Monthly Archives: December 2021

An Exarchate in Africa

Today the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow has established an African Exarchate with two dioceses. Having appointed only one Archbishop for the Exarchate, it is clear that Moscow will now consecrate African bishops. This is necessary as the ROC has received 102 African clergymen without letters of release. (Obviously, letters of release were not necessary, because the Alexandrian bishops are in schism. This is parallel to another situation elsewhere, where clergy left a bishop who had broken communion with a canonical Russian Orthodox Archdiocese. He refused to grant the new bishop of the clergy letters of release, in any case unnecessary, as those clergy were fleeing their former bishop’s break in communion).

STATEMENT OF METROPOLITAN JEAN OF DUBNA

Once more, we call on the Synod of ROCOR bishops to act to preserve unity within the Russian Church. Until now, the attempts by the Moscow Patriarchate Archdiocese of Churches of the Russian Tradition in Western Europe (MP Archdiocese) to restore communion with the ROCOR Diocese of Western Europe (hereafter “the ROCOR Diocese”) have come to nothing. Indeed, in November 2021 Metropolitan Mark of the ROCOR Diocese of Germany also cut off communion with the Archdiocese. Meanwhile, the ruling bishop of the ROCOR Diocese of Western Europe, Bp Irenei Steenberg, continues to threaten to ‘defrock’ the large group of ROCOR clergy who transferred with their eight parishes to the MP Archdiocese on 23 August 2021 because of Bishop Irenei’s uncanonical meddling in the Internal affairs of the MP Archdiocese since January 2021. Such uncanonical ‘defrockings’ will only further deepen and even make permanent the division which he initiated. It is in this context that Metropolitan Jean has decided to republish the official Archdiocese Statement setting out the reasons for, and related issues concerning, the canonical reception of the clergy into the MP Archdiocese. This is the official statement of Metropolitan Jean of Dubna and can be freely published by all interested media.

15/28 December 2021

St Stephen of Sourozh

 

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.

 

 

 

Under English Eyes: Why did a Revolution Take Place in Russia?

Why did a Revolution in Russia (it was never the Russian Revolution) take place? Secular historians, whether Soviet or Western (spiritually, it is the same atheism) have expressed all sorts of theories in answer to this question. Churchmen, however, are unanimous: It is because vital sections of the population of the Russian Empire lost their faith in God beneath the weight of Western secularism. Atypically, one Englishman, never a member of the Orthodox Church, understood this. His name was George Shell and it is his witness which we shall now quote.

George Shell, also known by his pen-name of Gerard Shelley, was born in Sidcup, Kent, in 1891, and was a linguist, author, priest and translator. Brought up as a Roman Catholic, he learned French, German and Italian in his youth and was a graduate of Heidelberg, the Major Seminary and the Collège Saint-Sulpice in Paris. Before the Revolution he travelled widely in the Russian Empire, learned fluent Russian and met the Tsarina Alexandra and also Gregory Rasputin very many times. He was then in his twenties. After encounters in Imperial Russia and then misfortunes in the Bolshevik Soviet Union, he escaped back to England and became a writer, priest and translator from Russian. In March 1950 he was consecrated bishop of the Old Roman Catholic Church in Great Britain and in 1952 became its third archbishop. In 1959 Shelley’s Old Catholic Church opposed the Dogma of Papal Infallibility and during and after the Second Vatican Council he opposed the runaway changes of Roman Catholic liberalism. He died in 1980.

His eyewitness accounts of Russian life were recorded in his 250 pages of memoirs, ‘The Speckled Domes’, published in 1925. He recorded how the Tsar made contact with the peasantry, repeating ‘The King and the Commons’ alliance that was sought against the aristocracy in the Peasants’ Revolt of fourteenth century England, to develop a democratic monarchy, not unlike the attempts to save the Empire of Constantinople between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries under the Zealots and others. Here are extracts from that book. They answer the question as to who caused the Revolution and the bloodbath that followed it for three generations, the results of which are still plain to see in contemporary Russia:

 

‘To the vast majority of the Russian aristocracy, and especially to the intelligentsia, he (Rasputin) was a monster of iniquity. To a very select few – those, in fact, who had personal relations with him – he was a saint and the protagonist of a great ideal’ (P. 26).

‘He (a Russian intelligent (= a Westernised pseudo-intellectual)) delights in telling evil stories about the man or woman who believes and practices a code of faith and morals’ (P. 28).

‘I’m sure hell is paved with the minds of intelligents’, said Princess Galsin. ‘Their personal lives are sheer horror…They don’t believe in God or religion. They have no mystical motive to be righteous. They imagine all the good things will come automatically with the overthrow of the Tsar. It’s the system that’s rotten, they say. I rather think it’s themselves’ (Pp. 30-31).

‘What is Gregory’s (Rasputin’s) plan’?, I asked. ‘The rejuvenation of Orthodoxy and Autocracy, and the welding of the throne with the Russian people’ (P. 32).

‘Since I made the acquaintance of Gregory Rasputin, my experience of the spiritual forces of the world has been enriched beyond words…He is a prophet with all the grandeur and vision of a seer’ (pp 33-34).

He (Gregory) said: ‘I fight for the Tsar, the Faith and Fatherland. While I am alive no harm shall ruin them, but if I perish, so shall they!’ (P. 37).

He (Gregory) said: ‘I am sad for Russia. Faith and piety have forsaken the soul…Russia perishes’ (P. 49).

‘In Russia he (Gregory) wished to have a Peasant Tsar, one who would defend the interests of the Orthodox peasantry against the Atheistic, riotous-living landlords and bourgeois, who spent most of their time abroad or bullying their peasants’ (P. 50).

‘I realised that the fearful things attributed to Rasputin were, in many cases, the actual doings of his accusers. Perhaps no man in history has been so furiously calumniated’ (P. 53).

‘Truly religious minds, such as those of Rasputin….looked at this overwhelming wave of corruption with horror and alarm. Small wonder that the Empress and her followers looked for the salvation of Russia to the closer union of the throne with the peasantry, to whom the old traditions of Orthodoxy, religion and morality were still living realities. The intelligentsia had gone astray into the putrid wilderness of materialism, looking only for the establishment of a society of mere comfortable conditions, idealising sensual orgies as the Paradise of the system…Religion is a ‘peasant prejudice’. Yet it is curious that the Russian intelligent, having no desire to explore the higher forms of religious consciousness, goes down into the depths of materialism to explore the horrors of hell…In this atmosphere, Rasputin tried to work for the old ideals (P.  54).

‘She (the Empress) declared: ‘Petrograd society is rotten! There is hardly a soul to be relied on…The nobles and merchants were rotten. They had lost faith and worshipped materialism. They were untrustworthy, anarchical, evil-living….Even the highest and nearest are full of revolts and schemes’. ‘Rasputin was to tell me afterwards that the Tsar lived in daily dread of being the victim of a plot to dethrone him by several of the more ambitious Grand Dukes’ (P. 62).

‘Her (the Empress’) desire to reach the religious soul of the Russian people was reviled and deluged by those pretentious nobles with an orgy of calumnies. No doubt they felt they were being passed by, and that their position as knout-wielders to the populace was being undermined’ (P. 64).

‘Living in the neighbourhood of Rasputin, I had ample means for studying his views and observing his manners…Of all the wretched stories that were told about him, I could believe none, for there was not the slightest evidence in the man’s behaviour either at the Court or in the houses of his admirers to justify any suspicion of evil-doing. One has only to recall the base, disloyal, and abominably lurid stories about the Empress and her beautiful daughters – which the degenerate bureaucratic classes invented out of sheer malice and rank imaginativeness, to realise how low society had sunk. In a society of bribe-takers, robbers of State funds, and corrupt officials, Rasputin stood out like the giant figure of a saint moulded in rugged iron. He, of all men in Russia was immaculate…Rasputin’s life in the midst of a horde of howling, snarling enemies was both dangerous and burdensome. The infuriated aristocrats longed to have him assassinated’ (P. 65).

‘They (the Tsar and his wife) were to be deposed…The Tsar had received information that the British and French ambassadors were aware of the plot, and had assured the schemers of their moral and financial support’ (P. 67).

‘Although a peasant, he (Rasputin) had clear, well-defined ideas on a host of matters. No doubt they sprang more from a deep intuition and instinct rather than from a reasoned, scientific knowledge. There was so much of the Old Testament prophet in Rasputin that it may not be wrong to compare him to one of those strange, rugged seers who played so great a role at the courts of the kings of Israel…How, then, did Rasputin come to hold such a position in the eyes of the Tsar and Tsarina? The answer is quite simple. He fitted in with their creed and plan for the regeneration and salvation of Russia’ (P. 69).

‘With such intolerant and selfish views prevailing among the upper classes, the creed and plan of the Sovereigns was sure to meet with the most hostile and vindictive opposition. ..By their opposition to the Tsar’s new policy, the nobles were digging their own grave…In the Tsar’s rapprochement with the peasantry, they descried a menace to their hold on the land. Moreover, by identifying themselves personally with the peasants’ religion, the Sovereigns appeared to be turning aside from the materialism and spiritual nihilism of the nobles and intelligentsia…She (the Tsarina) told me that since the revolution of 1905, she and her Imperial husband had come to realise that the cause of all Russia’s misfortunes lay in the apostasy of the educated classes from the ideals of religion and morality’ (Pp. 70-71).

She (the Tsarina) said: ‘The Russian intelligentsia makes a god of materialism and science, and despises the secrets of religion. It is false! Their science will lead only to the shedding of oceans of blood, if they despise God’ (P. 73).

‘The intelligentsia wanted the Revolution at all costs; the nobles wanted the throne to uphold its prestige, and their position as batteners on (those who grow fat from) the land. Nothing was too bad or wicked to attribute to the Tsarina. All the evils that afflicted Russia were laid at her door. The nobles endeavoured to turn popular anger, due to their own corruption and mismanagement, against the Empress’ (P. 74).

‘When I returned in January 1917, the Staretz (Gregory) was no more. His ‘princely’ converts had lured him to his death, and talk of Revolution was in the air…I cannot help reflecting how futile the Russians were. The nobles, who feared the Tsar’s rapprochement with the peasants, have had their land taken from them, while the Revolutionary intelligentsia, whose dream of the downfall of Tsardom was so glorious and stirring, have bitten the dust under the blows of a bloodier knout, or are scattered over the face of their loveless West’ (P. 76).

 

From Cardiff to New York and Moscow: How in One Tragic Year a Local Schism Was Spread Worldwide

Introduction

Following the Liturgy celebrated after the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion on 18 May 2007, while unvesting in the Church of Christ the Saviour, a very senior ROCOR archpriest from the USA turned to me and said, ‘We’ve won!’ I still had some doubts, but in 2012 when I visited Russia as part of the official ROCOR delegation in honour of the fifth anniversary of the signing, I felt that the sectarian elements that had persecuted us for decades had indeed been defeated. I was wrong. The sectarian hawks of ROCOR had not all left and they wanted their revenge for the victory of the doves in 2007.

Nobody then foresaw the CIA-orchestrated overthrow of democratic government in Kiev in 2014 and their theft of the Ukrainian gold reserves, the presidential election of Donald Trump in 2016 and the coup d’etat in the ROCOR Synod in 2018. The Pharisees were back in power again and determined to execute a sectarian schism from the Russian Orthodox Church. All they needed was a pretext. So it was that between 2020 and 2021, within the space of one year, a minor event in the small Principality of Wales became an international scandal over three continents. Let us recall how the tragic ROCOR schism came about.

Cardiff, Wales, 17 December 2020

A Greek Catholic priest, Fr Jacob Siemens, is received into the ranks of the clergy of the MP (Moscow Patriarchate) Archdiocese of Churches of the Russian Tradition in Western Europe, by vesting and concelebration. Fr Jacob has stated that he is happy to be received in any way blessed by Metropolitan Jean of the Archdiocese. Indeed, it is only with the express blessing from Moscow that Metropolitan Jean receives Fr Jacob by vesting and concelebration.

London, England, 23 January 2021

In his Directive 359/E, the Bishop of the ROCOR Diocese in Great Britain, a quite recent American convert to ROCOR from Lutheranism, Bp Irenei Steenberg, rejects the reception of Fr Jacob Siemens and states that it is absolutely impossible for a Catholic priest to be received into the Orthodox priesthood by vesting and concelebration. In the same Directive (issued only four weeks after the reception itself), Bp Irenei, whose name ironically means ‘peaceful’, aggressively severs the sacramental communion and canonical unity of ROCOR in the British Isles with the MP Archdiocese, thereby initiating a local schism. He states:

‘You may neither concelebrate nor participate liturgically, or in any ecclesiastical measure, with the aforementioned James (sic) Siemens, nor with any clergy or local institutions of the Archdiocese / Exarchate (sic) in the British Isles. Further, if you have any spiritual children or parishioners who at times have attended Exarchate (sic, meaning Archdiocese) 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 (sic) in the British Isles’.

So extraordinary is this action of interference in the affairs of another diocese and the breaking of communion with it because it was expressing the normal practice of the Russian Orthodox Church that some suggest that Bishop Irenei is in fact using this reception in Cardiff as a pretext to implement his rejection, and that of others, of the 2007 Act of Canonical Communion between the Russian Orthodox Church and ROCOR. This would result in the long-planned schism of the whole of ROCOR from the Russian Orthodox Church. His rebellion against the practices and Tradition of the Russian Orthodox Church is clear to all, as it confirms his previous statements. See:

https://ireneifiles.wixsite.com/home

London, England, 26 February 2021

With his Notice 390/E, Bp Irenei now issues the public announcement that, since Fr Jacob had not been (re)ordained at his reception, he is not a priest, and anyone in authority who says otherwise – i.e. Metr Jean of Dubna (and by implication, the whole episcopate of the Moscow Patriarchate), who receive him – are guilty of ‘spiritual deception’:

‘In December of last year, the Archdiocese, based in Paris, supposedly received a Dr James [sic] Siemens into Holy (sic) 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 (sic) Canons of the Church. … Dr Siemens is, according to the Holy (sic) 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’.

(See ‘Notes’ at the end of this article for an understanding of the implications of this action, which is unilateral, for at no time does the Archdiocese cut itself off from or refuse to concelebrate with any part of the Russian Orthodox Church, it is only ROCOR that does this).

Felixstowe, England, 10 April 2021

In the presence of others, Bp Irenei tells the senior priest of the UK half of his small Western European Diocese, Archpriest Andrew Phillips, who has fought for decades, indeed all his adult life, for Russian Orthodox Church unity, that he, Bp Irenei, is planning to take the UK half of his ROCOR diocese out of communion with the local diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate too, that in effect his schism with the Archdiocese is merely part of a wider-ranging sectarian project.

New York, USA, 7 May 2021

A letter is received by the New York Synod describing what has been happening in Bp Irenei’s Diocese and the clear consequences among ROCOR clergy and laypeople, who are collectively alarmed by the Irenei Schism, and that they wish to talk about the problem of the Schism and if their communion with the rest of the Russian Orthodox Church is broken, they will leave ROCOR. It is impossible to contact the First Hierarch of ROCOR, Metropolitan Kapral and his electronic signature is used in his answer. In the answer, written by Bishop Irenei, the sender of the letter, Archpriest Andrew Phillips, is immediately punished and warned that if he even speaks of this matter again, he will be suspended.

Mt Athos, Greece, 9 May 2021

Elder Evthymios, the close disciple of St Paisios, answers our question about what to do with the words: ‘Your case will be decided at the highest court’, making it clear to us that we must seek a bishop who remains in communion with the Church.

London, England, 10 May 2021

At a warm-hearted meeting at his London Cathedral, the ruling Bishop of the local MP Diocese receives a delegation from ROCOR, who express their alarm at the schismatic activities of Bishop Irenei Steenberg. They are informed that nothing can be done, but notes are taken and it is said that Moscow will be informed of the looming crisis.

Paris, France, 11 May 2021

The delegation of ROCOR clergy and laypeople inquires of Metropolitan Jean of the Archdiocese of Churches of the Russian Tradition in Western Europe, if he is prepared to take them into his canonical protection and so out of the Irenei schism. The answer is positive, but no action is taken in view of the possibility that Bishop Irenei might reconsider his position at the long-planned Inter-Russian Orthodox talks for reconciliation and compromise to take place in Geneva on 23 August.

Geneva, Switzerland, 23 August 2021

On the afternoon of 23 August 2021, a long-awaited, two-hour long, last-ditch meeting for Inter-Orthodox reconciliation is held in Geneva. This is attended by Metropolitan Antony, head of the Patriarchal Exarchate of Western Europe and representative of His Holiness Patriarch Kyrill, Metropolitan Jean of Dubna of the Archdiocese of Churches of the Russian Tradition in Western Europe and two ROCOR bishops, Metropolitan Mark of Berlin and Bishop Irenei of London.

To our great regret and distress, there is no negotiation at all and no agreement is reached regarding the division with the Russian Orthodox Archdiocese of Western Europe and the excommunication of its faithful, initiated by ROCOR following the events in Cardiff in December 2020.

After the failure of this very difficult meeting which is just a series of unjustified allegations by ROCOR, and no longer wishing to remain divided from other parts of the Russian Orthodox Church, three groups of ROCOR parishes and clergy in England who have all, quite independently, come to the same conclusion, take action. Nine ROCOR parishes in England, attended by nearly 5,000 Orthodox and served by sixteen ROCOR clergy, composed of five ROCOR priests and two more who have refused to join a group which acts in such an unChristian ways as the local ROCOR, and allies themselves to us, two deacons and seven readers, in unswerving loyalty and obedience to the Russian Orthodox Tradition and its canonical communion, transfer to the Archdiocese of Churches of the Russian Tradition in Western Europe.

Faced with the choice of being loyal to the sectarian division of a tiny number of isolated individuals, or else of being faithful to the age-old practices of His Holiness Patriarch Kyrill and his 400 bishops and 40,000 parishes, 99% of the Church, we choose the latter course. This reception into his Archdiocese on 23 August 2021 is then confirmed in writing by Metropolitan Jean of Dubna and published.

Great Britain, 28 October 2021

With the express blessing of Metropolitan Jean of the Archdiocese, after theological and canonical consultation, the UK Deanery of the Archdiocese publishes the collectively-agreed Statement and canonical refutation of Bishop Irenei’s rebellion against the practices of the Russian Orthodox Tradition, his meddling in the affairs of another diocese and his suspension, announced on his blog, of clerics of another diocese. This is in reply to the untruthful internet attacks on the transferred group and on Metr Jean personally, which have not been answered earlier because of the hope of reconciliation.

http://www.events.orthodoxengland.org.uk/2021/10/

Felixstowe, England, 3 November 2021

Archpriest Andrew Phillips, long known for his struggles for Russian Orthodox unity and his equal rejection of all extremes, both of  new calendarism, with its old-fashioned modernism, anti-spiritual ecumenism and free-for-all liberalism, and of old calendarism, with its insecure pseudo-traditionalism, aggressive sectarianism and censorious phariseeism, at last publishes his response to the persecution. It is entitled ‘Reflections on an International Scandal’.

http://www.events.orthodoxengland.org.uk/reflections-on-an-international-scandal/

Belgrade, Serbia, 25 November 2021

At his concluding speech after the centenary, ironically, conference on the history of ROCOR, Metr Mark of Berlin confirms that his German-based Diocese of ROCOR is also refusing to concelebrate with the Archdiocese of Western Europe and accuses it (!) of uncanonical acts. Metr Mark also indicates that in some sense ROCOR no longer recognises the Local Church of the OCA (Orthodox Church in America) either. His ‘OneTrueChurchism’ gives the impression that he, also a convert from Lutheranism, wants to belong to a branch of the Russian Orthodox Church that is more Russian Orthodox than the actual Russian Orthodox! This speech is first reported by the CIA-financed, pro-Navalny Credo.Press site in Moscow. See:

Европейские епархии РПЦЗ МП запретили сослужение с другой структурой Московского патриархата в Западной Европе — Credo.Press

New York, USA / Moscow, Russian Federation, 17 December 2021

The ROCOR bishops’ website announces that at the Bishops’ Synod the week before, it has cut off communion with the Patriarchal Archdiocese of Western Europe under Metropolitan Jean of Dubna. Moreover, we learn today that the ROCOR Synod has informed Moscow that it will not take part in the Bishops’ Council in Moscow in May 2022 if any of the bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate Archdiocese of Western Europe is present. One year has passed since 17 December 2021.

Conclusion

For over two years now we have prayed daily to St John of Shanghai and Western Europe for help against our persecutor. After twelve years as our Archbishop in Europe, in 1962 St John was sent from here to resolve a financial scandal in the USA. There the future Fr Seraphim (Rose) was received into ROCOR by chrismation. There the future St John was put on trial by certain ROCOR bishops and their allies, with the result that within three years he had died. This latest sorry saga, so unnecessary, is just another example of how those who stand up for the Faith are persecuted. The persecutors are in fact anti-Mainstream, anti-Orthodox and anti-Russian.

We were the first to become aware of all the details, intentions and repercussions of the Irenei Schism. That is why we acted before others. Still today, most are in ignorance, still unaware of what has been happening in their Church. However, as all becomes public, all the remaining clergy and people of ROCOR who wish to keep faith with the Russian Orthodox Church, the Church of St Tikhon of Moscow, St Alexis of Wilkes-Barre, St Jonah of Hankow, St Seraphim of Boguchar and St John of Shanghai, may also have to quit the rebellion of schismatic bishops. Then they too can return to canonical communion with the Russian Orthodox Church in one of the local groups which faithfully represents it.

 

Notes:

  1. The reception of Catholic priests by vesting and concelebration is the standard practice in Russian Orthodoxy of the Moscow Patriarchate and the MP Archdiocese and was the traditional practice of ROCOR. This form of reception of Catholic priests was the consistent practice of canonised saints, such as St Tikhon of Moscow. Notably, St Alexis of Wilkes-Barre was a Catholic priest received into Orthodoxy by vesting and concelebration. As such, Bp Irenei’s absolute rejection of the reception of Catholic priests by vesting and concelebration is incompatible with, and indeed a rejection of, 350 years of Russian Orthodox tradition. So his act of rebellion and schism initiated on this basis is entirely illegitimate.
  2. As a ruling Bishop of a ROCOR Diocese, Bp Irenei’s jurisdiction extends only to those clergy within his own Diocese. However, neither Fr Jacob nor Metr Jean is a clergyman within Bp Irenei’s Diocese, and as such Bp Irenei has no authority to pass judgment over either. Rather, by passing summary judgment over both Fr Jacob and Metr John, Bp Irenei illegitimately assumed for himself the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical bodies which do have jurisdiction to pass judgment over them. Thus, in passing judgment over Fr Jacob, Bp Irenei illegitimately assumed for himself the jurisdiction of the ruling Bishop of the MP Archdiocese. And in passing judgment over Metr John, Bp Irenei illegitimately assumed for himself the jurisdiction of the Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate. Both actions are grave and basic violations of the canonical order of the Church, and as such are entirely illegitimate.
  3. When a ROCOR Bishop feels empowered to act in such opposition to both the tradition and canonical order of the Russian Orthodox Church, serious questions are raised about the status of ROCOR and its commitment to the 2007 Act of Canonical Communion which reconciled ROCOR to the Mother Church. Schism should be an absolute last resort, not something into which a Bishop jumps in a period of just over four weeks. The speed, if not eagerness, with which Bp Irenei Steenberg, as a ROCOR Bishop, instituted a schism with an Archdiocese of the Moscow Patriarchate – thereby jeopardising 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.
  4. The stated theological basis of Bp Irenei’s schism makes clear the need for serious discussion and dialogue between the New York Synod of ROCOR and the Moscow Synod of the rest of the Moscow Patriarchate (including of 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 traditional 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 the late 1960s under the innovations of Greek Old Calendarism. 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, ironically, 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 of the Moscow Patriarchate’s historical practices, but in which the Moscow Patriarchate’s participants criticise these historical transformations and innovations 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. After all, 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.

Repentance in Rome and Elsewhere?

On 4 December Pope Francis met the Archbishop of Athens Jerome II and other bishops of the Local Orthodox Church of Greece. During this meeting he stated that on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church he expressed repentance for the sins of Roman Catholics and acknowledged that its ‘actions and decisions had been motivated not by the Truth of Christ and the Gospel, but by the thirst for supremacy and power and these had seriously undermined communion between East and West’.

If the Pope is sincere, now we can hope for actions, rather than words. First of all, he will have to renounce the Roman Catholic alteration to the universal fourth-century Christian Creed and so the filioque heresy of the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit from the Son. Then he will have to renounce the eleventh-century Papal claims, which were dogmatised by the filioque (the Holy Spirit proceeds from Christ, Whose Replacement is the Pope of Rome) and so led to the Roman Catholic, or Western, Schism.

However, beyond this, there are all the practices of Roman Catholicism which will have to be renounced. For example, there is compulsory priestly celibacy which for a thousand years had led to a priesthood, marred by homosexual and pedophile scandals, or else the distortions of sacramental life and shocking lack of ascetic life, which means that Roman Catholics generally do not fast, and in particular before communion, at which they are also deprived of the Blood of Christ. For Roman Catholics are the first victims of the millennial delusions of their leaders and they deserve our help and compassion.

The list of distortions is very long. However, repentance is always possible, and not only for Roman Catholic Popes. For here there can be no triumphalism, as there are Orthodox Patriarchs and Bishops who have also fallen into exactly the same thirst for supremacy and power. And they have also marred themselves in homosexual and even pedophile scandals (especially in the pseudo-Orthodox sects, as recently in Birmingham, England, but also in Eastern Europe), putting themselves above the canons and making their otherwise innocent flocks victims of their delusions. But all is still possible through repentance.

 

Meanwhile, in Brno

After nearly exactly seven years as a deacon, thirty years ago, on 8 December 1991, I was ordained priest by the ever-memorable Archbishop Antony of Geneva, successor of St John of Shanghai and Western Europe. Both of them were disciples of Metropolitan Antony (Khrapovitsky), after whom Archbishop Antony had been named. Present at my ordination was my dear Carpatho-Russian friend Fr Joseph Fejsak from Brno in the Czech Lands. Indeed, Fr Joseph gave me his old priest’s cross for my ordination.

Now we are both under persecution at the same time, though from different extremes. Unfortunately, Fr Joseph was not able to maintain the people’s ownership of his church in Brno, as we were in Colchester. Similar to us, however, the flock remained faithful in the face of persecution. Now we have heard this news. Please pray for him and his flock:

The faithful of the Church of St Viacheslav in the Moravian city of Brno (‘the Czech Birmingham’) gathered with their rector, Archpriest Joseph Fejsak, to celebrate the feast of the Entrance of the Most Holy Mother of God into the Temple on December 4. Instead of being allowed to pray, they were insulted, physically attacked, and driven out by thugs hired by the schismatic Bishop Isaiah (Slaninka) of Shumperk, who was sent by Patriarch Bartholomew of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and who has been on a long campaign to drive Fr Joseph out and steal the church from the Local Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia.

Fr Joseph, a graduate of the Moscow Theological Academy, has been the beloved pastor of the parish for nearly four decades. Meanwhile, Bp. Isaiah was consecrated by hierarchs of Constantinople without the blessing of the Synod of the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia and has concelebrated with the graceless schismatics of the ‘Orthodox Church of Ukraine’. The thugs turned on the faithful, who this time left an altar server with a bloody face. The thugs calmed down only when the police arrived.

 

Все в море (All At Sea)

Сейчас, в начале судьбоносного месяца декабря, хотелось бы поведать эту притчу:

100 лет назад прекрасный и славный корабль отправился в плавание с капитаном, множеством офицеров, большим экипажем и многочисленными пассажирами, ища тихой, безопасной гавани, потому что на суше началась Великая буря. Из поколения в поколение судном управляли мудрые капитаны, которые останавливались во многих зарубежных портах по всему миру в поисках пристанища, забирая новых пассажиров, в том числе безбилетных. К сожалению, некоторые офицеры, члены экипажа и пассажиры были менее мудры и порой советовали вести корабль рядом со скалами и рифами, которые кишели пиратами.

100 лет спустя, после того, как с кораблем произошло множество приключений, которые будут подробно описаны в другое время и в другом месте, наконец-то снова открылся порт, из которого вышел корабль. Великая буря на суше прекратилась. Престарелый капитан корабля, избранник судьбы, привел свое судно сквозь громы и молнии домой в родную гавань, которая снова стала безопасной, готовый рассказать истории прошлого тем, кто жаждал их узнать. Прекрасный старый корабль был встречен с пониманием и восхищением. Люди снова обрели надежное пристанище.

Однако после опасного путешествия и столь огромных усилий старый капитан вскоре скончался, все еще находясь за штурвалом. Из числа офицеров был выбран новый капитан – человек, чья душа была такой же прекрасной и благородной, как и у предыдущего капитана, но который был не столь сильным. Казалось, что его задача – быть капитаном корабля, стоявшего на якоре в порту – не была такой уж сложной.

Однако недовольные офицеры и пассажиры, попавшие на борт в зарубежных портах и предпочитавшие скалы и рифы с пиратами, тайно замышляли заговор. Наконец, им представилась такая возможность. Неудовлетворенные условиями в порту, которые они из гордости сочли недостаточно комфортными, они решили вывести корабль из тихой гавани и захватить его. Хитростью они убедили нового капитана сняться с якоря под предлогом того, что они якобы должны вывести корабль из порта и отправиться в прогулочный круиз «в память о тех, кто плавал на нем в прошлом, чтобы почтить их подвиг».

Не имея возможности отказаться от того, что казалось достойным, новый капитан согласился, но при условии, что корабль только обойдет маяк в бухте в непосредственной близости от порта. Однако, когда корабль покинул порт под покровом ночи, многие молодые члены экипажа и пассажиры на борту осознали, что капитана обманули, что мятежники захватили корабль и увозят пассажиров не в прогулочный круиз, а в круиз с пытками – далеко в океан.

Этот круиз отнюдь не был посвящен воспоминаниям о великих подвигах прошлого и преодолении последствий Великой бури: на самом деле,  мятежные офицеры хотели сами управлять кораблем и ограбить пассажиров (некоторые из которых были богатыми) на борту, а также встретиться в открытом море с отрядом очень могущественных пиратов, стоявших на якоре у скал и рифов, которые тайно платили мятежным офицерам и пассажирам за захват корабля.

В последний момент многие более молодые члены экипажа и пассажиры, осознавшие происходящее, смогли не без большого труда и опасности для себя выбраться из корабля в спасательную шлюпку возле маяка у входа в бухту, а совсем рядом их ждало безопасное прибежище. Предатели мятежники назвали сбежавших «бунтарями», потому что они покинули корабль без их разрешения, злорадствуя и надеясь, что те насмерть разобьются о подводные скалы вокруг маяка. Но этого не случилось. Все прошло спокойно, и все люди оказались в безопасном месте.

Сбежавшие с корабля надежно закрепили свою шлюпку, поднялись по лестнице в фонарную комнату маяка и увидели, как корабль все дальше уходит в неспокойное море, что грозило катастрофой. Они тут же зажгли свет в надежде, что корабль и находящиеся на нем люди все еще могут спастись от мятежников и вернуться в порт. Они верили, что яркий свет разбудит администрацию порта, которая все это время крепко спала.

Тем временем, оставшиеся на борту преданные офицеры и пассажиры (многие из которых пожилые и сбитые с толку), постепенно начали понимать, что их обманули, пока они спали в своих каютах. Это не прогулочный круиз в память о славном прошлом. На самом деле мятежные офицеры и бывшие на их стороне пассажиры хотели выйти в открытое море на встречу с пиратами. В сгущавшейся темноте, при дующем ветре и под дождем открылось великое разделение, и те, кому мятежники заплатили за то, что они отправились в «круиз», начали приходить в себя.

Когда закончились запасы еды, на борту корабля вспыхнула драка, и все постепенно начали осознавать, что произошло. Некоторые офицеры, члены экипажа и пассажиры выкрикнули «СОС!», но корабль был уже так далеко в море, что их голоса никто не слышал  сквозь грохот и рев волн, кроме тех, кто находился на маяке и смотрел с тревогой.

Тем временем администрация порта, предупрежденная мигающим маяком, начала понимать, что что-то случилось, что старый корабль не собирается возвращаться и может затонуть, а преданные люди на его борту в опасности. Другие порты также начали посылать сообщения о бедствии: «Мэйдэй! Мэйдэй!»

Что произошло дальше?

У притчи будет продолжение, так как пока не ясно, чем закончится эта история.

 

Personal Questions I Have Been Asked In The Last Three Months

Q: How could you have stayed with that nasty bunch of sectarians for so long?

A: St John of Shanghai a nasty sectarian? Hieromonk Seraphim Rose a nasty sectarian? The ever-memorable Archbishop Antony of Geneva a nasty sectarian? Metropolitan Laurus Skurla a nasty sectarian?  Metropolitan Hilarion Kapral a nasty sectarian? Just because a bunch of nasty sectarians opposed them, that does not mean that they too were nasty sectarians!

Q: Is this a personal rebellion?

A: After 32 years of faithful and unpaid missionary service, ever the defender of the traditional ROCOR? As for the rest, you must ask the fifteen members of clergy and the thousands of laypeople who left unanimously. That is, half of the former UK Diocese lost to ROCOR, all because no-one would listen to us for years. The only rebels are the two individuals in authority who have rebelled against the age-old practices and traditions of the Russian Orthodox Church in the name of a sectarian ideology and created a schism. Moreover, instead of resolving the problem, they have publicised it, deepened it and internationalised it.

Q: You have been accused of being unstable. What do you say?

A: The enemies of the Church always trot out the same two slanders. You are mentally ill/unstable. Alternatively, you are a homosexual/pedophile. Of course, they are talking about themselves. They cannot conceive of normal people and healthy human psychology.

Q: How did you react when they said you were senile?

A: We all fell about laughing. I was playing football in the park with some of my eleven grandchildren, a football team in themselves, when we heard about this one.

Q: What is your view of Fr/St Sophrony?

A: As someone who knew him well (I must have been present at about 100 liturgies he celebrated), I saw a wise and experienced old monk. He wrote some strange things, though perhaps not strange to a philosopher – I am not sure that any of us can understand or has understood his writings. He painted some strange icons – but he was trained in the Art Nouveau in Paris. However, there are many people who consider him a local saint and he has been canonised. He certainly did not oppose the Church with some schism or heresy or form a sect. And no-one would ever accuse him of being nasty. Many think he is a saint. There is no reason to think that he is not, though we may think that the Russian Diaspora produced even greater saints, like St John. But that is a personal view.

Q: Are you really a Socialist?

A: Very amusing! Yes, this accusation came from some Trumpist in the USA after I had praised the social policies, free education and free medical treatment, set up by Tsar Nicholas II (whom they claim to venerate!). The fact that the Soviet regime continued the Tsar’s policies (albeit in a more primitive and underfunded form) is nothing to do with Soviet Socialism, but everything to do with their inheritance of Tsar Nicholas’ love for his people.

I have all my life consistently opposed all extremists of both left and right, freemasons, modernists and ecumenists, as well as anti-semitics, past-worshippers and ultra-nationalists, New Calendarist and Old Calendarist. So when I get accused of being a Socialist, or then a Fascist, I think that is a good sign. I am clearly not with the extremes, because both extremes are attacking me.

Q: What will happen next?

A: We have no idea. All we can say is that we have a unique opportunity to form from the three broken bits of the Russian Orthodox Church the foundation for One United Local Orthodox Church in Western Europe and the foundation of another United Local Orthodox Church in the Americas, based on the three broken bits there. This is an opportunity which, like so many others before it, may tragically be missed yet again. But the opportunity is being offered on a plate. If all can get rid of their wholly secular and political ideologies and ignore their spiritually impure ideologues, this is possible. Otherwise they forfeit their right to call themselves Orthodox Christians. All we have to do is to be Orthodox Christians and stand up for what is right!

The Russian Orthodox Church claims to have a calling to set up new Local Churches. (No other Local Orthodox Church says that). If the Russian Church does not set up such new Local Churches, after all these wasted generations of descendants of immigrants assimilated into secular society, then people will stop believing in it. They will start believing that the Russian Church too is, finally, just one more ethnic and nationalist ghetto, which has no belief in itself and no belief in providing the religious infrastructure for the descendants of Orthodox immigrants born here to live as Orthodox Christians in the here and now.

Q: Are you frightened?

A: Frightened of the upstarts who persecute us? Not in the least. My conscience is clear. I fear God’s Judgement only for my personal sins. Others should also have that fear and also have fear of their sins against the Church, of their sects, schisms and heresies. For every sect and every schism is founded on personal pride. And when that personal pride grows, the sect and schism develop into a heresy.

So it was and ever will be, from the Disciple Judas to the Priest Arius, from Bishop Donatus to Archbishop Nestorius, from Pope Hildebrand to his compatriot the priest-monk Professor Martin Luther, from the Old Believers to the Old Calendarists, from the freemasonry of Patriarch Meletios Metaksakis to the Sophianism of Archpriest Sergei Bulgakov. But remember, all of you, that though man proposes, God disposes. And those are not idle words. I have seen it happen a hundred times in my lifetime. Here today, gone tomorrow. But God’s Words are Eternal.

All At Sea

As this fateful month of December opens, let us relate this parable:

100 years ago there was a fine and noble ship that set sail with a captain, many officers, a large crew and many passengers, seeking refuge in a safe haven, for a Great Storm had begun on the land. Over the generations the ship came to be captained by a line of wise men, who visited many foreign ports all around the world, looking for refuge and picking up new passengers and also some stowaways. Unfortunately, some of the officers, crew and passengers were less wise and at times advised steering the ship near the rocks and reefs which turned out to be infested by pirates.

After many years and many adventures which will be related in detail at another time and in another place, the port that the ship had sailed from finally opened again. The Great Storm on the land was over. The ship’s elderly captain, a man of destiny, brought his vessel through thunder and lightning back home to its native haven that had become safe once more, ready to help rebuild and relate the stories of the past to those eager to know. The fine old ship was welcomed back with understanding and admiration. Here was a safe haven again.

However, after this perilous voyage and such great efforts, the elderly captain soon passed away, still at the wheel.  A new captain was chosen from among the officers, a man whose soul was as fine and noble as had been that of the previous captain, but who was not as strong. After all, surely his task, to captain a ship while it was at anchor in port, would not be so difficult?

However, disgruntled officers and passengers, who had got on board in foreign ports and who preferred the rocks and reefs of pirates, secretly plotted and saw their chance. Dissatisfied with the conditions in the port, which in their pride they deemed not good enough for them, they thought to take the ship from its calm haven and seize it for themselves. With great cunning they persuaded the new captain to weigh anchor, on the pretext that they should take the ship out from its port on a pleasure cruise, ‘in memory of those who had sailed on her in the past, so as to celebrate their feat’.

Unable to refuse what seemed like a worthy endeavour, the new captain agreed, but on condition that the ship should simply go round the lighthouse in the bay, in full view of the port. However, as the ship left the port under cover of night, many younger crew and passengers on board realised that the captain had been tricked, that the mutinous had seized control and were taking the passengers not on a pleasure cruise, but on a torture cruise, far out into the ocean.

None of this cruise was in memory of the great feats of the past and the weathering of the Great Storm, all of this was because the mutinous officers wanted to steer the ship and rob the passengers on board, some of whom were wealthy, and meet up on the high seas with a band of very powerful pirates, anchored off the rocks and reefs, who had secretly been paying the mutinous officers and passengers to seize the ship.

Just in time, many younger crew and passengers who had realised what was happening were able, not without great difficulty and danger to themselves, to get out of the ship into a large lifeboat near the lighthouse at the entrance to the bay, in full view of the safe haven. The mutinous traitors complained that these crew and passengers were ‘rebels’, that they had left without their permission, all the time gloating and hoping that those who had disembarked in their lifeboat would be dashed to pieces on the rocks around the lighthouse. This was not so. All was calm and all who wished were brought to safety.

As the refugees safely tied up their boat at the landing stage, climbed over the rocks and up the stairs inside the lighthouse and reached the lamp room, they saw the ship sailing out ever further into stormy seas which threatened to sink it. At once the refugees lit the lamp, in the hope that the ship and those on board could still be saved from the mutinous and return to port. This shining light, they thought, would also wake up the port authorities who had all this time been fast asleep.

Meanwhile, on board, the remaining loyal officers and passengers, quite a few of them elderly and confused, slowly began to realise that they had been tricked while they had been asleep in their cabins. This was not a pleasure cruise in memory of the glorious past. In reality, the mutinous officers and the passengers who supported them, wanted to go out onto the high seas to meet up with pirates. In the gathering dark and the blowing wind and rain a great division was revealed and those who had been paid by the mutineers to go along on their ‘cruise’ began to come to their senses.

Fighting broke out on board the ship as provisions began to run out and all slowly began to realise what had happened. ‘Save Our Souls’ was shouted out by some of the officers, crew and passengers, but the ship was by now so far out to sea that their voices could not be heard above the crash and roar of the ocean waves, except by those in the safety of the lighthouse, who looked on with alarm.

Meanwhile the port authorities, alerted by the flashing lighthouse, from where we could see everything, began to realise that something was amiss, that the old ship was not going to return, that the ancient vessel was in danger of sinking and the loyal on board were in danger of drowning. Other ports also began to send out messages of alarm. Mayday! Mayday!

What happened next?

This parable will be continued, as it is not yet clear how it will end. But we are praying for a miracle.

Questions and Answers (November 2021)

The Persecution

Q: I had not been following your situation for months. This news has come as a total surprise to me, though I am not sure why, as politics posing as Orthodoxy has seriously damaged my trust. I am lost to the Church.

A: If we had been put off by bishops playing politics, we would have left the Church 47 years ago, let alone during this particular nightmare of the last two years. We go to Church to worship Christ. The devil goes to Church to destroy Christ. Are you seriously saying that you are lost to Christ? If so, you are, ultimately, siding with the devil.

The full story of the Persecution will be told in due course. But that is not the main thing. The main thing is that questions will be asked about the Persecution and all will have to answer one question both in the very near future and again at the Last Judgement: Whose side were you on? On the side of the persecuted or on the side of the persecutors? The sectarians are the persecutors, together with those who love power and money more than Christ’s Church, together with the mercenaries, those who are ‘sergianists’, who have no principles and sign away their souls for a mess of pottage. Fortunately, repentance for all of them is still possible.

In September 2020 I went to Mt Athos and saw Elder Evthimios. He is the closest disciple of St Paisios the Athonite and in his skete he built the first church in the world dedicated to the saint. I asked him what to do. Only on 9 May this year I received his answer, in the most shocking words of all about this whole affair: ‘Do not worry. This matter will be judged in the highest of courts’. These words inspire dread and trembling.

Negativity

Q: Why is it that some converts attack Non-Orthodox, rather than see potential Orthodox in them?

A: Sadly, there is a certain type of convert from Protestantism who never becomes Orthodox, but is stuck as just anti-Protestant and the sort of convert from Catholicism who never becomes Orthodox, but is stuck as just anti-Catholic. None of this has anything to do with Orthodoxy and theology, but only with psychology and pathology.

We are told that the best way to catch a fly is with honey rather than vinegar. Sadly, there are those who are addicted to vinegar. Of course, we do not overlook reality and see only the good in others. We see the bad as well, with love pointing out errors, but still appreciating the positive, which may well be much greater than the bad. And we should always see the bad in ourselves first of all. We do not begin destruction, before we begin construction.

There is a similar situation with those who trawl the internet, searching for ‘prophecies’ regarding the coming of Antichrist. We should rather be looking forward to the Coming of Christ, which is what the first Orthodox did, for it will be glorious.

The Toll-Houses

Q: Why is this Orthodox doctrine of toll-houses after death controversial? And do the toll-houses go in order from the least serious to the most serious?

A: The ‘aerial toll-houses’ are images of what our soul will undergo after it is freed from the body at death and is examined at them for its sins during the forty days, in earthly time, between death and the particular judgement. I would not call this an Orthodox ‘doctrine’, rather part of the Orthodox Tradition of piety.

As far as I can see, the only controversy has been in the USA. The controversy there seems to me be a result of American literalism. If we are less literal-minded and take the toll-houses as images of spiritual truth, then I can see no controversy. Unfortunately, some people are very literal. Just as they imagine the Last Judgement as some kind of court-room with lawyers dressed in wigs etc, so they imagine the toll-houses to be some sort of buildings with customs-officers and bureaucratic forms to fill in (more an image of hell, I think). Such literalism, especially among those from a Calvinist or Lutheran convert background, is really not helpful, as it presents salvation as impossible and it creates despair. They forget the revelation that salvation comes from Divine Mercy, not from acts.

The order in which the twenty toll-houses is presented is interesting. For example the first three are listed as examining sins of the tongue, lieing and slander. These are all close to one another, though slander is a terrible sin. The twentieth toll-house examines the sin of the lack of mercy, which is surely the most serious and the one which can indeed prevent us from entering Heaven. On the other hand, pride only comes in eleventh place and murder in fourteenth place. I don’t think that the list goes from the least to the most serious. The order has a spiritual meaning.

The Sacraments

Q: Should a baby be baptised exactly on the fortieth day? When should the priest place the cross on the newly-baptised baby after baptism?

A: The fortieth day only has a symbolic importance (Christ’s Entrance into the Temple on the fortieth day). In fact I think the fortieth day should be considered as the maximum delay. Sadly, I baptise so many three month-old, six month-old, year-old children. It is cruel to make the children wait so long for the grace of baptism, chrismation and communion. The Russian Royal Family baptised their children well within forty days, the Tsarevich after twenty days for example. The only problem with early baptism is that some babies have very short hair and the tonsuring is difficult. But that can be true after six months!

You have answered your own second question! After the baby has come out of the water after the threefold immersion and the baby is clothed in the new clothes/christening gown, then the cross can be placed on the baby. In other words, place the cross on the baby after baptism. However, it is true that some priests do not give the cross until after the chrismation or else after whole baptism/chrismation and Many Years is sung. But such things have no dogmatic importance. You will find various practices.

Q: Can small children take part in the service of unction?

A: They must take part. Why should we deprive children of the sacrament of unction? We do not deprive them of the sacrament of communion. The only thing is that up until about the age of seven, children should be anointed simply with a cross on their forehead. This is to avoid children wiping the myrrh onto clothes etc.

Q: Where does the tradition of apostle spoons as christening presents come from?

A: Although the internet will tell you that they originate in 16th century England, this is clearly untrue. They certainly existed in 6th century Rome. I suspect that apostle spoons were actually originally communion spoons. This goes back to the time when people brought their own communion spoons to church to partake. The tradition of putting an image of one of the apostles on them goes back to the Last Supper. Each spoon was engraved with the image of one of the apostles who had been with Christ, both physically and by taking communion, at the Last Supper.

Christ

Q: What colour was Christ’s skin? Was He white?

A: Look at an icon! As he was from the Middle East, he had a tanned, pale brown appearance.

Priests’ Clothing

Q: Why do Orthodox priests wear black cassocks? He must have worn some light colour clothing, as traditional Arabs do today.

A: True. Monks wear black cassocks because black is the colour of repentance. However, married priests can wear any colour, though we often wear black. That is under monastic influence.

Terminology

Q: Why are there so many protopresbyters in the Greek Church and so few in the Russian Church?

A: In Greek a ‘protopresbyter’ simply means what the Russians call an ‘archpriest’. That is why it is so common. However, in Russian a protopresbyter is a very, very senior archpriest, in principle one who has been a priest for 55 years – which is why it is so rare, so is in his 80s (although this length of time is not always adhered to in some groups like ROCOR and the OCA).

Q: Why do you avoid the terms ‘Anglo-Saxon’ and ‘Saxon’, in phrases like ‘the Anglo-Saxon Church’ or ‘Saxon England’?

A: This term was never used before 1066. It is therefore unhistoric, anachronistic. Before 1066 people called themselves ‘English’ (spelled Englisc). The Anglo-Saxon or Saxon term was introduced by foreign invaders, the Roman Catholic Normans, as a piece of propaganda to persuade people that the Normans were the English and the English were foreign ‘Saxons’. It is therefore not an Orthodox Christian term. We should use and do use terms like Pre-Schism, Orthodox, Early English or Old English.

History

Q: What is the origin of Western Imperialism?

A: Western Imperialism, or Westernisation, has been headed by various different Western countries in its time: the Franks (1) (who were the first and so gave their name to the rest among many peoples), the Normans, the Crusaders, the Prussians, the Portuguese, the Spanish, the Dutch, the French, the Austro-Hungarians, the British, the Germans, the Americans, is now called Globalism. Its origin lies at the end of the eighth century under a Frankish tribal chieftain, who came to be called Charlemagne, originally ‘Karl the Tall’.

The cruellest of barbarians with burning ambition (which is now he came to power over others), Karl wanted the prestigious leadership of the universalism of the pagan Roman Empire. To justify all the future acts of barbarism he needed to become such a universal leader, he had to invent a new ideology. First, he declared that the real Emperors of Rome, living in New Rome, were not Christians, but ‘Greeks’, ‘Byzantines’, ‘Asiatics’, and ‘despots’. (Interestingly, these words are still used as insults by hypocritical Western racists today to refer to anybody outside their own despotic culture). Then he called himself a Christian (in fact he was some sort of mass-murdering iconoclast Arian, in any case definitely not a Christian), and gave himself the title of Roman Emperor. In time, his new ideology came to be called Roman Catholicism and Papism.

Fortunately, after his death in 814 Karl’s tyrannical power over his small group of countries collapsed, for Orthodox Christianity was still strong enough in Western Europe to resist his pagan ambitions. As we know, however, his barbarian descendants returned to power some two centuries later, at first in the north of Spain, then under the Normans in the south of Italy and in England after 1066. After 1054, the barbarians’ rise to tyranny became inevitable and by the thirteenth century their despotism had spread outwards to the south of Spain, Sicily, Greece, Cyprus and Constantinople, to the west in Ireland, to the north in Scotland, Scandinavia and Finland, and to the east in Lithuania and Poland, and even beyond Europe to the Asian Middle East and ports in North Africa.

Today’s Muslims call Western Imperialism ‘Crusader-Zionism’. This term first of all reflects their personal tragic history and the anti-Jewish racism of the Semitic Arab race. It does, however, sum up the organised barbarian violence (what could be more organised and at the same time more barbarian than the machine gun, poison gas, the Atom Bomb, or the smart missile?) through which the Western world (‘the international community’, as the BBC calls it) has obtained power and cultivates its universal ambition: it will never stop until it has absolute control of the whole world. However, as we know, the only one who will ever obtain almost universal control – and only very briefly – is Antichrist and the only way you can share in his power is by siding with him.

Note

  1. The word ‘frank’ literally means ‘free’, that is, ‘not slaves’. From it we have words like ‘franchise’. Its meaning reminds us of what organisations like the BBC used to call ‘the free world’. What this actually meant was that small part of the world, the West, which had not been enslaved by the West and its ideologies like Marxism. (Here we are reminded of the words of one of the hymns of Western Imperialism, ‘Rule Britannia’: ‘Britons never, never, never will be slaves’. This was written by British slave-owners for British slave-owners. Such words as ‘Human-beings never, never, never will be slaves’ never occurred to them).