Category Archives: Orthodox Unity

A New Threat to Church Unity

Parts of the Western world are being dominated by media hysteria about the new Cold War, the latest phase of which was launched several months ago by the US industrial-military complex. This has spread the propaganda that the Russian Federation is about to take back Russian-inhabited Novorossija, part of Russia until Lenin’s giveaway in 1922, from the present Kiev regime. However, inside the Russian Federation itself there are fears that NATO is about to invade it, precisely from its new base in Novorossija.

Perhaps the present diplomatic negotiations are really about how much of the eastern Ukraine has to be returned to Russia in order for the Ukraine to become a viable State. Viable means without constant injections of US cash, which Kiev is haemmorhaging because of regime corruption and the bloody war against its own people.

However, our attention is focused on the situation of the Russian Orthodox Church, which faces the aspect of the same Cold War which involves the US-inspired schism of the Church of Constantinople. The news here is that chrism will be consecrated in Istanbul later this year, but the US-funded Patriarchate of Constantinople is aiming to use the occasion to draw other Local Churches into concelebrating with its unordained or defrocked Ukrainian schismatics. See: https://orthochristian.com/144024 .html.

The fact is that at present nine of the fifteen Local Orthodox Churches still obtain their chrism, used for the essential sacrament of chrismation, from Constantinople. They must go there when they need chrism. Since Constantinople itself and Alexandria are already in schism, this means that the seven remaining Churches, of Antioch, Jerusalem, Greece, Poland, Cyprus, Albania and of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, will at some point, perhaps soon, have to decide whether they want schism with the Russian Church or not. If so, the crunch is coming and the fence-sitting of these Churches between the Churches of Russia and Constantinople will no longer be an option for them.

As my old friend from Moscow days, Arkady Mahler, a member of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Synodal Biblical-Theological Commission and the Inter-Council Presence of the Russian Church, notes – the hierarchs of other Local Churches may be drawn into a ‘danger zone’ by Constantinople. It is a serious violation of the canons to serve with the unordained schismatics in the Ukraine who are under Constantinople, but these Local Churches do not want to draw the anger of Constantinople. What will they do?

Canonical Orthodox in the other six Local Churches, of which by far the largest is the Russian Church (or Moscow Patriarchate), are faced with a balancing act of avoiding extremes. On the one hand, there are the new calendarist schismatics, who for the moment dominate the Churches of Constantinople and Alexandria. On the other hand, there are the old calendarist schismatics of various old sectarian groups who consider almost everyone else, including each other, some sort of heretic, and refuse to concelebrate with them. Canonical Orthodox, centred within the Moscow Patriarchate, preserve the balance.

Orthodox Christianity in the British Isles

1% of the 65 million population of the British Isles (1) are members of the Orthodox Church. In other words, about 650,000 Orthodox Christians live here. However, as we always consider realistically that only 10% actually practise, that gives us 65,000 practising Orthodox Christians in these isles.

Orthodox Christians here belong to seven different dioceses, of which only four are significant. These are the Romanians, the Greeks, the Russians and the Serbs, as the other three groups, the Antiochians, Bulgarians and Georgians, are very small.

Firstly, there are Romanian Orthodox, 390,000 according to national statistics, who have nearly all settled here over the last twenty years. Although they number over 60% of the total number of Orthodox, they have no local bishop and suffer from a chronic lack of churches and infrastructure. Therefore, they are obliged to attend other churches, Greek and Russian in particular. Hopefully, their Church authorities will one day catch up with this recent immigration and organise adequate Church life for their people.

Secondly, there are Greek-speaking Orthodox (mainly Cypriots), over 30% of the total (195,000). They are by far the richest and best-organised, with the best infrastructure and the most bishops (five at present), but they are dying out. This is because most of them immigrated here between the 1950s and the 1970s. Thanks to the foresight and organisational abilities of earlier Greek archbishops, they have excellent infrastructure, with over 100 parish churches (which are mainly their own property) and over 100 priests, even if many of them are now ageing.

Thirdly, numbering fewer than 8% of the total, in other words, about 52,000, there are Russian-speaking Orthodox (usually not Russians from the Russian Federation, but Baltic Russians, Moldovans and Ukrainians) and also Serbian Orthodox (about 20,000) (2). However, the Serbs from earlier immigrations are ageing and have no bishop here, and the Russians are quite needlessly divided into three groups. The first group with 1 bishop and 20 priests (26,000 faithful) belongs to the Sourozh Diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate, the second belongs to the Western European Archdiocese within the Moscow Patriarchate, no local bishop but 14 priests (5,000 faithful) and the third group belongs to the American Synod, also known as ROCOR (1 bishop and about 1,000 faithful), which is not part of the Moscow Patriarchate but is on paper in communion with it (3). These Russian groups have been divided through a catastrophic lack of leadership and lack of planning over the last six decades, which have led to very poor infrastructure.

Finally, there are Bulgarians and Georgians, who basically have only one parish each, and the Patriarchate of Antioch. They are about 2% of the total, or 13,000. Antioch also has one parish with a bishop, plus some twenty communities, led mainly by ageing ex-Anglican clergy, who often help look after Romanian Orthodox.

Notes:

  1. Obviously, the British Isles as a geographical area does not include the island of Ireland, where, incidentally, most Orthodox clergy and parishes belong to the Patriarchate of Moscow.
  2. We put Russians and Serbs together because we both use the Orthodox (so-called ‘old’) calendar.
  3. Under its recent leadership, ROCOR has become an isolated right-wing group, which refuses to concelebrate with other Orthodox. As a result of this, in 2021 it halved in size, losing eight parishes and six priests to the Moscow Patriarchate and one priest to Antioch, as he wanted for some reason to be a bishop.

 

Christmas in the Moscow Patriarchate in Colchester

 

Our Orthodox Christmas celebrations at St John’s Church went very well, in peace and joy. There was a prayerful and well-attended Vigil service of Great Compline and Matins on the evening of Thursday 6th January and on Friday morning the Divine Liturgy. (We do not hold a midnight service, as this would be very difficult for the many small children and families we have). Fortunately many people came to confession on Thursday evening, so we coped with the confessions, many of occasional parishioners from the Ennismore Gardens Cathedral in Knightsbridge, which is actually further away from where they live than we are. So on Friday morning we started almost on time at 9.20. At this time of year we greatly appreciate our heating system so, although the church is very large, it is very cosy.

We had the blessing to be loaned holy relics from our friends in the Romanian Church in London. These include the very fragrant myrrh-giving relics of St Demetrius, also those of St George the Great-Martyr, Sts Cosmas and Damian and earth from the grave of St Paisius the Athonite. The holy relics will remain with us till Sunday 9th.

There were about one hundred communions for our Christmas. On Sunday we will be joined by two more priests from our Patriarchal Church, when we will have  a lot more people, including all those who were unable to take the day off on Friday. After the service, there was a common meal, at the end of which the children sang the usual very sweet Ukrainian Christmas carols (koljadki).

Today we noted the message from our Patriarch Kyrill, who spoke against the phenomena of radicalism and fanaticism, which are so dangerous nowadays. He mentioned that they are not only widespread in the Holy Land, but ‘also in other parts of the world’ – as we well know. (www.pravoslavie.ru/143842.html). Nasty sectarianism is always a danger, when we have to deal with people who are not really Christians at all, but are motivated by a political or pathological ideology from abroad, cutting themselves off and refusing to concelebrate with our Moscow Patriarchate.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

STATEMENT OF METROPOLITAN JEAN OF DUBNA

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

15/28 December 2021

St Stephen of Sourozh

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

I. The Reasons for the Transfer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IV. Suggestions to move forward.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(iii)  The Need for Deeper Discussion.

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

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

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

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

Endnotes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

Introduction

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

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

Cardiff, Wales, 17 December 2020

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

London, England, 23 January 2021

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

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

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

https://ireneifiles.wixsite.com/home

London, England, 26 February 2021

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

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

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

Felixstowe, England, 10 April 2021

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

New York, USA, 7 May 2021

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

Mt Athos, Greece, 9 May 2021

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

London, England, 10 May 2021

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

Paris, France, 11 May 2021

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

Geneva, Switzerland, 23 August 2021

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

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

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

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

Great Britain, 28 October 2021

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

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

Felixstowe, England, 3 November 2021

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

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

Belgrade, Serbia, 25 November 2021

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

 

Notes:

  1. The reception of Catholic priests by vesting and concelebration is the standard practice in Russian Orthodoxy of the Moscow Patriarchate and the MP Archdiocese and was the traditional practice of ROCOR. This form of reception of Catholic priests was the consistent practice of canonised saints, such as St Tikhon of Moscow. Notably, St Alexis of Wilkes-Barre was a Catholic priest received into Orthodoxy by vesting and concelebration. As such, Bp Irenei’s absolute rejection of the reception of Catholic priests by vesting and concelebration is incompatible with, and indeed a rejection of, 350 years of Russian Orthodox tradition. So his act of rebellion and schism initiated on this basis is entirely illegitimate.
  2. As a ruling Bishop of a ROCOR Diocese, Bp Irenei’s jurisdiction extends only to those clergy within his own Diocese. However, neither Fr Jacob nor Metr Jean is a clergyman within Bp Irenei’s Diocese, and as such Bp Irenei has no authority to pass judgment over either. Rather, by passing summary judgment over both Fr Jacob and Metr John, Bp Irenei illegitimately assumed for himself the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical bodies which do have jurisdiction to pass judgment over them. Thus, in passing judgment over Fr Jacob, Bp Irenei illegitimately assumed for himself the jurisdiction of the ruling Bishop of the MP Archdiocese. And in passing judgment over Metr John, Bp Irenei illegitimately assumed for himself the jurisdiction of the Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate. Both actions are grave and basic violations of the canonical order of the Church, and as such are entirely illegitimate.
  3. When a ROCOR Bishop feels empowered to act in such opposition to both the tradition and canonical order of the Russian Orthodox Church, serious questions are raised about the status of ROCOR and its commitment to the 2007 Act of Canonical Communion which reconciled ROCOR to the Mother Church. Schism should be an absolute last resort, not something into which a Bishop jumps in a period of just over four weeks. The speed, if not eagerness, with which Bp Irenei Steenberg, as a ROCOR Bishop, instituted a schism with an Archdiocese of the Moscow Patriarchate – thereby jeopardising the unity of the Russian Orthodox Church more broadly – suggests that such a course of action enjoys broader support within ROCOR. And the Act of Canonical Communion will not remain viable if ROCOR Bishops are so quick to jump into schism whenever a Diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate does not fall into line with their criticisms. As such, the events of Bp Irenei’s schism call forth a need for ROCOR to make clear its continued commitment to the Act of Canonical Communion, and hence its commitment to sacramental communion and canonical unity with the larger Russian Orthodox Church, whose internal practices and theology is not always the same as that of ROCOR.
  4. The stated theological basis of Bp Irenei’s schism makes clear the need for serious discussion and dialogue between the New York Synod of ROCOR and the Moscow Synod of the rest of the Moscow Patriarchate (including of the MP Archdiocese) regarding the question of the reception of heterodox – a question on which ROCOR, particularly in North America, has come to differ greatly from the Moscow Patriarchate. But such a dialogue cannot be simply a one-way criticism, in which primarily North American ROCOR participants survey the history of the Moscow Patriarchate’s practice, making criticisms on points where such practice differs from their own. Rather, what is especially needed at this point is to consider how ROCOR’s sacramental theology and practice has come to diverge so greatly from the Moscow Patriarchate’s traditional practice that a ROCOR Bishop could lead his Diocese into schism from an Archdiocese of the Moscow Patriarchate, ostensibly to “protect” his Diocese from the standard practice of the Russian Orthodox Church itself.

Here, in particular, there is need for a serious consideration of the transformation of North American ROCOR’s sacramental theology since the late 1960s under the innovations of Greek Old Calendarism. A discussion on the question of reception with reference to ROCOR can only be fruitful if there is an understanding of how Greek Old Calendarists were able to lead substantial elements of ROCOR to reject the settled sacramental traditions of the Russian Orthodox Church – the very Church whose traditions ROCOR, ironically, was established to preserve – in favour of extreme positions of modern Greek origin which diverge so greatly from Russian Orthodox Tradition. It is to be hoped that – through such a consideration, in which not only do ROCOR participants offer criticisms of the Moscow Patriarchate’s historical practices, but in which the Moscow Patriarchate’s participants criticise these historical transformations and innovations in ROCOR – a new clarity would be achieved, across the Russian Orthodox Church, of the need to hold fast to the standard Russian Orthodox practices regarding reception. After all, these are expressed not only in the liturgical books of the Moscow Patriarchate, but above all in the living witness of Russian Orthodox saints such as St Tikhon of Moscow and St Alexis of Wilkes-Barre.

Все в море (All At Sea)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Что произошло дальше?

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

 

Personal Questions I Have Been Asked In The Last Three Months

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

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

Q: Is this a personal rebellion?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Are you really a Socialist?

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

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

Q: What will happen next?

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

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

Q: Are you frightened?

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

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

All At Sea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What happened next?

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