Category Archives: Rue Daru

The Great Opportunity

Put not your trust in princes, nor in the sons of men.

With the dissolution of the Rue Daru Exarchate in Paris behind the back of its ruling archbishop, the daydreams of autonomy of the ecumenist Fraternite Orthodoxe have been dashed. Now the way is at last free for the Russian Orthodox Church to establish its Local Metropolia of Western Europe. Called for by ourselves in 1988 and, much more importantly, promised by Patriarch Alexey II in 2003, it is time to move forward. With the Patriarchate of Constantinople having officially removed itself from the equation through the phyletism of ‘the superior Greek race’ which has swallowed the Paris Jurisdiction, all eyes are now looking to the Russian Orthodox Church.

The two parts of the Russian Orthodox Church in Western Europe, one attached to Moscow, the other to New York, joined by any Churchly remnants of the Rue Daru group, together can build the long-awaited multinational Church of Western Europe, which ceased to exist in 1054. Surely 964 years of patience is enough! Unlike the Phanar and others, the Russian Orthodox Church is free from the meddling US State Department. Just as in the Ukraine, it is for our free Church to take responsibility for the future of the flock, putting the Truth of God over the enfeebling diplomacy and petty nationalism of men: it has long been apparent that nobody except the Russian Church will.

The End of an Era

The Rue Daru Exarchate, composed of a few largely Moldovan parishes in Paris and a few dozen tiny communities of converts by and large without their own properties scattered mainly through France, Benelux and England, has today been dissolved by the Phanar. Over ninety years of history since Rue Daru broke away from the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia have thus cruelly ended.

Founded largely by aristocratic and intellectual traitors to the Tsar from Saint Petersburg, the surprise is that this anti-Russian and anti-monastic group has survived so long. Nearly four generations on, with its last Russian bishop dying in 1981 and without monasteries, it was clear that it would come to depend on widowers and celibates from Roman Catholicism, such as its present Archbishop from Bordeaux. Rue Daru’s failure to return to the Russian Church, when freedom gradually came in the two decades after the collapse of atheist rule in the former Russian Empire in 1991 was lamentable.

However, as long ago as 1966, the then rector of the St Sergius Institute, Fr Alexey Knyazev, went to the Phanar and asked if the Patriarch was really the ‘Oecumenical’ Patriarch or ‘just a petty Balkan bishop’. Today he has received his answer. Fr Alexey and other real Orthodox, worthies like Bishop Methodius (Kulmann) and Fr Igor Vernik, had already understood in the 1960s and 1970s that the Rue Daru group could only survive spiritually if it returned to the Russian Mother Church, becoming the basis of a new Local Metropolia in Western Europe.

I understood it thirty years ago in 1988, when Rue Daru’s then ex-Catholic German Archbishop George (Wagner) categorically and suicidally rejected any plan to establish the foundation for a new Local Church of Western Europe faithful to the Russian Orthodox Tradition, and even invited the Papal Cardinal of Paris to celebrations of a millennium of Russian Orthodoxy at Rue Daru instead of Russian bishops! This was of course the last straw. As late as 2003, even the naive Archbishop Sergey (Konovalov) understood this, but it was all tragically too late.

Thus, the end had long been inevitable. For Rue Daru and its tiny group that inevitably broke away from the Russian Church in England in 2006 in the notorious Sourozh Schism, going against history and faithfulness, there is now only one choice: Die out under ‘the superior Greek race’ or else return to the Russian Tradition (which the latter has never had, despite its illusions to the contrary) and also return to the Orthodox calendar by returning to obedience to the Russian Orthodox Church. As we said 12 years ago, you cannot be of the Russian Orthodox Tradition, or even know it, even less understand it, when you refuse to be part of the Russian Orthodox Church. This is not theology, this is common sense! To think otherwise is spiritual delusion – prelest.

In Paris all now depends on whom properties belong to. Elsewhere, there is freedom to return to communion with the canonical Orthodox Church from the Phanariot schismatics, their ecumenism and phyletism and liturgical deviations.

The end of Rue Daru is a warning to all its imitators, not only in the USA, but also to those liberals in Moscow who fell to the Paris School of Philosophy (there never was any Theology here). You follow them and this is how you too will die out.

Told you so.

 

On the Two Jurisdictions of Russian Orthodoxy Outside the Canonical Territory of the Russian Orthodox Church

Introduction

Some may be surprised to read of the existence of only two jurisdictions of Russian Orthodoxy outside the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church (the ex-Soviet Union minus Georgia, plus Japan and China). They say: Surely there are three groups, since there is the Paris Jurisdiction? They forget that that jurisdiction was founded by aristocrats who, obsessed with Western Europe, hated everything Russian. So much so that it betrayed the Tsar for the sake of its class privileges and in Paris exile left the Russian Church for the sake of its privileged fantasies. Thus, the Paris Jurisdiction has never been part of the Russian Church, even though it had an influence on some ex-Uniat Slavs from the former Austro-Hungarian Empire settled in the USA  (now in a group called ’the OCA’). However, those who were involved are all dead now.

Today, the tiny Paris Jurisdiction, at worst, the disgruntled and dissident or, at best, the betrayed and naïve, is dying in lost relevance and lack of Tradition. It continues only as self-justification for its schism and disobedience. All the pro-Russian forces that were once in that jurisdiction have since 1989 gladly returned to one or other of the two jurisdictions of the Russian Church. Cut off and isolated, Paris has been left with nothing to say about the Russian Church. So in the context of Russian Orthodoxy outside Russia, the Paris Jurisdiction, like the North American jurisdiction that is called the OCA (Orthodox Church in America), can be ignored here, for it has for generations not been part of the Russian Church. So which are these two jurisdictions of Russian Orthodoxy outside the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church?

  1. The Patriarchal Churches Directly Dependent on Moscow

Once upon a time this was largely an ethnic jurisdiction of those who were at times such Soviet patriots that they were even prepared to lie about the persecution of the Church inside the then Soviet Union, denying even its own martyrs. Once upon a time it contained corrupt and compromised senior figures, both inside and outside Russia, who were allowed to do anything they wanted as a result of the paralysis of the Church administration, which was under KGB surveillance and desperate for ecumenical links to counter persecution. That political enslavement is over and the compromised are dead, though one can still meet ageing individuals who live and think in the past.

A very small jurisdiction a generation ago, today it has over 300 parishes and seven bishops. Notably, it has some 35 parishes in North America, a diocese in South America, all the parishes in Thailand, other parishes scattered throughout Asia and, above all, some 250 new parishes in Western Europe. It is here that enormous growth has taken place through the economic emigration from the ex-USSR , especially from Kazakhstan, Moldova and those ethnically cleansed from the Baltic States and the Ukraine. Thus, those who always belonged to these Patriarchal churches and were both patriotically and internationally minded, their ideal being Holy Rus, have been much reinforced.

  1. The Patriarchal Churches Indirectly Dependent on Moscow

Once dying out, there are now nearly 600 parishes in the self-governing Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), headquartered in New York but part of the whole Russian Orthodox Church. Once, in the bad old Soviet and immediate post-Soviet days, ROCOR was providentially independent of the politically enslaved Church administration in Moscow and so the free voice of the Russian Orthodox Church. At that time,however, there were also some who belonged to ROCOR who were not so much Orthodox as simply anti-Communists. These often worked for Western spy agencies in various countries and saw the Church as a mere vehicle for their right-wing nationalist political ideology.

Obsessed and blinded by their right-wing politics, they did not understood that their work against the Soviet Union for Western spy services or propaganda agencies, like The Voice of America or the BBC, was in fact work against Russia and so against the territory of the Russian Empire. This is now history, for today the whole of the Russian Church is politically free. That situation of political enslavement is over, though one can still meet individuals who live and think in the past. On the other hand, those like the ever-memorable Metr Laurus, who belonged to ROCOR and were always both patriotically and internationally minded, their ideal being Holy Rus, have been much reinforced.

The Future

Given the fact that most of the faithful of both jurisdictions are people who have left the ex-Soviet Union since 1992 and frequent churches in both groups, why are there still two jurisdictions when there is fundamental unity under the same Patriarch? Why should past history still play a role? It plays a role because the present unity has existed for only ten years, since 2007, and not a full generation. The influence of the past will continue for some years, perhaps even for a generation, to come. What can we say of the process that will eventually lead to a seamless unity in the future? Then the existence of two jurisdictions will not depend on history, it will depend on efficiency, competence, missionary-mindedness and the decision to treat the clergy and people properly by listening to them. Incompetence will be unacceptable.

Thus, in recent years we have seen that most Russian Orthodox churches in South America have passed to being directly dependent on Moscow and not on ROCOR, whose parishes were lost because of the lack of local episcopal care. Exactly the same thing seems to be happening throughout Western Europe, where parishes directly dependent on Moscow now outnumber those indirectly dependent by three to one and the lack of episcopal understanding is losing ROCOR favour. This too is a total transformation when compared to 25 years ago. As a result, Moscow now has a clear and logical intention of setting up a Western European Metropolia based in Paris. Only in Russophobic North America and Australasia does indirect dependence still prevail. An American-based ROCOR seems to be the future: the rest will depend directly on Moscow.

 

2017: On the Spiritual Significance of the Church Outside Russia

On the eve of 2017, the centenary year of the catastrophic Russian Revolution and a decade since the triumphant reunion between the Patriarchal Church inside Russia and the emigre Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) in 2007, we may wonder what will become of the heritage of the Russian emigration of 1917? After all, the generation of adults that emigrated into exile in and soon after 1917 has long since died out and we are now onto the generation of their great-great-grandchildren. In Church terms, this emigration, almost wholly rejecting the compromised authority of the then enslaved Church inside Russia, consists not just of ROCOR, but also of the small Paris splinter group. What will survive spiritually from the two parts of the Russian emigration?

The tiny Paris Archdiocese part of the emigration, perhaps 10% of the whole, survives. However, as a splinter group of dissident and disincarnate philosophers, intellectuals and aristocrats that went into schism from the Russian Church for political reasons 85 years ago, it has long been without Russian bishops because of its inherent anti-monasticism. It is tending to become a sub-group of untrained convert clergy wishing to become a tiny ‘French Orthodox Church’, though some in it imagine becoming a ‘Western European Orthodox Church’. But that is megalomania. The group often reflects Schmemannite modernism, ecumenism and liberal French Catholicism (i.e. Protestantism), having steadily abandoned the Russian Orthodox Tradition.

True, there are still a few faithful, Orthodox calendar parishes run by priests mainly imported from Russia and the Ukraine and some selected Russian customs remain, though with little understanding of their meaning. The tendency is to try and proselytize middle-class liberal intellectuals, sometimes with contempt for ordinary people, an ethos that also used to infect parts of the OCA in North America and renovationist groups in the Soviet-period Patriarchate of Moscow. The Archdiocese generally tends to cut corners, failing to observe the canons and attract cradle Orthodox, whom as a non-inclusive group it rejects. Certainly it attracts none who is anchored in the Tradition.

However, the overwhelming majority of the emigration, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), exists outside France and French philosophical intellectualism, mainly in North America, Australasia and Western Europe. As such it has from the start been responsible for much missionary and translation work in many languages. Without the protection of any State it has in its near-100 year history also been subject to many slanders, mockery and persecution for its faithfulness to the Tradition. It has often been the voice crying in the wilderness of Secularist materialism, whether Communist or Capitalist, witnessing and prophetically calling like the Forerunner and Baptist John to repentance before the apocalyptic events of the last century.

However, it is also true that in the past parts of ROCOR were also compromised and infected by Russian nationalism, excessive strictness to the point of negative phariseeism and depressing right-wing politics – some fringe elements were even so blind as to support Hitler. However, the best of ROCOR has been revealed as a Church of Confessors and Missionaries, as in its three saints: St Jonah of Hankou, St Seraphim of Sofia and St John of Shanghai. Moreover, further saints are yet to be revealed. Whatever the future shape of the present administrative structures of ROCOR, these saints have given ROCOR eternal significance, as only the saints can do, as everything else gathers the dust of history, being only passing fashion and political intrigue.

Ten years ago, in 2007, seeing the Church inside Russia at last free, ROCOR rejoined Her and in the last ten years the two parts of the Church have worked closely together. Some therefore ask why does ROCOR still exist? The answer is simple: we have a mission to witness to the Orthodox Truth specifically outside Russia. When in the past the Church inside Holy Rus was enslaved and fell silent, with the representatives of the Soviet-period Patriarchate abroad mostly abandoning ideals, sometimes disgracefully compromising themselves in renovationism, ecumenism and other ills, ROCOR spoke out. So also today ROCOR continues to proclaim outside Russia what the best of the rest of the Church proclaims inside Russia – the ideals of Holy Rus. What are these?

These ideals are Trinitarian, reflecting on earth the heavenly reality of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. These Christian ideals can be expressed as: Faith, Throne and People, that is, the Orthodox Faith, the Christian Emperor, the Faithful. All three go together. If any one element is compromised, then all three are compromised. Thus, if we reject the Orthodox Faith, we do not build the Christian Empire among the People, as has happened in the Western world. If we reject the Incarnation of the Christian Empire, we fail to reflect the Faith in the Father and fail to preach the values of the Holy Spirit among the People, as has happened in disincarnate Parisian philosophy. And if the People lose the Orthodox Faith, there will be no Empire, as happened in 1917.

Just as we cannot have the Father without the Son and the Holy Spirit, so we confess all three of these ideals of Holy Rus together. This means that we are called on to proclaim the uncorrupted Orthodox Faith of the Church (the Father), the restoration of the Incarnate Christian Empire and Emperor (the Son) and that we call all the peoples of the world to join us (the Holy Spirit), as St Seraphim of Sarov prophesied nearly 200 years ago. These are the Trinitarian Orthodox Civilizational values of the Returning Christian Empire which is coming soon. Thus, we clergy and people of ROCOR are the free and conscious servants of the Faith and People of the Tsar-Martyr, called on to reverse the treason of 1917 and its disastrous worldwide consequences.

Christ the Invincible Power

Answers to Questions from Recent Conversations and Correspondence

Q: When did you first become conscious of the Russian Orthodox Church?

A: My introduction to the Orthodox Church was through the local saints of England in my native north Essex, notably St Edmund, but also St Albright (Ethelbert), St Cedd, St Botolph and St Osyth. However, as regards the Russian Orthodox Church as such, my first encounter was almost fifty years ago, just after my 12th birthday, in August 1968. As a result of that revelation, I began teaching myself Russian in October of that year in Colchester because I already knew that the Russian Orthodox Church is my spiritual home. However, I had to wait nearly another seven years until I could take part in Russian Orthodox life, as in those days (it is not much better now) there were so few Russian churches anywhere. I only managed to visit any Russian churches in 1973.

Q: Which part of the Russian Church did you join?

A: Having been told by two of its members that the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) would not allow me to join it because I was English (I had no idea at that time that my great-grandmother was Russian, I only discovered that distant link much later), I had no alternative but to join the Moscow Patriarchate. They may have been many things in those distant days, but at least they were not racists.

Q: What was your path to the priesthood after that?

A: A very hard one. First of all, since I could not live and work in Russia on account of the Cold War at that time, for my first job I went to live and work in Greece. I thought that was the next best alternative. After a year there and visiting the then Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, I understood that the Balkan Churches were no solution to the need for a Local Orthodox Church in the West. They were all inward-looking, culturally very narrow and hopelessly nationalistic. Later, contacts with Romanians and Georgians told me the same about them and in the Romanian case there is the huge problem of simony. So, with Russia closed off, in 1979 with the blessing of Metr Antony (Bloom) I went to study at the St Sergius Theological Institute in Paris, which I had in my ignorance imagined to be a Russian Orthodox seminary.

Q: What was it in fact?

A: It was the remains of a Russian Orthodox seminary mingled with an institute of philosophy and, frankly, of heresy. It openly preached modernism or Renovationism, which is Protestant-based, and is therefore not even remotely interesting to someone coming from a country like England with a Protestant culture, so alien to me. One English priest, rather harshly, called St Serge a Methodist Sunday School. Very harsh, but there was some truth in it.

Q: Why did you not think of going to Jordanville in the USA?

A: For the same reason as before. I was repeatedly told by members of ROCOR that they only took Russians. Remember in those days there was no internet, no advice, you had to make your own way, you went by what local representatives told you, even if it was incorrect.

Q: What happened next?

A: In 1982 I was offered the priesthood by the Moscow Patriarchate on terms which I can only describe as scandalous. I walked out, never to return, and enquired again at the Church Outside Russia. I got the same answer as in 1974, though I noted that this time there were actually a few ex-Anglicans in a separate branch of ROCOR in England. However, these rather eccentric conservative Anglicans seemed to have no interest in the Russian Orthodox Church, but only in being anti-Anglican and they had a huge interest in fanatical Greek Orthodox sects. Never having been Anglican and having lived in Greece, I had no interest in either. This was all the more frustrating since ROCOR had just canonized the New Martyrs and Confessors and naturally I had their icons and venerated them. Nevertheless, in 1983, I decided to emigrate to France and join my wife’s jurisdiction, the Paris Jurisdiction.

Q: Wasn’t that foolhardy? I mean you already knew about the problem of modernism there?

A: What you have to understand is that in Paris in 1981 they had elected a new Archbishop. Under the very elderly and saintly old one, renovationists had come to the fore, taking advantage of his old age, but the new Archbishop promised us personally that he would sweep them away and return his jurisdiction to Orthodoxy and canonical Russian practice. So this was a time of great promise and even excitement. Patriarch Dimitrios of Constantinople even said at the time that the Paris Jurisdiction would be returned to the Russian Church as soon as it was free. So, with hope in a promising future, in January 1985 I was ordained deacon there.

Q: What happened next?

A: in May 1985 I was offered the priesthood providing that I would become a freemason. I refused, scandalized. Then we became witnesses to the complete takeover of the jurisdiction by renovationists. The new Archbishop ordained them one by one, completely breaking his promise – not because he was a liar, but because he was weak. It was the same problem as Metr Evlogy, the first Paris Jurisdiction ruling bishop; he had never wanted to leave the Russian Church, but he was a weak man surrounded by powerful laymen, mainly freemasons and those who had betrayed the Tsar and organized the February Revolution. It was the end of the possibility that that jurisdiction would ever return to the freed, restored and reunited Russian Church. But I only understood that the meaning of that bitter disappointment afterwards.

Q: Why did you not leave such a masonic group?

A: Not all by far were freemasons and I felt that I had to labour on until God’s will for me should be revealed.

Q: When was that?

A: Without doubt it was in summer 1988 when the Paris Jurisdiction celebrated the millennium of the Baptism of Rus. Instead of inviting the Russian bishops in Western Europe to the Cathedral on Rue Daru in Paris and returning to the Russian Church in unity, they railed against the Russian Church and invited the Roman Catholic Cardinal of Paris. I was not only scandalized but spiritually distraught. I was an eyewitness to treason and apostasy. It was the last straw. They preferred heresy to Orthodoxy.

Soon after, I met Archbishop Antony of Geneva of ROCOR, who told me that he would be happy to receive me and that I had no need whatsoever to labour on in such anti-canonical conditions. I jumped at the opportunity. 17 people left with me, including a priest. So we all joined the Church Outside Russia in January 1989. That was a transforming moment because previously I had only known the Church Outside Russia in England. On the other hand, Vladyka Antony, heir to Vladyka John of Shanghai, though traditional, was not racist or fanatical, but missionary-minded. He lived in a different world from the fanatics in England and we freely concelebrated with other Orthodox.

I remember him telling me about the extremists who were trying to take control of ROCOR in New York. He said: ‘But there’s nowhere else to go’. I have not the slightest doubt that he would have returned to Russia, if he had had the chance. I also remember conversations with him about Metr Antony of Kiev (Archbp Antony came from Kiev), whom he had known well in Belgrade and whose name he had taken. He was the real ROCOR. Real Russian Orthodox. At last. It had taken me 20 years to get to that point! 20 years of facing illusions, lies, broken promises and corruption. You would think it would have been easy, but nothing of the sort. All hell was against the Russian Orthodox Church, a sure sign of truth.

Q: What happened next?

A: Well, I was at last living as a proper Russian Orthodox. Nearly three years later, in December 1991 I was ordained priest for the new ROCOR parish in Lisbon in Portugal.

Q: What was your attitude to the Moscow Patriarchate?

A: We were all just impatiently waiting for it to become politically free and free of renovationism. That happened officially with the Jubilee Council in Moscow in 2000.

Q: So why didn’t the Church Outside Russia join up with the Patriarchate straightaway in 2000?

A: It is one thing to proclaim the truth at a Council, but another for the decisions of that Council to be implemented. For example, after that I can still remember how at the London Patriarchal Cathedral they refused to put up icons of the New Martyrs and also, incidentally, they refused to sell the books of Fr Seraphim (Rose) or anything traditional. Priests and people coming from Russia were persecuted by the renovationists because they were ‘too’ traditional. We had to wait for the Patriarchate to free itself from such Renovationism.

Also, it must be said, we had to wait until the fanatical elements that had done so much harm to ROCOR since they had started infiltrating the Church in the mid-sixties had left us. When the extremists did finally leave, almost at the same time, there was a huge sigh of relief, because then we could get on with being Orthodox. So it was we had to wait until 2007.

Q: How do you know that people are free of Renovationism?

A: Easy: The yardstick is veneration for the New Martyrs, especially the Imperial Martyrs. The renovationists hate them.

Q: How do you know that people are free of sectarian fanaticism of the sort you describe as having infiltrated ROCOR?

A: Easy: The yardstick is the willingness to concelebrate with other Orthodox Christians.

Q: What is going to happen in the future? At present there are countries like England where there are two parallel jurisdictions of the Russian Church, one dependent on Moscow, the other dependent on the Church Outside Russia?

A: According to the 2007 agreement, where there are two parallel jurisdictions, ROCOR should, in time, absorb the Patriarchal jurisdiction. This will probably take a generation, so that no-one will be under any pressure and everything will take place naturally, organically. However, in reality, already nine years have passed and we can see that in certain areas, like North America and Australasia, ROCOR will indeed clearly take over responsibility for those territories, whereas in other areas the Patriarchate will take over, as in South America, not to mention South-East Asia. The problem comes in the mixed area of Western Europe, including the British Isles and Ireland. In this area, only time will tell, clearly it is the more competent of the two that will take responsibility.

For the moment we shall lead parallel lives. There is in any case so much to do. I could start 12 parishes tomorrow, if I had the money to buy buildings and get candidates for the priesthood ordained. The state of Orthodox infrastructure and the general pastoral situation here are so appalling as to be scandalous; no wonder so many Orthodox lapse or become Roman Catholic or Protestant. All we pastors meet with is indifference. Those in authority should hang their heads in shame. Why is there not a church, our own property in every town over 100,000? This should have been done a generation ago. For example the teeming millions of London only have two small churches!

Colchester is the 50th largest town in England (and incidentally the 500th largest in Western Europe). It has a church that belongs to us. But want about the other 49 larger ones? Only five of them have their own churches: London, Manchester, Nottingham, Norwich, Birkenhead-Liverpool. That is a scandal. There is no missionary vision at all. Birmingham is the second largest city in the UK with a population of two million. And where do the faithful of the Patriarchate have ten liturgies a year on Saturdays (that’s all the priest can manage)? In the Ukrainian Uniat chapel. The next time you hear some naïve Orthodox boasting about his Church, tell him that. Orthodox should be ashamed of themselves.

Q: So is there competition between the two parts of the Russian Church locally?

A: No, not at all. It all depends on who has the priests and the buildings. A concrete example. I was asked to visit a prison in Cambridgeshire. Now, since there is no ROCOR presence in Cambridgeshire (because through incompetence it refused to set anything up there in the 1980s), I gave the prison authorities the references of the Patriarchal priest who lives in Cambridgeshire. On the other hand, when there was question of the Patriarchate setting something up in Norfolk (it had lost what it had had there a few years before, also through incompetence), but knowing that ROCOR had a presence there dating back to 1966, it was referred to me. So here is a territorial division. Now, where there is a double jurisdiction, as in London (the only case), something will have to be sorted out. But, as you can see, that will be as a result of competence. Only time can settle such matters. The more competent part, the more spiritual part of the Russian Church will prevail and form a united jurisdiction.

Q: So there is no rigid territorial division in Western Europe?

A: No, nobody wants to impose such a system. Let everything be done freely, let the people choose. Though, having said that, we can observe a tendency for ROCOR to dominate in the English-speaking world. Canada, the USA and Australasia are clear examples. For example, with Archbishop Mark of ROCOR retiring to Germany and the ROCOR Diocese of the British Isles and Ireland being taken over by Metr Hilarion of New York, we can even talk about a sort of ROCOR Brexit. Metr Hilarion will in fact be Metropolitan of New England and Old England. That is an exceptional event, historically speaking, and may be significant, a turning-point.

So it is possible that in a generation from now ROCOR will only exist in the English-speaking world, but will unite all Russian Orthodox there. ROCOR will become ROCA – the Russian Orthodox Church in the Anglosphere. That is one quite organic and natural possible scenario, a united Russian Orthodox Metropolia for the Anglosphere, the English-speaking world. The Patriarchate will look after everything else in various Metropolias, in Latin America, in Alaska, in Western Europe, in Asia etc.

Q: So Western Europe would completely go to the Patriarchate?

A: That is the way that things are developing at the moment. All the young bishops and all the dynamism in the Russian Church there is Patriarchal. ROCOR only has three ageing bishops and is not opening any new churches.

Q: Is there a difference between ROCOR churches and Patriarchal churches?

A: I think there is a small one, in general. Strangely enough, ROCOR is at one and the same time more Russian, but also more local, more integrated. We have done the translations, we print in English, we speak the local languages and know the local laws, we were born here. At the same time, however, we are utterly faithful to the best of the Tsar’s Russia, never having endured the Soviet period and Renovationism. ‘To quote the saintly Metr Laurus: ‘We are for the purity of Holy Orthodoxy’. We are Imperial priests and people.

Q: What about your own relations with the Russian Church inside Russia?

A: We are very close to all those who are Churched in Russia and they feel close to us. For example, in Moscow one of the closest friends of ROCOR has always been Bishop Tikhon (Shevkunov), whom some have even suggested will be the next Patriarch. (Bp Tikhon has been in the news recently, since he outraged the British Establishment by inviting students from Eton College to experience Christianity in Russia; not something the atheist Establishment likes). In general, those who especially venerate the New Martyrs and Confessors at once feel at home in ROCOR. I have this nearly every Sunday. People from different parts of Russia, from the Ukraine, from Moldova and elsewhere say that they feel at home, whatever the language, the atmosphere is like at home. In my native town of Colchester, that is a great thing that we have such an oasis of Orthodoxy.

Q: Who are the unChurched in Russia?

A: You find all sorts of people. There are those on the right hand side who mingle superstition with Orthodoxy, for instance, those ritualists who think that holy water is more important than holy communion, who mix in pharisaic sectarianism, puritanism and judgementalism, or, on the other hand, those on the left hand side, who mix in Soviet nationalism, love of the tyrant Stalin, or modernism. But all that is superficial, the majority make their way to the Church sooner or later. You do not waste time on the convert fringes of the Church – otherwise you might end up thinking that that is the Church! A terrible delusion!

Q: Why have you stayed faithful to the Russian Church despite all the difficulties that you have faced over nearly fifty years?

A: Because the Russian Orthodox Church is the Invincible Power. History since 1917 proves it. The gates of hell have not prevailed – and shall not prevail – despite all the enemies and traitors, both external and internal, we have faced. Judas betrayed, but the other apostles triumphed. So tragedy becomes joy. The stone that was rejected is become the headstone of the corner. Thou hast conquered, O Galilean!

The Real Gregory Rasputin

Put not your trust in princes, nor in the sons of men, in whom there is no hope.

Psalm 145, 3

As the Truth of God begins to be revealed, so everything in Russia will change.

Elder Nikolai (Guryanov)

Foreword

My interest in Gregory Rasputin was first sparked by a television programme fifty years ago on the fiftieth anniversary of his assassination. Although, as a child, I could not investigate the claims made, I knew instinctively that there was something wrong with what was being said. I sensed a manipulation. Forty-two years ago I went to study at Oxford at the oldest college in Oxford, where Prince Felix Yusupov, the supposed murderer of Gregory Rasputin had studied and visited the ‘Yusupov room’ where the prince had lived. I still could not understand the story since, with the Soviet Union and the Cold War still in full swing, I could not access the necessary archives on either side. Others have since done that and their results, given below, provide long-awaited justice.

Introduction

‘Rasputin? A horse thief, a mad monk, a fraud with hypnotic powers, a priest-charlatan who manipulated stupid, hysterical women, a flagellant sectarian and pervert, a criminal who ruled the Russian Empire, dictating all policies and making all political appointments through bribery, a debauchee who organized orgies, a drunkard (like all Russians), a primitive barbarian, a Satanist, a German spy, the reason for the downfall of Russia, even his name means ‘depraved’. I know, I have read the book and seen the film’. So goes the view of the average ‘educated’ Western person, as also largely that of the average Soviet citizen. However, they are all the brainwashed victims of the same slanderer and we recall that the Greek for ‘slanderer’ is ‘o diavolos’, ‘the devil’.

In reality, not one bit of the above has been proved true, including that he was a debauchee and a drunkard, and most of it is patently untrue. It is all classic self-justifying Russophobia which says ‘Russians are primitive, we are superior, therefore we can do anything we like’. He was certainly not mad, never a priest, monk, thief or spy, never a flagellant sectarian or a Satanist, and had very little if any political influence. He was a pious Christian peasant, married with three children, who gave generous alms, understood the Holy Scriptures better than professors of the Bible, and was so pious that God gave him miraculous powers of healing. As for his surname, a nickname, it was common in Siberia and denotes someone who lives where roads meet, a crossroads.

On the other hand, what we do know, and this ever since the publication of the memoirs of Prince Nikolay Zhevakhov in the 1920s, is that he was murdered by British spies, with the co-operation of rich, decadent, jealous and apostate Russian aristocrats, one a transvestite prince who dabbled in the occult and savagely and ritually battered Gregory Rasputin’s corpse, as the sadistic freemason and decadent Prince Yusupov himself boasted of doing, one a more or less Fascist politician, another a Romanov prince of notoriously loose morals who betrayed his relative the Tsar. All of them through their murderous betrayal, indirectly, handed Russia over to the genocidal Bolsheviks and their imported alien ideology for three generations, 75 years of hellish torment.

What we also know is that he was much respected as a holy elder (‘starets’) and wonderworking healer by innumerable clergy and laity and that the incredible slanders against him were invented by corrupt sources, both just before the Revolution and immediately afterwards, when his body was dug up and incinerated by fanatics, frightened that veneration for him would grow. All these slanders and the mindless gossip that spread them have to this day been repeated by the sensationalist mammons of Hollywood, by Western and Soviet hack writers and by embittered émigrés who could not accept their responsibility for their self-punishment of exile. They only furthered their self-justifying lies and scandals, which they knew they could make money out of.

The Sources of the Slander

Recent research since the downfall of the Bolshevik regime a generation ago in 1991 has led to several new studies of Gregory Rasputin by professional historians and even veneration of ‘the Martyr Gregory’ by some, including by the Elder Nikolai Guryanov, with an akathist composed and icons painted. So far unchallenged and also untranslated, because Western publishers only translate scurrilous works like those of the Soviet novelist Edvard Radzinsky, and not professionally-written works or the unsensational lives of the pious, these new Russian studies of professional historians like the seven volumes by Sergey Fomin and the books by Alexander Bokhanov, Yury Rassulin, Igor Evsin, Tatiana Mironova and Oleg Platonov lead us to take a very different view.

All the myths about Gregory Rasputin were invented from 1910 on by those jealous of the Tsar – without much need for imagination, because they attributed to him what they themselves did, that is, they were talking about themselves and their own deeply-held and practised vices. They were jealous because they wanted the power of the Tsar and therefore wanted to discredit the legitimate holders of that power, the Tsar and his family, including his ill heir and his healer, and the Orthodox Christian society that he ruled over, which they so hated. And so these rich hedonists and decadents spread their lies and gossip in the worldly salons of Saint Petersburg, among the futile wealthy and aristocratic debauchees, and in the gutter press of the time.

These sources included the cunning Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich who, rather like the French and British generals on the Western Front, had led his troops to massacre and defeat, trusting in infantry and cavalry against machine guns, and had had to be replaced, the freemasons Maklakov, Dzhunkovsky and the hack journalist Amfiteatrov, the defrocked apostate Sergey (Iliodor) Trufanov, the conscienceless politician Guchkov, the atheists Milyukov and Gorky, the liar Rodzianko, the pervert and occultist Yusupov and the stupid Purishkevich. They were all traitors who wanted to impose their pagan Russia on Christian Russia. These were the very ones who accused Gregory Rasputin of their own sins, which is why their descriptions were so eloquent.

They accused him of lying, of debauchery and of interfering in the affairs of State – everything that they themselves either did or yearned to do. Belonging to the elite, they were in such a state of demonic delusion that they even convinced themselves that they were doing Russia a service by pandering to their own vanity and plotting against the Tsar and those faithful to him, including the healer of the Heir, and so seizing power. They believed their own slander and forgeries, when in fact they were talking about their own sins. Gregory Rasputin was the useful scapegoat invented by ‘princes and sons of men’ to justify their ruthless ambition. If they had not chosen him, they would have chosen another – peasant Russia was there only to be exploited by them.

Views of Those Who Knew Gregory Rasputin

If we look at those who actually knew him, we obtain a different view. Thus, Bishops Barnabas (Nakropin) and Isidore (Kolokolov) were close friends of Gregory Rasputin till the end of his life, trusted him completely and Bishop Isidore celebrated his funeral service, for which he in turn was much slandered. In his memoirs another, General Kurlov, wrote that he had been ‘struck by Rasputin’s profound knowledge of Holy Scripture and theological questions’ and characterized him as a good man who ‘constantly expressed the sense of Christian forgiveness for our enemies’. Such affirmations are confirmed by other devout and well-educated clergy and laity, impressed by Gregory Rasputin’s piety, and they naturally revered him as an elder.

In his memoirs the head of the Police Department, A. T. Vasiliev, wrote that the results of his many investigations confirmed his initial supposition that there was no compromising correspondence with Rasputin, no letters from the Tsarina. Indeed, why should there have been? Rasputin was only semi-literate, he would have had difficulty reading anything. Vasiliev wrote: ‘I also investigated to find out if Rasputin kept any documents, money or valuables in a bank. My investigations were fruitless, another proof of my conviction of the absurdity of the scandalous rumours about Rasputin’. But these witnesses are only the beginning. There are many others of integrity and indeed holiness who say the same, confirming the absurdity of the slanders.

Among these are of course the future saints Tsar Nicholas, Tsarina Alexandra, their five pious children, Archpriest Alexander Vasiliev, the spiritual father of the Imperial Family, the pious virgin Anna Vyrubova (later Mother Maria of Helsinki, who is venerated as a saint today), Prince N. D. Zhevakhov, Julia Dehn, other bishop admirers of Gregory Rasputin like the future St Macarius of the Altai, Metropolitan of Moscow, the pious Metr Pitirim of Saint Petersburg, and a great many other righteous, chaste, sober and honest men and women who loved Holy Rus. None of these believed in the Rasputin myth and this for a very simple reason – they knew him personally, had seen him working miracles of healing and prophecy and knew the motivations of the jealous slanderers.

Of course, there were others. There is the case of the young and naïve Bishop Theophan (Bystrov), who first enthusiastically introduced Gregory Rasputin to the Imperial Family. He only changed his mind because he believed slanders told him in confession. Later he was horrified when he discovered that he had been lied to. Then there was the case of the Grand Duchess, Abbess Elizabeth in Moscow. She too believed the slanders, although at the end her sister the Tsarina seems to have persuaded here that, since she lived in Moscow and had been fed slanders, she had been greatly misled. None of those who believed the slanders had met Gregory in person, they had no first-hand experience, they had simply taken part in a slanderous game of Chinese whispers.

Why the Slanders Have Been Repeated To This Day

Why are these slanders still repeated and believed today? First of all, because scandalous sex stories make many people rich and they are what the mob wants. Secondly, because those who believe and repeat them want to believe and repeat them because they are motivated by self-justification. The alternative would be to repent and most do not want to repent. The murder of the Russian Orthodox peasant Gregory Rasputin in fact began the Revolution, not a Bolsehevik Revolution but a Revolution long desired, since at least December 1825, by a jealous aristocracy and a growing middle-class, all apostates from the Russian Orthodox Church. The descendants of all those who thought they would benefit from the Revolution do not want to repent.

These include not just brainwashed former Soviet citizens, not only the descendants of émigré aristocrats in Paris and elsewhere, but also all the other Western victims of Russophobic propaganda who want to believe that the so-called ‘Tsarist regime’ (that is to say, the legitimate Christian Empire, founded by St Constantine) was corrupt, primitive, barbarian, depraved, drunken and plainly evil. Therefore, it was demonized and so could be overthrown by the ‘pure’ West and all was justified. Such Russophobia is in the direct line of the self-justifying propaganda of the secularism of Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. But what if Gregory Rasputin was the victim, the more or less innocent scapegoat of the machinations of traitors?

If Gregory was innocent, then they, the ideologues of the anti-Christian Western world, therefore most of the Russian aristocracy and the State Duma, most of the generals and even some clergy, most of the journalists and most of the people, as well as the Western-founded Soviet State, are guilty of slandering him, murdering him and are also guilty of the murder of the canonized Imperial Family. Guilty too are all who believed in the lies without question and all who continue to believe in these money-making (money is always a motive for evil) lies and myths and even spread them. After all, these are the people who three months after the murder, on Kerensky’s Masonic orders, dug up Gregory Rasputin’s corpse and on 11 March 1917 incinerated it.

Was this the act the act of Orthodox Christians or any other Christians? Was this the act of Christian patriots who loved the Tsar, the Little Father? Who could have carried out such a blasphemous act, but apostates, occultists and anti-Christian secularists? Even if all or just part of what they claimed had been true, would that have justified such profound hatred for a corpse? Nobody has done this or even proposed to do this with the corpse of the Bolshevik mass murderer and blasphemer Lenin, which, amazingly, still lies in its chemical soup in Moscow. Surely the only people who could have carried out this act were atheists and Satanists? However, in some sense, all who continue to spread these slanders are indirectly taking part in this same blasphemy.

Conclusion

Gregory Rasputin was a symbol of peasant Orthodox Russia, a useful scapegoat for those who wanted to seize power and whose slogan was ‘Demonize your enemies and then anything you do is justified’. His murderers symbolized all that was wrong with Russia – ‘treason, cowardice and deceit’, in the words of the martyred Emperor Nicholas II. Treason came from the elite class and intelligentsia which betrayed the Imperial Family and the Church to the Germans and the Western-financed Bolsheviks, cowardice came from those who were too weak to resist the elite and instead swam with the tide, and deceit came from the supposed Allies who also plotted against the Tsar. All of them slandered the Imperial Family and therefore also Gregory Rasputin.

Through Gregory Rasputin we see exactly who were the enemies of Russia and of the ideals of Holy Rus: all those who believed in and spread the slanders about him and the Imperial Family. The fact that many of these were treacherous and jealous members of the Romanov Family and other millionaire aristocrats makes no difference. Nor does the fact that among these were most of the generals and also senior members of the clergy like Protopresbyter George Shavelsky. The fact that, as Prince N. D. Zhevakhov, the deputy lay head of the Holy Synod, revealed over 90 years ago, Gregory Rasputin was murdered by British spies makes no difference. They could not have operated without the widespread and even popular support for such Russian traitors.

It is no secret that Gregory Rasputin had a gift of healing that medical science could only jealously acknowledge without understanding – it is a fact of history. That he had the ability to heal the Tsarevich Alexei, who could have become the greatest, most merciful and wisest of all Russian Tsars, is a fact of history. That he was a devout man of prayer and pilgrim to Jerusalem and the holy places of Russia who very well knew the Holy Scriptures, the Lives of the Saints and Orthodox services is a fact of history. That he made several prophecies about the future of Russia, the Tsardom, his own murder and the future of the world, all of which came true in detail, is a fact of history. For Gregory Rasputin knew the price of suffering, both moral and physical.

If he was innocent, then the untold suffering after December 1916 makes sense. The foreign Bolshevik yoke and its millions of victims, the murder of the Anointed of God, the second German invasion that began on the forgotten feast of All the Saints of the Russian Lands in June 1941, the taking of Vienna and Berlin on St George’s Day in 1945, which could have happened, without any such comparable sacrifices, in 1917 under the leadership of Tsar Nicholas II, the plagues of alcoholism, abortion, corruption and divorce after 1945, the collapse of what was effectively the Russian Empire in 1991 and today’s torment in the Ukraine are all part of the long and slow path of repentance still ongoing 100 years after 1916. The end to our suffering has not yet come.

On the Past Divisions in the Russian Orthodox Emigration

Why did divisions take place in the Russian emigration: I mean, there were some everywhere who chose the Non-Patriarchal ROCOR, a few stayed under Moscow, others locally in North America set up the OCA and yet some others locally set up the Paris group. Four groups! And a second question: what do you think will happen to them in the future?

D.O., Kent

The Past

A correction: Three groups: the OCA, as it is now called, was built on Non-Russians, ex-Uniats from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, who had emigrated to the USA and Canada well before the Russian Revolution, and, to a lesser degree, on native Alaskans. True, precedents of the OCA were under the Russian Church (either Moscow or else ROCOR) for periods, but it was never part of the Russian emigration. The only émigrés who joined it, and that after the Second World War, were elitist aristocrats with the Paris superiority complex, for instance, Fr Alexander Schmemann, Fr John Meyendorff and Sophia Kulomzina.

As regards the three Russian groups, they represented earlier social divisions – notice ‘represented’ in the past tense, since there are now essentially only two groups or, arguably, only one. One is minute and, as it is outside the Russian Church, in effect schismatic (Patriarch Alexei II’s words), the other is the Russian Church. These divisions existed well before the Revolution, even in the nineteenth century. Thus, those few who remained loyal to Moscow inherited to some extent the old Statist mentality of the pre-Revolutionary period. Their leaders remained loyal to the State, whatever, though there were also many very sincere Orthodox patriots among clergy and people. This mentality was inherent in the infamous decree of 1927, signed under duress by Metr Sergius, commanding all Orthodox outside Russia, including Non-Russians, to swear loyalty to the Church-persecuting, atheist State! A situation, which the Patriarchate in Moscow is still paying for, trying to retrieve the trust that it lost then, and again later, by appointing morally corrupt or renovationist individuals to its episcopate.

ROCOR, on the other hand, inherited the mentality of the pre-Revolutionary monastic revival. This was led by the neo-Patristic (and therefore slandered) figure of Metr Antony of Kiev, but had both positive and negative aspects. The positive aspects included faithfulness to the Tradition (and not to corrupt customs), with its ascetic, canonical and liturgical disciplines, and the love of the saints. The negative aspects, mainly on the fringes, included conservatism (instead of the Tradition), narrow Russian nationalism (instead of the multinational, Imperial Tradition), dry and formalist, at times pharisaic, ritualism, narrow negativism stifling any initiative, an elitist lack of pastoral understanding of and compassion for married clergy, children, parish life and the people in general, eccentric right-wingery and a sectarian mentality. It was these aspects that led some extremist individuals in ROCOR to support Hitler, to persecute and put on trial the spiritually vibrant St John of Shanghai and, more recently, to break away from the Church altogether, forming strange and tiny right-wing sects with all the usual sectarian infighting.

The Paris group, always very small, represented the pro-Western aristocrats and elitist intellectuals. They were already disloyal and even treacherous to Christ, both Church and State, long before the Revolution, going back to the Decembrist traitors of 1825. Many of them actually plotted and prepared the February 1917 Revolution with British and other anti-Christian foreign encouragement. That overthrew the legitimate rule of the Anointed Tsar and Orthodox Christian Empire, which ironically resulted in the self-punishment of their exile, once the ruthless Bolsheviks soon took over from their incompetent misrule in October 1917. (A similar situation to that of the corrupt English-speaking oligarchs who misrule the Ukraine today). Most of these emigres, mostly from Saint Petersburg, speaking fluent French, sometimes better than Russian, naturally headed for Paris. They were the oligarchs of their day.

The Present

Naturally, after the dissolution of the Soviet State in 1991, the first two groups, Moscow and ROCOR, joined together, but only once they had overcome their mutual political prejudices, which took them sixteen years to do. It is difficult and probably unfair to apportion blame for this lack of haste – history will do that. Clearly, there could be no unity until Moscow had at least on paper condemned co-operation with the atheist State and ecumenism (defined as intercommunion, prayer with heretics etc, and not simply talking to heterodox and witnessing to them) and canonized the New Martyrs and Confessors. All that happened in 2000. Nine years lost, but that is how long it took to overcome on paper the Statist Soviet mentality that refused to criticize even Stalin. On the other hand, many in ROCOR must bear a share of responsibility for their lack of haste too.

A few elderly, KGB-appointed individuals in the old Soviet Union never overcame the Statist mentality. Such is the tragic case of the 87-year old dinosaur, Michael Denysenko, who now calls himself ‘Metr Philaret of Kiev’. A provincial Party hack from the Ukraine of the old days, and reputedly an atheist, he is certainly married with two children. Obsessively jealous that he was not chosen Patriarch after the death of Patriarch Pimen in 1990 and seeing the way the tide was turning, he overnight converted himself to Ukrainian nationalism. This he had previously strongly and mockingly condemned, but he changed his ways in order to further his career, thus, like any vulgar vagans, giving himself the right to dress up in a patriarch’s costume! He depends entirely on political support from US-backed, neo-Nazi nationalists. What happens to him when the provincialist regime in Kiev, put in place by the US colonial administration, inevitably collapses, is unknown, but he may be dead by then anyway.

For its part, ROCOR had to lose its fringe sectarians and pharisees who had been troubling Church life since the 1960s. In the 1990s they even dared to forge alliances with old calendarists and received various mainly sectarian individuals on ex-Soviet territory into the Church, though these were never accepted by the unconsulted clergy and people in ROCOR. These sectarian elements actually claimed that the martyric Church in Russia was without grace and made political co-operation with the atheist State, i.e. the simple human sins of weakness and cowardice, into a new heresy! But if sin is heresy, then we are all heretics, the apostles and saints included. Their longer-term knowledge of Church history was extraordinarily weak and their practice of Orthodoxy seemed mainly to be limited to formalities and ritual.

The worst example was perhaps the politicking of the defrocked bishop, Barnabas (Prokofiev), in the south of France, who was later rightly put on trial and sentenced by the French government for embezzlement. In this country I know three laypeople, then in ROCOR, who, though too young to remember much about him, shocked me in the 1990s by telling me that they thought that Hitler had been a good thing. All three were extremely ignorant and all three unsurprisingly left the Church in 2007, joining various extremist sects. The strange thing is that two of them are married to Anglicans, i. e. in their own abrasive language, married to heretics!

The Future

As regards the future of the fourth, in fact, Non-Russian, group, the OCA, who knows? It is certainly suffering from a severe identity crisis and undergoing great tensions, constantly changing metropolitans. Two questions can be asked about it: Will it be able to survive as one intact group or will it split into its artificially combined constituent fragments, with a large part returning to the Russian Church? And would that be a negative or a positive thing? These questions are not for us to answer; those who constitute the OCA will answer those questions themselves, voting with their feet. As they are outside the Russian Church, we are merely onlookers and can only observe events.

With the exception of some non-Saint Petersburgers, and despite repeated invitations, the tiny third group, centred in Paris, has no intention of returning to the Russian Church and Her ascetic, canonical and liturgical disciplines. It can therefore be termed ‘ex-Russian’. Such a state of politicized, adolescent rebellion does not bode well. Indeed, we can already see the ‘withered branch syndrome’, as this self-isolated group gets ever smaller, though with several dozen quite untrained clergy with tiny ‘parishes’ (often between five and ten!) who sometimes do the strangest things. It will inevitably die out, as it runs out of bishops and Church-educated people and veers towards full secularization by the local Western Establishments which for obvious reasons encourage it, losing the reason for its existence. But that is not a problem for the Russian Church, which it ignores.

This leaves us with the first two groups, now more or less united into one. Here also it is difficult to know what will happen. At present there is no case for an administrative merger of the two, despite them sometimes sharing the same territory. The Moscow group, which gets ever larger in Western Europe, is in drastic need of many more missionary-minded bishops and clergy and a less ‘Soviet’ mentality, adapted to local needs and languages. It also suffers from a lack of premises, the result of the chronic lack of vision and maladministration of the past. Often, but not always, it still appears to lack leadership, vision and dynamism, still dealing with the short-term situation on a day to day basis – a recipe for long-term disaster.

As for ROCOR, it urgently needs dynamic young bishops and priests. Some seem to forget that the canonical age for consecrating a bishop is 35: to have nearly all your bishops (and too many clergy) in their sixties and seventies is profoundly abnormal and makes it likely that any group will die out. Now is the time of the wake-up call for ROCOR, if it wishes to survive in some form or other in the longer term. The result of any lack of leadership and direction is always that you live in the past and do not look to the future. Any loss of dynamism has to be remedied now. However, it is not too late and everything is still possible. ROCOR still has huge potential: whether that will be squandered or not, we cannot say.

On Modernism

From Recent Correspondence on Modernism

Q: What is modernism?

A: Modernism, often called renovationism in Russian, is merely secularization, that is desacralization, under the camouflage of the word ‘modern’.

Q: How did you encounter modernism in the Orthodox Church?

A: Between 1973 and 1980, I met a great many modernists: Intellectuals and pseudo-intellectuals. First the Parisians living in England, then those in France itself, where Paris was the source of all the problems. In France in 1985 I also encountered freemasonry among such ‘Orthodox’ modernists. It was very widespread among them then and perhaps still is.

Q: So you met modernism very soon?

A: Yes, it was actually presented to me as the norm, as real Orthodoxy!

Q: But you rejected it?

A: I was seeking the source of the sacred, not the secular! So I instinctively and automatically felt that modernist Orthodoxy was a fake, not the real thing, but I also knew that from experience, my own and through having observed Church life, the real thing, in Russia.

Q: Which modernists did you meet?

A: The well-known names: in England, Nicholas Zernov, the then Fr Basil Osborne, Metr Antony Bloom, Fr Lev Gillet, Fr Sergei Hackel, Fr Nicholas Behr, and in France Fr Boris Bobrinsky, Fr Elie Melia, Olivier Clement, Elisabeth Behr-Sigel, Nikita Struve, Konstantin Andronikov, Fr Jean-Claude Roberti, Fr Jean Gueit, Fr Alexander Schmemann and many other lesser known names who simply followed the fashion that they set, including those active in Syndesmos.

I have to say that these figures are nearly all departed now, part of a generation that was deeply compromised by modernism. Indeed, I also met many who had personally known well those who had led modernism in the previous generation, for example Archbishop John (Shakhovskoy), Fr Nikolay Afanasyev, the former Marxists Fr Sergius Bulgakov and Berdyayev, Fr Paul Florensky, Yevdokimov, Fedotov, Zander, Zenkovsky, or Mother Maria Skobtsova. Many of them had relatives who disagreed with them completely.

Q: I notice that you have not mentioned two well-known members of modernist clergy in England.

A: There are two well-known exceptions because they are lesser, more subtle figures in modernism, shall we say, semi-modernist, that is, modernist under the cloak of traditional. One dead, one still alive, they belong to the ‘spiritual’ school of modernism, which is still popular and they are revered by naïve newcomers and all the Tradition-less.

It is important to distinguish between the different grades of modernism, from the primitive to the sophisticated. For example, I have seen Archbishop Basil (Krivoshein) mentioned as a modernist. I can see where that comes from (his interest in St Simeon the New Theologian and his ecumenical contacts), but he cannot be compared to the above.

Q: Why are such ‘moderate modernists’ revered?

A: As they say, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

Q: Did you meet Metr John Zizioulas?

A: Not then. I only met him about eight years ago.

Q: And Fr John Meyendorff?

A: No, I never met him, but he was among the more moderate, except on fasting.

Q: What was your reaction to all these figures?

A: I instinctively knew that they were wrong but at the time I could not explain why, because I did not have the tools or arguments from experience and from theological study to answer them. For example, I understood that their philosophy was characterized by pride, they all thought that they knew better than the Church. They were above the Church. And this pride was characterized by intellectual fantasies, the result of a lack of rootedness in reality and spiritual reality, the Tradition. And the characteristic of this was their inability to provide spiritual food. They fed the brain – to the point of their books and talks giving you headaches – but they were incapable of feeding your soul, leaving you dry.

Q: Why were there, and why are there still, so many modernists in the Orthodox Diaspora?

A: There were and are so many – relatively speaking – they are in fact very few, they just make a lot of noise – in the Diaspora because these people encountered the West directly and never having had any roots in the Tradition, they wanted to mix their superficial Orthodoxy with Western culture. Uprooted from an Orthodox context and denying monastic life, they did not want the spiritual purity of Holy Orthodoxy, but compromise, they wanted to swim with the Western tide. That is why all modernists are essentially ecumenists and secularists. They try to conform the Church to the world, instead of conforming themselves (the world) to the Church.

Q: And why was Paris the centre of modernism?

A: Paris was where the French-speaking aristocrats and intellectuals from Saint Petersburg who had carried out the Revolution under Western influence and with Western backing had chosen exile. A great many of them were freemasons, some, like Yusupov, had been very interested in the occult and hypnotism. Paris was the place of their exile, where they were called to repentance. In other words, this is where the most spiritually decadent Russians, nominal Orthodox, highly protestantized, in the sense of secularized, went to live.

There were two groups. First, there were left-wingers, like Bulgakov, Berdyayev and Mother Maria, but most were right-wing constitutionalists or republicans who wanted either the British model or else the French model of political organization. None of them of course wanted Orthodoxy. All broke away from the Russian Church and her liturgical and canonical disciplines, in other words, they broke entirely away from the Tradition. This they did on the pretext of seeking ‘freedom and creativity’! The saddest thing was that they did not understand repentance.

Q: Why did they not simply become Protestants or Uniats – that would have been honest?

A: Because they were pretentious, which is a disease of intellectuals. They wanted to be different and lord it over others through their ‘exotic’ differences. If they had simply been Protestants or Uniats, no Western-Establishment figures or ecumenists would even have looked at them, they would have lost their exotic tag and been forgotten as immigrants. But by setting up a Westernized branch of Orthodoxy, they attracted attention and admiration. In other words, they, or rather their descendants, were courted by those who wanted to destroy the very Soviet Russia which they had themselves created in 1917, in order to replace it with the sort of degutted Russia they did briefly create in the 1990s until the revival in 2000. For secularist Western Establishments they were all ‘useful idiots’.

Of course, these modernists were peddling a fake Orthodoxy, but Anglicans and others knew no better and gave these semi-Orthodox a false authority by buying their books and listening to their talks. If you say modernist things with a Russian accent, you are suddenly exotic and interesting. Some of these émigrés even faked Russian accents to sound more Russian! There was a lot of acting going on in order to hoodwink simple people, even hypnotism. If you look, you will see that almost all their books were bought and read either by Non-Orthodox or else by converts who knew no better.

Q: Why do so many intellectuals fall into modernism?

A: Because they live uprooted lives in their heads, and not their hearts. So they are prey to fantasies. If you are an intellectual type, you must have a strong spiritual or ascetic life to balance it out. For example St Justin (Popovich) was an intellectual, but it did not, forgive the pun, go to his head. So anyone can become a saint, even an intellectual, but such saintliness exists despite intellectualism, not because of it.

Q: What is the antidote to modernism?

A: First of all, let me say that the antidote is not the censorious condemnation and ritualism of the pharisees. That also comes from hardness and dryness of heart, lack of compassion. It fails to take account of the need for pastoral dispensation, true ‘ikonomia’. The first victims of modernism are the modernists themselves.

The antidote to modernism can never be in another ism, but in the Church. And that antidote is in seeking spiritual food, not intellectual food, and spiritual food comes from holiness, which comes from asceticism, which is exactly what the modernists reject. That is why they dislike people going to the sources in Eastern Europe and Russia, especially Mt Athos. In true Protestant style, modernists hate anything that is beyond the rational, mysterious. What can be more ‘irrational’ and mysterious than holiness? They lack the sense of the sacred.

Holiness is one of the four characteristics of the Church, which they reject, since they reject the Church. For them the Church is not One – there are many ‘Churches’; the Church is not Holy (which is why they desacralize everything), but to be reformed; the Church is not Catholic (in the Orthodox sense of being the same everywhere and at all times), because the modernists reject everything outside their 20th century mental ghetto; and the Church is not Apostolic, because they reject the Faith of the Apostles, the inherited Tradition. The antidote to modernism is in holiness, that is, in the saints.

Q: But some of these modernists were much interested in saints?

A: You have hit the nail on the head – ‘interested’ in saints. Interested in saints – how very fashionable! They were interested in the outward events in the lives of saints, but not in becoming saints. They intellectualized or externalized everything, making it abstract, into a philosophy – they did not live the Faith. Theirs is an outward or Uniat attitude to the Faith, which is of course why many of them had sympathies with Uniatism, like Solovyov did. They loved to talk about ‘techniques’, techniques of icon-painting, techniques of Church singing, techniques of celebration etc. These techniques they analyzed constantly. They spoke about hagiography – but did not want holiness. They spoke, they wrote, but they did not do, they did not fast and pray and there is no holiness without fasting and prayer.

Q: Do you think that modernism has a future?

A: Yes and no. Most of the well-known names of modernists belong to those who have died in the last 75 years, many in the last 25 years. And modernism is strangely old-fashioned in the present post-modernist world, which is characterized by cynicism. The only answer to cynicism is faith, not half-faith and half-faith is what modernism is: Halfodoxy instead of Orthodoxy. In that sense modernism is over because it has no answer to post-modernism, which it created. And yet it is not over.

For example, I remember the words of Metr Antony Bloom, when real Orthodox started coming to his church in London around the year 2000. They were naturally, like the rest of us had been decades before, very shocked by what they saw. He said that it would take fifty years to convert these people to Orthodoxy (that is, to his Bloomism). In other words, the truth is that it will take fifty years to convert the modernists to Orthodoxy. There is still the hangover from the past and it will take time for the vestiges of modernism to die out. In that sense, modernism is not over.

Q: Some would be shocked by your listing of Mother Maria Skobtsova as a modernist. She was canonized by the Rue Daru group with the blessing of the Patriarch of Constantinople.

A: As you know, that top-down canonization was controversial and you would be hard put to find a single icon of her even in any Greek Church in the world, let alone in others. In other words, her canonization was purely local and actually very political. Veneration for her simply does not exist in most of the Orthodox world, given her very strange life and anti-Orthodox writings. Having said that, however, we must say that in her concentration camp death, she, like millions of others, must have cleansed herself.

Q: So is she a saint?

A: I would say that her destiny has not been revealed to us. Let us remain silent. We do not know. We simply do not know the measure of her repentance in Ravensbruck. It may well have been deep and complete, as surely it was for millions of others. In the hour of death, people become realistic, which is why the memory of death is ascetically so important. Here we have a vital point. There is no place for personal dislike, still less hatred, for these individuals. Like the rest of us, they made their mistakes, it may be that many of them repented before the end, though of course the damage was done by then. We should pray for all of them. Some of them had good hearts – they were poisoned by their heads.

For instance, I remember Fr Alexander Schmemann, He was a charming and interesting man – though of course we agreed on nothing. But I still pray for him. Or there was Elisabeth Behr-Sigel the feminist Protestant pastor. She said appalling things about ROCOR, which just showed how ignorant she was of Orthodoxy. But I prayed for her when she died. Even though modernists persecuted us and slandered us, it is important to pray for them, not only does it help them, but it helps us too, it stops our hearts from growing hard. We must always pray for our enemies. We are Christians.

What is disturbing is that those who canonized Mother Maria canonized her not for her sacrificial death, but for her anti-Church musings – and that is not to venerate her, but to malign her. When people die, we should try to remember only the good things about them. Personally, I think her writings should be made secret because they are shameful, the fruit of someone who had not yet been converted from being a Social Revolutionary.

Q: What form does modernism take today?

A: Modernism now tends to have a more philosophical, ‘spiritual’ form, in any possible way so as to blur the clear and dogmatic. This is very cunning, as we have seen with the new documents for the Crete meeting next June (if it takes place). For example, in Greece, you have the case of the philosopher Yannaras, in Russia you have the case of the Kochetkovite sect, in Finland you have a very active group, including clergy, though they are so extreme that they are very isolated, even having abandoned Orthodox Easter. They go back to the notorious Archbishop Herman (Aav), and that continued through Archbishop Paul, Archbishop Leo and now Metr Ambrose. But this is purely modern Lutheranism.

Q: What are the themes of these modernists?

A: On the one hand, there are still the crude renovationist practices taken from 1920s Russia, where such modernism more or less died out under Stalin. Such practices include letting laypeople do the proskomidia in the middle of the church and generally desacralizing the services, which is an abandonment of the priesthood. Remember that modernism, as I said, is essentially secularization, the opposite of sacralization. So first it had to destroy the sacral Emperor (the Tsar), then their next task was to destroy the priesthood – equally sacral. Linked with this destruction of the priesthood are the many divorced and remarried priests among the modernists, the uncanonically ordained and all the anti-liturgical practices, which include shortening the services and introducing the so-called ‘new’ or Roman Catholic calendar, which has always been the first stage in falling away from Orthodoxy.

On the other hand, today, as a result of the tide of secularization or desacralization that the modernists have never been able to resist and even welcome, the latest fad among them is pushing to introduce female priests and homosexual marriage into the Church. The latter movement is strong in some of the parishes in Finland, which are basically Lutheran with icons. Of course, whenever there are homosexual clergy, that push is even stronger because there is self-interest, self-justification.

Q: Where is modernism in general strongest today?

A: Although there are the debased remnants in Europe in the ever smaller Paris Jurisdiction (all the big intellectuals are dead), and there are still those in the USA as well as in Finland, now there is a group of people connected with Fr George Kochetkov in Russia. The disgraced Protodeacon Andrei Kurayev is among them, and the murdered Uniat Fr Alexander Men still has a few disciples. Then there is the provocateur Fr George Mitrofanov, as well as Fr Alexei Uminsky. However, I think they were all stronger in the 1990s than today. They too are figures from the past and I think they will die out, like the others. Now we are in the 21st century, it is time to grow up.

Q: Given this continued modernism, aren’t you pessimistic about the future?

A: As regards modernism, our Christian life is a combat, a struggle, it always has been and always will be. We will fight these anti-dogmatic currents, just as we combated the old modernism. Thus, we, like all Orthodox, combat and reject the absurd documents prepared for the meeting in Crete in June. However, Christians are always optimists because however grim the situation is now, Christ will triumph at the end of history.

Rue Daru: The Final Chapter?

The immense tension between Archbishop Job of the small Rue Daru jurisdiction in Paris and the rebels who in most unChurchlike manner oppose him, reported in the French religious media (La Croix, for example) and widely in the internet, has its roots nearly thirty-five years ago.

Then after the repose of the humble and saintly Russian-born Archbishop George (Tarasov) in 1981, the nearest I have ever had to a spiritual father, a new Archbishop was elected. This was a Berliner of a Roman Catholic and academic background, Archbishop George (Wagner). Breaking his promises to the faithful, he uniquely managed to alienate both the Russians and the Non-Russians in his jurisdiction. This he managed to do by setting himself against any return to either part of the Russian Church, which the inherently unstable Rue Daru group had left four times! (in 1927, 1931, 1935 and 1945) and at the same time most vigorously opposing the liturgical use of Western European languages and also opposing the veneration of local Western saints (as well as a few Eastern ones, who he dismissed as ‘apocryphal’, not to mention the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia). I speak, as usual, of facts, of which we were eyewitnesses and abused victims. There is no space for polemics in this tragedy.

The very aggressive attitude against the liturgical use of Western languages was a factor in the loss of the large Ghent parish and the Peckstadt family in, I think, 1986. It went straight to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, fed up with abuse and insults from its Archbishop in Paris. They were by far from being the only ones, as we, and our children named after local Western saints, knew only too well. At a time when, after recent consultations in 2015, His Holiness Patriarch Kyrill is urging the inclusion of these very Western saints into the general Russian calendar, much as our beloved St John of Shanghai did sixty years ago, it all seems very ironic, not to say anachronistic. Such was the total lack of vision and mission of that time and the very real and unrepented for persecution against those who had either or both.

As a result of Archbishop George Wagner’s disastrous policies, control of the Rue Daru group was handed over to the masonic and Russophobic Fraternite Orthodoxe, many of whose ancestors had originally fomented the Revolution in 1917, breaking their oaths to the Tsar. I was told in 1985 by Archbishop George’s Belgian deacon that the Archbishop had been appointed by the Patriarch of Constantinople to ‘close down’ the Rue Daru group, so that it could go directly under the local Greek bishop. In my youthful naivety, I foolishly disbelieved him. He was of course right. I was told by a millionaire who later became another Rue Daru bishop that I had ‘been too close to the engine room, where it smells’. True.

Although Archbishop George died unexpectedly young in 1991, the policy of Constantinople, thoroughly logical from its own viewpoint, has not changed and indeed, in an anti-monastic Rue Daru incapable of generating a serious candidate of its own as archbishop, it has now been strengthened. The present Archbishop, the protégé of the present Patriarch of Constantinople who imposed him on his rebellious jurisdiction, is now carrying out the same policy. If Rue Daru does not want him, irony of ironies, then the under-employed Metropolitan Athenagoras (Peckstadt) in Brussels is available to take over. All the more so, as only last week he ordained a vicar-bishop for himself in Belgium, where his diocese is not much bigger than the average Russian parish.

Hellenization, the seamless merger of the Rue Daru so-called Exarchate of ‘the Russian Tradition’ (though the Russian Tradition seems largely invisible in many areas with their Greek calendar, Greek vestments and Greek liturgical customs) is the only logical outcome. Elsewhere the same thing is already being done with ACROD, the equally small American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese, which now also has a Greek bishop. Any who feel that they do not wish to become Greeks are welcome to return to the Russian Orthodox Church, whose new Paris Cathedral is opening next year, its cupolas already in place, or go and study at its seminary in Paris (now the only Orthodox seminary in Western Europe). Hopefully, the Rue Daru group will, before it finally becomes Greek, hand back Russian church property, notable on Rue Daru in Paris, in Biarritz, San Remo and Florence. After decades of neglect these churches will needs millions of euros spending on them, however, unlike some, the Russian Church will look after its heritage. So, it seems, will close the book of the history of Rue Daru.