24 July 2006, 13:51
Archbishop Innokenty's address to all the clergy and faithful of the Diocese of Sourozh
Dear fathers, brothers and sisters in Christ!
Three months have passed since a severe trial came upon the Diocese of Sourozh. Events continue to unfold rapidly. Already tens, if not hundreds of people have been caught up in them: clergy and laity; people having different spiritual and church experience; people of different nationalities and cultures. Many are experiencing increasing confusion in their minds and anxiety in their hearts. Temptations and divisions continue. Such is the cost of the delusion of a person who was endued with great responsibility for the souls of others, for their salvation.
We are living through difficult times and not everyone is capable of analysing what is happening and evaluating it correctly from an ecclesiastical and canonical point of view. As a result of the actions of one person, major problems have arisen not only in the Diocese of Sourozh, but also and even more seriously, in the whole Orthodox world.
The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church spoke clearly about this at its meeting a few days ago, at which the situation in the Sourozh diocese and its consequences for the mission of Orthodoxy throughout the world were carefully considered. The documents of the Holy Synod present a clear and accurate canonical assessment both of the actions of Bishop Basil, and of his reception into the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. It is confirmed that he continues to belong canonically to the Moscow Patriarchate. On account of breaking the episcopal oath of allegiance and the canons of the Church, Bishop Basil is temporarily banned from celebrating the divine services ‘until his repentance or until his case is decided by a court of bishops’.
Conscious of the gravity of this situation, my heart is full of sorrow, dear fathers, brothers and sisters, about those of you who face an agonising choice about whether or not to concelebrate with a suspended bishop, to take part with him in the sacraments of the Church, asking yourselves whether divine grace will be present therein. What will anyone do who wants to become a deacon or a priest? At whose hands will they receive the grace of ordination? How evil and crafty is the devil, who sows the seeds of dissensions and deceitful temptations. How much we need to pray for one another, and for Bishop Basil, in order to withstand the wiles of the demons.
In our lives there are circumstances where we have to make one or another choice, but in the Church there is only one path for us – the lawful one. In order that there should not be confusion in our hearts and in the hearts of others, we must act in accordance with the canons of the Church and the rules of the Holy Fathers. There simply is no other way for us, otherwise the consequences of our mistakes and delusions will be such bitter experiences as we have today.
The ever-memorable Metropolitan Anthony, on the occasion of whose name-day I address myself to all of you with this letter, did not, I think, envisage this kind of future for his life’s work. His memory is sacred, and his legacy is extremely precious. No-one has the right to destroy it.
I thank God and those of you, dear fathers, brothers and sisters, who are supporting the unity of the Diocese of Sourozh and who are remaining loyal to His Holiness the Patriarch of Moscow, just as Metropolitan Anthony did throughout his life. I do not condemn those fathers who have chosen another path – a path contrary to the church canons, but it is my duty to warn you about your errors and to call upon you to stand on the path of truth and lawfulness. I remind those of you who as yet do not stand on this path that you all, without exception, remain clergy of the Sourozh diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate and that I am ready to meet with you to discuss and resolve those problems that trouble you. Remember also that together with me you bear responsibility before God for your parishioners, the hearts and minds of many of whom are confused by the events in the life of our diocese. The unity of the people of God is destroyed in your parishes and that deeply wounds my heart.
Dear fathers, brothers and sisters! Despite the trials that have come upon us, the life of the Diocese of Sourozh continues in all its vitality. Placing our hope in God, we trust that we shall overcome our difficulties. God is with us, as are His saints! Again and again I call all of you, regardless of nationality or cultural background, to ecclesiastical unity and to common labour for the good of the Church of Christ. Only thus shall we be able to bear witness before the whole world of our mission of salvation.
May the blessing of the Lord and the help of God be with all of you.
Archbishop of Korsun,
Temporary Administrator of the Diocese of Sourozh
July 23, 2006