Here is a letter that we could have written ourselves, word for word, It is the same playbook, elaborated by the same centralised secret document, the same intimidation, the same jealous persecution of the married clergy especially, the same aggression, the same bullying, the same threats, the same attempts to seize the properties of the faithful, the same basic ignorance of the Gospel of Christ, of the Liturgy, of Church history, of the Tradition, of ROCOR tradition, of pastoral sense, of the canons, the same arrogance – ‘I know everything and I am always right’, the same motives, the same Soviet mentality which demands obedience, not to the Gospel, but to the would-be oligarchs who seek property and income, the same imperialism, the same GI swagger that forbids you to speak your native language, the same racism, the same individuals, the same refusal to listen, communicate and consult those who are experienced, the same sectarian and cultish mentality, the same half-baked newcomers to the Church who never studied at seminary, who never knew the old ROCOR, or anything of the wider and deeper Orthodox Tradition.
We have seen it all before, all this voluntary Sovietisation which makes even those inside Russia blush, for it is all more Soviet than Soviet. It is clear that it has been orchestrated from on high, this is not a coincidence. The old and loved ROCOR of St John of Shanghai, Bishop Sava of Edmonton, Archbishop Antony of Geneva, Archbishop Seraphim of Brussels, Metr Lavr and the tragically ill Metr Hilarion, this latter usurped by coup d’etat, all of eternal memory, no longer exists. Those bishops were authentic Archpastors who were indifferent to money, they were not isolationist ideologues interested only in money and property. The new ROCOR, ruled by the well-known multi-millionaire family, is intent on chasing out all the educated priests and people, faithful to the old ROCOR, those of us who lived Church life before they were born, us who have a conscience and pastoral sense, until there is nothing left. They say: Bow down to Mammon. But we prefer Christ to Mammon, so we have no place there. As the y say in the US: ‘Money talks’, Thus, in England two years ago, 16 clerics and thousands of people left schismatic ROCOR for canonicity . None of us returned – a return to schism is unthinkable.
Who is paying them to commit spiritual suicide in this way? Redbank, House Springs, Geneva, Miami with its absurd accusations (there was never any forgery of documents by Fr Alexander Belya), Colchester and now Fr Tikhon, to name but the main cases, the tip of the iceberg. Thank God, in the USA all the conscientious will probably have to go to the Greek Archdiocese (since the OCA refuses to wake up from its weakness and so misses the opportunity to unite all Russian Orthodox in North America). In Western Europe we shall probably all go to the Patriarchate of Romania and its Moldovan sections (since the Paris Archdiocese, with which ROCOR created a schism nearly three years ago, was forbidden by Moscow to take us in February 2022 and they were too weak to stand up to Moscow because of internal traitors).
This is the ignominious end of ROCOR, replaced by the new Soviet ROCOR of the pretend oligarchs. Did they really think they could get away with this? Did they really think that we were so naive that we did not know what was going on? Did they really think we could not defend ourselves? Did they really think they could destroy the real Russian Church? Did they really think we wanted to belong to the Persecuting Church and not the Persecuted Church of the New Martyrs and Confessors? Did they really think they could destroy our life’s work? Did they really think that they could conceal from the world that they had entirely discredited themselves? If so, then what hubris on their part!
The Hermitage of The Holy Protection, 333 Weymouth Rd, Buena NJ 083I0
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As the days of Holy Paschal joy are with us, we see that the Lord, as always shows us His love, and leads us out of the darkness of ignorance into the light of prudence. The anniversary of the blessed death of our First Hierarch Metropolitan Hilarion is also approaching, let us spend this day in prayer and quiet joy for Vladyka.
My name is Abbot Tikhon (Gayfudinov). For 10 years I was the personal assistant of the late First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral). And for the last 8 years and up to the present, I have been entrusted as Abbot of The Hermitage of the Holy Protection (the Skete) in Buena, (in the village of New Kuban) in southern New Jersey. Since Passion Week there has been a wave of hatred directed against us, unfounded threats, lies, and accusations have rained down upon us. I consider it my duty to clarify the situation that has developed at The Hermitage of The Holy Protection.
The original Sviato Pokrovski church in New Kuban was left abandoned and in disrepair for more than 20 years. There are pictures of the Church and the cemetery, which shows the terrible condition in 2015, when the ever-memorable Vladyka Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral) transferred the neglected property to the Hermitage of the Holy Protection. Metropolitan Hilarlon appointed me, a sinner, to be Rector. At that time, Vladyka blessed that the property of the Hermitage of the Holy Protection would be administered by trustees: Vladyka himself, and I, as the Rector.
By 2015, The Church in New Kuban, was in a deplorable state. The cross on the main dome had rotted and fell off, the roof was leaking, there was even a hole in the floor inside the church from rainwater damage over the years. From the outside, the plaster on the walls of the church had fallen off, the windows in the refectory were chipped and sealed with adhesive tape. There were no basic church utensils, liturgical vestments or books. Everything was abandoned, the cemetery was overgrown with bushes and trees. There was no proper care for the ownerless graves. Most importantly, there were no accurate records maintained for the graves of the deceased. I wondered how in the USA, without atheistic persecution of the Church, in our time, could an Orthodox temple be left in such desecration.
Over the course of 7 years by the prayers of our First Hierarch, Metropolitan Hilarion the life of the small Hermitage flourished. The number of parishioners increased. The church property, cemetery, and the church house were returned into functioning order.
The liturgical life was established. Colossal work was performed to return the holy place into its proper honorable state. In order to save money, I performed most of the labor myself. Initially, I lived in the church basement. Eventually, I turned the basement into a usable refectory; installed a bathroom for parishioner use with a new industrial septic system; but back in 2015 there were mountains of construction debris lying around; the wind was blowing through the broken windows and there was terrible dampness and mold everywhere. All the years I worked for free.
In 2019, Metropolitan Hilarion blessed the Fund for Assistance (FFA) to carry out a fundraising campaign for the needs of the Hermitage of the Holy Protection. Vladyka Hilarion appealed to donors through a film about the Skete for financial assistance. Vladyka requested that the donations be sent through the Fund for Assistance and many caring Christians responded to Metropolitan Hilarion’s request and signed up for monthly automatic transfers of funds or made one-time donations to the Hermitage. I deeply thank all the donors who generously gave to the Skete.
After the death of our beloved Archpastor Vladyka Hilarion in May 2022, the Fund for Assistance unexpectedly stopped sending funds from our donors to the Skete, but the automatic transfers from the donors’ accounts did NOT stop. When I asked Metropolitan Nicholas why donations through FFA ceased coming to the Skete, he replied that: “Metropolitan Hilarion has died, and now the Synod has more important projects to finance.” Over the ensuing months, the Treasurer of the Hermitage, as well as, our lawyer, sent letters to the administration of the FFA, to Metropolitan Nicholas, and other Bishops of the Synod of ROCOR with a request to audit the FFA and find out why the directed funds to the Hermitage of the Holy Protection were not being forwarded to the Skete? There was no reply from anyone.
In December 2022, I was invited to meet with Priest George Temidis, Diocesan Secretary and Archpriest David Straut. I was asked to sign the deed of the Hermitage to the Eastern American Diocese (EAD) as per the request of Met. Nicholas. I inquired if this was optional, or an order, but my question was left unanswered. I explained that I cannot speak on behalf of all of the Hermitage trustees, but that I would raise this issue at our annual meeting.
On December 28th, the Board of Trustees of the Hermitage met for their annual meeting. I raised the issue of Metropolitan Nicholas’s demand for us to transfer all Skete property to EAD. We decided that everything should remain the same, as blessed by Metropolitan Hilarion. Our decision was based due to our respect for the will of Metropolitan Hilarion, who founded and blessed the Hermitage. The Skete remains exactly as Met. Hilarion organized it to this day. It is the practice of many parishes and monasteries, which are canonically part of ROCOR, to own church property via incorporation outside of the diocese. These parishes and monasteries are responsible for covering maintenance, all repairs, utilities, heating, air conditioning, insurances, etc.
On March 21 of this year, at the meeting of clergy in the Holy Trinity Monastery of Jordanville, I was invited to meet with Metropolitan Nicholas, his vicar Bishop Luke, the Secretary of the Diocese, Priest George Temidis, as well as Archpriest David Straut, and Archpriest Serge Lukianov. The atmosphere was heavy. The topic of discussion was that I had to sign over the deed of the Hermitage to the Eastern American Diocese. If the property of the Hermitage of the Holy Protection is not transferred to EAD, that I will be banned from serving; I will not be able to perform my liturgical and pastoral activities.
Metropolitan Nicholas said that there would be no compromises on this issue. Bishop Luke insisted that I was neither a monk, nor a priest, that I did not have the proper humility and obedience to fulfill the will of the new First Hierarch. The Secretary of the Diocese said that in his opinion, I should have been banned by now. Arch priest Serge Lukianov demanded that I provide a precise and unambiguous answer: whether I will transfer the property of the Hermitage to the EAD or not. Arch priest David Straut was silent.
I tried to explain that I am not solely responsible for making this decision, as there is a Board of Trustees. Amongst other things, we needed to consider the blessing of our dear Metropolitan Hilarion, who had created the Hermitage and appointed the trustees. Metropolitan Hilarion, himself became the founder and trustee of the Hermitage together with me. Metropolitan Hilarion gave his blessing in 2015 to transfer the abandoned parish to the Hermitage of the Holy Protection. Is it possible to question Metropolitan Hilarion’s adequacy and foresight? They didn’t want to listen to me; they just wanted to take away the property, and threatened me to be banned from serving for no other reason. I was put against the wall and was left with no choice. I bowed to the ground to the new First Hierarch of ROCOR, and after spending a long time at the grave of dear Vladyka Hilarion in tears and prayers, I left Jordanville.
On March 23rd of this year, the Board of Trustees of the Hermitage of the Holy Protection discussed the evolving situation. The Hermitage’s future was at stake. EAD wanted to take the property away from the lawful Rector and eliminate the board of trustees, and ban the Abbot from serving.
Therefore, the Hermitage Board of Trustees, having assessed the situation, made the only decision possible to turn to the Chairman of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, His Eminence, Archbishop Elpidophoros, Head of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. We asked to be received under the omophorion of His Eminence, Archbishop Elpidophoros.
Archbishop Elpidophoros showed us not only his Archpastoral wisdom, but also his fatherly love. He learned about our situation and accepted the Skete under the jurisdiction of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, as evidenced by the decree of His Eminence and the Holy Antimension issued to us for Divine service.
The Greek Orthodox Church was founded by the Apostle Andrew, the First-Called and has kept the canons of Holy Orthodoxy pure for many centuries. In July 1993 Patriarch Alexey II of Moscow said this about the Patriarchate of Constantinople: “In Constantinople, as the Russian people called the “City of King” with love from ancient times, the Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Princess Olga received the grace of baptism; her grandson, the holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Prince Vladimir sent there his ambassadors, looking for the right faith. There are no words that could express the feelings of gratitude experienced by the Russian believing people to the Holy Church of Constantinople, which brought the saving Orthodox faith to Russia, which determined all spheres of life of Holy Russia”.
Since ancient times, the Patriarch of Constantinople has been the highest authority in the Orthodox world, where disputes, or interpretations regarding the canons of the Holy Church, or its administrative questions were resolved. The spiritual authority of the Patriarchate of Constantinople is still recognized by Orthodox churches throughout the world. Therefore, the Skete, in order to protect itself from uncanonical actions on the part of the new leadership of the Eastern American Diocese, had no other choice but to seek protection from Archbishop Elpidophoros. Dear brothers and sisters! I was and remain a faithful child of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. We remain a Russian Orthodox Hermitage, under the jurisdiction of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. We preserve our liturgical traditions and our habitual way of life. Access to the Hermitage of the Holy Protection and its cemetery is still OPEN for everyone.
We honor and value the memory of the blessed venerable First Hierarch of ROCOR Metropolitan Hilarion. We pray for him and believe that he is with us, and will not leave his Hermitage in a difficult moment. We will not allow the Hermitage of the Holy Protection to be closed, we will not betray the works and prayers of Vladyka Metropolitan Hilarion, and with God’s Help, as planned, we will mount the sculpture of the blessed, reposed First Hierarch Metropolitan Hilarion at the Skete.
I remain faithful, with deep love and respect to the Russian Church Abroad. I know what great people stood at its origins, shaped its cultural and moral uniqueness, and what a colossal spiritual inheritance that the Russian Orthodox Church has left for all of us. I hope this legacy will not be forgotten. May God be merciful to all of us at the Great Judgement. The Paschal joy and the words of our Savior console us: “Blessed are you when they reproach you and persecute you and slander you unjustly in every possible way for Me. Rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven; so, they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11)
Christ is Risen! With love in Christ,
Abbot Tikhon, Rector of The Hermitage