2006-06-19 15:01:00

The letter of Patriarch Alexy II to the archpastors, cleric and laity of the Sourozh diocese

His Eminence Innokenty
Archbishop of Korsun Temporary Administrator of the Diocese of Sourozh

His Eminence Anatoly
Archbishop of Kerch

The Pastors, Members of the Diocesan Assembly, All Faithful Children of the Diocese of Sourozh

Beloved in Christ archpastors, pastors and all faithful children of the diocese of Sourozh

In addressing you during these days of the Diocesan Assembly and Diocesan Liturgy when by tradition clerics and laity of the diocese of Sourozh gather from various parts of Great Britain in the Cathedral of the Dormition and All Saints, I feel sadness at the fact that this year this assembly will not be complete. Some of the laity and clergy, including the administrator of the diocese His Grace Bishop Basil, have taken a decision to leave the diocese of Sourozh and the Russian Orthodox Church in general, to which up until his death the ever-memorable Metropolitan Anthony remained faithful.

What is taking place in the diocese of Sourozh is all the more surprising and worthy of regret as at the very same time we are closer than ever before to the reunification of the Moscow Patriarchate with the Russian Church Abroad. And when the long-awaited time for the restoration of Church unity comes, division has occurred in the diocese, division that in actual fact is a schism. This is our common pain.

Who is to blame for what has happened? Without prejudicing the conclusions that the Holy Synod will arrive at, having studied all the testimony gathered by the commission set up for this purpose, I would like to say the obvious: division occurs at the envy of the enemy of the human race who, finding a support in human frailty, seeks new ways of wounding the Church. For unity is from God, while division in the Church is undoubtedly from the evil one. Each of us now would find it beneficial to look into our hearts and test our conscience: have we not made room for the devil (Eph 4:27)? Have we not shown intolerance, inattention and a lack of sensitivity, out of which schism has grown?

‘Now I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ... that there should be no divisions among you’ (1 Cor 1:10), St. Paul tells us. The diversity of languages, cultures, lifestyles, social position, citizenship and material well-being - can all of these peculiarities of the extremely varied Orthodox flock in the British Isles be a reason for dividing the Church, which is the Body of Christ? Yes, when encountering human differences the strength of our love for our neighbour, and therefore for God, is at times tested. To overcome this trial is the spiritual task vitally important for each of us. Not only pastors but all the faithful are called to resolve it, ‘that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another’ (1 Cor 12:25).

In bearing one another’s burdens (Ga. 6:2), you, the archpastors, pastors and faithful children of the diocese of Sourozh, will be able to continue with increase the life’s work of ever-memorable Metropolitan Anthony. It was with his significant participation that the fruit of the Russian church diaspora grew in Great Britain - the numerous children of the Church who came to her as Western European people. The late hierarch and your fathers in faith hoped that after the reunification of the Russian Orthodox diaspora there would come a time for the growth of a single Local Church in Europe - a Church which embraces the great variety of spiritual and cultural traditions of Orthodox peoples.

We pray that these hopes come true. Alas, the current division in the diocese of Sourozh presents a new obstacle on the way to their realization. However, the sad experience of division is not new to us. The body of the Russian Church had been broken and crucified throughout the twentieth century. Therefore, without giving way to despondency, let us seek that which serves the cause of creativity and peace, firmly recalling that the way to unity cannot lie through schism.

Thus, dear in the Lord brothers the archpastors, fathers, brothers and sisters, let us offer up our ardent prayer to the one Chief Shepherd so that we ‘with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’ (Eph 4:2-3).

Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia