Pochaev, Ukraine, November 30, 2017
The brethren of the great Holy Dormition Lavra in Pochaev, Ukraine have addressed a letter to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill and the hierarchs currently gathered in a session of the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church, urging them to take great care in examining the documents promulgated by last summer’s Council of Crete, and to ultimately reject them. The brotherhood’s letter has been posted on the monastery’s website.
The brotherhood had also released a letter before the Crete Council’s proceedings, stating that they shared the same concerns as several other synods and respected theologians who had addressed the pre-conciliar documents. Many of the brotherhood’s concerns before the Council have remained afterwards.
The Holy Synod of the Russian Church resolved on July 15, 2016 to examine the documents put forth by the Council of Crete, which gathered 10 of the 15 Local Orthodox Churches to address important problems of the Church’s existence in the modern world, including fasting, Church autonomy, the Orthodox diaspora, the Sacrament of Marriage, the Church’s mission in the modern world, and relations between the Orthodox Church and non-Orthodox Christian confessions.
It was announced today that the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church, which is currently meeting in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral, will discuss and come to a conclusion on the Crete documents.
The brothers write, in the letter dated November 22, “We, the inhabitants of the Holy Dormition Pochaev Lavra, being faithful children of the Orthodox Church, appeal to you, members of the sacred Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church, and ask that you examine the above-mentioned documents in light of Orthodox dogma. We are sending you this letter desiring not to conceal the Truth, for silence betrays God.”
The letter first presents some comments on the principles of organization and conducting of the Crete Council which, according to the brothers, “does not satisfy Orthodox Tradition and the title of ‘Council,’” as only a small number of bishops were invited to the gathering (25 in total from each Orthodox Church), and four Local Churches—Georgian, Antiochian, Bulgarian, and Russian—were wholly absent from the council. The brothers also noted the presence of non-Orthodox observers at the council.
The letter also laments “the non-consideration of the refusal of 35 bishops present at the council, for various reasons, to sign the conciliar documents and the failure to address their comments during the council.”
Among those who did not sign some of the council’s documents is Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, who offers an explanation of his decision here.
The Pochaev brothers also write that the means of choosing topics to be considered at the council, and the conducting of the council itself do not correspond to the received Tradition of the Orthodox Church. The council cannot, as the brothers write, be considered pan-Orthodox, given the absence of several Local Churches—a point which the Holy Synod of the Russian Church had previously made itself.
In commenting on the documents resulting from the Council of Crete, the brothers write:
Based on the dogmatic sources of our Orthodox Church and on a theological analysis of the resulting documents of the aforementioned council, we assert with complete confidence that a number of the documents of the Crete Council and its decisions are heretical and not in keeping with Orthodox dogma. The main impact of these decisions is on the principle of the catholicity of the Church and its ecclesiological teaching, thus laying the basis for a corruption of Orthodox dogma.
In view of all of their concerns, the Lavra brethren urge the Council of Bishops to follow the example of the Antiochian, Bulgarian, and Georgian Churches and reject the Crete documents and condemn the council as destructive to the Patriarch Tradition; to delete the statement from the February 2016 Council of Bishops that the pre-conciliar texts, then yet to be adopted at Crete, did not violate the purity of the Orthodox faith; and to not send representatives to participate in the work of the permanent pan-Orthodox Council, the hope for which was declared at Crete, as such participation would inevitably entail acceptance of the Crete Council and its documents.
All of the concerns of the Pochaev brotherhood have been previously articulated by a number of Local Churches, hierarchs, clergy, monastics, and laity throughout the Orthodox Church. For a number of articles from before, during, and after the Crete Council itself, see the collection here.
The letter is signed “With love in the Lord” by His Eminence Metropolitan Vladimir of Pochaev, the Deputy Abbot of the Holy Dormition Pochaev Lavra, with the brethren of the holy habitation.