Monthly Archives: October 2021

STATEMENT

Following the dramatic events yesterday when Bp Irenei threatened to defrock everyone for defending Orthodoxy, His Eminence Metropolitan Jean of Dubna has specifically blessed the publication of the following text on all media in order to counter all manner of untruths that have been circulated on the internet over the last two months. We have been forced into replying and our collective answer is here.

On the Reception of Clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia by the Moscow Patriarchate Archdiocese of Orthodox Churches of Russian Tradition in Western Europe.

1. On 23 August 2021, a group of thirteen Russian Orthodox clergy in the United Kingdom (hereafter “the clergy”) moved from the ROCOR Diocese of Western Europe (hereafter “the ROCOR Diocese”) to the Moscow Patriarchate Archdiocese of Orthodox Churches of Russian Tradition in Western Europe (hereafter “the MP Archdiocese”). This transfer was formally announced by the MP Archdiocese in its Communique of 3 September 2021:

Suite à leur demande instante et répétée ainsi qu’à leur Pétition, par économie canonique pour qu’ils puissent vivre en plénitude la grâce de l’Église orthodoxe, les 21 et 23 août dernier ont été reçus au sein de l’Archevêché des églises orthodoxes de tradition russe en Europe occidentale les communautés et les clercs du Royaume-Uni ci-dessous mentionnés: ... [Whereafter follow the names of the major clergy transferring from ROCOR to the MP Archdiocese.]

2. This transfer was motivated by two principal factors. Firstly, the clergy sought to escape the situation of schism into which they had been placed by the ruling Bishop of the ROCOR Diocese, Bp Irenei Steenberg. Secondly, the clergy could not reconcile themselves either with the Bp Irenei’s attack upon Russian Orthodox tradition, or with anti-canonical actions of Bp Irenei, actions which greatly exceed the limits of his own canonical jurisdiction within the Church.

3. The clergy had hoped that their transfer would occur quietly and without controversy. Unfortunately, due to subsequent actions of Bp Irenei Steenberg and a small number of clergy within the ROCOR Diocese, this has not been possible. Various misrepresentations of this transfer have been circulated, online and in correspondence – most significantly the false assertion that this transfer did not take place in a canonical manner. Subsequent to their transfer, Bp Irenei himself, in violation of both the Holy Canons of the Orthodox Church and ROCOR’s own procedures, issued several of the clergy with notices of suspension and summons to appear before his Diocesan Court. To date, these recriminatory actions are ongoing.

4. In consequence, it has become necessary to prepare the following statement. This statement will have four components. (1) It will present the reasons for the transfer of the clergy from the ROCOR Diocese to the MP Archdiocese in August 2021. (2) It will correct the erroneous claim that the transfer of the clergy did not take place in a canonical manner. (3) It will highlight violations of the Holy Canons, ROCOR’s own procedures, and natural justice by Bp Irenei Steenberg and his Diocesan Court in Bp Irenei’s recriminatory actions against the clergy. (4) It will attempt to outline what is required to end the current schism into which the ROCOR Diocese has been placed by Bp Irenei, and what is needed for a constructive path forward.

I. The Reasons for the Transfer.

5. The transfer of clergy from the ROCOR Diocese to the MP Archdiocese was prompted by three issues: (i) the breach of ROCOR’s sacramental communion and canonical unity with the MP Archdiocese in the United Kingdom in January 2021; (ii) the non-canonical action of the ROCOR Bishop of Western Europe in publicly judging clergy outwith his jurisdiction in February 2021; and (iii) the statement of intention to cease ROCOR’s sacramental communion with the Diocese of Sourozh, in April 2021.

(i) The Schism of ROCOR from the MP Archdiocese in the United Kingdom.

6. On 17 December 2020, Metr John of Dubna, the ruling Metropolitan of the MP Archdiocese, received the Greek Catholic Priest, Fr Jacob Siemens into the ranks of its clergy at the Cathedral of St Alexander Nevsky in Paris. In receiving Fr Jacob, Metr John did not perform a reordination, but rather received Fr Jacob by vesting and concelebration.

7. Upon learning of this event, the ruling Bishop of the ROCOR Diocese, Bp Irenei Steenberg, rejected the reception of Fr Jacob Siemens by vesting and concelebration. In his Directive № 359/E, dated 23 January 2021, Bp Irenei stated that it is absolutely impossible for a Catholic Priest to be received into the Orthodox Church as a Priest by vesting and concelebration:

... the ‘reception’ on 4th / 17th December 2020 by the Archdiocese of an heterodox individual by the name of James [sic] Siemens, resident in the environs of Cardiff, Wales, purportedly into the ranks of the Holy Orthodox clergy but in a manner that appears to us to be in violation of the Holy Orthodox Canons as well as the firm practices of the Russian Orthodox Church as a whole: namely, that this individual, who was a Ukrainian Catholic Uniate priest, was ‘received’ into Orthodoxy apart from the sacramental measures of Baptism or Chrismation, and further, was thereafter acknowledged as an Orthodox Priest, without having an Orthodox ordination. While the former situation (reception into Orthodoxy ‘by confession’) is canonically highly irregular, but not an entirely unprecedented misapplication by economia of the canonical measures meant to apply to one who has an Orthodox baptism/chrismation and returns from schism (in this case, improperly applying it to a man who never had either), the latter issue, or ‘recognising’ a heterodox ordination as if it constituted the establishment of a man as an Orthodox priest, is wholly uncanonical and goes against the most basic foundations of the Holy Orthodox Church, to whose true nature we are called to be obedient and, when it is challenged, to defend, for the sake of the faithful.

8. In the same Directive № 359/E, of 23 January 2021, Bp Irenei Steenberg responded to the MP Archdiocese’s reception of Fr Jacob Siemens by formally directing his clergy (in boldface), as follows:

You may neither concelebrate nor participate liturgically, or in any ecclesiastical measure, with the aforementioned James Siemens, nor with any clergy or local institutions of the Archdiocese / Exarchate in the British Isles. Further, if You have any spiritual children or parishioners who at times have attended Exarchate parishes in the UK for reasons of proximity, etc., you must inform them that until this matter is resolved, they may not receive the Sacraments at any parish of the Exarchate in the British Isles. [1]

9. With this Directive, Bp Irenei Steenberg ruptured the unity of the Russian Orthodox Church in the British Isles. On the one hand, since there can be no sacramental communion without concelebration and liturgical participation, Bp Irenei’s Directive to forbid the concelebration and liturgical participation of ROCOR with the MP Archdiocese in the British Isles amounted ipso facto to a rupture of ROCOR’s sacramental communion with the MP Archdiocese in the British Isles. On the other hand, since canonical unity is realised precisely through reciprocal ecclesiastical measures, there can be no canonical unity between two Dioceses or Churches without both participating in such common ecclesiastical measures. As such, Bp Irenei’s Directive to forbid all ROCOR participation in any ecclesiastical measure with the MP Archdiocese amount ipso facto to a rupture of ROCOR’s canonical unity with the MP Archdiocese in the British Isles. And since a rupture of sacramental communion and canonical unity is a schism, Bp Irenei’s Directive to effect a rupture of ROCOR’s sacramental communion and canonical unity with the MP Archdiocese in the UK amounted to the initiation of a schism of ROCOR from the MP Archdiocese in the British Isles.

10. Bp Irenei Steenberg’s decision to initiate a schism with the MP Archdiocese on this basis could not be accepted by the clergy.

10.1. Principally, as Russian Orthodox Christians, the clergy could not accept Bp Irenei Steenberg’s absolute dogmatic denial of the reception of Catholic Priests into the Russian Orthodox Church by vesting and concelebration. For the reception of Catholic Priests in this manner is entirely standard practice in the Russian Orthodox Church. Indicatively:

  • The MP Archdiocese receives Catholic clergy by vesting and concelebration, as witnessed for example by the reception of Fr Jacob Siemens by Metr John of Dubna.
  • The Moscow Patriarchate receives Catholic clergy by vesting and concelebration, as was the case for example with the reception of Hmk Gabriel Bunge by Metr Hilarion (Alfeev) of Volokolamsk.
  • Hierarchs of the Russian emigration, such as St Tikhon of Moscow, Metr Evlogy (Georgievsky), and Abp Georges (Wagner) all consistently received Catholic Priests by vesting and concelebration.
  • It was through vesting and concelebration that St Alexis (Toth) of Wilkes-Barre, and the many Catholic Priests who followed him, were received from Catholicism into the Russian Orthodox Church.

By absolutely rejecting the reception of Catholic Priests into the Orthodox Church by vesting and concelebration, Bp Irenei was in fact rejecting Russian Orthodox practice and the witness of canonised Russian Orthodox saints. As Russian Orthodox Christians, the clergy could not accept such a rejection of the practice and witness of canonised saints of the Russian Orthodox Church.

10.2. Despite Bp Irenei Steenberg’s assertions of loyalty to “the firm practices of the Russian Orthodox Church as a whole,” his schism was in fact based, not upon fidelity to Russian Orthodoxy, but rather on a rejection of the traditions and saints of the Russian Orthodox Church. And, as Russian Orthodox Christians, it was not possible for the clergy to follow Bp Irenei into a schism based upon a rejection of Russian Orthodox tradition and the witness of canonised Russian Orthodox saints.

(ii) The Public Summary Judgment by Bp Irenei of Clergy beyond his Jurisdiction.

11. After having initiated a schism with the MP Archdiocese in the British Isles, Bp Irenei Steenberg proceeded to issue his Notice № 390/E, dated 26 February 2021 – a Notice which was, by his instruction, publicly read from the Amvon of the ROCOR parish in Cardiff:

In December of last year, the Archdiocese, based in Paris, supposedly received a Dr James [sic] Siemens into Holy Orthodoxy, though without Baptism or Chrismation, and now promotes him as a ‘priest,’ though this individual has no Orthodox ordination – in direct violation of the Holy Canons of the Church. … Dr Siemens is, according to the Holy Canons of the Orthodox Church, not a priest but a layman, and therefore has not received the grace of ordination to perform any rite or sacrament of the Orthodox Church. A ‘baptism’ performed by a non-priest is not a Baptism; ‘confession’ performed by a non-priest is not sacramental Confession; the ‘liturgy’ celebrated by a non-priest is not the Divine Liturgy and those who approach a chalice offered therein do not receive Christ’s precious Body or Blood, whatever may be said by the individual offering it or those in authority over him. This is but spiritual deception, and risks leading the unwitting faithful into the trap of false sacraments and false faith.

12. With this Notice, Bp Irenei Steenberg formally and publicly passed summary judgment upon Fr Jacob Siemens, not merely raising a question about Fr Jacob’s ordination, but categorically stating that Fr Jacob was not ordained, that he was not an Orthodox Priest, and that he was, rather a “non-Priest.” Moreover, with this Notice, Bp Irenei passed a thinly-veiled summary judgment upon Metr John of Dubna, stating that a Bishop who recognised Fr Jacob as an Orthodox Priest was in fact guilty of “spiritual deception.”

13. However, these actions of Bp Irenei could not be accepted by the clergy.

13.1. The clergy could not accept the judgment of Fr Jacob Siemens as a “non-priest,” for reasons following from those stated above (paragraph 10.1). Just as Fr Jacob was a Catholic Priest received into the Orthodox Priesthood through vesting and concelebration, so too (to take one example of many) was St Alexis of Wilkes-Barre a Catholic Priest received into the Orthodox Priesthood through vesting and concelebration. By the logic of Bp Irenei Steenberg’s judgment, were it the case that, owing to his manner of reception, Fr Jacob was not a Priest but a “non-Priest” exercising a sacramentally fictitious ministry, then so too would St Alexis of Wilkes-Barre have been a “non-Priest” who spent the entirety of the Orthodox clerical service – a service for which the Russian Orthodox Church recognises him as a saint – exercising a sacramentally fictitious ministry. Such a position, however, is unacceptable, as it is a direct rejection of the authenticity of the ministry of a canonised Russian Orthodox saint. As Russian Orthodox Christians, the clergy could not accept any judgment entailing such a consequence, and as such they could not accept the content of Bp Irenei’s judgment of Fr Jacob Siemens.

13.2. Nor could the clergy accept Bp Irenei Steenberg’s judgment – however explicitly or implicitly stated – that Hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church, such as Metr John of Dubna, are guilty of “spiritual deception” when they recognise the Priesthood of Russian Orthodox Priests received from Catholicism by vesting and concelebration. For, were Metr John of Dubna guilty on this basis of “spiritual deception,” then so too (in light of paragraph 10.1, above) would St Tikhon of Moscow, Metr Evlogy (Georgievsky), Abp Georges (Wagner), Metr Hilarion of Volokolamsk, and many other Russian Orthodox Hierarchs be guilty of “spiritual deception” – since they too recognise as Orthodox Priests those Priests who were received from Catholicism by vesting and concelebration. But such a judgment – which judges even canonised Russian Orthodox saints to be guilty of “spiritual deception” – is not only incompatible with Russian Orthodox tradition, but is a direct attack upon Russian Orthodox tradition. As Russian Orthodox Christians, the clergy could not accept any judgment entailing such a consequence, and as such they could not accept the content of Bp Irenei Steenberg’s judgment of Metr John of Dubna as guilty of “spiritual deception.”

13.3. Moreover, just as the clergy could not accept the content of Bp Irenei Steenberg’s public judgments regarding Fr Jacob Siemens and Metr John of Dubna, neither could they accept the fact that Bp Irenei had issued such public judgments at all. For, as attested by, indicatively, Canon 14 of the Protodeutera Synod, Canon 2 of the Second Ecumenical Synod, and Canon 13 of the Synod of Antioch, it is a general principle of canonical order in the Orthodox Church that each Hierarch respect the limits of his own jurisdiction:

Each [Bishop] needs to know his own due limits … [2]
Bishops are not to go beyond their jurisdiction to Churches lying beyond the limits of that jurisdiction, so that there be no confusion of the Churches … [3]
Let no Bishop dare to go from one Eparchy to another … unless, having been called upon to do so, he arrive with letters from the Metropolitan and from the Bishops into whose territory he goes. If, without being called by anyone, a Bishop depart in an irregular manner to … impose himself on ecclesiastical matters which are not for him to be concerned with, then the things done by him shall be void; and, for his irregularity, he shall be subject to punishment for his unreasonable undertaking, being immediately deposed by the Holy Synod.[4]

However, neither Fr Jacob Siemens nor Metr John of Dubna are clergy under Bp Irenei Steenberg’s jurisdiction. Indeed, not only are neither clergy within Bp Irenei’s own ROCOR Diocese, but neither are clergy within ROCOR at all. And as such, Bp Irenei had no canonical jurisdiction to pass public summary judgment on either. Rather, any concerns which Bp Irenei had about either Fr Jacob Siemens or Metr John of Dubna ought to have been referred by him to the appropriate body which does possess the canonical jurisdiction to judge the matter of concern. In the case of Fr Jacob, this would mean referring the concern to Fr Jacob’s Diocesan Bishop; whilst in the case of Metr John, it would mean referring the concern to the Archiepiscopal Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate. Then, in each case, having referred the matter, Bp Irenei should have left it with the body in question to investigate and pass judgment (or indeed, to decide whether or not to pass judgment at all). However, by failing to follow the canonical path, but instead choosing to pass summary judgment upon Fr Jacob and Metr John, Bp Irenei acted ultra vires, assuming for himself the jurisdiction that belongs (in the one case) to the Metropolitan of the Moscow Patriarchate, and (in the other case) to the Archiepiscopal Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate. And, as Russian Orthodox Christians, faithful to the canonical structure of the Russian Orthodox Church, the clergy could not accept such anti-canonical action on the part of Bp Irenei – action whose anti-canonical nature is of such gravity that Canon 13 of the Synod of Antioch (quoted above) requires punishment with deposition.

(iii) The Intention to cease ROCOR’s Communion with the Diocese of Sourozh.

14. Following the above events, on 25 April 2021, Bp Irenei Steenberg stated verbally to Archpriest Andrew Phillips, in front of several witnesses, that he intended to sever the sacramental communion of the ROCOR Diocese with the Diocese of Sourozh – the UK Diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Patriarchal Exarchate in Western Europe – should the latter not follow Bp Irenei in severing sacramental communion with the MP Archdiocese in the United Kingdom. With this statement, Bp Irenei made it clear that he was both willing and actively planning to extend the schism of the ROCOR Diocese, beyond simply a schism with the MP Archdiocese in the United Kingdom, to a schism with the entirety of the Moscow Patriarchate in the British Isles.

15. The clergy understood that the Diocese of Sourozh would not accept Bp Irenei Steenberg’s rejection of the standard Russian Orthodox practice of receiving Catholic Priests by vesting and concelebration, and that as such the Diocese of Sourozh would not follow Bp Irenei into a schism with the MP Archdiocese on that basis. And the clergy could not accept Bp Irenei’s plan of extending the schism of the ROCOR Diocese to a schism with the entirety of the Moscow Patriarchate in the British Isles. The clergy were, and are, committed to the unity of the Russian Orthodox Church – both to the 2007 Act of Canonical Communion between ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchate, as well as to the 2019 Patriarchal Gramota uniting the MP Archdiocese to the Moscow Patriarchate. As such, within the context of the British Isles, the clergy could not follow a plan which would push them further into a situation of involuntary division from the rest of the Russian Orthodox Church – and especially not one based upon a position which was itself a rejection of Russian Orthodox tradition and sanctity.

(iv) The Decision to transfer to the MP Archdiocese.

16. The clergy attempted to bring the situation of the ROCOR Diocese in the British Isles to the attention of the ROCOR Synod in New York. However, this attempt was unsuccessful, and the clergy came to understand that the schism of the ROCOR Diocese in the British Isles was not going to be resolved by the Synod.

17. In this extremely difficult situation, the clergy recognised that that there existed no Canon stipulating precisely and explicitly what action clergy ought to take in the circumstance where, belonging to one of three territorially-overlapping jurisdictions of the one Patriarchate, they were being pushed into a situation of schism from the other two overlapping jurisdictions, for reasons which were themselves a rejection of the practices and tradition of sanctity of that same Patriarchate. Here, the clergy looked to the general principle underlying Canon 14 of the Synod of Sardica, which, in a related context, directs clergy whose communion with their Church is being jeopardised by their Diocesan Bishop, but who find themselves in a situation in which they lack access to their own Metropolitan, to proceed instead by approaching the Metropolitan of a nearby Eparchy:

... the Presbyter or Deacon is to have the power to flee for refuge [καταφυγεῖν] to the Metropolitan of his Eparchy – or, if the Metropolitan be absent, he is to have the power to run [κατατρέχειν] to the Metropolitan of a neighbouring Eparchy ... [5]

Here, the clergy were aware that, belonging to a European ROCOR tradition whose particular founding context was that of the Russian emigration in Western Europe, they had a particular affinity with the MP Archdiocese, whose émigré history and traditions substantially overlapped with their own. As such, after much deliberation, the clergy took the decision to turn to Metr John of Dubna, the ruling Metropolitan of the MP Archdiocese, seeking refuge from the schism of the ROCOR Diocese through a transfer of jurisdiction to the MP Archdiocese.

18. Had Bp Irenei Steenberg not instituted a schism based upon reasons which were deeply opposed to Russian Orthodox tradition; had Bp Irenei not acted ultra vires in a manner which disregarded the canonical order of the Church; and had Bp Irenei not forced them into a position of effectively sectarian isolation from the rest of the Russian Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, these clerics would not have sought a transfer of jurisdiction. Rather, their decision to transfer was a decision made out of the need to escape from the schismatic position in which they had been placed by the ruling Bishop of the ROCOR Diocese, and to return to sacramental communion and canonical unity with the fulness of the Moscow Patriarchate.

II. Refutation of False Claims about the Transfer of Clergy to the MP Archdiocese.

19. In line with his Directive № 359/E of 23 January 2021 – in which he terminated ROCOR’s participation in all ecclesiastical measures with the MP Archdiocese – Bp Irenei Steenberg chose not to follow the standard ecclesiastical practice of issuing letters of the release for the transferring clergy. Instead, he claimed that, because he was choosing not to issue such letters of release, the clergy either could not be received canonically, or could not be received at all, by the MP Archdiocese, and that therefore they remained under his sole canonical jurisdiction.

For example, in his Decree № 24E/2021 of 26 August 2021, sent to several of the clergy who had transferred, Bp Irenei stated:

Claims that you now belong to the jurisdiction of another bishop or diocese are canonically impossible and groundless, and you are hereby reminded that you remain under the sole canonical authority of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia ...

Similarly, in his internet Communication of 2 September 2021, published on the ROCOR Diocese’s website, Bp Irenei wrote:

Despite whatever claims may be made either by these individuals or by any cleric from any other jurisdiction, including the Paris Archdiocese’s representatives in the UK or elsewhere, these clerics have not been released by the Church Abroad and therefore have not been, and cannot be, canonically received by anyone else; and similarly, no parish has been released to the Paris Archdiocese, nor has any been canonically received by them, whatever claims may be erroneously made. … the clergymen and parish involved remain under the sole canonical jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia ...

And in a letter of 12 October 2021, sent to Metr John of Dubna from the ROCOR Synod of Bishops, but apparently written by Bp Irenei, it was asserted that:

Regarding the situation of our clergymen in the United Kingdom, … Your Eminence was directly told in writing … that they were not released and therefore could not be received by You …
We therefore request that the Archdiocese formally clarifies the reality, namely, that the clergyman supposedly ‘received’ from our W. European Diocese and our Western Rite Vicariate could not, in fact, be received, since they were not released, and rightly acknowledge the fact that they remain under the sole canonical authority of the Church Abroad.

These texts make three related, but distinct, assertions: (i) that in principle clergy cannot be received by another Diocese or Church without letters of release; (ii) that the clergy have not in fact been received by the MP Archdiocese; and (iii) that the clergy have not been canonically received by the MP Archdiocese. Each of these claims is false.

(i) The Possibility of Jurisdictional Transfer without Letters of Release.

20. It is untrue that in principle clergy cannot be received by another Diocese or Church without letters of release.

21. Certainly, it must be recognised that there are canons which state that a Bishop may only receive a cleric who has a letter of dismissal from his previous Bishop. For example, Quinisext canon 17 states that:

… no cleric, regardless of the rank he happens to have, has permission, without a written dismissal from his own Bishop, to be enrolled in a different Church … [6]

However, it must also be recognised that a canon is neither a dogma nor a universal law, absolutely binding on every concrete case. Rather, as Bp Irenei Steenberg himself has affirmed:

… the canons [are] not so much ... a code of canon law that sets out legal parameters for action, but … guidelines setting the standard for healthy Church life … [7]

That is to say, as guidelines, the canons are not necessarily applied with exactitude (κατ’ ἀκρίβειαν) in every situation. Rather, in certain circumstances, particular canons are, by the principle of economy (κατ’ οἰκονομίαν), either only partially applied, or not applied at all. This holds for the canons which require clergy be received with letters of release, just as it holds for other canons.

22. This principle of economy is not only recognised generally by ROCOR (e.g. in Article 2 of the Addendum to the Act of Canonical Communion), but is also recognised to apply to the specific canons relating to letters of release. For example, between 28 October 2018 and 25 January 2019, Bp Irenei Steenberg received the clerics Archpriest Georges Blatinsky, Priest Oleg Turcan, and Priest Denis Baykov from the Russian parishes in Florence and Sanremo, into the ROCOR Diocese of Western Europe, without requiring or receiving letters of release from their previous Bishop. In the letter of 12 October, sent from the ROCOR Synod to Metr John of Dubna, it is explained that in such cases letters of release are not required by ROCOR, as the Diocese or Church from which the clergy in question are being received is not one with which ROCOR is in a state of canonical unity:

The parishes in Florence and Sanremo [were] directly under the omofor of the hierarchy of Constantinople, whose current canonical status was not and is not recognised by the Russian Orthodox Church. When the parishes in question approached our Church Abroad to be rescued from their non-canonical status under Constantinople, our Synod … agreed to rescue them from their non-canonical status in early 2019, … in accordance with the canonical norms of receiving parishes from non-canonical environments. … they were clergymen under Constantinople, whose non-canonical status meant that letters of canonical release could not be sought from their local hierarchy.

As such, by ROCOR’s own understanding of the canonical order of the Church, the canons prohibiting the reception of a cleric without a letter of release from his previous Bishop do not apply in every circumstance. Precisely, for ROCOR itself, these canons do not apply in a situation where there is an absence of canonical unity between the Diocese or Church from which the cleric in question is departing and the Diocese or Church into which that cleric is being received. In such situations, ROCOR holds that such clergy are to be received, κατ’ οἰκονομίαν, without the reception of a letter of release.

23. Moreover, nowhere do the constitutional documents of the MP Archdiocese state that the Archdiocese cannot receive a cleric κατ’ οἰκονομίαν, without a letter of release from the Bishop of that cleric’s previous Diocese. Rather, Article 4 of the Archdiocese’s Statutes specifies that any association requesting to join the Archdiocese is to be accepted or rejected finally by the decision of the Archbishop, without reference to letters of release. Accordingly, the MP Archdiocese, by its own constitution, is entitled to receive a parish, which includes clergy and laity, without letters of release from a previous Bishop.

24. Indeed, there is no constitutional possibility for imposing upon the MP Archdiocese an interpretation of the Canons which, in opposition to Article 4 of the Archdiocese’s Statutes, insists that letters of release must be required, without exception, in every concrete case of the reception of an association from another Diocese or Church. Specifically, Article 3 of the Patriarchal Gramota to the MP Archdiocese mandates that the Archdiocese is to be administrated according to its own Statutes. And Article 1 of the Archdiocese’s Statutes states that the Archdiocese’s Statutes themselves indicate how the Holy Canons of the Church are to be applied within the MP Archdiocese. As such, Article 4 of the Archdiocese’s Statues – which specifies that any association’s request to join the Archdiocese is to be accepted or rejected finally at the decision of the Archbishop, without reference to letters of release – itself guides how relevant Canons are to be understood within the Archdiocese. Therefore, any attempt to impose upon the MP Archdiocese an interpretation of the Canons in conflict with Article 4 of the Archdiocese’s Statutes would itself be a violation of both Article 1 of the MP Archdiocese’s Statutes and of Article 3 of the Patriarchal Gramota to the MP Archdiocese.

25. Consequently, not only the nature of the Holy Canons as Canons, but also the practical actions and statements of ROCOR, which align with the constitution of the MP Archdiocese itself, show that there is no truth in Bp Irenei Steenberg’s claim that in principle a transfer for clergy from one Diocese or Church to another is impossible without letters of release.

(ii) The Reality of the Transfer from the ROCOR Diocese to the MP Archdiocese.

26. It is untrue that the clergy who transferred to the MP Archdiocese have not in fact been received by the MP Archdiocese.

27. Most basically, the claim that the clergy have not in fact been received by the MP Archdiocese is contradicted by the most basic fact of this case – namely that, as formally announced in the MP Archdiocese’s Communique of 3 September 2021, the MP Archdiocese did in fact receive the clergy, on 23 August 2021 (see paragraph 1, above).

28. Moreover, Bp Irenei Steenberg has himself recognised the reality of the transfer of clergy to the MP Archdiocese. Thus, in several (unfortunately undated) letters which, via his Diocesan Chancellery, he sent to the clergy, accusing them of canonical crimes and summoning them to his Ecclesiastical Court, Bp Irenei accused each cleric, in identically-worded statements, as follows:

Charge: Seeking incardination into the jurisdiction of another bishop without canonical release.
Namely, that ‘[Name] has sought to be incardinated into the jurisdiction of another Bishop without seeking or obtaining canonical release from his own Bishop; moreover, that he, not having obtained said release, nevertheless went under the jurisdiction of another Bishop and in so doing fled the canonical authority of his own Church and its hierarchy.’

Despite whatever else may be said about this charge, Bp Irenei’s statement that the clerics “nevertheless went under the jurisdiction of another Bishop” is a recognition that de facto the transfer of clergy from ROCOR to the MP Archdiocese has occurred. Even a recognition of the transfer made malgré lui, in accordance with the principle, Quae non fieri debent, facta valent, is nonetheless a recognition of the reality of the transfer.

29. Consequently, there is no legitimacy in Bp Irenei Steenberg’s claim that the transfer of clergy has not in fact occurred. Not only does this claim deny the most basic facts of the case, but it is contradicted by Bp Irenei’s own recognition, in multiple formal documents, of the reality of this transfer.

(iii) The Canonical Nature of the Transfer from ROCOR to the MP Archdiocese.

30. It is untrue that the clergy who transferred to the MP Archdiocese have not been canonically received by the MP Archdiocese. In particular, Bp Irenei Steenberg’s choice to act in line with his Directive № 359/E of 23 January 2021, and not follow the standard ecclesiastical practice of issuing letters of the release for the transferring clergy, does not in the circumstances hinder, in any way, the canonical nature of the transfer of the clergy from the ROCOR Diocese to the MP Archdiocese.

31. Most basically, the issuing of letters of release is a normal administrative procedure between canonically united Dioceses and Churches. In a normal canonical situation, letters of release would be withheld only if there were some significant disciplinary issue (e.g. a suspension or defrocking). However, in the case of the clergy transferring from ROCOR to the MP Archdiocese, there were no such disciplinary issues, and hence no such reason to withhold letters of release. Nor has Bp Irenei Steenberg contended otherwise.

32. Beyond this, the issuing of letters of release – precisely as a normal administrative procedure between canonically-united Dioceses and Churches – is an administrative procedure which is required only in the situation of clerical transfer between Dioceses and Churches sharing reciprocal canonical unity. The canons, such as those discussing letters of release, which describe normal relations between Churches sharing reciprocal canonical unity, do not hold for relations between Churches divided by schism – something which ROCOR itself recognises (see paragraph 22, above). Therefore, by rupturing the canonical unity of the ROCOR Diocese and the MP Archdiocese through his Directive № 359/E of 23 January 2021 (see paragraphs 8–9, above), Bp Irenei Steenberg thereby removed from the MP Archdiocese any obligation to relate to the ROCOR Diocese in the manner which the Holy Canons require of those Dioceses and Churches which share reciprocal canonical unity. As such, Bp Irenei, by initiating a schism of the ROCOR Diocese from the MP Archdiocese, thereby removed from the MP Archdiocese any canonical requirement to receive letters of release from Bp Irenei for clergy transferring from the ROCOR Diocese to the MP Archdiocese. And because there was, as such, no canonical requirement for the MP Archdiocese to receive clergy from the ROCOR Diocese only with letters of release, the canonical nature of the transfer of the clergy from the ROCOR Diocese to the MP Archdiocese was not in any way hindered by Bp Irenei’s choice not to provide such letters.

33. Consequently, there is no legitimacy in Bp Irenei Steenberg’s claim that the clergy could not transfer canonically from the ROCOR Diocese to the MP Archdiocese without the issuing of letters of release. Rather, by virtue of Bp Irenei’s severing the ROCOR Diocese’s canonical unity with the MP Archdiocese, Metr John of Dubna was canonically entirely justified in receiving clergy from the ROCOR Diocese, κατ’ οἰκονομίαν, without letters of release from Bp Irenei. Bp Irenei cannot institute a schism with another Diocese or Church and then legitimately require that Diocese or Church to act toward him as if they were still in a situation of full canonical unity, without any schism.

III. Further Canonical and Procedural Violations by Bp Irenei Steenberg.

34. Subsequent to the canonical transfer of the clergy from the ROCOR Diocese to the MP Archdiocese, Bp Irenei Steenberg initiated a course of recriminatory action against the clerics, by issuing them with charges of ecclesiastical criminality, to be judged at a session of Bp Irenei’s Diocesan Court. The actions of Bp Irenei and his Diocesan Court have been abusive, conducted in violation of the Holy Canons, ROCOR’s own procedures, and natural justice. As such, not only do they have no validity, but they constitute a further example of Bp Irenei acting ultra vires, in opposition to the canonical order of the Church.

(i)  Bp Irenei Steenberg lacks Jurisdiction over the accused Clergy.

35. As Diocesan Bishop of the ROCOR Diocese of Western Europe, Bp Irenei Steenberg’s canonical jurisdiction is limited to that Diocese, and he has no canonical jurisdiction over clergy who are members of a different Diocese (cf. paragraph 13.3, above).

However, at the time when Bp Irenei issued these charges of ecclesiastical criminality to the clergy, they had already transferred to the MP Archdiocese, and so were no longer within Bp Irenei’s canonical jurisdiction. As such, Bp Irenei no longer possessed any jurisdiction entitling him to charge them with ecclesiastical crimes and to have these charges judged at a session of his Diocesan Court. Rather, in so doing, Bp Irenei once again acted ultra vires, violating the canonical limits of his jurisdiction, and assuming for himself the jurisdiction which canonically belongs to the ruling Bishop of the MP Archdiocese. Because Bp Irenei has no jurisdiction to charge the clergy, the charges he has issued are invalid, and because his Diocesan Court has no jurisdiction to judge the clergy, any judgments which it may make regarding these charges are null and void.

(ii)  The Accuser cannot be Judge of his own Case.

36. Bp Irenei Steenberg’s Diocesan Court has been organised in such a way that there is no clear distinction between judge and accuser. Thus, each of the Notices of Ecclesiastical Charges received by the clergy begin with the following identically-worded paragraph:

By this letter, the Diocesan Ecclesiastical Court informs you, [Name], a cleric of the Diocese of Great Britain and Western Europe of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia and under her sole canonical authority, of a canonical hearing to be held on WEDNESDAY, 7 / 20 OCTOBER 2021, at which the following charges against you will be examined; namely that you are hereby accused by the Court of: [Whereafter follows the list of charges.]

The words “you are hereby accused by the Court of …,” make explicit that the Court assembled to judge the accusations being made against each cleric is also the accuser making these accusations.

However, to conduct a trial in which the accuser is also the judge is a basic violation of natural justice – nemo judex in causa sua – and no trial in which the accuser is also the judge can ever reckoned be a fair trial. Therefore, because the Diocesan Court proceedings organised by Bp Irenei against the clergy establish the accuser as the judge of the case, those Court proceedings are illegitimate, and any judgments they may issue are null and void.

(iii) The Accused must be Informed of the Time and Place at which the Court will sit.

37. Bp Irenei Steenberg’s Diocesan Court failed to inform the clergy being accused of precisely where and when his Diocesan Court would sit to try these accusations. Rather, the clergy were notified only of a date, but not of the location and time of day, at which the Diocesan Court would sit to judge the accusations being made against them.

However, it is a basic violation of natural justice for a Court to try a case without informing the accused of where and when it will sit to try their case. No one can defend himself at a trial, if he does not know where and when it will occur.

Moreover, Bp Irenei’s Diocesan Court is here in direct violation of regulation 53 of ROCOR’s governing document, the Regulations on the Ecclesiastical Court, according to which:

The time and place of the hearing must be announced to the parties, the accusers and the accused, and also the witnesses who will give information to the Court, in advance, by special notice.

No Court which so basically violates natural justice, and no ROCOR Court which so directly violates ROCOR’s Regulations on the Ecclesiastical Court, can be considered legitimate. Rather, the proceedings of Bp Irenei’s Diocesan Court against the clergy are, on this basis too, evidently illegitimate, and any judgments they may issue are null and void.

(iv)  The Accused must receive Clear Statement of the Charges being made against him.

38. Bp Irenei Steenberg’s Diocesan Court failed to provide each of the clergy being accused of clear statements of the charges being made against them, in precisely formulated accusations.

However, it is a basic violation of natural justice for a Court to try a case without informing the accused of precisely what he is being accused of. No one can properly prepare a defence, if he does not know the precise nature and cause of the accusations being made against him.

Moreover, Bp Irenei’s Diocesan Court is here in direct violation of regulation 54 of ROCOR’s Regulations on the Ecclesiastical Court:

The accused or respondent must be charged via written notice in a timely manner by the Diocesan legal authority on the basis of evidentiary material obtained, precisely describing the accusations (точно формулированные обвинения), to which he has the right in his defense to respond in written form before the Court sits, and to respond orally during the hearing.

However, no Court which so basically violates natural justice, and no ROCOR Court which so directly violates ROCOR’s Regulations on the Ecclesiastical Court, can be considered legitimate. Rather, the proceedings of Bp Irenei’s Diocesan Court against the clergy are, on this basis too, evidently illegitimate, and any judgments they may issue are null and void.

39. By way of example to clarify the failure of Bp Irenei Steenberg’s Diocesan Court to provide the clergy being accused with precisely formulated statements of the charges being made against them, one may consider indicatively the following charge, issued to a cleric of the rank of Reader, quoted here in extenso:

Charge 5: Serving whilst under suspension.
Namely, that ‘Reader [Name] has committed the canonical crime of serving while himself under canonical suspension, and thus engaging in liturgical / administrative acts from which he has been prohibited, contrary to the instructions of the Church Authorities.’ (Cf. Canon 4 of Antioch, Canon 13 of Sardica.)

The format of the charge is entirely typical of the charges received by clergy from Bp Irenei: a numbered charge in boldface, followed by a vague sentence, and then supplemented with an invitation to “compare” certain canons.

Here, firstly, the lack of precision of this charge is evident from the failure to state precisely in which particular acts the Reader is being accused of engaging. The charge does not name any single action; it does not say when or where the acts of which the Reader is being accused are alleged to have taken place. The charge is vague even as regards whether the acts in question are liturgical, administrative, or both. Such lack of clarity prevents the accused from knowing precisely what it is he is being accused of having done, and hence makes it impossible for him to adequately defend himself.

Secondly, the lack of precision of this charge is clear from the failure to cite which Canon or governing regulation the accuser is being alleged to have violated. An invitation to “compare” certain Canons is not a statement that the accused is being accused of having broken these Canons.

Moreover, that these canons are not the basis of the charge is evident from the fact that neither is relevant to the accused:

  • Canon 4 of the Synod of Antioch concerns a Bishop, Presbyter, or Deacon who, after having been deposed (καθαιρεθείς), liturgizes in some way. However, the accused is neither a Bishop, Presbyter, nor a Deacon. Neither has the accused been deposed. So this canon is irrelevant to the charge being made, and could never have been its real basis.
  • Canon 13 of the Synod of Sardica concerns an excommunicated cleric (τις τῶν κληρικῶν ἀκοινώντηος) who attempts to receive Holy Communion from the Bishop of another Diocese. However, the Reader who was the recipient of this charge has not been excommunicated. So this Canon is also irrelevant to the charge being made, and could never have been its real basis.

In this situation, the suspicion is inevitably that these canons have been referenced to give a prima facie appearance of legitimacy to a charge whose real basis lies elsewhere, but which Bp Irenei’s Diocesan Court does not wish to commit to paper. That said, the basic situation is clear: the Reader being accused has not really been told what he is accused of having done, and has not really been told what Canon or regulation he is being accused of having violated.

40. Overall, by organising his Diocesan Court to hear cases over which it has no jurisdiction; by setting up his Diocesan Court in a manner which identifies the accuser as the judge; by failing to tell the accused when and where the Court will sit; and by failing to tell the accused precisely what they are being accused of, Bp Irenei’s actions have amounted to a profound violation of canonical order, ROCOR regulations, and natural justice. Not only does such violation render the proceedings of his Diocesan Court illegitimately, but its gives the appearance of an abuse of power, in which Bp Irenei is using the Diocesan Court to conduct a show trial.

IV. Suggestions to move forward.

41. The situation of schism and recrimination within which Bp Irenei Steenberg has placed the ROCOR Diocese in the British Isles is deeply damaging to the Russian Orthodox Church. For both the sake of ROCOR and for the sake of the Russian Orthodoxy more widely, this schism needs to be healed. The healing of this schism requires: (i) an end to the actual schism itself; (ii) a reconciliation over the issues which formed the proximate causes of the schism; and (iii) further discussion and dialogue concerning the underlying issues that led to this schism. With respect to these goals, the following two groups of suggestions are here offered.

(i)  What is needed to end the Schism itself.

42. With respect to the schism itself, it must be recognised that neither the MP Archdiocese nor the Diocese of Sourozh has severed communion or canonical unity with ROCOR, and that it is only ROCOR which has instituted this schism. Therefore, the responsibility to end the schism of the ROCOR Diocese falls principally upon ROCOR itself. Here, two primary actions are necessary:

Firstly, and most basically, ROCOR needs to rescind Bp Irenei Steenberg’s Directive № 359/E of 23 January 2021, which prohibited the ecclesiastical participation, liturgical participation, and concelebration of ROCOR in the British Isles with the MP Archdiocese. Without this action, the schism cannot end, and this is an action which only ROCOR can perform. If (as seems clear) Bp Irenei is unwilling to do this himself, then ROCOR’s Synod of Bishops needs to take the matter in hand.

Secondly, and in addition, ROCOR should disavow the non-canonical actions of Bp Irenei performed during the period of the schism. Specifically:

  • ROCOR should to dissociate itself from the claims of Bp Irenei’s Notice № 390/E of 26 February 2021, clarifying both that it recognises the priesthood of Fr Jacob Siemens, and that it disavows any accusation of Metr John of Dubna as being somehow guilty of “spiritual deception.”
  • ROCOR should recognise that, due to the schism initiated by Bp Irenei, there did not exist regular canonical unity between the ROCOR Diocese and the MP Archdiocese during August 2021, so that, as a consequence, the transfer of clergy from ROCOR to the MP Archdiocese during that month did not require the transmission of letters of release, but rather is entirely canonical, κατ’ οἰκονομίαν.
  • ROCOR should declare null and void all recriminatory actions undertaken by Bp Irenei against the clergy who transferred to the MP Archdiocese to escape his schism.

(ii)  What is needed for Reconciliation over the Proximate Issues which led to the Schism.

43. With respect to the proximate issues which led to the schism of the ROCOR Diocese from the MP Archdiocese, here again the principal responsibility lies with ROCOR. This schism arose through Bp Irenei’s rejection of the Russian Orthodox practice of receiving Catholic Priests into the Orthodox Church by vesting and concelebration – a practice attested by multiple canonised Russian Orthodox saints. Here, ROCOR needs to clarify that, as a Church, it recognises the legitimacy of this Russian Orthodox practice, and that as such it recognises the reality that a Catholic Priest received by vesting and concelebration is thereby constituted as an Orthodox Priest. This, of course, does not mean that there is no room for continuing disagreements or differences in estimation regarding, for example, what is to be considered as best practice, or indeed as normal practice, in the reception of Catholic Priests into the Orthodox Church. What it does require is a recognition that an Orthodox Priest who has been thus received is not a “non-Priest,” lacking the grace of ordination.

(iii)  The Need for Deeper Discussion.

44. With respect to further discussion and dialogue concerning the underlying issues that led to this schism, matters are more complicated.

45. There is a need for frank discussion and dialogue regarding ROCOR’s continuing commitment to the 2007 Act of Canonical Communion. Schism should be an absolute last resort, not something into which a Bishop jumps in a period of just over four weeks. But the speed, if not eagerness, with which Bp Irenei Steenberg, as a ROCOR Bishop, instituted a schism with an Archdiocese of the Moscow Patriarchate, and thereby jeopardised the unity of the Russian Orthodox Church more broadly, suggests that such a course of action enjoys broader support within ROCOR. And the Act of Canonical Communion will not remain viable if ROCOR Bishops are so quick to jump into schism whenever a Diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate does not fall into line with their criticisms. As such, the events of Bp Irenei’s schism call forth a need for ROCOR to make clear its continued commitment to the Act of Canonical Communion, and hence its commitment to sacramental communion and canonical unity with the larger Russian Orthodox Church, whose internal practices and theology is not always the same as that of ROCOR.

46. There is also clearly a need for serious discussion and dialogue between ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchate (including the MP Archdiocese) regarding the question of the reception of heterodox – a question on which ROCOR, particularly in North America, has come to differ greatly from the Moscow Patriarchate. But such a dialogue cannot be simply a one-way criticism, in which primarily North American ROCOR participants survey the history of the Moscow Patriarchate’s practice, making criticisms on points where such practice differs from their own. Rather, what is especially needed at this point is to consider how ROCOR’s sacramental theology and practice has come to diverge so greatly from the Moscow Patriarchate’s practice that a ROCOR Bishop could lead his Diocese into schism from an Archdiocese of the Moscow Patriarchate, ostensibly to “protect” his Diocese from the standard practice of the Russian Orthodox Church itself. Here, in particular, there is need for a serious consideration of the transformation of North American ROCOR’s sacramental theology since approximately the late 1960s, particularly under the influence of Greek Old Calendarist thought. A discussion on the question of reception with reference to ROCOR can only be fruitful if there is an understanding of how Greek Old Calendarists were able to lead substantial elements of ROCOR to reject the settled sacramental traditions of the Russian Orthodox Church – the very Church whose traditions ROCOR was established to preserve – in favour of extreme positions of modern Greek origin which diverge so greatly from Russian Orthodox tradition. It is to be hoped that – through such a consideration, in which not only do ROCOR participants offer criticisms the Moscow Patriarchate’s historical particularities, but in which the Moscow Patriarchate’s participants criticise these historical transformations in ROCOR – a new clarity would be achieved, across the Russian Orthodox Church, of the need to hold fast to the standard Russian Orthodox practices regarding reception, as these are expressed not only in the liturgical books of the Moscow Patriarchate, but above all in the living witness of Russian Orthodox saints such as St Tikhon of Moscow and St Alexis of Wilkes-Barre.

Feast of St Michael, First Metropolitan of Kiev.
30 September / 13 October, 2021.

Endnotes.

[1] NB In Directive № 359/E and elsewhere, Bp Irenei conflates the terms “Archdiocese” and “Exarchate,” in a manner liable to mislead. To be clear, in the quoted passage, Bp Irenei is speaking solely about the MP Archdiocese (which is not an Exarchate), and not about the Patriarchal Exarchate in Western Europe, which is in reality a different ecclesiastical body from the MP Archdiocese.

[2] Πρωτοδευτέρας ιδʹ: «Δεῖ γὰρ ἕκαστον τὰ οἰκεῖα μέτρα γινώσκειν …»

[3] Βʹ Οἰκουμενικῆς Συνόδου βʹ: «Τοὺς ὑπὲρ διοίκησιν Ἐπισκόπους ταῖς ὑπερορίοις Ἐκκλησίαις μὴ ἐπιέναι, μηδὲ συγχέειν τὰς Ἐκκλησίας …»

[4] Ἐν Ἀντιοχείᾳ ιγʹ: «Μηδένα Ἐπίσκοπον τολμᾷν ἀφ’ ἑτέρας ἐπαρχίας εἰς ἑτέραν μεταβαίνειν … εἰ μὴ παρακληθεὶς ἀφίκοιτο διὰ γραμμάτων τοῦ τε Μητροπολίτου καὶ τῶν σὺν αὐτῷ Ἐπισκόπων, ὧν εἰς τὴν χώραν παρέρχοιτο. Εἰ δὲ μηδενὸς καλοῦντος ἀπέλθοι ἀτάκτως ἐπὶ … καταστάσει τῶν ἐκκλησιαστικῶν πραγμάτων, μὴ προσηκόντων αὐτῷ, ἄκυρα μὲν τὰ ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ πραττόμενα τυγχάνειν, καὶ αὐτὸν δὲ ὑπέχειν τῆς ἀταξίας αὐτοῦ, καὶ τῆς παραλόγου ἐπιχειρήσεως τὴν προσήκουσαν δίκην, καθῃρημένον ἐντεῦθεν ἤδη ὑπὸ τῆς Ἁγίας Συνόδου.»

[5] Ἐν Σαρδικῇ ιδʹ: «[Ὁ Πρεσβύτερος ἢ Διάκονος] ἐχέτω ἐξουσίαν ἐπὶ τὸν Ἐπίσκοπον τῆς Μητροπόλεως τῆς αὐτῆς Ἐπαρχίας καταφυγεῖν· εἰ δὲ ὁ τῆς Μητροπόλεως ἄπεστιν, ἐπὶ τὸν πλησιόχωρον κατατρέχειν …»

[6] Πενθέκτης ιζʹ:«… μηδένα τῶν ἁπάντων κληρικῶν, κἂν ἐν οἱῳδήποτε τυγχάνῃ βαθμῷ, ἄδειαν ἔχειν, ἐκτὸς τῆς τοῦ οἰκείου Ἐπισκόπου ἐγγράφου ἀπολυτικῆς, ἐν ἑτέρᾳ κατατάττεσθαι Ἐκκλησίᾳ …»

[7] Bp Irenei (Steenberg) [M. C. Steenberg], “On the Canonical Situation of Russian Orthodoxy in Britain,” 1.

 

Questions and Answers (May-October 2021)

All the commandments are founded on the commandment of love.

All people, all nations and all lands are called to the true faith.

‘I commemorate Patriarch Alexiy I at the proskomidia every day. He is the Patriarch. And our prayer remains. We have been cut off by circumstances, but liturgically we are one.’ (1949).

We pray the Lord that He will speed that desired and awaited hour when the Patriarch of All Rus, going up to his throne in the Dormition Cathedral in Moscow, will gather around himself all the Russian bishops come from the whole Russian and foreign lands.

St John of Shanghai

We apologise for not publishing this questions and answers rubric for six months, though we did reply to questions individually. The reasons for the delay in publishing this section were circumstances beyond our control, about which only a few know the truth so far. Glory to God for all things!

Covid

Q: Should we get vaccinated? Were you ever afraid of dying from covid during the pandemic? Do you believe that covid is manmade or natural?

A: The question of vaccination is a question which only you can answer. It is not for me, but for you to answer it. What I have noticed, however, is that wherever there is an authoritarian State or ex-Communist and corrupt States, such as France, or in Eastern Europe and Russia, which have for generations lied to the people, there is much hostility to vaccination. Such is the distrust fostered by States that usually lie or else force people to get vaccinated. Even when such States are telling the truth, people think they are lieing. In any case, vaccination must be purely voluntary.

I was never afraid of dying of covid. I covered over 30,000 miles in my car during covid, giving confession and communion to Orthodox over a very wide area, as there was no-one else to do it, especially in London. I would have happily accepted death, if it had been God’s will, as I was under cruel persecution all that time.

I don’t know if covid is natural or manmade, but, whatever the case, most certainly some sinister people took advantage of covid after it appeared, in order to manipulate society and ordinary people. This makes you think that maybe it was in fact all planned and therefore there is no coincidence. But there is no proof of that, only suspicions. The main strange thing was the replacement of common sense by State diktat. For example, if I feel unwell, I stay at home. If I have a nasty virus, I do not spread it to others. I do not need the State to tell me about ‘self-isolation or ‘social distancing’. I have common sense!

Q: There seems to be a division in the Church in this country between liberal ex-Anglican converts and anti-vaxxer sectarians. I get depressed by this. Can you recommend anything?

A: I think you spend too much time on the convert fringes of the Church, where in truth such a division between extremists does exist. Vaccination is not a Church question, the Holy Trinity, the Person of Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Eternal Virginity of the Mother of God, the qualities of the Church, the communion of the saints, these are. Do not get distracted by such worldly matters as the vaccination of the body.

As regards Anglicanism, hardly any Romanian, Russian or Greek has even heard the word. If you ask them what religion English people are, they will say either that they are atheists, or else that they are Catholics. Fine distinctions between different varieties of Non-Orthodox are quite beyond ordinary Orthodox, who are the vast majority here, for they are too busy making a living, paying the rent and bringing up their children. I would say that here is a case of ignorance is bliss.

Leave the world, with its disputes about vaccines and varieties of religious error alone, concentrate on the salvation of your soul. The issues of accepting or rejecting vaccination and abstract differences between one heterodox and another will not help in the question of the salvation of your soul.

The Russian Church

Q: Is it desirable to restore the pre-Revolutionary Russian Church and remain faithful to it?

A: Of course, we must remain faithful to the Church, but you cannot live in or restore the past. In any case, we should not be faithful to decadent practices, neither from any point in the past nor in the present. And despite the illusions of convert idealism and ignorance, there was much that was decadent in the Church before the Revolution. Just a slight acquaintance with people who lived then (now, true, impossible), or with the Russian history and literature of the period confirms that.

Put simply, if all had been well in Russia before the Revolution, there would have been no Revolution. Clearly then, there were grave problems. We know from the accounts of Metr Antony (Khrapovitsky) that seminaries before the Revolution were full of atheists (like Stalin), careerists and idlers. We know that after the Revolution, immediately 90% of Russian soldiers stopped attending previously obligatory services and that later, according to St John of Shanghai’s description at the ROCOR Church Council in the 1930s, some 90% of émigrés did not bother with Church life (something we often witnessed ourselves, so we know it to be a fact). We know that after the Revolution nearly 500 priests voluntarily gave up the priesthood. What was the point for them any more? ‘There was no more money in it’. Above all, we know that before the Revolution communion once a year was the norm even for the Church-going and only the extremely pious took communion two or three times a year. In other words, the Revolution took place because Russia was no longer in communion with Christ, it had left the Church. Do we want to return to this? What do we want to imitate there?

Q: What is Sergianism?

A: This was a term popularised in the USA by the CIA to try and discredit dogmatically the Russian Orthodox Church inside Russia, whose episcopate, originally under Metropolitan and later Patriarch Sergius (+ 1944) was oppressed by the atheist State. It referred basically to the forced co-operation of certain representatives of the Church authorities (very different from the Church!) with atheists. Basically, in Western languages this is a form of what has down the centuries been known as erastianism, named after the sixteenth-century Swiss Protestant Erastus, who maintained that the State is superior to the Church in Church matters.

The irony of the use of this Cold War term of ‘Sergianism’ is that it was popularised by Orthodox who were controlled and paid by the CIA, the US State spy apparatus! These agents tried to make out that somehow, ‘magically’, because of personal compromises by a few bishops the whole Russian Church inside Russia had ‘lost grace’. It was only one step from here to make out that therefore the only grace in the Russian Orthodox Church was that in the émigré Russian Church. And of course from there on, it was only a step to inventing a Protestant-style ‘One True Church’ theory, dragging down the small émigré Russian Church based in New York, into a sectarian and pharisaical existence. In other words, it was all about the very primitive and infernal pride of self-justification: ‘We are right and you are wrong, we alone have the correct Tradition and you do not, we are going to heaven and you are going to hell’, if I may quote two representatives of that Church in this country today.

Indeed, this is exactly what happened in and after 2007, when some émigré descendants and their naïve neophyte followers refused to enter into communion with the Russian Orthodox Church inside Russia and its representatives outside Russia, whom they condemned as ‘belonging to the Moscow Patriarchate’. (In reality all parts of the Russian Orthodox Church belong to the ‘Patriarchate of Moscow’). Even among those who remained we can see there are some who now want to leave that communion and persecute our faithfulness. Yet this normal communion was exactly what we had been desperately waiting for. In other words, I would be very cautious about those who use this political term, as they are probably themselves ‘Sergianists’, or more exactly ‘CIA-ists’.

Q: When will you consider that the influence of the Soviet Union no longer exists? When they have removed Lenin’s corpse from public display in Moscow?

A: That is, I think, only the first step. The second step is when they rename the metro stations, streets and towns and remove all statues and references to the Bolshevik monsters. The next step is when ordinary Russians realise that the disaster of the Second World War was due to Stalin. 27 millon dead and Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Volgograd/Tsaritsyn nearly taken. In the First World War 600,000 died and the Germans got no further than Poland and Lithuania and victory was imminent, with Berlin and Vienna falling to the Tsar’s Army, only treachery of the Russian atheists stopped victory then. The final victory, after the disaster, in the Second World War was due to the heroism of the people and leaders like Zhukov, not to the monstrous Stalin, who massacred his own peoples. Finally, there must be the rebuilding of the Russian Empire: something that for the moment seems light years away. We have only just begun.

Constantinople

Q: Should we take the blessing of bishops who are under Constantinople?

A: If they are not schismatics, yes of course you should. Personally I know of only four who actually are schismatics, that is, who actively support the Phanariot schism in the Ukraine. That means the majority are not like that. However, we should be courteous even to the four schismatic Phanariot bishops, treating them as we would Roman Catholic bishops. There is nothing wrong in this treatment, as that is what they want to become according to their own public statements.

Above all, however, we should pray for them. Repentance is still possible and it may be that the small number who have created schism and chaos may yet be taken from us and the majority of traditional bishops there will vanquish the schismatic elements, who have taken over for the moment. We can certainly take their blessing. There are some wonderful priests and people in the Patriarchate of Constantinople, not least locally and also on much of Mt Athos, who do not at all agree with what a few individuals have done in the Ukraine. A new Local Church will on part be built on the faithful (obviously not on the unfaithful) of Constantinople.

Q: What are we to do if at the Patriarchal visit here in October 2022 the Patriarchate of Constantinople gives the Archdiocese of Thyateira autocephaly and creates a ‘British Orthodox Church’?

A: Any ‘autocephaly’ given will be a fictitious one, like that given to the schismatics in the Ukraine. Of course what you say is likely, as Thyateira now has bishops in London, Edinburgh and Cardiff. The same may happen in North America now, while Patriarch Bartholomew is there, North America being a trial run. The Greek Archdiocese there (GOARCH) may be given a new charter (‘tomos’) and become an Autocephalous American Orthodox Church. The Phanar can do whatever it wants in Britain and North America, or anywhere else – for if it does what it wants there, it will surely do the same in Australia. However, will that make any practical change on the ground? Will English people then be made welcome there, in these flag-waving, ethnic clubs, or will they continue to be told to go away and become Anglicans? This is the only thing that counts. Titles and names change nothing, if the contents do not change.

However, the possible Phanariot action should also be a wake-up call for other Orthodox to unite at long last and leave aside any sectarian activities and extremes. We, after all, should be in spiritual and administrative unity when we live on the same territory. Indeed, an envoy from Moscow went to New York last July, so that the three fragments of the Russian Church there can prepare to merge into one. The anachronistic and uncanonical divisions of the past are to end, as they have no further reason to exist. Hopefully, the same process of unity can occur in Western Europe, Latin America and Oceania, which must all obtain their own Metropolias and so become future Local Churches. And perhaps in Africa too, where Moscow seems to be thinking about establishing an Exarchate for Black Africa.

Q: Do we always owe obedience to our bishop?

A: We owe obedience to God. This means to our bishop, providing that he is a true representative of God. Thus, if he asks something of you that is against God, for instance, something that is uncanonical, schismatic or heretical, all is different. For example, if your bishop asks to commit an immoral or criminal act or asks to allow him to commit an immoral or criminal act (this would include acts he demands of you if he is an operative of the secret services), of if he has individually broken communion with another Church without any Synodal decision about that other Church, or if he is preaching heresy. The point is that we must be obedient to Christ and His Church; obedience to your bishop depends on his obedience to Christ and His Church. Christ was not obedient to the pharisees, high priests and money-changers. Similarly we are not obedient to the Archbishop of Constantinople, Nestorius. A stress on blind obedience is Protestant and Old Testament, pharisaic and sectarian, and is always employed by cult leaders and sectarians. Our stress is on Faith, Repentance, Mercy, Holiness, the Resurrection and the Holy Spirit.

Q: Why do Churches contract and even disappear?

A: When a Church grouping plays politics, that is, when it fails to be faithful to its mission and becomes ritualistic, sectarian and cultish, it contracts and can even disappear. It happened in North Africa, in the fifth and sixth centuries because of sectarian Donatism, it happened in Asia Minor from the seventh century on, it happened in Russia in 1917 because of the ritualistic lack of the living Spirit and State control. Only when people stand up to enemies and face either martyrdom or take on the cross of confessing the Faith, do Churches grow again (as in Russia after 1991). One group I can think of that has time and again failed to grow, has failed because some there have an extraordinary ability to mistreat, persecute and slander their unpaid priests, who prefer to confess the Faith with integrity and a Christian conscience, rather than take part in activities which clearly lack love. The Church has only two pillars: martyrdom and confessordom. There is nothing outside them.

Church Life

Non-Orthodox

Q: Will Non-Orthodox be saved?

A: We should not even be thinking of asking such a Protestant-style question. Our only concern should be our own salvation. And we know that this is possible only by the Mercy of God.

Q: Some Orthodox priests receive Non-Orthodox by chrismation, others by baptism. I have heard of some who receive Catholics by confession and communion. What is the logic in all these different practices?

A: Non-Orthodox Christians are not pagans, but for the most part believe that God is a Trinity and that Christ is the Son of God become man. And they have sacramental forms, which are relics of their distant Orthodox past. Thus, most, though not all, Protestants have a ‘baptism’, in which water touches the body of the person to be baptised and the act is carried out in the Name of the Holy Trinity. Roman Catholics have the same and also several other sacramental forms, including a ‘chrismation’, though they call it confirmation and it is carried out only by bishops. Let me explain:

All Orthodox churches give out holy water. However, in some Orthodox churches people come with their own bottles and take holy water, whereas others supply their own bottles and people come and buy one of these bottles and then fill it with holy water. Obviously, what is sacramental is not the bottle, but the holy water, not the cover, but the book, not the envelope but the letter. And so it is with Non-Orthodox sacramental forms. They are the bottles that people bring from home, in which case there is no need to take the bottles from the church, as you already have one with you. The only important thing is the holy water, the contents, not the container. The container is the Non-Orthodox sacramental form, which is activated or ‘sacramentalised’ by the contents.

The reception of Greek Catholic priests in their orders had been the Tradition of the Russian Church long before the Revolution, as witnessed by the Great Synod of Moscow in 1666–67. This went back to Canon 95 In Trullo, which states that Arians and other heretics could be received by chrismation, not that this means a recognition of their sacraments, but the desire to ease their return to the Church. As the future Patriarch Sergius, then the disciple of the great theologian and canonist Metr Antony (Khrapovitsky), the founding First Hierarch of ROCOR, put it :

‘Если во втором чиноприеме инославный принимается чрез миропомазание, это отнюдь не значит, чтобы крещение, полученное им в инославии, признавалось действительным, а только то, что, не повторяя формы крещения из снисхождения, Церковь преподает принимаемому благодать крещения вместе с миропомазанием и под его формою. Точно так же если, например, латинский или армянский священник принимается третьим чином, чрез покаяние, в сущем сане, то это значит, что под формой покаяния ему преподаются сразу все нужные Таинства: и крещение, и миропомазание, и хиротония’. (https://www.portal-slovo.ru/theology/38937.php). ‘If the heterodox is accepted through chrismation by the second rite, this does not mean that the baptism received by him in heterodoxy is recognized as valid, but only that, without repeating the forms of baptism out of condescension, the Church presents to him who has been accepted the grace of baptism together with chrismation and under its form. Similarly, if, for example, a Latin or Armenian priest is accepted by the third rite, through repentance, in his present rank, it means that under the form of repentance he is granted all the necessary sacraments at once: baptism, chrismation, and consecration’.

Thus also, at the first session of the Seventh Universal Council it was decided to receive iconoclast bishops in their orders on the insistence of St Tarasius, Patriarch of Constantinople. As Metr Antony (Khrapovitsky) commented: ‘Patriarch Tarasius taught us by his example how attached we should be to the peace of the Church’. For the first celebration with an Orthodox bishop serves as a valid ordination for him who was outside the Church. (Письма Блаженнѣйшаго Митрополита Антонiя (Храповицкаго) Jordanville 1988, p. 202).

The future St Tikhon received Carpatho-Russian priests like this in North America. Before him St Alexis of Wilkes-Barre was received exactly in this way. This is the normal practice of the Russian Orthodox Church today (Hieroschemamonk Gabriel (Bunge) was received like this in Western Europe) and in the Ukraine, as also it has been the constant practice of the hierarchy of what is now the Archdiocese of Western Europe (Metr Evlogy in Nantes in the 1930s, Archbp George (Wagner) in Paris in the 1980s).

Q: What should converts be careful of?

A: Those new to the Church suffer like those who are new to anything, to a new religion, to a new political party, to a new club or any other new human institution. Their suffering is twofold.

On the one hand, there are those who never really accept the new faith and go on living in the past, never putting new wine into the old bottles. On the other hand, there are those who not only reject everything from their past, including the good, but also turn violently against it, rejecting even their families and former friends. For example, I know one ex-Anglican who may or may not be Orthodox. The only thing I am sure about is that he is violently anti-Anglican. Here we see what the Apostle calls ‘zeal not according to (= without) reason’, whereas the first case could be called ‘reason not according to (= without) zeal’. In such cases we see how psychology plays a far greater role than any theology.

In both cases no conversion has ever taken place.

What should converts be careful of? Extremes.

Q: Who don’t Orthodox women want to be priests? Plenty of Anglican women do and there are thousands of women-priests in the Church of England, which more and more depends on them.

A: We have to put the answer into the context of the difference between non-clerical (Orthodox) Christian Civilisation and clerical (filioquist = power to the clergy) Western Civilisation.

In the Church of England, which is a historic part of Western Civilisation, founded in the sixteenth century, vicars receive a good salary and a free house. In some places vicars still have prestige and social standing. This is part of the clericalism inherent in that historic Civilisation, according to which the Holy Spirit proceeds from the vicars of Christ. Why should women be deprived of these clerical advantages and authority, when the Church of England generally has little concept of sacraments and in particular of the sacrament of the priesthood? For most vicars are really social workers. And women can be very good at being social workers. Hence equality.

However, in the Orthodox Church nearly all priests receive a very small salary or often no salary at all and often depend on their wife’s salary. It is also very rare that they receive a free house. And in the Orthodox Church you have to stand for long periods, you have to fast and so on. What is the attraction? Career women simply do not want that. I have never heard of a single case of a woman brought up in Orthodox Christianity who desires to be a priest.

What I am saying is that clericalist attractions are very few for worldly people in the Orthodox Church. As for those who are not worldly, but who are grounded in Orthodoxy, there cannot even be a thought about the idea of women-priests because Church people know the Scriptures, which relate how the future Apostles were chosen, the Fathers, the Lives of the Saints and the whole Tradition of the Holy Spirit. When you live outside the Tradition, you can imagine all sorts of things.

Church Life and the Sacraments

Q: Is it true that there are only two ways in life, to get married or to enter a monastery?

A: I would say there are two and a quarter ways, in the sense that there are the two above ways and then there are the exceptions. Let us not be too rigid when we speak of the variety of human-beings and of life.

Q: I was told that you should not kneel on Sundays, but I recently went to a church and dozens of people were kneeling. Can you explain this?

A: You can always recognise a convert: he is the one who does not kneel on Sundays because he wants to be ‘super-correct’!

Yes, according to Canon XX of the First Council, you should not kneel on Sundays, as this is the day of the Resurrection, when we should stand. But piety and zeal are very strong and many kneel on Sundays. I certainly would not ‘correct’ them. Some pious Romanians, for example, kneel not only throughout the Gospel, but even throughout the liturgy. That is painful. And everywhere on the Sunday of the Cross, we kneel before the Cross, ‘before which we bow down’. And if there is a service of intercession (moleben) after the Sunday liturgy, then we will all kneel at the prayer at the end. Please do not be a convert and ‘correct’ piety!

So many canons are completely ignored in today’s practice. For example, that bishops may not be appointed by the secular authorities (which so many have been and are and that throughout history). Or the canon about bishops not being transferred from one see to another. Yet, St John Shanghai, a saint, was transferred from one continent to another, twice! There are many canons which are ignored and they are far more important than the one about not kneeling on Sundays. Sadly, there lies a lot of pride (and ignorance) behind the motivations of those who use the word ‘uncanonical’ so selectively.

Q: What advice would you give to those attending a baptism?

A: Learn the Creed by heart, if you do not know it already. Come to the church on the Sunday before and, if possible, have confession and communion. And please, please do not stand behind the godparents, or else you will get spat on!

Q: Why is it so difficult to get confession in Greek churches?

A: There is a tendency for confession to disappear from Church life. This is on account of protestantisation, for in Protestantism there is no confession because there is no priesthood. Thus, until the 1960s Roman Catholics needed confession in order to take communion. Now many there seem to have abandoned confession. The Greek Orthodox world, much Americanised, seems to be going the same way.

However, there is also an enormous practical problem. In most Greek churches, there is only one priest. How can he have time to confess thousands of parishioners, as for example in the Cypriot parishes in London? But is it any better in the Russian Church? In the Russian Church inside Russia and sometimes outside there is still a practice of ‘General Confession’. This is pure invention, dating back to the Soviet period when there were hardly any priests. It should be outlawed today…but again you have the same problem with the lack of priests. Some in the Russian Diaspora condemn General Confession as uncanonical (which it is), but when you go to their own parishes, which are often very small, you tend to find that priests listen to confessions very briefly, thus they may take 25 confessions in 30 minutes! What sort of confession is this? Or else, and this is even worse, they have hardly any people coming to communion, as in the bad old days. Then you could have a priest and 2,000 inside the church and it would not matter because you would only have 5-10 communions. As I say, the bad old days.

The fact is that there is a real problem here and it mainly all comes down to the lack of priests. In my experience for every 100 people in church you must have at least one priest and one spare priest to do the proskomidia, so in a parish where you may often have 300 at the Sunday liturgy, as in Colchester, you must have four priests, three for confessions and one for the proskomidia.

Q: Why do some priests cover the penitent’s head during confession and others do not?

A: It is simply a question of the size of the church and how close others are standing to the penitent. If it is a small church and other penitents are standing close by, then the priest should cover the penitent’s head so that others cannot accidentally overhear.

Q: Why are some saints sometimes portrayed as being incredibly tall? Sometimes they seem to be about ten feet tall.

A: In frescoes saints are often portrayed as being tall. This is to give perspective as people look upwards, and it seems as though the saints are floating in heaven. In icons even short saints, like St John of Shanghai who was at most five feet tall, is portrayed as being of average height. This represents his spiritual grandeur. However, to portray saints as giants in icons is an iconographical mistake. It is to confuse fresco iconography with icon iconography.

The Saints

Q: Who was St Thomas’ twin?

A: In the Gospels Thomas is called the Twin, but this is actually the translation of his Aramaic nickname, Thomas = twin. Thomas’ real name was Jude. He was nicknamed the twin, not because he had a twin brother, but because he was physically so similar to Christ. This is why his witness to Christ’s Resurrection was so important. He had to recognise Christ because he looked so like him, the only obvious difference was Christ’s wounds.

Q: Why is it so important for Orthodox to have a saint’s name?

A: Since you will find that you will begin to live the life of the saint you choose, the choice of a saint whom you feel attached to is vital. Therefore, it must be a saint with whom you share traits of character. The same is also true of parishes, at least for the priests. They find that they begin to live the life of their patron saint. For example, St John of Shanghai was slandered, put on trial by his fellow-bishops and (briefly) deposed as Archbishop of San Francisco by them, as they were jealous of him.

Platina

Q: What is your view of Fr Seraphim Rose and Fr Herman Podmoshensky?

A: Fr Seraphim was a repentant homosexual and so an example for those who have that problem. He did an enormous amount of missionary work, with a lot of translations and also original writing. True, some of his writings were marked by the Creationism, literalism and apocalypticism of Californian/American Protestantism, but much of his work, directed at the glaring errors and indeed sectarian and schismatic nature of the ‘super-correct’ old calendarist ROCOR, now seems very relevant in Europe too. They were obviously in the wrong: he really did need to spend so much time challenging them in the US context then, as in Europe today. His rejection of their heresy of Donatism was worthy of one who was a disciple of St John of Shanghai.

Also his polemics against Moscow seem very outdated now, a political product marked by Cold War Russian émigrés who were financed by the CIA. However, although Fr Seraphim’s writings were coloured by the ‘crazy California’ of the 1960s and 1970s, he did a great deal of good and I do not think we should judge him for having been a man of his times. Indeed, it was remarkable that he joined the Orthodox Church at that time and did so much. Was he a saint? I don’t know, let us wait till God reveals the truth. In the mean time we should pray for his repose. He was certainly a very gifted monk who sought the Holy Spirit.

Fr Herman (Gleb) Herman Podmoshensky did a remarkable amount of very useful translation work. And he also did a lot of writing in Russian after the fall of the Soviet Union for converts there. Unfortunately, it was all coloured by his literalist mistranslations (‘slave of God’ instead of ‘servant of God’, ‘desert-dweller’ instead of ‘hermit’), and use of quite unnecessary and deliberately mystifying Russian words such as ‘prelest’, which added to the esoteric and sectarian ‘Californian’ feel of his movement. You felt that he was trying to manipulate ignorant converts by being ‘exotic’, with his cult of ‘Holy Russia’. Generally, he was marked by great emotionalism, which is unpleasant and undesirable, especially in a monk. This became much worse after the death of Fr Seraphim, whose benign influence had helped to restrain Fr Gleb from his excesses.

It was this emotional blurring, even verging on hysteria, that later led him to leave the Church for a time and join a sect and to write some very strange and very untrue things about ‘stavroclasm’ in his absurd polemics against Metr Antony of Kiev and Archbishop Antony of San Francisco. I wrote to him at the time in the 1980s, urging him to return to the Church and I received a very florid and emotional letter back. Sadly, Fr Herman seemed never to have thrown off his chronic moral weakness, which it is embarrassing to speak of. All we can do is to pray for him. May the good he did outweigh his moral failings.

The Secular World

Q: What do you make of the incident heavily reported by the BBC in June this year, when a Royal Navy ship tried to enter Crimean territorial waters and provoke an incident?

A: What was a Royal Navy ship, in fact a small gunboat, doing off the Crimea? Defending the United Kingdom?! HMS Defender should be renamed HMS Offender. What possible threat is there to the defence of this country from the Black Sea? This is an attempt to repeat the British invasion of Russia that took place in the so-called ‘Crimean War’ (= invasion of Russia) in 1854-56. ‘Send in the gunboats’, cried the Victorian imperialists. Some things never change….The fact that a BBC journalist/agent was on board the little ship was hardly a coincidence. He and his cameraman had been sent to film the premeditated incident and make cheap propaganda.

This was clearly a premeditated provocation, as proved by the leaking of Ministry of ‘Defence’ papers connected with the operation a week later and found at a bus stop in Kent. Perhaps the provocation had been agreed by Johnson and Biden, whose son virtually runs the puppet Ukraine, the week before at the Cornwall meeting of the US-run G7 rich club? As for the BBC propaganda report that Russia ‘annexed’ the Russian Crimea, this is absurd to anyone who knows anything about 20th century history. It is as if France had occupied Kent and then called its liberation by London as a ‘British annexation’. The whole world would laugh. This is how the Western world has become a laughing-stock to those outside it.

Q: Why does the BBC not report the war in the eastern Ukraine?

A: Tightly-controlled Western State propaganda mouthpieces like the BBC do not generally report anything where the West is guilty of crimes, whether it is the civil war in the Ukraine (the people against the Western-imposed junta in Kiev), Afghanistan, the Yemen, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Eritrea, the Congo, South Africa etc.

President Putin

Q: Why do conservative Evangelicals in the USA like President Putin?

A: Not all of them do. For example, many are Globalists. However, it is true that some do. This is because they see in him a social conservative. To some extent this is true (though post-Soviet Russia’s appalling abortion statistics belie it). However, he is not a political conservative, unlike rich right-wingers, as he says he believes in social justice (though again, Russia’s appalling corruption and oligarchy also belie this).

Globalism

Q: How did Globalism become so powerful in the Western world?

A: Let us be clear: We define Globalism as an ideology that proclaims that the whole world should be ruled by a chosen people, an elite, regardless of their race.

Thus, when we say ‘Globalists’, we would certainly include both ancient figures in Babylon and pagan Rome from Nebuchadnezzar to Caesar, as well as more recent figures like Cromwell, Napoleon, Lenin, Churchill, Hitler, yes, Hitler too was a Globalist, and most contemporary US Presidents in our definition. For example, the British Empire was a purely Globalist project, from Clive to Rhodes, like the Spanish Empire before it. And today David Cameron (whose family were slave-traders) and Boris Johnson are certainly Globalists. However, your question concerns the history of how this ideology became prevalent in the Western world and indeed became the very essence of the Western ideology.

When in the seventh century the Muslims invaded Spain, financed by the then Globalists, the latter became very influential at the highest levels. Within a century they were educating the future filioquist clergy and advisors of Charlemagne (another Globalist, who wanted to restore the Globalist pagan Roman Empire) in Aachen at the end of the eighth century. Many of these advisors were precisely from Spain. It was they who at the end of the eighth century wrote the iconoclastic and filioquist ‘Carolingian Books’, which rejected the Seventh Universal Council and proclaimed that only the schismatic West had the True Faith, for the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Vicar of Christ, i.e. the Pope of Rome, and not from God the Father alone. This act was the foundation stone of modern Globalism, even though it was not systematically and institutionally implemented until the Germanic takeover of the Papacy in the mid-eleventh century.

From then on the Globalists moved very quickly. Thus, in 1066, Globalists, centred in North-West Europe, moved for the first time to consolidate power in the West by taking over England. They made their Capital in London, as they had financed the Globalist Norman Conquest. Then thirty years later, they invaded Palestine, financing and sending gangs of murderous barbarians in what they called a ‘Crusade’. The Globalists also introduced Gothic architecture with its pointed arches, which was inspired by Muslim architecture in Spain.

In the next century in what is now Italy, merchants and bankers in Lombardy in Northern Italy grew in wealth on the strength of local cereal crops and many Globalists from Spain were attracted to the trade, bringing with them ancient trading practices from the Middle and Far East. They entered the trading places and halls of Lombardy and set up their benches (‘banks’) to trade in crops. Hence the word ‘lombard’, used in Europe to mean a pawnbroker, and ‘Lombard Street’ next to the Bank of England

In the twelfth century, the need to finance more anti-Christian Crusades stimulated banking. Thus the Templars and Hospitallers acted as the bankers of Henry II of England in the Holy Land and this marked the beginning of Europe-wide banking, another cornerstone of Globalism. Indeed, in 1156 the earliest known foreign exchange contract was signed in Genoa in order to reimburse the bank’s agents in Constantinople. The next year the first bank was established in Venice with a guarantee from the State in 1157. This was due to the commercial agency of the Venetians, acting in the interest of the Crusaders of Pope Urban II. And in 1204 Constantinople was plundered and devastated precisely from and by the Globalists of Venice.

The most powerful banking families were then established in Florence, who later influenced banking in France, but Genoa was also very important. Its importance influenced Catalonia, on the other side of the Mediterranean and in 1401 the magistrates of Barcelona, the Catalonian capital, established the first replication of the Venetian model, creating the first public bank in Europe. Their influence spread to the rest of Spain and Portugal, at the end of the century financing the Genoese Columbus in his aggressive and purely Globalist invasion of the Americas, which led to the Spanish, Portuguese and then French, British and then North American genocides which lasted right into the 21st century. The Globalists notably held great power in the slave-trading empires of the Caribbean.

In the seventeenth century Globalists in Amsterdam who had financed Cromwell’s Old Testament Civil War and mercantile ‘English’ Revolution, with its usurpation of legitimate power and beheading of King Charles I, moved to London. This was to become the centre of their Empire from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries on until World War One. Only then did power move from there across the Atlantic to New York and later to California. And this is where they hold power today.

Children

Q: Why aren’t dinosaurs mentioned in the Bible?

Why isn’t God mentioned in books about dinosaurs?!

First of all, dinosaurs were only discovered 200 years ago, long after the Bible was written down. On the other hand, since the Bible, right at the beginning, very, very briefly mentions the period when there were dinosaurs, you may ask why it does not mention them. That is simply because when dinosaurs existed, people had not yet been created, so there was no-one to see dinosaurs and describe them.

However, there is a much more important reason why the Bible does not mention dinosaurs. You see, the Bible does not mention giraffe, zebra or kangaroos and lots of other things. But they all existed at the time when the stories in the Bible were written down. This is because the Bible is not interested in them. The Bible is not a handbook on fossils, animals, insects, astronomy, engineering, geography, medicine, laws, business, history, French, maths and all sorts of other things. For example, if I want to know about dinosaur fossils, I will read a book on dinosaur fossils, but I will not expect that book to tell me about God, or what I can do to become a better person and save myself from bad things (salvation), like the Bible.

So, if I want to know how to fix my car, I get a handbook on my car. But if I want to know how I can fix my life, then I read the Bible.

In fact, we can say that there are two types of book. The first type will tell me about all sorts of things that we might see in the world today or might have seen in the world in the past or even what we might see in the future. These books are called fiction and non-fiction. They can be compared to a microscope, which is used for looking in detail at people and the world around us.

Then there are ‘The Books’, what we call in English the Bible, which means precisely ‘The Books’. Now the Bible only mentions people and the world around us in passing. This is because it is not a microscope, but a telescope. And it is a telescope which we use to see beyond the universe, beyond creation, to God. In this way we can understand how our whole life changes because God is here and so we can make sense of our past, present and future and how we can save ourselves from bad and become better.

So, the Bible is a book that is very different from all other books: it is not a microscope to look at life around us, at Creation, but a telescope to look at the source of life, the Creator, so then we can make sense of our life. The Bible is not interested in dead fossils, but in the life of the Spirit.

Q: My son is being bullied at school. What should he do?

A: We must stand up to playground bullies. If they grow up and are not challenged, they will become tyrants, throwing their adult toys out of their adult prams. You cannot always rely on the oldest boy in the playground to protect you. You need a more military approach. It takes guts. The best thing to do is to ensure that your son learns how to fight back. Usually bullies cave in at once if they are challenged, because they are cowards. And only cowards can smell out other cowards. Let our model be Aleksandr Usyk, the Ukrainian Orthodox world heavyweight boxing champion and faithful subdeacon of our Church.

Q: Is it a sin to visit the Dead Sea?

A: No. But it would be a sin to visit it and experience it as a place of pleasure, and not of repentance. We bathe in the Jordan, the River of Life, not in the Dead Sea, the Sea of Death.

Biographical

Q: What has been the purpose of your life? Is there anything you regret?

A: The purpose of my life has been to witness to the fullness of the Orthodox Christianity of the Gospel by serving in and founding churches (not philosophical theories and fantasies about churches) locally, in Western Europe, where by God’s will I was born and live. This is why I have followed firstly Christ and the Mother of God, whose protecting veil my patron saint saw and has protected me, and to whom the first church I founded was dedicated. Then came the local saints, then the fools for Christ who were very unfoolish, saints who opposed the extremes of East and West like St Alexander Nevsky, and more specifically contemporary spiritual leaders and hierarchs like St John of Shanghai and his successor Archbishop Antony of Geneva. However, this down-to-earth or Incarnational attitude has meant battling against extremes and deviations of a psychological and psychopathological, political and nationalist, or sectarian and ideological nature. These deviations wanted to make the real Church of God variously into some sort of personality cult, or else an ethnic and political ghetto, or else a cultish sect of onion domes for show for recent converts, a kind of fake or ‘Disneyland’ Russian Orthodox Church.

Regrets? We must all regret our sins. Of course, I regret that I am not a saint, but there still remains the possibility of martyrdom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bubble Orthodoxy

Why did the scribes, high priests and pharisees seek to kill and then actually crucified Christ? (Matt. 16, 20, 23, 26, 27; Mk 8, 14, 15; Lk 5, 11, 20, 22; Jn 7, 11, 19). After all, the scribes were the literate and educated elite, the high priests were the leaders of the Jewish religion and the pharisees are defined as ‘members of an ancient Jewish sect, distinguished by strict observance of the traditional and written law, and commonly held to have pretensions to superior sanctity’. And yet the same word has come to mean ‘a self-righteous or hypocritical person’. Indeed Christ Himself called them ‘hypocrites’ (Matt. 6, 7, 15, 16, 22, 23, 24; Mk 7; Lk 13).

The scribes, high priests and pharisees sought to murder and then actually murdered Christ because he disturbed their self-satisfied and narcissistic bubble, their comfortable little world, their comfort zone, from which they were able to condemn all others who did not belong to their club. He forced them to face reality. He cast the moneychangers out of their Temple.  In their eyes, the punishment for that is death.

Sadly, there are many who prefer to live in illusions, rather than in the real world. They cut themselves off in their imaginary ghetto world, as reality is too frightening. It takes guts to face reality. It is much better to live in pastel colours and a sepia vision than in the real world. Thus, many create a bubble life, with their own self-imposed rules, perhaps with more than a tinge of protective racism, rejecting all others outside the ‘clan’ as ‘unclean’. ‘All the others are wrong; only I am right’. This bubble life allows them to condemn others. And that is what the scribes, high priests and high priests did. And that is what they still do today. Let us beware they we too do not fall into such a trap of pride and self-love, treating others as lepers.

 

Please Pray for Metropolitan Hilarion

The news of the bad health Metropolitan Hilarion of New York, the First Hierarch of ROCOR, is not news. He has been gravely ill for several weeks. Unable to correspond, all his documents have been signed electronically in that time. Now we must pray all the more for him, regardless of the fact that we are not in his jurisdiction.

We pray for Metropolitan Hilarion and also for a peaceful succession. This is often not easy for ROCOR, as we saw with the transition from Metr Anastasy to Bishop Philaret (suggested by St John of Shanghai in order to avoid a split), from Metr Philaret to Metr Vitaly (as Archbp Antony of Geneva related to me in detail after his return from New York 35 years ago) and then the traumatic transition from Metr Vitaly to Metr Laurus.

We have known Metr Hilarion since 1989 and have the most wonderful memories of this humble monk, who never knew the word ‘aggression’. May God’s Will be done.

Update: Glory to God. Today, 3rd November, we have heard that His Grace has recovered after his very serious illness. This news fills us with optimism.