Those who attack the Church of Christ by teaching that Christ's Church is divided into so-called "branches" which differ in doctrine and way of life, or that the Church does not exist visibly, but will be formed in the future when all "branches" or sects or denominations, and even religions will be united into one body; and who do not distinguish the priesthood and mysteries of the Church from those of the heretics, but say that the baptism and eucharist of heretics is effectual for salvation; therefore, to those who knowingly have communion with these aforementioned heretics or who advocate, disseminate, or defend their new heresy of Ecumenism under the pretext of brotherly love or the supposed unification of separated Christians, Anathema!
1983 Epistle of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
May the grace and peace of God be and multiply with all the clergy and believers of our Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia!
On behalf of the Council of Bishops, we address our entire pious flock scattered throughout the world. We greet our beloved children and bless them for the further feat of Christian Orthodox life in a world that is increasingly moving away from all the principles commanded to us by our Lord Jesus Christ, His Apostles and Holy Fathers.
In our unfortunate Fatherland, formerly called Holy Russia, the world center of all-pervading evil has settled, hoping by now to erase all traces of its former holiness and piety. All these decades, we have been mourning the suffering of our brothers, we mentally kissed their wounds and glorified, as holy martyrs, all those millions of believers who, led by Patriarch Tikhon and Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, testified to their fidelity to God even to death. The seer prophetically saw them standing "before the throne and before the Lamb in white robes" (Rev. 7:9). About them he was told: “These are those who came out of the great tribulation; they washed their clothes and made their clothes white with the blood of the Lamb. For this reason, they now abide before the throne of God and serve Him day and night in His temple, and He who sits on the throne will dwell in them” (Rev. 7:14-15).
Having gathered at the Council to judge the issues of our church life, we felt our spiritual unity with them and with those of our brothers who follow their path, being still “in great sorrow.” Being at liberty, we only spiritually experience this “great sorrow” with them, but we also have our own sorrow, caused by the ever-expanding unbelief in the world and the deviation from the true faith, even by many who bear the name of Orthodox Christians. In this world around us, we often feel that the words of the Savior are coming true to us: “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33).
If the Apostle Paul saw that, while living in this world, it is impossible not to communicate “with the fornicators of this world, or covetous men, or predators, or idolaters” (1 Cor. 5:10), then what can we say about our time? Now we are not only forced to communicate with them, but, moreover, the life around us is built on the recognition of not only the permissibility, but also the legitimacy of the lowest and grossest forms of sin. We are especially concerned that in this environment our children grow up and young people mature. It is very difficult for her to grow up as “sons of God” when she is surrounded by a life based on unbelief, which denies all the principles of the Christian faith and family. We therefore pointed out to the shepherds that they should pay special attention to the instruction of their flock in family life. In order for children to be able to grow up as sons of the Kingdom of God, the educational work of parents must begin from the time when they are still in their mother's womb. Even unbelieving doctors now recognize that this period is of great importance for the future development of the child. Parents from the earliest years should nourish their children with good and holy impressions, themselves showing them an example of prayer and virtue, so that sin and immorality are something alien to them and do not attract them to themselves, but, on the contrary, repel them. They must remember that, growing up, their children will bring them joy and comfort only to the extent of the good that will be laid in their hearts by the family. Therefore, pastors must constantly instruct both parents and children, at the same time taking care of organizing church schools and attracting young parishioners from their childhood to active participation in church life.
Good attracts young souls, if they are not poisoned by the example of evil, as something acceptable and even positive. Let pastors and parents take care that children see and know examples of goodness in the saints and in the deeds of great people. Especially persistently it is necessary to accustom them to love the truth and to turn away from all falsehood.
Lies have now acquired a special power, penetrating deeply into the minds of people. Alas, its distributors are not only politicians who believe that everything is allowed to gain power, but also representatives of various religions. A vivid manifestation of this was the Sixth Assembly of the World Council of Churches, which took place in Vancouver simultaneously with the meetings of our Council.
In the Determination of July 28/August 10, our Council explained that the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia does not take part in the World Council of Churches, since the latter tries to present representatives of dissenting religions gathered in it as supposedly having some kind of unity in faith. In reality, this proposition itself is a lie, since they did not renounce their disagreements with each other in dogmas or basic propositions, which are taken out of brackets for unifying formulations. Instead of the unshakable truths of faith, they try to see only opinions that are not binding on anyone. In response to the confession of the one Orthodox faith, they, together with Pilate, say: "What is truth?" And the Orthodox, by name, members of the ecumenical movement more and more deserve reproach to the Angel of the Laodicean Church: “I know your deeds: you are neither cold nor hot; O that you were cold or hot” (Rev. 3:15).
A vivid manifestation of such a false association was the commission of the so-called Lima liturgy, i.e. alleged Eucharistic service performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and various Protestant pastors. This liturgy itself, compiled at the conference in Lima, supposedly should return its participants to the beginnings of the ancient Orthodox liturgy, but without the most important thing: unconditional faith in the change of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and the need for it to be celebrated only by ministers having apostolic succession.
Describing its performance, Newsweek of August 22, 1983, writes: "In front of the altar stood a multi-racial assembly of 3,500 Christians from all over the world, including Roman Catholic priests and bearded Orthodox bishops who would have shied away from such a service just a short time ago." According to the Ecumenical Information Service (Ecumenical Press Service) of August 4, during the celebration of the so-called Archbishop of Canterbury. Orthodox and Catholics did not partake of the Lima Eucharist, but participated in a common prayer. Archbishop Kirill led the prayer that "we will soon achieve visible communion in the Body of Christ, blessing the bread and the chalice on the same throne."
On another day, the Greek Archbishop Iakovos celebrated a separate liturgy, at which, according to available information, communion was given indiscriminately not only to the Orthodox, but also to all others who approached the cup. And so, we see with bitterness that the process of the practical growth of the ecumenical heresy among Orthodox Christians, about which we warned our brethren in several Sorrowful Epistles, has not only not stopped, but is growing more and more. Progress in the interfaith understanding of baptism, the Eucharist and the priesthood in recent years has been manifested in various so-called. ecumenical services and expressed itself most clearly in the Lima Agreement and now in Vancouver. Our Council resolutely condemned this phenomenon, deciding to introduce the anathematization of the ecumenical heresy into the order of Orthodoxy.
Meanwhile, any participation of the Orthodox in the prayers of Protestants and, in particular, participation in the common prayer of the so-called. ecumenical Lima liturgy, according to canons 45 and 46 of the Holy Apostle, is strictly forbidden to the Orthodox and exposes them to excommunication from the Church. The 32nd and 33rd canons of the Council of Laodicea especially forbid the acceptance of bread and wine blessed by non-Orthodox clerics and prayer together with them. The famous Russian canonist Bishop John of Smolensk in his interpretation of the 46th canon of the Holy Apostles writes: “In general, the Apostolic Canons indicate one reason for the rejection of heretical rites: that in heresy there cannot be a true priesthood, but only a false priesthood. This is because with the separation of those who think differently from the Church, their apostolic succession of the hierarchy, the only true one, is interrupted, and at the same time, the succession of the grace-filled gifts of the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of the priesthood is also cut short; and, consequently, the ministers of heresy, just as they do not have grace on themselves, so they cannot convey it to others, and, just as they themselves do not receive the legal right to priesthood, they cannot make the rites they performed true and saving.
A very large delegation of the Moscow Patriarchate, which makes extensive use of the World Council of Churches for Soviet propaganda, took an active part in all the activities of the Vancouver Assembly. The latter is aimed at spreading lies about the alleged freedom of the Church in the USSR and under the pretext of protecting peace, to prevent the arming of those countries that can prevent the spread of communism in the West. The Moscow church delegates speak out extensively in defense of the freedom of pro-communist movements, but in no way allow the soviets to be accused of persecuting religion.
Thus, due to the opposition of the Moscow delegation, the appeal of Deacon Vladimir Rusak, who wrote a book about the plight of the Church persecuted in the USSR, was not allowed to be heard by the Assembly. For this, he was dismissed from the church service and now brought to justice by the KGB. In vain did he hope to draw the attention of the Assembly to the persecution of the Church in his homeland. Speaking loudly and a lot about freedom and protecting the interests of various leftist and political groups, these assemblies from year to year remain deaf to the cries of the real and most numerous victims of atheism.
Undoubtedly, this is happening to a large extent due to the fact that from Russia they want to hear only the voice of the Moscow Patriarchate, which, however, says only what the enemies of any religion indicate to it through the organs of the KGB. A special ruling of the Council of Bishops was also made about this, pointing to a glaring case: the order of the Moscow Synod to serve memorial services for the atheist and persecutor of the Church, Brezhnev, who died last year, whose activities Patriarch Pimen blasphemously called "pleasing to God." In the order to serve a memorial service for him, it was indicated that he should not be called a "servant of God," which he really was not. However, everyone should have felt awkward when performing any kind of prayer for the repose in the Kingdom of Heaven of a person who denied his very existence. Thus, the violation of church rules in the name of pleasing the atheists inevitably leads to falsehood. The cathedral noted that no matter how you call Brezhnev, memorial services for him contained an internal contradiction, hypocrisy and lies. They were unforgivable blasphemy.
It would seem that the whole world, especially the Orthodox, should have been shaken with indignation at the sight of such blasphemy, but, alas, everyone is silent, and a categorical statement of protest followed only from our Council. Seeing such indifference to truth and expanding modernism, a considerable number of Orthodox pastors and believers turned to our hierarchy in order to preserve true Orthodoxy and the course of church life sanctified by centuries of tradition in accordance with the Orthodox calendar established by the First Ecumenical Council.
Thus, our Church has been enriched by new converts and continues to be enriched not only by Greeks devoted to the true faith, but also by parishes who have returned to the bosom of the Russian Church, which were separated from it over the past decades into illegal American autocephaly [OCA]. For many of them, this decision was not easy and was associated with great sacrifices. We rejoice in their love for the truth, and we would like so much that all the children of our Church lead a religious life with the same zeal as many of our new children, who not so long ago comprehended the truth and clung to it.
If the joining to our Church of people of different nationalities and former cultures can sometimes present certain pastoral problems, then we look at it calmly, remembering that in the face of God there is not a Greek, a Jew, a Russian, an American, or any other there were differences in origin. We all feel like beloved children, having a common goal: the preservation of the intact faith of the holy fathers and the salvation of the soul, no matter what the external conditions around us may be.
We all live in one and the same world, and for all of us there are the same dangers and temptations of apostasy embracing the whole world, that is, apostasy from God and the Church, about which St. Apostle Paul in 2nd Thessalonians.
Many are now seeing signs of the near end of the world. Some scientists already see this as a probable possibility of a world that is becoming obsolete and, as it were, an “aging” world, wondering when this might happen. Others study the prophecies of the Holy Scriptures and, applying them to the course of current political life, see the imminent onset of world crises and the last days. However, times and dates are not yet revealed to us. The Lord only warned us about certain phenomena in the world that will precede its end, telling us: “Beware that no one deceives you, for many will come under my name and say: I am the Christ, and they will deceive many” (Matt. 24: 4–5). He also warned us that people would hear about "wars and rumors of war." We hear and read about them all the time. The Savior said of them, “But this is not the end yet” (Matt 24:6). However, now, to various obvious false messiahs, information is added about the birth and preparation of a more serious contender for the position of the world king of the false messiah. We still cannot affirm anything positively, except that signs have appeared according to which the appearance of the “son of perdition” can be expected in the next period of history or even in the next few years after the unification of the whole world under one world government. But it is not in vain that the Lord, in the ways of His Providence, does not fully reveal them to us. It is enough for us to know that we have already entered a period of history when the relatively imminent appearance of the Antichrist is very likely. This means that we must be spiritually prepared for this as well.
What does this willingness mean? This means such a strengthening of one's spiritual forces, which would develop the ability to resist the temptations of Antichrist. Many of them, in the sense of weakening faith, deifying humanity, betraying faith in the one and true Church for the sake of a humanistic religious unification in a false church, are already standing before us, preparing even Orthodox Christians to be ready to follow these paths of the Antichrist.
What are we to do, besides just watching the signs of the times? We need to educate in ourselves, in our flock, in all Orthodox families, a firm faith that the Lord gave us the happiness of belonging to the one true Church, which, as in the very beginning of its existence, is determined not by the majority of believers on earth, but at least and a minority, but only faithful and dedicated members of this true Church. This is not an easy task, and it requires firm faith, spiritual strength, and devotion to the Truth in the world around us, alien to Christ.
In the face of temptations already existing and coming to us, we must direct all our spiritual and mental forces to ensure that we are ready for all temptations. May the expectation soon (in five years) of the celebration of the millennium of the Baptism of Rus' serve us as the same preparation. Renewing in their minds and hearts those principles of piety which St. Vladimir planted in Rus', we will try to revive them in our everyday life with the hope that the Lord will give us to bring them to our homeland in order to unite with that part of Holy Rus' which despite all the tricks and persecution continues to exist there even in a small number.
The Lord gave us for the time being to live in freedom, not constrained by anything from the outside and not limited by anything in our spiritual life, except for our own lack of faith and laziness. In order not to get bogged down in the swamp of sin and vice that surrounds us, we need to shake ourselves spiritually. In an inspired and fiery report to the Council on the need for spiritual rebirth, His Grace Archbishop Vitaly wrote:
Our entire flock has already been communed through all the sacraments to the grace of the Holy Spirit, and it only behooves us to use all available means of pastoral work to kindle this fire into a flame, to do everything in our ability to, according to the word of the Apostle Paul, to be everything to everyone, in order to save someone. As a concrete measure, it is necessary to convince all the faithful to abandon the old practice of communion of the Holy Mysteries only once a year, if anyone to this day adheres to this little laudable custom. To convince all our pastors to pray themselves before the celebration of the sacraments of Confession, so that the Lord would give them the gift of love, wisdom, compassion and mercy. To point out to our entire flock the need to also pray before going to confession, so that the Lord would give them the gift of the Holy Spirit of true repentance, the gift of compunction, contrition for their sins, the gift of tears that wash our souls with the water of the second baptism which is what confession should be, not a momentary confession of one's sins.
At the same time, we ask all our spiritual children to refrain from easily getting involved in the sin of judging each other, and especially their shepherds. The latter is often provoked by the numerous enemies of our Church, who long ago chose the center of our church government as the subject of their especially fierce attacks — the Synod of Bishops elected by the entire Council of Bishops. At the same time, they do not stop at any lies and slander, hoping in this way to undermine the weight and significance of our Center, hated by them. Do not give in to false rumors, remembering that they are often spread, sometimes even under the guise of defending the truth, by the enemies of the Orthodox Church, who are backed by Soviet agents and secret champions of the Moscow Patriarchate.
Encouraging us and reminding us of His love and care, the Lord recently sent us a miraculous phenomenon: the myrrh-streaming icon of the Iveron Mother of God, in front of which we prayed during the Council, observing the miraculous phenomenon of the abundant outflow of fragrant myrrh from it. By this, the Most Pure Theotokos again shows us Her care, which we have seen all these years through our marvelous Hodegetria — Her miraculous Kursk-Root Icon.
Realizing that the world is facing a danger of incredible upheavals and disasters unprecedented in history, let us draw strength and encouragement for ourselves from this wondrous phenomenon and at the same time, prepare ourselves by penitent labor of piety for the joys or trials that God will please us to send.
First of all, let's try not to let ourselves be swallowed up by the evil growing in the world around us. Increasingly and sharply, the question is now put before each person: to whom does he want to belong: to Christ or the devil? According to what principles to live: Christian or Antichrist?
We ask you, our spiritual children, without hesitation and fearing nothing, to give an Orthodox answer within yourself to these questions and choose the bright path of the Christian virtuous life, and, having chosen it, boldly follow it, so that we all reach the Kingdom of God unhindered.
The grace of God, the prayers and examples of the valiant New Martyrs of Russia will help us in this .
Chairman of the Council of Bishops
+ Metropolitan Philaret
+ Seraphim, Archbishop of Chicago-Detroit and Mid-American,
+ Athanasius, Archbishop of Buenos Aires and Argentine-Paraguay,
+ Vitaly, Archbishop of Montreal and Canada,
+ Anthony, Archbishop of Los Angeles and Southern California,
+ Anthony, Archbishop of Geneva and Western Europe,
+ Anthony, Archbishop of San Francisco and Western America,
+ Seraphim, Archbishop of Caracas and Venezuela,
+ Pavel, Archbishop of Sydney and Australia and New Zealand,
+ Laurus, Archbishop of Syracuse and Trinity,
+ Constantine, Bishop of Richmond and Britain,
+ Gregory, Bishop of Washington and Florida,
+ Mark, Bishop of Berlin and Germany,
+ Alipy, Bishop of Cleveland
. Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, “1983 Epistle of the ROCOR Synod of Bishops,” Orthodox Rus, No. 19 (October 14th, 1983).
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