We, the Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, gathering in Bishops Council (Sobor) in the God-protected city of Kiev, foremost would like to bear witness to our beloved flock of the spiritual joy, bestowed on us by our most merciful Lord after many trials through the myrrh-streaming image of the “Reigning” Icon of the Mother of God at he Montreal parish of St. Seraphim of Sarov, earlier this year. This is evidence to us, that the most merciful Lord does not deprive us of His grace despite the multitude of our sins. He continues to call us to repentance, and to stand in the truth as did the Holy Royal Martyrs, His holiness St. Patriarch Tikhon, and the Holy Martyrs and Confessors of Russia.
For the Christian, Truth is more valuable than all else on earth. For this reason unity for the Christian is only desirable in the truth. Our Lord Himself said”For this I was born and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth.” (Jn, 18:37) . He directs those who wish to believe in Him, to know the Truth. (John, 8:32), for outside of this truth there is no freedom from sin, and following this there can be no salvation. To this end it is not merely wrong, but a transgression to strive for unity with whatever or whoever it may be at the cost of truth. This is why the Fathers of the Church, continually and without compromise fighting either heretics who would deny the truth of Christ’s teachings, or schismatics who would tear the seamless garment of Christ explain that difference may be wonderful, just as unity may be condemning.
St. Gregory the Theologian, while a great defender of peace in the Church, nevertheless teaches: “for some it is better to be in discord, than in oneness of ideas” (second teaching, pp. 189). Our goal should not be unity in and of itself, but only unity in the truth. Orthodoxy is none other than a fullness of Christian truth – deviation from this is in some degree compromise with falseness. St. John of Kronstadt teaches that other confessions, albeit calling themselves “orthodox,” “hold the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).
Beloved, as you are aware in recent times, there have been suggestions from some of those fallen away from the true path which the Church Abroad always followed to explore the options of joining with them. The Council, having assessed these suggestions concludes that such a possibility may only occur when these groups, through repentance, return to the true path which the Church Abroad has always followed and currently follows. The path was attested to by His Beatitude of blessed memory, Met. Vitaly, and borne witness to in His encyclical of 09/22 June 2001 and extraordinary epistle of 14/27 Oct. of that same year.
This past year was marked by a continuing series of many and varied cataclysmic and apocalyptic events in our surrounding world – while our Church remained in comparative peace and blessedness. We owe much of this to the fruit-bearing efforts of the previous two councils, which resolved various and many questions to the situations and regulations of Church life under the current situation; and likewise to the efforts of our Bishops who worked to resolve problems in the spirit of brotherly Christian Love.
y the Mercy of God, to continue the episcopacy of our Church there have been Heirotonia (elevation to the rank of Bishop) of several new Bishops: Heiromonk Tikhon (Antonov) to Bishop of Vasilsk, Vicar of Moldovia and Higumen Martine (Lapkovsk) to Bishop of Alexinsk and Southern Russia. Also at the requests of Bishop Victor (Parbus) to separate the Northern Russian diocese and to oversee this in conjunction with, and the title of; St. Petersburg and Northern Russia, to appoint to the widowed Western European Cathedra Heiromonk (now Bishop) Cassian (Muhin) with the title “of Marseilles and Western Europe.”
These joyous events should act to strengthen us all and to reassure those who desponded over our limited numbers and those who the enemy of mankind and his helpers in the world confused through fragmenting and schism.
In these times of vast falling away one need not be confused. This is all allowed by God, and we have long been prepared for this by the Gospel and Epistles. Rather than confusion we must reinforce our efforts to remain faithful and work to preserve our commitment to Christ our Savior and His holy Church.
Each faithful Christian must pay constant attention to himself and wage constant warfare with sin – true faithfulness to our Lord Jesus Christ and His holy Church, unceasing prayer for the mercy and help of God, for without this we can do nothing good, but only sin continually.
Children of the Church Abroad, do not despair in your hearts! We live in difficult times of vast temptation, falling away and apostasy from the Truth. Fewer and fewer are willing to stand without compromise against Sergianism and Ecumenism. Faith and prayer have weakened everywhere and the world has received tumultuous natural events, earthquakes, fires, hurricanes. More and more our planet reminds one of a powder-keg which at any moment can explode and annihilate all that surrounds it. Continually it becomes more difficult for the Christian to steer his earthly course to remain true to Christ and His Church. When in defense of his faith, one refuses to join with those untrue to Orthodoxy, he is accused of schism, a lack of love and ill will towards others. When a person stands in denial of today’s world with its backstabbing, lies, evil and egoism, he is derided and accused of judgment. Do not despair in your hearts! All that we see today was foretold by Christ and His Apostles. “When the Son of man shall come will He find Faith in the world?” (Luke 18,8). The holy Apostle Paul in his time said: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears”. (2Tim 4, 3-4). Christ Himself warned “you will be despised by all nations for my Name’s sake” (Mat. 24,9).
What brings this apostasy? The unwillingness to follow a Christian life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Our great hierarch Philaret the confessor, who glorified God by his incorrupt relics calls to us “Children of the Church! Orthodox Russian people! Let us remember our Orthodoxy – let us remember to what we are committed by our calling to be members of the Church of Christ! Let us repair our lives – let us Church them! Let us make the primary focus of our lives be a complete obedience to the Church. Let us remove from our lives all dirt, pride, filth and self will which so fills life and our surrounding world! Let us be Orthodox not in merely name but by our lives! Then our prayer will reach the Throne of our Lord of Glory” and our Lord will have mercy on us and steer our path and lives. Amen.
+Archbishop Vladimir, San Francisco and Western America
+Bishop Anastassi, Vladivostok and the Far East
+Bishop Victor, St. Petersburg and Northern Russia
+Bishop Alexei, Soltanov and Moldovia
+Bishop Tikhon, Vasilkovsk, Vicar to Moldovia
+Bishop Martine, Alexinsk and Southern Russia
+Bishop Cassian, Marseilles and Western Europe