At the request of the website Pravlife.org, Archpriest Seraphim Gan, the head of the chancery of the Synod of Bishops and secretary to the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, gives his assessment of Patriarch Bartholomew’s recent decision and evaluates the Phanar’s actions.
Our thoughts, deep feelings and fervent prayers are with His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry, the archpastors, pastors, monks, parishioners and pilgrims of the Kiev Caves, Pochaev, and Sviatogorsk Lavras, the monastics, laity and entire Ukrainian Orthodox Church—which is the heart of holy Russian Orthodoxy. Our Ukrainian Orthodox Church is not only the heart of the whole Russian Church, but of every autonomous part of it, including the Russian Church Abroad.
In the wall painting of our monument-church in Sea Cliff (New York), where by God’s mercy I serve, there is depicted the entire history of the sanctity and piety of our God-preserved people, our ancestors—from the Kiev baptismal font to the restoration of the fullness of brotherly communion within the united Russian Orthodox Church: the first Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), who founded and consecrated the Holy Trinity Cathedral of the Holy Dormition Pochaev Lavra and who after the murder of Holy Hieromartyr Vladimir (Bogoyavkensky) became his successor to the Kiev metropolitan cathedra; Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko), who served an Akathist in the church of the Kiev Caves Lavra with Metropolitan Vladimir just a few days before he was murdered in 1918, and who over the course of many years headed the printing press of the brotherhood of Pochaev Lavra. With God’s help, Archbishop Vitaly, at the time Archimandrite, was able to bring the publishing brotherhood of Pochaev outside the country and continue this ecclesiastical and community missionary service in the diaspora.
The Pochaev publishing brotherhood, at first on the territory of Prashevsky Rus’,1 and then in Germany and the United States, printed spiritual-moral, ecclesiastical-theological and liturgical literature not only for the Church’s children in the diaspora after the revolution and Civil War, but also for those who thirsted for spiritual enlightenment in the Motherland. This truly holy work was continued later by the abbot of blessed memory of the Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville (New York), Metropolitan Laurus, a spiritual friend and sotainik2 of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry, (Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church). As we know, St. John (Maximovitch), the great archpastor and wonderworker of the Russian Church Abroad, was born, studied, and spiritually formed on the territory of the present-day Ukrainian Orthodox Church. And so, we hold the Orthodox Church on the sacred Ukrainian ground and everything connected with it very dear to our hearts.
Therefore, when His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew literally only yesterday announced, in fact more than once, that he recognizes only His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry as the head of all the Orthodox in Ukraine and solemnly promised before a high assembly of primates and representatives of Local Orthodox Churches not to meddle in the affairs of the fraternal Ukrainian Orthodox Church, this gave us joy in the Lord and peace of soul over the fate of all the Orthodox believers of Ukraine, and respect for Patriarch Bartholomew, who, as it seemed then, deeply understood the situation and lovingly protected and defended the canonical Church.
But today he is ignoring the hierarch respected by all, His Beatitude Onuphry, the archpastors, pastors, and the entire many million-strong host of the Church’s true children, as well as the many holy and Beatific brother primates of God’s holy Churches. And this evokes in our hearts at the least perplexity and foreboding feelings.
It has to be noted that the Constantinople Patriarchate only very recently completely supported and even confirmed our Church’s position in relation to Mikhail (Philaret) Denisenko and his activities.
Therefore Constantinople’s current actions force us to suspect that His All-Holiness is not free in his actions; that behind him are specific powers are that are very far from Christ’s Church and which are following their own ill-fated aims. And this is very bitter indeed!
When we see in the churches of the “Kiev Patriarchate” icons of Great Martyr George striking down the double-head eagle, and other depictions with similar themes, when we hear from their ambos political proclamations and all sorts of other utterances that only ignite passions and national conflicts, then it becomes clear that the teacher of schism Philaret and his minions are seeking not peace and unity of the Orthodox in Christ, but power, influence, the vain glory of this world, and the realization of some irreligious aims of theirs. But in observing the mien and service of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry, listening to his sermons and reading his interviews, we can see that he is calling all to ceaseless prayer, brotherly love, to peace of soul and true patriotism, manifested in a life according to the Gospel and love of neighbor. In my opinion this is a sign that His Beatitude is on the side of God’s truth, where by his own example he is leading the God-loving flock of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. And if under today’s complicated conditions of Church life in the Ukraine a person wishes to hold to the truth or seek it, then let him hold fast to His Beatitude’s mantle—and all will be well!
Nevertheless, we do not despair, but with fervent faith and humility we pray that the situation that has been created would reveal God’s truth and the and true ascetics of piety and preservers of Holy Orthodoxy in the Ukrainian land, worthily doing and bearing Christ’s work. The most important thing for all the Orthodox is not to ignite passions but to pray, to trust God, accepting this current trial as his gift and the opportunity to serve the Church—and to speak the truth with complete calmness, as did St John the Forerunner of the Lord with regard to Herod, who as we know, did not act rightly. If we will try to do just this, then I believe the Lord, in the expression of the Psalmist, “will give strength unto His people, and bless His people with peace.” This is what I desire with all my heart for our brothers and sisters of one blood with us.
With unfailing love in the Lord and veneration for the podvig of confession of the faith of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church,