Category Archives: Orthodox Life

Why I am a Priest of the Archdiocese of Churches of the Russian Tradition in Western Europe

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world…

W.B. Yeats (1865-1939)

The tragedy of the Russian Orthodox Church after 1917 was that the centre in Moscow did not ‘hold’ beneath the weight of atheist persecution. And so anarchy was indeed ‘loosed’. The broadly-based Russian Orthodox Church, uniting all groups and also three-quarters of the whole Orthodox Church, began to ‘fall apart’, especially outside the Soviet Union. The anarchic divisions of the twentieth century were loosed not only on the secular world, with its left and right, which resulted in yet another World War and a Cold War, they were also loosed on the Church. Sadly, Russian Orthodox Church life outside the totalitarian Soviet Union was coloured by these divisions, both in Western Europe and in North America.

Representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church outside the Soviet Union, separated from Moscow by the Great Atheist Persecution, were split by politics into three separate groups. These groups were:

  1. Representatives of the Russian Orthodox Mother-Church (also called ‘The Moscow Patriarchate’), not only inside the ex-Soviet Union, but also throughout the world, were at times coloured by the left-wing and were certainly used at times by the KGB and its equivalents. For example, as a young priest in Berlin in the 1960s, the future Archbishop George (Wagner) was forced to flee from it for the Paris Jurisdiction after refusing to leave and pick up messages for the KGB in the Russian cemetery there.
  2. Representatives of the international (basically today, North America, Australia and Western Europe) Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (‘ROCOR’, also called ‘ROCA’ or ‘the Synod’), were at times coloured by the right-wing and have certainly been financed at times by the CIA. For example, there was the notorious Bishop Gregory Grabbe, not to mention those clerics who have worked for the CIA and its allies in Europe, who compromise ROCOR even further.
  3. Representatives of the Western European Paris Jurisdiction (also called ‘The Exarchate’ or ‘Rue Daru’), were supposedly politically neutral. This much-changed group, considerably smaller now, as it was purified of the political elements who refused unity with the Mother-Church in 2019, is now the Archdiocese of Churches of the Russian Tradition in Western Europe. (In North America the third group, actually the largest of all, as it had been founded well before the Revolution by economic and not political immigrants from outside the then Russian Empire, was called ‘the Metropolia’ and today is ‘the OCA’. It too was supposedly politically neutral).

Only with the freeing of the Church inside the former Soviet Union after its collapse in 1991, was there any hope of unity. This meant that all groups outside Russia should also in turn have been able to free themselves from political interference and so return to unity. This began to come about only ninety years after the 1917 Revolution, with events from 2007 on.

My personal path amid this chaos has for nearly fifty years been to avoid the politically-coloured extremes of all groups, left and right, and to keep faith with the mainstream of the Church, ignoring politics.

Thus, after getting to know very well the situation and limitations of the Orthodox Church in Great Britain in the 1970s, in 1977 I had arranged to go to Kenya as a missionary and even began learning Swahili in preparation to leave that September. Unfortunately, I was prevented from doing so by the untimely death of the sponsor of the mission, Archbishop Makarios III of Cyprus, on 3 August 1977 (1).

So it was that in 1978 I went to work in Thessaloniki in Greece and made pilgrimages to nearby Mount Athos. After nearly a year spent in Greece, in 1979 I went to study at the Russian Theological Institute of St Sergius in Paris, then the only Orthodox theological institution in Western Europe. I had reached this decision once I had discovered the impossibility of the only alternatives. These had been to study at the Moscow Theological Academy in Russia – impossible because of the Cold War – or else to study at an Orthodox seminary in the USA – equally impossible for me because of the political and sectarian polarisation of the Orthodox world in North America.

After studying at the St Sergius Institute and being ordained in St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Paris in January 1985 in what I thought was the politically neutral Paris Jurisdiction, I soon encountered the disastrous influence of Russian freemasonry in that part of the Church. It compromised and destroyed the whole missionary purpose of the Church.

I was saved from that situation by the ever-memorable Archbishop Antony of Geneva of the Western European Diocese of ROCOR, the successor of St John of Shanghai. And it was through him that I later came to know the ever-memorable Metropolitan Laurus, the leader of ROCOR in the USA. In 2007 Metropolitan Laurus brought about the beginnings of the unity of ROCOR, the second largest section of the Russian Diaspora, with the by then freed Russian Orthodox Mother-Church.

As his later successors fell back into the bad old days of ‘mere anarchy’ and failed to rid themselves of politically-inspired right-wing sectarianism, we left for the Archdiocese. Belonging to the new Archdiocese, now cleansed of the freemasonry of its old predecessor, the Exarchate, and so to our great joy reunited with the Mother-Church in 2019, we hope to win the great double prize. This is:

  1. The prize of authentic, and not theoretical, unity with the freed and restored Patriarchal Russian Orthodox Church.
  2. The prize of taking part in the worldwide missionary work of the Russian Orthodox Church (2), in South-East Asia, Africa (3), and, for us in Western Europe, and specifically in the British Isles and Ireland, the foundation of our future Local Church (4).

Perhaps it is time for us to rewrite the words of the Irish poet:

‘Things keep together, the centre can hold;

Mere anarchy is withheld from the world’.

 

Archpriest Andrew Phillips

England, 3 January 2022

 

Notes:

  1. Only a few years ago I received into the Orthodox Church in Colchester the son of the leader of a squad of British soldiers who had been sent to assassinate Archbishop Makarios in one of the ‘dirty tricks’ campaigns mounted against him by the British Establishment in the 1950s. The squad failed: the son is a sign of justice two generations later.
  2. And as we wrote nearly 30 years ago in November 1993 in Chapter 58 of ‘The Saints of Russia and the Universality of Orthodoxy’, in the book, ‘Orthodox Christianity and the English Tradition’:

‘In the heart of the Russian capital there stands the Church of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God, known to many, mistakenly, as the Church of St Basil. Standing on Red Square with its cupolas, it has become to the modern world a symbol of Russia, the Eternal Russia of tradition. And this, providentially, is as it should be, for this church is not, as many think, a monument to fantastic or exotic decoration. On the contrary, its architecture is symbolically and sacramentally significant of Russia’s very calling – to gather the peoples of the Earth into the saving fold of Orthodox Christianity.

As Metropolitan Antony (Khrapovitsky) pointed out in his sermon of 1909, ‘The Temple of Glory and the Temple of Sorrow’, each cupola of this church is artfully designed to represent a different culture. One cupola is Mauretanian (African), another Indian, another Roman-Byzantine (Western), another Chinese, and in the centre towers the Orthodox cupola of Russia. The symbolism is clear. All the great cultures of the world on all the continents are united around Orthodoxy. Russia’s inner meaning and calling, the very purpose of her existence, her God-given destiny, is to gather the peoples of the world together, each with its own personality and particularity and culture, into the Church of Christ’.

  1. ‘The Soviet State exported its faith to the four corners of the Earth. We might suppose that had Russia remained faithful to Christ, she would have exported another faith to those four corners. Instead of sending kalashnikovs to Africa and India, to China and Central America, to Afghanistan and Vietnam, to Cuba and Korea, she would have sent Orthodox missionaries. She would not have translated the works of Lenin, into a hundred tongues, but the service-books of the Church of Christ’. (ibid. November 1993).
  2. As Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokalamsk said on the programme ‘The Church and the World’ after the Russian Orthodox decision to open an Exarchate for Africans: ‘The decision of the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church gives the opportunity to those Orthodox believers who do not wish to be associated with schism to be in communion with the canonical Orthodox Church and receive Holy Communion and the other Sacraments from canonical priests’. Such is the situation of many, outside Africa too.

See also:

https://spzh.news/en/news/85321-perehod-v-rpc-102-svyashhennikov-s-prihodami–tolyko-nachalo–ekzarkh-afriki

 

 

 

 

Questions and Answers (December 2021)

Covid

Q: Is covid mentioned in the Gospels?

A: Our whole present situation is clearly prophesied: ‘For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted’ (Matt. 24, 7-9). However, Christ tells us a little later: ‘But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved’ (verse 13). This is exactly what we are doing and shall continue to do. Only the last one standing wins. Others can come and do, falling into one extreme or another, as they have done over the last 50 years. We shall not, but keep to the middle ground, whatever the persecutions from either extreme.

The Creed

Q: What is the ‘Orthodox filioque’?

A: This refers to the temporal procession of the Holy Spirit through the Son of God. This is quite unlike the Roman Catholic/Protestant filioque, which asserts that the Holy Spirit proceeds in eternity from the Father ‘and from the Son’ (‘Filioque’). This heretical filioque was only first clearly expressed, defended and developed in all its ramifications in the work ‘Contra Graecos’ / ‘Against the Greeks’ in 1093 by the Norman-imposed, Lombard Archbishop of Canterbury Anselm. This was just as St Photius of Constantinople had prophetically warned was possible well over 200 years before.

This ‘Orthodox filioque’ is explained by St Maximus the Confessor (c. 580-662). One of his friends, St Theodore of Tarsus, Archbishop of Canterbury (602-690), is recorded by St Bede the Venerable at the Council of Hatfield in 680 as expressing the Orthodox filioque, that is, the procession of the Spirit ‘from the Father and ineffably from the Son’ (‘et Filio inerranibiliter’). The near-contemporary academic theologian, Vladimir Lossky, also clearly explained ‘the Orthodox filioque’ in his essay ‘On the Procession of the Holy Spirit’.

Q: Is it possible for those who have already joined the Orthodox Church by chrismation and taken communion to be baptised?

A: No. The Creed states specifically ‘I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins’. The Guildford Schism, as long ago as 1976, was an example of this. I still remember it! This was when an uncanonically ordained, though trained in Jordanville, ROCOR priest in London (later defrocked) rebaptised a group of Orthodox ‘converts’, baptised as Anglicans. They had previously been received by chrismation into the Moscow Patriarchate and for months or even years had been taking communion there. This rebaptism created, understandably, a huge scandal: naïve or sometimes proud idealists (idealism is sometimes proud) had been manipulated into believing that this rebaptism was necessary for them to become ‘spiritually pure’ and ‘true Orthodox’ by a guru-like figure, who was in a state of delusion. Once more, it all finished in schism and tears. There is nothing new under the sun. Some people never learn from the experiences of the past.

Such rebaptised generally do not want rebaptism for spiritual reasons, but for psychological reasons of insecurity, which is actually a subtle form of pride, now, they say, ‘we are more Orthodox than the Orthodox’. After rebaptism, they virtually all lapse from the Faith because they do not repent, but rather justify their error.

Church Life

Q: Why are so many Orthodox bishops so distant from their flocks? Why don’t Orthodox usually respect and like their bishops as pastors, but mistrust them and just shrug their shoulders and put up with them?

A: Orthodox love real bishops. Two of the most popular and universal Orthodox saints of all time, St Nicholas and St Spyridon, are both bishops. The persecuted Sts Nectarius of Egina and John of Shanghai were also bishops, though much persecuted by their brother-bishops.

I must have met well over 100 Orthodox bishops, 10% of the present total, in my time. The problem is that virtually all men marry, but bishops must be unmarried. So the pool of talent that bishops come from is very small and actually nowadays sometimes tainted. This corruption comes from the fact that not all bishops are real monks and who also have the skill set to be bishops. Many are simply celibates, which of course is no criterion at all and may sometimes even be a criterion of abnormality. The late Fr Alexander Schmemann pointed this out in his Diaries and he knew exactly what he was talking about from his experience in the USA.

I think there are four different categories of bishops, of whom only the first category is episcopally and ecclesially valid:

  1. The Real Thing: He who loves God and loves his neighbour

Many bishops are righteous and even saintly. They could have married, but God has called them to do even higher things. St John of Shanghai, Archbp George (Tarasov), Archbp Antony of Geneva, Metr Laurus and many others I have known, and know, figure in this category. There are some wonderful bishops in the Churches of Serbia, Greece and Cyprus like this at present.

I would like to think that the vast majority of bishops fit into this above category. The three categories below are therefore exceptions, but, however few in number, they still exist. They represent the three main passions, love of money (‘the root of all evil’), love of power and love of the flesh, in Church Russian, srebroljubie, vlastoljubie and slastoljubie. These are all passions which should be knocked out of men if they become novices and then live as monks in a monastery for, say, ten years.

  1. The Careerist – Love of Money

Some bishops are simply too selfish to marry – no woman would have them. These are generally secular failures, political appointees, cowardly diplomats, State worshippers, nationalists, over-ambitious and spineless careerists, and pompous bureaucrats. They can be good at obtaining and organising infrastructure, but not at much else and they are easily corrupted by prestige, greed, ambition, power and money. In times of persecution, they betray the Church, as they swim with the tide, for they have no principles at all. This we can see very clearly today, as also throughout history, as recently in the Soviet period and today.

  1. The Pathological – Love of Power

Some bishops are incapable of marrying (and often of forming any normal human relationship). These are men with psychological problems, pathological cases, mummy’s boys from dysfunctional families, gaslighting narcissists, the jealous, the autistic, dry monks who hate people (which is why they became monks, so that they do not have to have any relations with others), fraudulent charlatans, fakes and manipulators who turn the charm off (for those who see through them) and on (for the naïve neophytes), as it suits them. They are characterised by the total absence of empathy, mercy, love and compassion. Incapable of dialogue, they can only monologue in their grasp for money and power to feed their naked ambition. All is justified by them by the word obedience, that is, to themselves!

As they are incapable of normal relationships, they are often ‘zealots’, that is, pharisaic sectarians and extremists, and in extreme cases they are pathological, sociopaths or even psychopaths. This is why this type of people-hater can be found among certain very strict and conservative bishops, with a punishing and tyrannical streak, indeed, some are old calendarist bishops. Though they disguise their hatred beneath zeal, they are soon found out. (There is an excellent and accurate portrait of such a misanthropic Russian emigre bishop in the Paul Chavchavadze novel, ‘Father Vikenty’).

  1. The Sexually Problematic – Love of the Flesh

Some have sexual problems. Some are homosexuals (though some of the non-practising ones in this group are rather nice people and sometimes even quite good bishops), but also there are those who form ‘gay mafias’ which persecute the married clergy. Several Local Churches suffer and have always suffered from these mafias. Or else there are bishops who should have married and then get a mistress (or a few mistresses, as in several cases I have known). Some of these (the ones with one mistress/wife) are not too bad, but others are atrocious (see below). These bishops are generally liberals, sometimes extreme liberals, clearly for self-justifying, psychological reasons.

Of course, there are, quite commonly, those who combine Type 2 with 3 or 4. They are the ultimate nightmares. However, they are never combined with Type 1.

I can see only three ways out of this crisis, two are idealistic, one is realistic.

The first and most idealistic solution is to have a monastic revival. This would eliminate the last three categories of bishops, who are just celibates (and you can elect to be a celibate for all sorts of bad reasons – see above) and not real monks. Those individuals in the last three categories would then be sifted out by monastic life, which destroys the love of power and the love of money. Then we would have bishops who are all real monks. But this is idealism, not realism. You cannot order a monastic revival. It is organic and takes at least a generation to develop. Then there is no guarantee that the bishops in power will select suitable candidates.

The second solution is that a Council agrees to reinstate married bishops. The trouble here is that married bishops were abolished during the first millennium, sometimes for very good reasons. We only have to think of the married bishops of the Soviet period, like ‘Metr Filaret’ Denisenko of Kiev. He is still alive, one of the most corrupt individuals in the Ukraine. His wife would decide whom he ordained, mainly depending on the size of the bribe the candidates gave her. Do we want that? In any case, realistically, I cannot see any such change being approved by any Council for generations to come.

However, while we are waiting for a monastic revival inspired by the Holy Spirit or a Council, let us have the third and only realistic solution, the only one for the time being. This is to have fewer bishops, those only from the first category, who will then have to delegate much to a robust structure of married and experienced older priests as deans, since the few bishops will be too busy to do much more than ordain, give out myrrh and guide.

Q: Are the canons enforceable? They were all written down so long ago.

A: It is true that many of them are no longer practised or indeed no longer relevant. As many churchmen have said, the canons are guidelines. After all, the word ‘canon’ means ‘an example’. They should not be compared to State laws.

What concerns me is that some converts from Protestantism pick and choose in their application of the canons, just as they pick and choose chapter and verse quotations from the Scripture, failing to read the context, taking quotations and canons out of context. Then they apply them literally like laws.

For example, there is the well-known Canon XX of the First Universal Council which bans kneeling on Sundays, which certain converts love to quote. It would mean that the whole Romanian Church is uncanonical, not to mention millions of other pious Orthodox.

Another case is Canon LXX of the Sixth Council (Quinisext), which states that ‘women may not talk during the Liturgy’. This refers of course to chatting during the service (which at the time was done by certain women in some places). Now misogynists like Makrakis (and some other Greeks especially) have taken this up and interpreted it as if women were not allowed to sing in church! It would be funny, if it were not sad. In any case, if followed, it would mean that the whole of the Russian Church is also uncanonical.

On the other hand, there is Canon XXI of Antioch which say that bishops must stay in the diocese originally appointed for them, ‘even though he is forced to do so by coercion on the part of bishops’. Yet virtually every Orthodox bishop in the contemporary Orthodox world has changed dioceses, if not once, then again and again. For example, our own St John of Shanghai/Paris/Brussels/San Francisco. There are many other examples of canons simply not being applied, and for good reasons.

Then there is Canon LXXX of the (Quinisext) Sixth Universal Council which excommunicates anyone ‘living in the City’ who does not attend church for three consecutive Sundays. Does this mean that virtually all urban Orthodox are excommunicated?

Canon CI of the same Council says that laypeople must take communion in their hands. Again, does this mean that all laypeople are now excommunicated, since none does this today?

There are many, many other examples. Literalism is not helpful: context, interpretation and discernment are all-important with the canons.

Q: What is the most difficult thing for you in the priesthood?

A: I think it is to combine softness with hardness. This is a problem of discernment, especially important at confession. You have to know when to follow the strict rule and when to be indulgent. This does not come from me, for Christ already spoke to the disciples about it: ‘Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be therefore as wise as serpents and harmless as doves’ (Matt. 10.16-17). The weak and cowardly should not be ordained. St Paisios said that the present generation is incapable of struggling. This is a real problem.

Q: To what extent can there be variations in Church life? I see also sorts of people, anti-vaxxers, pro-vaxxers, traditionalist, modernists. Is that all legitimate?

A: There has always been room for variation inside the Church, for ‘left’ and ‘right’. In Constantinople itself there were always two parties, ‘the Blues’ and the Greens’. Let people be anti-vaxxers or pro-vaxxers, but they should not try and impose their views of whatever side on others as some sort of dogma or as a reason to break off communion with those who disagree with them. Let us have more tolerance!

All Orthodox agree about what is in the Creed (that is why we are not Roman Catholics or Protestants), but there is room for different views about what is not in the Creed, which is left for intelligent and humble debate. Without that, the Church is a dead ghetto, not living at all, but paralysed and dies out. On the other hand, to fall out of communion with one another, just because you do not have identical views about secondary matters, is wrong.

For example, in the emigration, there were highly-westernised Saint Petersburg aristocrats (some of them already had property in France before the Revolution), freemasons and philosophers, who had helped overthrow the Tsar. Their freemason descendants in the emigration stayed under Constantinople even after reunion with the Mother-Church in 2019 (and because there was reunion: we fought for 30 years for that reunion).

On the other hand, there were extreme right-wingers (let us not forget that Gregory Rasputin was murdered by one of them, Purishkevich, also said to have been a freemason). After one of them, Fr George Grabbe, helped to put St John of Shanghai on trial in 1963, had married ‘the Tsarevich’ in New York on 30 September 1964, the Grabbe family tried to take over North American ROCOR for nearly three decades, until they left the Church. According to several writers, including the Church historian Sergei Fomin, Fr George (later Bp Gregory) was also a freemason (The Lafayette-Astoria Lodge).

In 1966 the Grabbe faction led to old calendarists taking over, which in turn led to a wave of censorious phariseeism and appalling scandals (including those of his son Antony Grabbe in Jerusalem) and schisms, in 1986, 2001, 2007, as extremists who had been taken into ROCOR inevitably left, once more moderate forces came to the fore. Yet there were people like the ever-memorable Archbishop Antony of Geneva of ROCOR who never broke communion or ceased concelebration with the moderate, non-freemason Parisians, our friends from always. It was the selfsame Parisians who led most (58% – not ‘the brothers’) of the Paris Church back to the Mother-Church in December 2019, to our great joy, and it became the Archdiocese of Western Europe. Our long-held dream had come true. We greeted this at the time in several articles.

Inside contemporary Russia we see the same trends. On the one hand, there is the pro-Protestant wing of Fr George Kochetkov and his neo-renovationism (the words of Patriarch Aleksiy II, not mine), as well as the more moderate Protodeacon Andrei Kuraev, Fr George Mitrofanov, Fr Pavel Velikanov, A. Shishkov, all of the pro-ecumenism and pro-modernism wing.

On the other hand, there you have the Stalinist (yes, Stalinist, incredibly!) right-wing, ultra-nationalist, shamefully anti-Semitic, anti-Protestant, anti-Catholic, pro-canonisation of Ivan IV and even Stalin, with their the stubborn refusal to recognise the authenticity of the relics of the Royal Family found outside Ekaterinburg decades ago, with figures like the now defrocked Sergei Romanov and the late ex-Bishop Diomid. (However, so far only the latter fell out of communion with the Church).

What I am saying is that it is legitimate to be the right of the centre or to the left of the centre, what is not legitimate is to fall into such extremes that you fall out of communion with one another. The important thing is to keep to the unitive mainstream of the Russian Tradition, the heritage of the holy Patriarch Tikhon, missionary, American citizen, Patriarch, Confessor and probably Martyr. Intolerance always leads to schism as we saw with the old Rue Daru jurisdiction before the majority there triumphantly reunited with Moscow in 2019. And as can see today with the old calendarist wing of ROCOR, which considers that others are not ‘pure enough’ for them and that therefore they must ‘wall themselves off’ from the rest of the world, like some Protestant sect, and break communion with other Orthodox.

Q: How can you venerate as a saint Emperor Constantine, who was a pagan till the last few days of his life?

A: We venerate Divine Providence acting through him, rather than all his actions. Thanks to Divine Providence in him the Empire gave the Church huge privileges, resulting in the First Universal Council in 325. This is very important because at the time in the early fourth century only between 10% and 20% of the Imperial population were Christians. This is significant because, unlike what the secularists say, the view of the majority is not important. If the minority is following God’s Will, it will always win. Several other venerated rulers fall into this category of those who fulfilled Divine Providence, which was a triumph.

Q: I find it very difficult to sing in church and pray at the same time. Have you any advice?

A: There used to live in Paris a Russian prince, Alexander Nelidov. As a young man he was a professional dancer. However, later he became a priest. The late Fr Alexander used to say that, ‘to sing in church is to pray twice’. What he meant is that the spiritual reward for singing in church is twice that of the reward for prayer. Only a couple of years ago, I discovered that Fr Alexander, God rest him, was actually quoting Blessed Augustine.

Orthodox England

Q: You often write of pre-Norman England, but it was pretty primitive, wasn’t it?

A: The period of history between the departure of the pagan Romans in 409 and 1066 is sometimes called ‘The Dark Ages’. However, that fairly recent name indicates rather the darkness or ignorance of pro-Norman scholars about the period. (On the misuse of the term ‘The Dark Ages’ see the work by Seb. Falk, ‘The Light Years’, 2020).

Apart from the artistic achievements which began to be appreciated as recently as 1939 with the Sutton Hoo archaeological discoveries (much increased since then), there were the literature, medicine and science (St Bede, St Alfred, St Dunstan, the Winchester School, Abbot Aelfric, Fr Byrthferth, Bishop Wulfstan etc) and the huge engineering works: the five Cambridgeshire Dykes (built c. 600), the 100 miles or so of Offa’s Dyke (c. 780) and the 100-200 miles of canals and drainage ditches in the Fens (between 700 and 1000, including the huge, 100-mile long embankment preventing the sea flooding the land, known as the ‘Roman Bank’.

This includes the work carried out by the five Fenland monasteries between 970 and 1000), excavated by hand, partly in order to facilitate the transport by barge of building stone for new churches. (In some older books you still come across the ignorant myth that pre-Norman or English churches were all small: this is simply because the Normans knocked down nearly all of them, such as the huge Cathedral in the Old English Capital of Winchester, and only the little ones survived). Much of this engineering work was wrongly attributed to the Romans, much of it still exists (‘The Backs’ in Cambridge is the result of Old English hydraulic engineering), much of it was far better and longer-lasting than the 17th century drainage schemes in the Fens, carried out by 10,000 Scottish and Dutch prisoners of war.

In 1066 the Normans took over the best-organised State in Western Europe, as recorded by the Domesday Book. If you google any of these ‘Anglo-Saxon’ themes, you will obtain a wealth of information and also a rich bibliography.

Q: Is the site of St Guthlac’s monastery called Croyland or Crowland?

A: The town of Crowland is in Lincolnshire. The abbey church in Crowland is sometimes still known by its older and now old-fashioned name of Croyland. Crowland is the modern name. There you can venerate the holy relics of St Theodore, Abbot of Peterborough, martyred by the Vikings in 870. The store-room where the skull is kept is to be made available to Orthodox as a chapel, probably in 2022. It is believed that the relics of St Guthlac are buried somewhere in the graveyard. Certainly the remains of the great English hero Hereward (miscalled ‘The Wake’) were buried there. The site of St Guthlac’s hermitage seems to have been identified recently about a mile away on St James’ Road by St James’ Farm. Archaeological excavations are ongoing. Nearby is the site of St Guthlac’s sister’s hermitage. She was St Pega and the site of her hermitage is in Peakirk (‘Pegakirk’). She is still there too.

Q: England is often portrayed as the villain in Russian Orthodox writing. What have we to be proud of, spiritually?

A: I think you have been reading Russian nationalist writing. Just as British nationalists like Boris Johnson, portray Russia as an evil bear, so Russian nationalists portray England (= Britain) as a rapacious lion. Normal Russians do not see it that way, but are more balanced.

We can take joy in our saints, of the sixth and seventh centuries especially, St Alban, St Cuthbert, St Hilda, St Audrey and many others, like our martyrs St Edmund and St Edward, whose names have gone around the world. In general, we rejoice in the great Old English and their resistance to the Normans in and after 1066 – as we still do resist them, for we follow in their footsteps. Then, who defended Constantinople in 1204? It was the English, as described by Villehardouin and Robert de Clari. After all there had been a massive exodus of the English to Constantinople (and later to southern Russia) after 1066. In the twelfth century the Roman Imperial Army was largely composed of Englishmen. In the twentieth century, we have the royal figures of Sts Alexandra and Elizabeth, of Fr Nicholas Gibbes, tutor to the Tsarevich, and many others who loved persecuted Russia.

There is much to love in England, though not, alas!, its Establishment politicians, who become lord and sirs, even though some are considered to be war criminals. They are ‘Normans’ to the core. This is not a racist statement, as few of them have any ‘Norman’ blood. What we are talking about here is the elitist mentality. Anybody opposed to Orthodoxy can in our English context be called a ‘Norman’.

The crimes of ‘the Normans’ include their genocides in England from 1066 on and for hundreds of years afterwards with their barbaric ‘hanging, drawing and quartering’, their genocides in Wales (the castles), Scotland and Ireland (from the 12th century on to the torture-chambers of the Tudors, to the Hitlerian Cromwell, then the Potato Famine and the ethnic cleansing of Highland Scots in the 19th century (sheep were more valuable than human-beings)), then the genocides of native Americans, of Indians (from the salt-hedge to the 1940s Bengal Famine, for example) and Africa (the slave-trade, which made Bristol and Liverpool wealthy). It is the British who invaded 178 countries of the world, not the English (https://ww2answers.com/qa/which-countries-have-the-british-invaded.html).

I have always distinguished carefully between the British and the English. The British are an imperialist concept, invented by the Romans, taken up by the Normans and then developed in the eighteenth century, which promised that ‘’Britons’ never would be slaves’, but everyone else could be enslaved by ‘Britons’. The British have always oppressed the English, ever since 1066. Russians, and others, need to make this distinction!

The Western World

Q: Why are you not a Catholic?

A: First of all, because whenever I have been to a Roman Catholic church, I do not feel anything. It feels empty to me. In an Orthodox church I feel a presence. Secondly, because Roman Catholicism is not historic, it did not exist until the 11th century. Thirdly, because the Papal claims are purely secular and were taken over from the pagan Roman Empire. Fourthly, because to justify their claims, the Popes altered the Creed with their filioque, placing the bishop of Rome above the Universal Councils. Fifthly, because Roman Catholicism invented the Crusades, the Inquisition etc. Sixthly, because their clergy are forced to be celibate, which means that a section of them are perverts. I could continue, but surely that is enough?

Q: When were organs introduced into Western churches?

A: The first organs in the West since the fall of Old Rome were sent from Constantinople to the Carolingian Franks, Pepin the Short and his son Charles the Tall (Charlemagne), in the later eighth century. In Constantinople they were used only at secular events, however the Franks introduced them into church. By 1054 only a few cathedrals had them. During the Middle Ages they became slightly more common.

However, there was still great resistance and the scholastic Thomas Aquinas opposed the organ as a ‘Judaising force’. Here he was referring to the Old Testament use of musical instruments, which he saw as pagan. Indeed, in some more traditional churches organs have never been introduced, for instance, in the Sistine Chapel. In fact it was only in the 18th and 19th centuries that organs became near universal in Non-Orthodox, especially Protestant, churches. As we know, today they are often replaced there by pianos, guitars, drums, keyboards and anything else you can name.

Q: Why does the West put Christmas above Easter?

A: It is more complex than ‘the West’, which in fact is very varied.

Thus, Protestants have long considered that ‘Jesus’ becoming a man is more important than His Resurrection from the dead and our Co-Resurrection with him. However, Roman Catholics are different. They seem to consider that Christ’s Crucifixion is more important than His Resurrection. However, in both cases it is true that there is an emphasis on the human nature of Christ, which we do not have in the Church.

Q: Why do the Old Catholics not join the Orthodox Church?

A: There exists a curious psychological deformation. Roman Catholics who leave their denomination almost always have to become Protestant, missing the Orthodox boat. This is what happened in the Old Catholic movement, which degenerated into a form of Protestantism, missing the Orthodox boat. As was noted in the century before last, Catholicism and Protestantism are the two sides of the same coin, and that coin is not Orthodox. (Incidentally, in a similar way, some Anglicans have to become Roman Catholics, before they can envisage joining the Orthodox Church).

Q: What do you think of Samuel Huntingdon’s book ‘The Clash of Civilizations’?

A: I first came across it in the 90s in a review in ‘The Economist’, which I had to read for my job at the time and I obtained a copy. Occasionally since then I have used it for reference.

Some criticised it even then as the last gasp of a conservative New England WASP professor. In an age of Black Lives Matter it does seem even more old-fashioned. However, Huntingdon does recognise the limitations of the West, unlike US administrations since the 1990s, which have been gripped by the delusion of global hegemony. Had they listened to his warnings about Western interference in the Ukraine, for example, we would not be where we are now, when Russians are petrified by a NATO invasion of Russia from the Ukraine and international tension has been ramped up by Washington’s aggressive threats. Similarly, there are Huntingdon’s warnings about ex-Yugoslavia, which remains a powder-keg, created by Western interference.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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).

Three Months in the Life of the Church

Friday 3 December:

5.30 pm: Vigil / Всенощное бдение праздника Введения во храм Пресвятой Богородицы.

Saturday 4 December: Архиерейское Служение с нашим Владыкой митрополитом Иоанном / Episcopal Liturgy with our Metropolitan John

9.00 am: Hours and Liturgy / Часы и Божественная литургия праздника Введения во храм Пресвятой Богородицы.

So reads our timetable for December.

On 23 August our nine Orthodox parishes transferred to the Archdiocese of Western Europe. A few days later, on 27 August, I met once more Metropolitan Jean of Dubna, whom I have known for 42 years, at the Cathedral of St Alexander Nevsky, whose best-known words are: ‘God is not in Power, but in Truth’. I had travelled to Paris on behalf of our group of seven priests to collect our new antimensia and myrrh, of which we had been kept desperately short. In this way we have been able to continue to open our new parishes, for which we had been waiting for so long, and continue to carry out the 200 annual baptisms in our parishes.

Metropolitan Jean blessed us to venerate the icon of his ever-memorable spiritual father, St Sophrony of Essex, and told us to ignore the uncanonical actions of a small diocese which had fallen out of communion with his Archdiocese and his two vicar-bishops. He instructed us as a true Christian hierarch to ignore unChristian internet harassment, untruths, slander and their sectarian and rebellious spirit, which serve only to discredit their authors and further isolate them from the canonical Orthodox world.

Nearly three months after these events, it is interesting to review them. What have been the practical and spiritual benefits for those who chose to remain in the canonical Russian Orthodox Church through the Archdiocese of Western Europe?

  1. We have remained in canonical communion with the mainstream of the Russian Orthodox Church, for which communion and unity we had battled for years prior to 2007. We are now, thank God, directly dependent on the Holy Synod in Moscow and not on any group, which may seek to renounce the 2007 Act of Canonical Communion, whose signing we had fought for so hard against all the sectarian opposition of those decades and which we witnessed.
  2. We have been able to concelebrate with all other canonical Orthodox and all other canonical Orthodox have been able to concelebrate with us. We have remained in the mainstream of the Church, from which some had threatened to cut us off, driven by a newly-imported sectarian ideology, diametrically opposed to the Tradition and practices of the Russian Orthodox Church.
  3. In the single parish of Colchester this year we have, helped by the new myrrh, so far carried out 134 baptisms, with some 30 more booked by the end of this year, and 39 carried out in just the last two months.
  4. Thanks to the antimensia we received on 27 August, we have been able to open three new parishes for the salvation of souls. The first, St Edmund’s, which had been closed by the previous bishop for four months (!), situated in Little Abington, Cambridgeshire, opened on 29th August. The second, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, in Bradford, Yorkshire opened on 14th November. The third, Our Lady of Kazan, should, God willing, be opening in Coventry, after many delays caused by covid infections, on 28th November. None of these had been allowed to open before. So, in just three months, three new parishes opened to serve the people, in the east, in the Midlands and in the north, none of which would have opened without our Metropolitan Jean. Now we are investigating for the future what we can do for those who wish to remain faithful to the Russian Orthodox Tradition in the south and in the west. In the south there is a priest who wants to join us from another Local Church and he would be an ideal candidate there. But this will take some months. What about the west? Although we have a network of sister parishes in Oxford, Bristol and Swindon, with whom we are particularly closely linked, as well as our own parishes in Cardiff and Exeter, we need to look after Orthodox who wish to remain in communion with the mainstream and non-sectarian Russian Orthodox Church, but live inbetween these five parishes. Here our plans are advancing, slowly but surely, for it is better to implement something solid, serious and regular, rather than launch into some sort of unstable one-man show which will soon burn itself out.
  5. Given the pro-missionary and pro-pastoral policy of our Archdiocese, our years-long backlog of ordinations will be dealt with next year. A calendar of ordinations is being drawn up. Several excellent and trained candidates are being prepared, two new priests, one new deacon, one new subdeacon and four new readers, even as other new potential candidates appear. Thanks to the excellent financial situation in the Colchester parish with its property, with an income of nearly £70,000 a year, next year, God willing, we will be able to house and employ a second priest full-time, as well as having our two part-time priests. This is essential if we are to cope with the mass of parishioners who come to us, many of them new, seeking our Faith.

Glory to God for all things!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STATEMENT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I. The Reasons for the Transfer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IV. Suggestions to move forward.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(iii)  The Need for Deeper Discussion.

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

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

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

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

Endnotes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Questions and Answers (May-October 2021)

All the commandments are founded on the commandment of love.

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

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

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

St John of Shanghai

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

Covid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Russian Church

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

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

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

Q: What is Sergianism?

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

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

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

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

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

Constantinople

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Do we always owe obedience to our bishop?

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

Q: Why do Churches contract and even disappear?

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

Church Life

Non-Orthodox

Q: Will Non-Orthodox be saved?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: What should converts be careful of?

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

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

In both cases no conversion has ever taken place.

What should converts be careful of? Extremes.

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

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

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

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

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

Church Life and the Sacraments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Saints

Q: Who was St Thomas’ twin?

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

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

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

Platina

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

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

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

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

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

The Secular World

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

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

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

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

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

President Putin

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

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

Globalism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Biographical

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bubble Orthodoxy

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

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

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

 

The Parish Problem

Christianity has always been spread by monastics and monasteries. This is universal. In normal conditions, what happens is that after their mission has been completed, monastics (some of whom are bishops – real bishops are always monastics) delegate the everyday running of churches to married clergy. These either run the local parishes founded from monasteries or else, in the absence of any support from monasteries or bishops, found parishes themselves.

For centuries and centuries this is how it worked, whether with St Nina in Georgia, St Martin of Tours in Gaul, St Patrick in Ireland, St Augustine in England, St Boniface in the German Lands, St Cyril and Methodius in Moravia, St Stefan of Perm, St Job of Pochaev in what is now the western Ukraine, St Cosmas of Aitolia in Greece or St Herman and St Innocent in Alaska. Today, this age-old system is in crisis everywhere, perhaps especially in the Russian Orthodox Church.

There are not only the massive dysfunctions of episcopal, monastic and parish life, mainly caused by 75 years of vicious Soviet persecution inside the ex-Soviet Union. Outside the ex-Soviet Union the situation is not much better in many places. The decadence in parts of the Russian Church before the Revolution, the chaos of emigration, the scattering of the flock, and the catastrophic lack of finance and infrastructure, have caused enormous problems. Thus, I can remember over 40 years ago the then rector of the Rue Daru Cathedral in Paris, where thousands would gather at Easter, telling me that they had only 25 registered parishioners. The number of people who took communion on Easter Night was similar – 25.

Many, though not all, Russian churches inside Russia and in capital cities outside Russia resemble little more than railway stations. Orthodox Russians call the passers-by who you may never see again ‘prokhozhane’ (as opposed to ‘prikhozhane’, the word for parishioners). Then there are the people who call in from time to time – ‘zakhozhane’. These people you may see only half a dozen times a year. An example: as a parish we have some 4,000 people who are attached to us, but our list of parishioners is just under than 600 and that includes children. And yet all 4,000 would claim to be parishioners!

Another problem, worse in some countries than others, but still common in Russia and the Ukraine, despite recent welcome changes, is the massive imbalance in age and gender. For every 100 women standing in church, there may only be 15 men (at most) and two children. I can remember at the old ROCOR Cathedral in London 40 years ago, there would perhaps be 400 people (average age 75) at the Sunday Liturgy, out of whom three-quarters were elderly women and the only children our own. Where are the men? Where are the young people? Why have the grandparents not passed on the Faith to their children and grandchildren? The situation of the Greek Church in this country today is very similar and very critical. Expect many of their churches to close over the next 20 years.

In the old ROCOR of the time, I can remember one elderly and prominent woman parishioner boasting that the children in their church never made a noise. I politely pointed out that there were no children in her church (and also no baptisms). She then boasted that they never had any divorces in her church. Again I politely pointed out there were no weddings either (the last had been thirty years ago) and that the average age of the parishioners was about 75. She then boasted that they had never had any problem with their clergy. Once more I politely pointed out that that must be because they had no clergy….The last one had died a decade or so before.

As one relatively young archbishop said to me in the 1980s: the fewer parishes we have, the better it is, because the fewer the parishes, the fewer the problems. He died soon afterwards.

Why is it that there are still  many churches (especially in Russia and Eastern Europe) which it is impossible to enter with a pram or a pushchair (let alone a wheelchair)? Is it because children (and young people in general) are not welcome and not wanted? (As also in so many churches outside Russia?).

Why are there no contemporary toilets (for children) and no changing facilities, attached to the majority of churches?

Why are there so few meeting places for parishioners to get to know each other and support each other, where children can play together and make friends, and where young people can meet (and perhaps marry)? Or do you want to die out?

Children are our future. That statement is neither new nor original, but blatantly obvious, and yet many people still do not understand it.

A parish is not a cow to be milked for money. A parish is a local community to which people have a sense of belonging, to which they want to belong, so important for a flock which is scattered.

A parish is a community (not a racist ghetto, as in the old emigration), where all are welcome and a community which will stand up to the frequent injustices, persecution, meddling and bullying from outside, and support its clergy both morally and financially. Where does that exist?

Until we have many more parishes, we will not make progress.

Why ‘Orthodox England’ and Why the Church Outside Russia?

Q: Why is the ‘Orthodox England’ site called that? Since you were born with British nationality and must have a British passport, why is it not called ‘Orthodox Britain’? And why are you, a Russophile, in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia and not directly under the Patriarchal Church in Moscow?

A: Here there are actually four different questions. Let me answer each of them in turn.

  1. Initially, ‘Orthodox England’ was a quarterly journal, first published on 1 September 1997, after some 25 years of wonderings. The actual website was launched over three years later in the first year of the new 21st century. Although the journal continued for twenty years, appearing every quarter without fail until 2017 when the website took over altogether, today it is the website which is much better known.

When the journal was launched in 1997, interest in the Orthodox Church and Faith among the native peoples of these Islands, as indeed ever since the first real interest appeared in the 1960s, was still often, though not always, coloured by two small groups. Unfortunately, these groups were encouraged by some of the local Orthodox episcopate. Hampered by the inferiority complex of the immigrant and refugee, they wanted to be more Establishment than the Establishment and forgot the people.

On the one hand, there was a conservative faction, sometimes quite wealthy, who at times imitated false ideas of Russianness or Greekness. In extreme cases, some of them even dressed like Russian peasants with huge beards (the last Russian peasants had stopped doing that 100 years ago and real Russians were naturally astonished at such eccentric behaviour, as were we). They spoke English, scattered with mispronounced and misunderstood Russian words. Or else there were those who bought second homes in Greece and mixed in a few words of Greek with upper-class accents and thought they were Greek Orthodox. I saw all this and wondered at the strangeness of it all.

I think such people mainly saw Orthodoxy as oriental exotica, perhaps useful to bolster souls that had been hurt and wanted to be different. Some, bored with financially secure and humdrum lives, gave an impression of Orthodoxy as though it were not actually Christianity, but some escapist and esoteric cult. They certainly did not want the riff-raff joining them, but wanted tiny, exclusive, private chapels. Some were in love with an idea and were looking for an intellectual plaything, a cult with a ‘mystical’ guru or ‘starets’, an ashram and a mantra for those with more money and philosophical books than common sense. And they soon found the pseudo-mystical Russians to exploit their romantic fantasies and take their money. This was certainly easier than living a Church Christian way of life, that is, loving the Cross of the Orthodox way of life.

On the other hand, there was a liberal faction, also sometimes quite wealthy, who appeared to want a kind of Anglican Orthodoxy, the ‘Byzantine Liturgy’ (whatever that is) with a Protestant mentality and hymns and, obviously, the Roman Catholic (so-called ‘new’) calendar. Some of these basically wanted to remain Anglican, but to have more exclusivity than wishy-washy, ‘make it up as you go’, ‘believe whatever you want’, State-invented Anglicanism could ever provide. This could be called ‘Anglican vicar syndrome’, and at times it seemed indeed to be about a misogynistic rejection of lady vicars, without love for the real Church and Her sufferings.

A very strange reason for joining the Orthodox Church. Such were often especially devoted either to Constantinople Orthodoxy (much more acceptable to the British Establishment, which had already vetted Prince Philip and loved that freemasonry), or else to the curious liberal and aristocratic deviations from Russian Orthodoxy within the Church of Constantinople (which was already then controlled by the CIA and before that had been controlled by MI6). Such people had little time for real, down-to-earth and martyred Russian Orthodoxy. Today the few such people still like this still tend to be Russophobes and also Liberal Democrat Remoaners.

As for us plebs, we were harshly persecuted and slandered by both the above conservative and liberal factions. And factions they were, as can be seen by their ever-continuing factionalism, with tiny schisms and continual infighting, all about nothing really. These splits of the ‘three men and a dog’ type were about divisive backbiting. This was brought as baggage into their fringes of the Church from the infighting of Protestantism, which mentality they did not exchange for Christianity.

Unlike them, I wanted to make clear that Orthodoxy and England can and must go together. If Christ had come for everyone, then it meant that He had come for us too. Orthodoxy and England need not be separate and disincarnate. Just as Christ has a Divine and a human nature in One Person, so there is Orthodox Russia, Orthodox Romania, Orthodox Greece, and so too there can be Orthodox England (as also Orthodox Ireland, Orthodox Scotland and Orthodox Wales), something really English and also Orthodox (and not half-Orthodox, Anglican and Non-Orthodox). For no Church can be founded on the basis of the psychological factionalism of the bruised ego, but only on the basis of the theological Tradition of the Holy Spirit.

  1. As regards Britain, it does not exist – it is a purely political construct. True, the Romans had governed ‘Britain’, but that was before the English arrived. The Normans wanted to recreate pagan Roman Britain, but they failed to reconstruct what had by then already become a myth. After all, the vast majority of the population were by then English, the best of whose elite the Normans exiled and the rest of whose population they decimated. Similarly, in order to subdue the Celtic ‘Welsh’, who had arrived here over 500 years before even the Romans and joined the original inhabitants, the Normans had to massacre and oppress them too with their giant castles.

It was only in the eighteenth century, on the basis of Protestant Tudor imperialism and piracy and afterwards of the appalling genocide of the Leninist monster Cromwell, that the idea of Britain was reborn. First, in 1707 corrupted and bribed Scots voted for union with (i.e. repression by) the slave-trading, ‘Rule Britannia’, John Bull merchants who had beheaded the King, seized control of Parliament and dubbed themselves ‘British’. Corrupted and bribed Irish followed into ‘union’ in 1801.

Today, many English people themselves want freedom from British (= Norman/Establishment/ London) oppression, let alone the Irish (true, they partly obtained it 100 years ago), the Scots and the Welsh. There is no such thing as Britain, let alone ‘British’ saints or ‘British Orthodoxy’, indeed there has never been a ‘British Church’. Like ‘Britishness’ itself, this is all an Establishment myth. The only fully Christian project on the cards today or tomorrow is to be part of the Russian Orthodox Church and its newly-founded Patriarchal Exarchate of Western Europe, at present under Metropolitan Antony.

There is no doubt that this is the foundational structure of the future Western European Orthodox Church, of which all full-hearted and politically free Orthodox will in due course become part. Together, whatever our present diocese, we can build this new Church on the firm rock of real Orthodoxy. We cannot build it on the shifting sand of some CIA-controlled political compromise with politically-appointed bishops and immensely provincial nationalism, including English nationalism. That puts a mere language and a mere culture above Christ. Nationalism is always at heart pagan, because it reveres part of Creation, not the Creator. Christ is spiritually and morally irrelevant to nationalism, as we saw with Hitler’s nationalism.

  1. I am no more Russophile than I am Greekophile, Romaniaophile, Moldovaophile (though I do have a soft spot for Moldovans!) or Anglophile. I am an Orthodoxophile, that is, a Christophile. And you?
  2. In the early sixties there began a period of spectacular injustices in the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), which opened with certain loveless bishops putting our saint, John of Shanghai and Western Europe, on trial in the USA. Such a thing was another act of the Pharisees and Pilate. It continued with the ordinations of bad men to the priesthood and the suspensions of good priests. This tried the long-suffering of us all. We sighed in resignation and put all our hope in God, not in men, and waited for better times. These aberrations were all due to a powerful minority in ROCOR who had lost their roots and wandered off into a US-financed nationalist darkness.

This was the dark night of the narrow and censorious ritualism of the political pharisees. They had quite cast aside compassionate love, the very chiefest idea of the founding First Hierarch of ROCOR, Metropolitan Antony of Kiev, and the only idea which bestows spiritual, moral and canonical authority and meaning on the Church organisation. Battling us and persecuting us, those elements received their first major defeat only in 2007, when at long last ROCOR managed to begin its long return to its historic and missionary destiny. That destiny was and is to remain faithful to the Orthodox Christianity of Holy Rus, but with one vital difference – to be local at the same time. This is possible (and necessary) precisely because we are ‘outside Russia’ and not in Moscow.

The Russian Orthodox Church, centred in Moscow, cannot found new Local Churches in Western Europe and the New World (North America, Latin America and Oceania) without us (and of course without others). Yes, they have administrative abilities, central infrastructure and, at least sometimes, the necessary missionary vision, but we have the local knowledge, the languages, the translations and the cultural references of the people. The people are with us. These are what is needed to gather the people together around Christ and establish new Local Churches which are to become part of the restored Orthodox Commonwealth.

Without us at the grassroots, all that exists is a hollow structure, diplomatic links with elites and, less attractively, the sad consequences of the errors of the Soviet past, from which I and many others have so much suffered. Once Moscow is fully freed of the bad habits dating back to Peter I, so disastrously multiplied by the Soviet period (centralisation, bureaucracy, temptations of power and money and false ‘spiritual fathers’), we will be able to found the new Local Churches which are our inevitable future. In the meantime, we have to continue to serve the people whom God sends us every day from everywhere.

I may not live to be a priest of the coming Western European Orthodox Church. I may not live to see an England liberated from the British myth and so obtain an English passport. I may not live to see the dream of an IONAn (Isles of the North Atlantic) Confederation of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, with a Confederal Assembly on the Isle of Man, looking out on the four nations. Nevertheless, I still believe that my direct descendants will see at least much of this. We work for a much greater idea than a bishop or patriarch or jurisdiction, we work for our common future, for the One Eternal Idea and Reality, for the Kingdom of God.

Together in Life, Together in Heaven: Ten Questions and Answers on Martyrdom of the Russian Imperial Family

  1. Who ordered the murder of the Russian Imperial Family in 1918?

The seven members of the Imperial Family and their four faithful servants were shot and bayoneted to death in the very early morning, probably just before 1 a.m., of 17 July 1918. This took place in the requisitioned house of a military engineer called Nikolai N. Ipatiev in the city of Ekaterinburg in the Urals on the very limits of Europe and Asia. This house had been built on the site of the Church of the Ascension, which had stood there in the eighteenth century.

From studies in post-Soviet Russia, for example those by the senior official investigator,  V. N. Soloviov, it seems that the murder of the Imperial Family was carried out only on the initiative of the local Urals Regional Soviet. The Bolsheviks in the industrial city of ‘Red Ekaterinburg’ were particularly militant, hateful and also powerful, showing great independence from Moscow. In any case, no proof has been found of co-ordination between the local Bolsheviks in Ekaterinburg and Lenin in Moscow or anyone else.

However, it is clear that Lenin would have had the Imperial Family murdered in any case and with the backing of his financial and political sponsors abroad, for example in New York. However, Lenin had wanted some sort of show trial first. It is also clear that the Soviet leaders and ordinary Bolsheviks who did not actually order the murder were not upset when it did occur. Thus, although they did not order it, they were quite capable of doing so and would have done it anyway in time. Probably they even felt relief that others had done the dirty work for them so soon.

  1. Were their murderers Jews?

Although the top Bolshevik elite in 1917 was 90% Jewish by race (but militant atheists by religion and mocking their ancestral religion and mercilessly slaughtering Non-Bolshevik Jews), ordinary Bolsheviks were overwhelmingly Russian. As the Old Bolsheviks, largely Jewish, died (Lenin was only a quarter Jewish) or were murdered (like Trotsky), they were replaced by Russians or those of other nationalities, like the Georgians Stalin and Beria, or later the Ukrainian Khushchov. Of the ten murderers (not ‘executioners’, as the secular West calls them) of the Imperial Family, eight were Russian, one was, probably, Latvian and only one was Jewish, although he was in charge of the other killers. However, this latter, Yankel Yurovsky, was a Jew who had long before been baptised a Protestant and had nothing to do with his Jewish family or religion. Therefore, he was Jewish only by race.

Indeed, several foreign soldiers, perhaps Latvians or Austro-Hungarians, had categorically refused to pull the trigger and murder the Family, especially the children. The fact – however terrible – is that the ten murderers were all baptised Christians, eight of them Russians. Their names were: Yurovsky, Kabanov, M. Medvedev, P. Medvedev, Netrebin, Nikulin, Strekotin, Tselms (probably, and probably Latvian), Vaganov and Yermakov. This fact that they were all officially Christians should be reflected on.

This is also why the Church Outside Russia canonised the Imperial Family and their servants as martyrs, whereas in 2000 the Church inside Russia canonised only the Family as Passion-Bearers. The difference here is only that the term ‘Passion-Bearer’ is used only when the murderers are nominal Christians and not pagans. However, in reality the terms are largely interchangeable.

  1. Was their murder a ritual murder?

There is no such thing as a ’ritual murder’. This whole Non-Orthodox myth was invented in the Roman Catholic Middle Ages. It began in Norman England, with the notorious case of the murder of ‘William of Norwich’ in 1144, the first such case. The myth, based largely on jealousy of the wealth of certain elite-connected Jews, finally spread from Catholic Poland into the western Ukraine only in the late nineteenth century. Anyone who reads about the chaos of the murders at the Ipatiev House, carried out by militant atheists and Non-Jews, can see that there was no system (rituals are by definition always systematic) and had no connection with any religion whatsoever. The myth of ‘ritual murders’ is pure anti-Semitism, as is the myth of ‘kabbalistic’ signs on an inside wall of the Ipatiev House. They were simple scribbles.

  1. Why did many not believe that the remains of the nine victims, found in 1979, and those of the two victims, Alexei and Maria, found in 2007, were those of the Imperial Family and their servants?

The second early investigator of the murder, N. A. Sokolov, (well before him the first investigator, I. A. Sergiev, had done nearly all the work) was appointed by the White Army in 1919. He could not find the remains of the Imperial Family and therefore concluded that the victims’ bodies had been consumed by fire, petroleum and sulphuric acid. In reality, only the martyrs’ clothing and shoes had been burned on bonfires. His ‘conclusion’ – although in fairness it was only a preliminary conclusion because he had not had time to finish his investigation – came about simply because he could not find the remains, even though he had passed by their site. Many, if not all, at the time and for long afterwards, believed in his conclusions/suppositions for lack of any other information, and a few still do believe in him today.

Sokolov was not a chemist or a forensic scientist, just a legal man – and also a convinced anti-Semite – and did not realise that you need very high temperatures – about 1,000 C – and huge amounts of sulphuric acid in order to destroy eleven human bodies. These had not been available. Others blindly repeated his suppositions, even adding the speculation that the bodies had been burned to cinders and their heads had been sent to Moscow. This latter wild and proofless speculation was made only because the investigators had found no teeth – by far the most difficult part of a human body to destroy. In reality, there were no teeth, simply because the bodies with their heads and therefore teeth had not been found. However, there are still a few who believe these suppositions, even today, though probably for ideological (anti-Semitic) reasons or out of personal vanity and wish for publicity.

  1. How can we be sure that ‘the Ekaterinburg Remains’ are indeed the relics of the Imperial Family?

We are 99.999999% sure of this just from the two sets of extremely thorough genetic studies on the unique remains, conducted internationally. If you add to this the locations and the number of bodies (eleven), the post-Revolutionary period when they were killed, their ages, the way they were killed, the type of bullets and other fragments found with them, as well as the dental records showing very clearly that the victims’ teeth had been treated by world-class dentists, I can see no rational way in which there can be any doubt about their identity.

  1. In that case, why have the Church authorities been so slow in recognising the remains as the Imperial Family’s relics?

The first genetic tests were carried out in the 1990s under the Yeltsin government, which of course no-one trusted, as it was notorious for its lies, just as all the Communist governments before it had been notorious for their lies. After all, Yeltsin himself had ordered the destruction of the Ipatiev House less than twenty years earlier, in September 1977, for the sixtieth anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. Since the remains could eventually be venerated as holy relics, the Church authorities, also distrusting Yeltsin, had to be absolutely certain of their identity. You cannot make a mistake if you are going to present remains as relics. This is why a second batch of genetic tests were made on the basis of even more advanced DNA science, their results being released on the centenary of the martyrdom in 2018. The findings coincided with the first ones.

Secondly, perhaps more importantly still, the Church authorities have had to face the opposition of sectarian elements inside Russia, who are largely anti-Semitic. Only now are the Church authorities dealing with them. The bishops have always feared a schism, however small, on the subject of the identification of the remains.

Thirdly, the Church authorities know that in post-Soviet Russia there are those of the other extreme, opposed to the far right anti-Semites. These are the liberal and atheist elements opposed to the enshrinement of the relics, just as they were – and are – opposed to the very canonisation of the Imperial Martyrs. Indeed, inside Russia itself, the Church authorities have still not canonised three of the four servants of the Seven Imperial Martyrs (see below).

Outside Russia we should not be surprised at this or, even worse, feel smug. Even the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), supposedly free, only made up its mind about canonising the Imperial Martyrs and four of their servants in 1981, 63 years late! This is scandalous. And even here there were some members of the Church Outside Russia who opposed the canonisation, as I well remember. Anyone who remembers the very hostile reactions to the 1981 canonisation outside ROCOR, on the part of the liberal Paris Russian Jurisdiction (founded by the very Saint Petersburg aristocrats who had overthrown the Tsar) and the Parisian-influenced OCA, let alone the mocking reactions of the secular media, will recall just how virulent the opposition to the canonisation was.

  1. Why are there no miracles from the relics, which do not give out myrrh or perfume?

I think there are many miracles from them. The fall of the Soviet Union was only the first one.

As regards the actual relics, not all relics give off fragrance or myrrh. In any case, relics need faith to work miracles. This we can see time and again from Christ’s words in the Gospels – ‘according to your faith be it unto you’ (Matt. 9, 29). Christ Himself could not work miracles in Nazareth, where he had spent most of his life, precisely because of the faithlessness of the inhabitants (Matt 13, 58 and Mark 6, 5-6). In the Gospels Christ says time and again: ‘Thy faith has healed thee’. In other words, there is no healing without faith. At this moment, nine sets of relics, which lie in the St Catherine’s chapel in the Church of St Peter and Paul in its Fortress in Saint Petersburg, are closed off and cannot be venerated by the faithful. Disgracefully, the relics of St Alexei and St Maria are not even enshrined in the church. We cannot even venerate these relics physically.

  1. In Moscow the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate has not canonised three of the servants of the Family, though it did recently canonise one of them, Dr Eugene Botkin. Many say that it cannot canonise all of them in any case, since one was a Roman Catholic and another was a Protestant.

These four servants were all canonised by the Church Outside Russia in 1981 together with the Imperial Family. I questioned the very conservative Archbishop Antony of Los Angeles about this matter, when I accompanied him to visit Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich in Paris in autumn 1991. He explained to me that this issue had been discussed by the ROCOR Synod in New York well before the 1981 canonisation. The Synod had accepted the age-old practice of the Church that anyone who was martyred for the Faith, even though unbaptised, was considered to have been baptised in their blood.

There are many such examples of baptism in blood in Church history. The fact that of two Orthodox martyrs, one was a Roman Catholic and another was a Protestant, should surely be considered as Providential: this is a call to the Non-Orthodox world to follow in the footsteps of the Imperial servants, as indeed is the canonisation of the converted Tsarina Alexandra herself, though she had been chrismated into the Orthodox Faith before her wedding in 1894. We are all called to be Imperial servants, servants of the Christian Empire, the Empire of Christ.

  1. If the remains are eventually accepted by the whole Church as holy relics, should the relics be enshrined at Porosionkov Log, where they were found?

The area a few miles to the north of Ekaterinburg where the relics were found in 1979 and, 67 metres away, in 2007, was renamed Porosionkov Log (‘Piglet’s Ravine’) only in the nineteenth century, as a result of the amount of mud there which attracted pigs. Originally there had been a large lake here, but when the railway was built across this area, the land around the large pond became very boggy with no drainage. It would not be possible to build a large stone church here, but only a small wooden church on piles. This is the case four and a half miles away at Ganina Yama (‘Gabriel’s Pit’), where the murderers burned the victims’ clothes and belongings and first and unsuccessfully tried to dispose of the relics in the early morning of 17 July 1918. Here there now stand wooden churches dedicated to each of the Imperial Martyrs.

  1. In your view what should happen to the relics now?

Tsar Nicholas II repeatedly said that he wanted to be buried in Saint Petersburg. He spent most of his life as Tsar at Tsarskoe Selo (‘The Tsar’s Village’), just outside Saint Petersburg. Here the whole family was happy, rather than among the mean-minded gossip, criminal slander and treasonous intrigues of jealous aristocrats in Saint Petersburg. Surely, it is here in the spacious grounds of Tsarskoe Selo, where the Family spent so many happy times together, that a huge Cathedral dedicated to the Imperial Martyrs could be raised up, with the relics of all of them at last reunited and enshrined inside. This would become a pilgrimage centre for Orthodox the world over. The Imperial Family: Together in life, together in heaven. From here tiny splinters of relics could be sent out all over the world, so that their veneration could be confirmed as worldwide, as indeed it already is, and for the repentance of all. Then clearly visible miracles would begin, including the transfiguration of Post-Soviet Russia into Orthodox Russia and the beginning of the realisation in Western countries that they cannot continue as they are now, in their state of apostasy from Christ.

Holy Imperial Martyrs, Pray to God for us!

Archpriest Andrew Phillips

St John of Shanghai Church, Colchester, England

 

Blessed Xenia of Saint Petersburg

24 January/6 February 2021