Martyrs were called “passion-bearers” rather than “martyrs”, and it was made clear that they were being glorified, not for the way in which they lived their lives, but for the meekness with which they faced their deaths. This allowed the anti-monarchists to feel that Nicholas was still the “bloody Nicholas” of Soviet mythology, and that it was “Citizen Romanov” rather than “Tsar Nicholas” who had been glorified – the man rather than the monarchical principle for which he stood.
As regards the other martyrs, Sergius Kanaev writes: “In the report of the President of the Synodal Commission for the canonisation of the saints, Metropolitan Juvenal (Poiarkov), the criterion of holiness adopted… for Orthodox Christians who had suffered during the savage persecutions was clearly and unambiguously declared to be submission ‘to the lawful leadership of the Church’, which was Metropolitan Sergius and his hierarchy. With such an approach, the holiness of the ‘sergianist martyrs’ was incontestable. The others were glorified or not glorified depending on the degree to which they ‘were in separation from the lawful leadership of the Church’. Concerning those who were not in agreement with the politics of Metropolitan Sergius, the following was said in the report: ‘In the actions of the “right” oppositionists, who are often called the “non-commemorators”, one cannot find evil-intentioned, exclusively personal motives. Their actions were conditioned by their understanding of what was for the good of the Church’. In my view, this is nothing other than blasphemy against the New Martyrs and a straight apology for sergianism. With such an approach the consciously sergianist Metropolitan Seraphim (Chichagov), for example, becomes a ‘saint’, while his ideological opponent Metropolitan Joseph of Petrograd, who was canonized by our Church, is not glorified. For us another fact is also important, that Metropolitan Seraphim was appointed by Sergius (Stragorodsky) in the place of Metropolitan Joseph, who had been ‘banned’ by him.”
Other Catacomb martyrs were “glorified” by the MP because their holiness was impossible to hide. Thus the relics of Archbishop Victor of Vyatka were found to be incorrupt and now lie in a patriarchal cathedral – although he was the very first bishop officially to break with Sergius and called him and his church organization graceless! Again, the reputation of Metropolitan Cyril of Kazan was too great to be ignored, in spite of the fact that by the end of his life his position differed in no way from that of St. Victor or St. Joseph.
Some, seeing the glorification of the Catacomb martyrs by their opponents, remembered the Lord’s words: “Ye build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets’. Therefore ye bear witness against yourselves that ye are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up the measure of your fathers!” (Matthew 23.29-32).
This blasphemous canonisation of both the true and the false martyrs, thereby downgrading the exploit of the true martyrs, had been predicted by the ROCOR priest Fr. Oleg Oreshkin: “I think that some of those glorified will be from the sergianists so as to deceive the believers. ‘Look,’ they will say, ‘he is a saint, a martyr, in the Heavenly Kingdom, and he recognized the declaration of Metropolitan Sergius, so you must be reconciled with it and its fruits.’ This will be done not in order to glorify martyrdom for Christ’s sake, but in order to confirm the sergianist politics.”
The main thing from the MP’s point of view was that their founder, Metropolitan Sergius, should be given equal status with the catacomb martyrs whom he persecuted. Thus in 1997 the patriarch said: “Through the host of martyrs the Church of Russia bore witness to her faith and sowed the seed of her future rebirth. Among the confessors of Christ we can in full measure name… his Holiness Patriarch Sergius.”
By the time of the council of 2000, the MP still did not feel able to canonise Sergius – probably because it fears that it would prevent a union with ROCOR. But neither did it canonise the leader of the Catacomb Church, Metropolitan Joseph of Petrograd. This suggested that a canonisation of the two leaders was in the offing, but depended on the success of the negotiations between the MP and ROCOR.
The patriarch’s lack of ecclesiastical principle and ecclesiological consistency in this question was pointed out by Fr. Peter Perekrestov: “In the introduction to one article (“In the Catacombs”,Sovershenno Sekretno, № 7, 1991) Patriarch Alexis wrote the following: ‘I believe that our martyrs and righteous ones, regardless of whether they followed Metropolitan Sergius or did not agree with his position, pray together for us.’ At the same time, in the weekly, Nedelya, № 2, 1/92, the same Patriarch Alexis states that the Russian Church Abroad is a schismatic church, and adds: ‘Equally uncanonical is the so-called “Catacomb” Church.’ In other words, he recognizes the martyrs of the Catacomb Church, many of whom were betrayed to the godless authorities by Metropolitan Sergius’s church organization…, and at the same time declares that these martyrs are schismatic and uncanonical!”
For in the last resort, as Fr. Peter pointed out, for the MP this whole matter was not one of truth or falsehood, but of power: “It is not important to them whether a priest is involved in shady business dealings or purely church activities; whether he is a democrat or a monarchist; whether an ecumenist or a zealot; whether he wants to serve Vigil for six hours or one; whether the priest serves a panikhida for the victims who defended the White House or a moleben for those who sided with Yeltsin; whether the priest wants to baptize by immersion or by sprinkling; whether he serves in the catacombs or openly; whether he venerates the Royal Martyrs or not; whether he serves according to the New or Orthodox Calendar – it really doesn’t matter. The main thing is to commemorate Patriarch Alexis. Let the Church Abroad have its autonomy, let it even speak out, express itself as in the past, but only under one condition: commemorate Patriarch Alexis. This is a form of Papism – let the priests be married, let them serve according to the Eastern rite – it makes no difference, what is important is that they commemorate the Pope of Rome.”
It is open to question whether the patriarchate’s canonisation of even the true martyrs is pleasing to God. Thus when 50 patriarchal bishops uncovered the relics of Patriarch Tikhon in the Donskoj cemetery on April 5, 1992, witnesses reported that “it was even possible to recognise the face of the Patriarch from his incorrupt visage, and his mantia and mitre were also preserved in complete incorruption. Witnesses also speak about a beautiful fragrance and an unusual feeling of reverential peace at that moment. But then, as some patriarchal clerics confirm, on contact with the air the relics crumbled, or – as the Catacomb Christians remark – the relics were not given into the hands of the Moscow Patriarchate. Then they buried them in plaster – a blasphemous act from an Orthodox point of view…”
The MP council’s documents were well characterised by the ROCOR clergy of Kursk as follows: “Everywhere there is the same well-known style: pleasing the ‘right’ and the ‘left’, the Orthodox and the ecumenists, ‘yours’ and ‘ours’, without the slightest attempt at definiteness, but with, on the other hand, a careful preservation of the whole weight of the sins of the past and present.” The “Jubilee Sobor” was final proof that the MP had not repented and could not repent unless its higher echelons were removed and the whole church apparatus was thoroughly purged.
January 10/23, 2017.
Bychkov, “The Synod against a Council”, Moskovskii komsomolets, August 20, 1999, quoted by Joseph Legrande, “Re: [paradosis] Re: Solovki (WAS: Dealing with Heresy)”,firstname.lastname@example.org , 31 August, 2002.
“Dukhoventstvo stradaIet alkogolizmom chasche, chem drugie gruppy naselenia, utverzhdaiut psikhiatry” (The clergy suffer from alcoholism more than other groups of the population, say psychiatrists), portal-credo.ru, news, December 8, 2005.
This continues to the present day, with tragic consequences. Thus Archimandrite German (Khapugin) of Davydova Pustyn, near Moscow, “a very active businessman and quite rich”, was murdered in 2005 (Jeremy Page, “Mafia secret of murdered abbot”,The Times, July 29, 2005, p. 35).
Preobrazhensky, KGB v russkoj emigratsii, op. cit., p. 53.
Preobrazhensky, “Ecumenism and Intellignce”.
Protopriest Michael Ardov, “A ‘Man of the Church in a Blue Cover”, Church News, August-September, 1998, vol. 10, № 7 (14), pp. 7-8.
Church News, October, 2000, vol. 12, № 7 (89), pp. 10-11.
Sobornost’, June, 2001; in Pravoslavnaia Rus’ (Orthodox Russia), № 12 (1681), June 15/28, 2001, p. 16.
NG-Religia, № 7, 2001; in Pravoslavnaia Rus’ (Orthodox Russia), № 11 (1680), June 1/14, 2001, p. 16. In Russia at the same time there were four bishops, 220 parishes, 215 priests, 230 nuns, a seminary and a college (Russkaia Mysl’ (Russian Thought), 31 May – 6 June, 2001).
Vertograd-Inform, № 4 (49), 1999.
Preobrazhensky, “Ecumenism and Intelligence”.
Gundiaev, interview conducted by Alexis Venediktov, March 22, 2001.
Yuri Krupnov, “The Victory is Pascha”, http://pravaya.ru/look/7580?print=1.
V. Chikin, A. Prokhanov, “Religia Pobedy: Beseda” (The Religion of Victory: A Conversation), Zavtra (Tomorrow), № 32 (297), 1999, p. 2. Cf. Egor Kholmogorov, “Dve Pobedy” (Two Victories), Spetznaz Rossii (Russia’s Special Forces), № 5 (44), May, 2000, and my reply: V. Moss, “Imperia ili Anti-Imperia” (Empire or Anti-Empire), http://www.romanitas.ru/Actual/Impire.htm.
Dudko, “Mysli sviaschennika” (The Thoughts of a Priest),http://patriotica.narod.ru/history/dudko.
Preobrazhensky, “Ecumenism and Intelligence”.
Preobrazhensky, “Hostile Absorption of ROCOR”.
Andrew and Mitrokhin, The KGB and the World. The Mitrokhin Archive II, London: Penguin, 2006, pp. 490-492.
Ardov, “The ‘Jubilee Council’ has confirmed it: the Moscow Patriarchate has finally fallen away from Orthodoxy” (Report read at the 8th Congress of the clergy, monastics and laity of the Suzdal diocese of the Russian Orthodox [Autonomous] Church, November, 2000).
Church News, vol. 12, № 6 (88), July-August, 2000, p. 8. Alfeyev had already shown his ecumenist colours in his book, The Mystery of Faith (first published in Moscow in Russian in 1996, in English byDarton, Longman and Todd in 2002), which was strongly criticised from within the MP by Fr. Valentine Asmus.
Associated Press, April 21, 2005; Corriere della Sera, April 24, 2005.
Savchenko, “Tserkov’ v Rossii i ‘Vsemirnij Soviet Tserkvej” (The Church in Russia and the World Council of Churches), Pravoslavnaia Rus’ (Orthodox Russia), № 2 (1743), January 15/28, 2004, pp. 10-12.
Iubilejnij Arkhierejskij Sobor Russkoj pravoslavnoj tserkvi. Moskva 13-16 avgusta 2000 goda (The Jubilee Hierarchical Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, Moscow, 13-16 August, 2000), St. Petersburg, 2000, p. 159.
 Protopriest Vladimir Savitsky, Hieromonk Valentine (Salomakh) and Deacon Nicholas Savchenko,
“Pis’mo iz Sankt-Peterburga” (Letter from St. Petersburg), Otkliki, op. cit., part 1, Paris, 2001, p. 92.
Moskovskij Tserkovnij Vestnik (Moscow Church Herald), №№ 14-15, pp. 243-244; quoted by Fr. Michael Ardov, http://portal-credo.ru/site/?act=english&id=13.
Gundiaev, in Vertograd-Inform, № 504, February 2, 2005.
See V. Moss, The Russian Golgotha, Wildwood, Alberta: Monastery Press, 2006, volume 1: North-West Russia.
“Otkrovenie Tovarischa Alfeyeva” (A Revelation of Comrade Alfeyev), Nasha Strana (Buenos Aires), N 2907, January, 2010, p. 4.
 Ardov, http://rocornews.livejournal.com/197515.html.
Pravoslavie ili Smert’ (Orthodoxy or Death), № 8, 1998.
Kanaev, “Obraschenie k pervoierarkhu RPTsZ” (Address to the First Hierarch of the ROCOR), in Otkliki, op. cit., part 2, Paris, 2001, pp. 3-4 ; Iubilejnij Arkhierejskij Sobor(Jubilee Hierarchical Council), op. cit., pp. 43, 44.
“Ierei o. Oleg otvechaet na voprosy redaktsiii” (The Priest Fr. Oleg Replies to the Questions of the Editors), Pravoslavnaia Rus’ (Orthodox Russia), № 23 (1452), December 1/14, 1991, p. 7.
Ridiger, in Fr. Peter Perekrestov, “The Schism in the Heart of Russia (Concerning Sergianism)”, Canadian Orthodox Herald, 1999, № 4.
Perekrestov, “Why Now?” Orthodox Life, vol. 44, № 6, November-December, 1994, p. 44.
Perekrestov, “Why Now?” op. cit., p. 43.
Eugene Polyakov, personal communication, April 5, 1992.
“Obraschenie kurskogo dukhovenstva k mitropolitu Vitaliu” (Address of the Kursk Clergy to Metropolitan Vitaly), Otkliki, op. cit., part 3, p. 80.