As we know, the main theme of the forthcoming Council of clergy and laity are the relations between ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchate and the question of restoring eucharistic communion. This question has arisen since the fall of the militantly atheistic Soviet regime, which so violently persecuted the Russian Orthodox Church. With the hideous anti-ROCOR slanders of past politics hopefully removed and freedom officially restored within Russia, changes in relations are undeniably due. It is the extent of these changes which are controversial, or as some have said, the question is not if, but when.
The situation of both the Patriarchate and of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia have changed radically over the last forty-five years. For example, speaking outside Russia, St John addressed himself to a Russian audience, for most of whom, though living in the diaspora, Russia was home. Today most members of our Church are multinational, most were born outside Russia, even their parents and grandparents were born outside Russia. Few of us have Russian nationality, many of us have no, or only partially, Russian blood. As for the Soviet Union, it has been consigned into the dustbin of history. Officially, there is freedom. Today's hotbed of atheism is not in Russia, but in Western Europe. Today, one of the most popular saints in Russian is the martyred Tsar Nicholas, canonized inside Russia five years ago. Another is St John himself, now also canonized. Metropolitan Laurus and many others have visited Russia and spoken to Patriarch Alexis and others of the Patriarchate.
Despite these changes, the facts pointed to by St John in these visionary addresses should still provoke thought. Firstly, being free himself, he refused to judge those in Russia who were not free. Secondly, he clearly understood that the Church Outside Russia and the Patriarchate are only two parts of one and the same Church. Spiritual unity has always existed between them. The unification being sought is unification, not subjugation by one part of the other, it is the restoration of the Russian Orthodox Church as a whole.
St John is often called after his title, 'of Shanghai', but he is also known as 'of San Francisco' and 'of Western Europe'. This threefold title, his birth and youth in Russia and the Ukraine, his monastic and priestly life in Serbia and the Balkans, his episcopate in Asia, in China and the Philippines, the presence of many of his spiritual children in Australia, his episcopate in Western Europe and even North Africa, and finally his last years in North America and his visits to South America where his parents lived, make of him a universal model of Orthodoxy. Most of us are now ardently praying that St John will guide us all in today's multinational Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, that our decisions may be inspired. With the extraordinary dilemma of our present situation, probably all of us are now thinking: 'If only St John were alive, he would know what to do'.
Below the reader will find the translation of the second half of the first address (the first half not being relevant here) and all of his second address. May the Lord keep us all through the holy prayers of St John.
the Spiritual and Moral Significance of the
Spiritually the Russian Church is indivisible: She is always one and the same Russian Church, wherever we may be.
Being part of the Russian Church, we cannot be in communion with ecclesiastical authorities which are subjugated and enslaved by a regime hostile to the Church. To be in a state of such subjugation and dependency is an unhealthy condition for the soul: it unnatural for ecclesiastical authorities to be dependent on a regime whose aim is the destruction of the Church and even faith in God. And those who find themselves in such a dependent state cannot but sense and be aware of the unhealthiness of such a situation: those whose conscience is living are tormented - others, whose conscience burns, accept such a situation.
The ecclesiastical authorities in Russia are in a position such that we cannot discern and understand what is done freely and what is done by coercion.
The ecclesiastical authorities in Russia are an image of captivity and spiritual powerlessness: there is neither freewill, nor outward freedom.
We have nobody to be in communion with: there are no free ecclesiastical authorities.
For this reason the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia is not administratively tied to any such authorities. But we are united spiritually with the Holy Russian Church, for we are part of the Russian Church.
We must not think that in our homeland everyone is spiritually enslaved by the authorities there. We believe just the opposite. We do not test hearts which are known to God alone, but we know that in Russia there is no freedom of conscience and will, that reserve has become deep-rooted there, that people there are unsociable, that people there cannot choose their path in life and follow their hearts, that there exists that state prophesied by the Prophet Micah: 'there people have no faith in one another, they trust not their friends' and 'a man's enemies are the men of his own house'. The atheist authorities have a pernicious influence on people. It is not only the body which is subjected to them, but they also imprison the soul, dehumanizing man and deforming the sincere and open Russian soul.
We, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, preserve our unity, in communion with all the Churches, with Which communion is possible.
In our worldwide diaspora we have not placed ourselves under Local Churches, not because we are hostile to Them, but because we watch over the holy Russian Church and the virtues of the Russian soul.
Our Church unity is expressed in the fact that the whole of the diaspora is placed under a single ecclesiastical authority and that this unity preserves Russian people outside Russia in faithfulness to the ascetic task set for them by God.
Our Diocese is Part of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia
Opening Address of St John the Wonderworker at the
When we say the words 'Outside Russia', we refer to national borders. The borders of the Russian Church did not at all used to coincide with the borders of the Russian State. Long ago the Russian Church already existed in America and that part of Her was an inseparable part of the Russian Church. The Russian Church cared not only for Russian people or subjects of the Russian State: Orthodox of various nationalities, various countries and states, belonged to her. One of the vicar-bishops in North America was a Syrian who had pastoral oversight of the Syrians. In general, in America right up until the end of the First World War, the Russian Church cared for all Orthodox. All the bishops belonged to the Russian Church.
The Russian Church also cared for the Assyrians, and at the end of the last century there was a special Syro-Chaldean bishop in Iran who also belonged to the Russian Church.
The situation in Western Europe was the same.
After Rome separated from the Universal Church, the issue of who should care for Orthodox in Western Europe was never decided. Thus, church-buildings and parishes of various Churches were established, although most were under the Russian Church. These were not only embassy churches; fine churches were built in various countries, wherever there were Orthodox. Such churches exist in many places in Germany and Austria, and also in several cities and towns in Italy and France - in Geneva, in Nice, in Cannes, in Vevey, in Pau. Nobody at that time objected to the fact that part of the Russian Church outside Russia also existed in Western Europe. Nobody objected to the fact that it was administered through the vicar-bishop of Kronstadt in the diocese of St Petersburg, and that Russian churches in Western Europe figured under the title of 'churches outside Russia'.
Many Orthodox of various countries and nationalities were cared for by the Russian Church. The Orthodox of Japan and China, where there were church-buildings, parishes and even dioceses of the Russian Church, belonged to Her.
Thus, it is clear that the Russian Church Outside Russia, or the presence of part of the Russian Church outside the borders of Russia, is hardly a new phenomenon, dating only from after the collapse of the Russian State.
There is nothing new in the existence of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. What is new is, firstly, that it has increased in size many times over and, secondly, that it is now administered independently of the ecclesiastical authorities of the rest of the Russian Church.
This independent existence is a new phenomenon for the Russian Church, but it is not at all new in the history of the Universal Church and, in starting such an existence, the Russian Church has followed the example set by Her mother - the Greek Church.
One hundred years before our catastrophe in Greece, there began a movement of liberation, whose aim was liberation from the Turkish regime. At the demand of the Turks, the Patriarch of Constantinople addressed himself to the insurgents and appealed to them to stop their uprising, and moreover threatened the disobedient with chastisement in the most frightening terms. What were the faithful to do then? Naturally, they knew that the Patriarch had done this under Turkish pressure. In the liberated areas they established the independent Church of Greece. For some thirty years it had no dealings with Constantinople, which did not recognize Her. Later, when the power of the Turks weakened, relations were restored, but nevertheless the Church of Greece not only retained her independence, but after the First World War other liberated Greek areas joined Her. These had from ancient times been part of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. However, there is no doubt that, if the Lord granted that Constantinople were once more to become the capital of the Greek State, then the Greek Churches would reunite.
We can see a similar situation in the Serbian Church. When the Turks occupied Serbia, part of the Serbian people crossed the national border and formed an independent Serbian Church within the confines of Austria-Hungary, with a Metropolitan in Sremski Karlovtsy. In relation to the Serbian Church we can say that this was the Serbian Church Outside Serbia. When all parts of Serbia were liberated and united into one Serbian State, then too came the triumphant unification of the Serbian Church with the part of Her outside Serbia.
We will hope that when the Russian State is restored and freed from the atheist regime, then there will be rejoicing at the triumph of the restoration of the Russian Church.
The time for this has not come now. The ecclesiastical authorities within Russia are wholly dependent on the Soviet regime.
The recent appeal of the Patriarch of Moscow and the Synod to clergy to return to their native land, alleging various political and economic achievements, naturally keeping silence about the oppression of the Church and the faith, are clear proof of that dependence. This appeal clearly demonstrates their desire to deprive the emigration of a spiritual bulwark; it is pursuing a purely political goal and it confirms that we cannot submit to ecclesiastical authorities which are wholly dependent on a regime hostile to the Church.
The part of the Russian Church which is outside Russia began its independent existence on behalf of freedom, and it will continue thus, for as long as the reasons for this independence exist.