To the Secretary of the Holy Synod His Eminence Metropolitan Photios of Dimitriados
Your Eminence, Bless!
I am writing You from the road, on a trip to France and Spain, and I am writing on my telephone so I ask forgiveness if there is anything confusing.
My trip to Russia, that is my visit with the Hierarchs of the RTOC and ROAC was more of an informative character, and as such I can say that it was successful. For me the first question in our discussions was their stance towards union between the Russian jurisdictions.
Unity between the RTOC and the ROAC is not impossible – that is, for its establishment there are no serious obstacles – but as far as I can see there is no decisive initiative for this to happen from either side. The more serious problem is with Agathangel’s synod, with whom the other two jurisdictions have nothing to talk about. Their reasons are not small ones. In the first place is the way in which the Agathangel synod was created with the help of the Greek (Cyprianite) bishops, avoiding the already-existing Russian bishops. They consider that Agathangel in this fashion fell away from the inheritance of the Russian Church. More importantly, they consider that the main reason for his independence was Cyprianism, because he claimed that the other Russian hierarchs had an “extreme” confession of faith, while he with the help of the Cyprianite bishops created a Synod with the “correct,” “traditional” ie Cyprianite confession of faith. Secondly, from the people that he collected around himself and made into bishops, he made his own personal Synod which quickly voted for him as Metropolitan (white klobuk), which for the Russians means the first hierarch, over everyone, as were Philaret and Vitaly. Third, the whole time Met. Agathangel has been treating the other Russian hierarchs very arrogantly and insultingly, declaring all of them schismatics, and until only recently, extremists. The irony is that with the union of March 2014, Agathangel was forced to accept what he had until only recently called an “extreme” confession of faith and thus invalidated his main accusation against the other Russian hierarchs of “extremism.” The RTOC and ROAC do not have a good opinion of Agathangel and think that it was a serious mistake that you (the GOC) accepted him into communion and thus gave him an appearance of canonicity and legitimacy. This even further confirmed him in his self-deception that he is some bishop in authority over others who during the period of the collapse of the Russian Church Abroad behaved the most canonically and correctly in comparison to the other Russian bishops who opposed the union with the Moscow Patriarchate. With this idea he gives himself the right to consider the other Russian hierarchs schismatics and uncanonical bishops because they ceased communion with the Russian Church Abroad “before they should have” while it was under “Metropolitan” Laurus, which is entirely unreasonable, as he (Agathangel) in following Laurus “to the end” participated in the complete betrayal of the principles of True Orthodoxy, culminating in the official concelebration with Metropolitan Amphilochius of the Serbian Patriarchate.
For our STOC Metropolitan Agathangel is a serious and nearly insurmountable problem. An eventual entry into communion with the GOC would mean entry into communion with Met. Agathangel, which would mean recognizing him as a canonical part of the Russian Church, which he certainly is not, and entry with him into communion would be an openly unfriendly act towards the other parts of the Russian Church, which we wish to avoid if this is at all possible. Thus we ask you from the perspective of the GOC (not from the perspective of the Synod in Resistance) to look into the entry into communion with Met. Agathangel or at least to put pressure on him to humble himself, admit and correct his mistakes towards the other Russian Hierarchs, the first and essential one of which was the way he created his Synod, by rejecting the brotherly help offered by the Russian bishops who were then and now canonical, and seeking help from the Greek Cyprianite bishops who at the time were neither canonical nor Orthodox.
Another important matter is the opinion of the RTOC under Archbishop Tikhon about the union of the GOC and the SiR: they believe that an overly-large compromise was made which is unacceptable when the confession of faith is in question. They especially point out the recent letter of Bishop Auxentius of Etna as a confirmation that Cyprianism continues freely to act, and that a public denunciation of the Cyprianite teaching by the former member bishops of the Cyprianite synod is urgently necessary in order to defeat this false teaching and end any confusion about the question. In my opinion, the Russian Hierarchs’ desire is not ill-intentioned and judgmental towards the GOC – on the contrary, I think it is honest and well-intentioned.
I think that you should speak with them and explain the stances of the GOC about these matters, and not let the RTOC form its stance according to the writings of Vladimir Moss and the stances which Fr. Victor Melehov is pushing. You must keep in mind they consider your (the GOC)’s acceptance of Met. Agathangel into communion uncanonical, incorrect and unfriendly, and thus any initiative from their side for a conversation is nearly impossible.
I made protest before the RTOC hierarchs because of their acceptance of the defrocked Greek clergymen into the RTOC jurisdiction, and they said that they would re-examine that case. They responded in the negative to my question about the rumor that the RTOC is planning to establish bishops for the Greek Church, and said that this rumor is slander. On the contrary, they say that they never planned on establishing bishops for the Greek Church.
That is basically my short report on my trip to Russia and visit to the hierarchs of the RTOC and ROAC, to which I have also added some of my personal opinions.
I also wanted to let you know that in Serbia we already are having some problems because of our initiative to be closer with the GOC. Ten people are already very close to ceasing communion with us. They think that our coming closer to the GOC is a betrayal of the faith because of the Cyprianite bishops who have not repented of that false teaching and are now in the GOC Synod.
I wish You every good thing from the Lord, and please convey to His Beatitude my greetings.
23 November 2015