Moscow, December 13, 2019
On Wednesday, December 11, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia chaired a meeting of the Supreme Church Council of the Russian Orthodox Church. Opening the session, the Russian primate offered a brief overview of the events of 2019.
The text of his opening speech is available on the official site of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The Russian Church faced well-known challenges over the past year:
The year was not easy—it was filled with trials for our Church, but at the same time with manifestations of God’s mercy. On the one hand, we have witnessed what violations of canonical norms have led to; on the other hand, we have seen the unity of hierarchs, clergy, and laity both in our Church and throughout the Orthodox world, who preserve the faith and canonical purity of Orthodoxy.
Despite the challenges and divisions in the Orthodox world today, the unity of the Church remains a necessary principle that cannot be sacrificed for the sake of any earthly goods:
We see how in the Greek ecclesiastical world, within the Alexandrian and Greek Churches, opposition from bishops, clerics and laity, who do not agree with the violation of the canons, was vividly manifested. For these people, as for us, the unity of the Churches is an unconditional value; they consider it unacceptable to exchange this unity for the sympathy of the powerful; they empathize and sympathize with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which has been put under attack by the anti-canonical actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
The Church prayed fervently for the suffering faithful in Ukraine, and “by the grace of God, the pressure on the believers of the canonical Church has decreased,” though the threat of interference from the state in the affairs of the Church still remains, as not everyone in the Ukrainian government is prepared to adopt President Zelensky’s stance of non-interference.
But the faithful remain strong:
We see how adamantly the children of our Church stand in their positions. Their steadfastness and dignity are all the more obvious against the background of the endless strife in which Ukrainian schismatics and their patrons are mired. What is now happening inside the schism testifies to its lack of grace. The grace of God recedes, people’s consciousness is clouded, passions take precedence over canonical responsibility; schism always generates new schisms. We see how new and profound contradictions have arisen among the schismatics—this is the inevitable logic of any schism.
Besides the struggles surrounding the Ukrainian crisis, the Russian Church also knew great joy this year:
We shared the Paschal joy with our brothers and sisters from the Western European Archdiocese, who returned to the bosom of the Mother Church. The merciful Lord turned the canonically insignificant attempts to abolish this structure into good, which allowed us to put a long-awaited end to the history of the division of the Russian Church abroad.
And whatever awaits us in the coming year, Pat. Kirill said, we must remember the words of the Lord: Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom (Lk. 12:32).
The Church will have to make great effort to preserve its unity and to strengthen it in those places where it has been shaken: “We hope that the Lord will grant His mercy to us and help us to approach a solution to the main task on a pan-Orthodox scale—to restore unity and overcome the corrupting, destructive power of the schismatics, who really bring dangerous seeds of discord and opposition.”
“Let us hope that by the grace of God the schism will not widen,” His Holiness encouraged, “but, on the contrary, will begin to come to naught. The Lord has called us all to be faithful to Him even unto death, and this loyalty must be manifested, including in upholding the unity of the Church.”
“Today, no one calls us to martyrdom, but we are all called to firmness and determination in preserving the unity of holy Orthodoxy, in observing fidelity to the canonical structure of the Church,” the Patriarch said in conclusion.