Miami, October 18, 2019
Photo: eadiocese.org The Eastern American Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia issued a sorrowful statement on Wednesday, “informing the hierarchs of the Canonical Churches of the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, their clergymen and faithful” that Archimandrite Alexander (Belya), a cleric of the diocese, “betraying the trust and love of his archpastors, led the Cathedral of Blessed Matrona of Moscow in Dania Beach, FL, and St. Nicholas Monastery in North Fort Myers, FL, out of the structure of the canonical authority of the Russian Orthodox Church.”
The open letter notes that Belya was suspended from his priestly duties but refused to submit to his ruling hierarch and that he and his younger brother Ivan Belya, who is forbidden to commune, have ignored summons to be questioned by a diocesan investigative committee.
Fr. Alexander was suspended from priestly duties on September 1/14, released as dean of the Florida Deanery of the diocese, and suspended from his duties as rector of the cathedral and monastery for the duration of the investigation. Ivan was suspended from Holy Communion at the same time and suspended from his duties as warden at the ROCOR cathedrals in Brooklyn and Miami.
The investigation against the Belyas began when Archimandrite Alexander managed to get his name sent to Moscow as a nominee for vicar bishop of Miami in ROCOR, despite the fact that he had not been nominated. Elections to the episcopate for ROCOR must be confirmed by the Holy Synod in Moscow, and the matter caused no small amount of confusion when the Synod met on August 30 to confirm the election of Archimandrite James (Corazza) as bishop of Sonora and also had the name of Belya before them.
According to sources in ROCOR, this is not the first time the Belya brothers have caused problems. Fr. Alexander is known to dodge diocesan dues and bring clergy to America without the proper paperwork. Ivan has even been implicated in the trafficking of women.
Not only have the Belyas ignored summons to be questioned, but members of the investigative committee were even prevented from entering the Cathedral of St. Matrona by armed guards, “which is an unheard-of occurrence in the Orthodox community of the United States.”
Ignoring his suspension, Belya celebrated the Divine Liturgy on Sunday, October 13, commemorating Archbishop Elpidophoros of the Greek Archdiocese of America and Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.
In his “pastoral word” preached on Sunday, October 13 and published on the sites of both the St. Matrona Cathedral and the St. Nicholas Monastery, Belya states that the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of the Patriarchate of Constantinople has taken control of the parish and he has retained the priesthood and the right to serve.
And Belya notes an interesting connection: “You and I have been granted not only the protection of the Patriarchate in which Mt. Athos is located, but also the protection of the government of the United States.”
Thus, Fr. Alexander is something like a “little Philaret” in America. “Patriarch” Philaret Denisenko also left the Russian Orthodox Church 30 years ago when he was not chosen to be the next Patriarch of Moscow. Unable to humble himself, Denisenko instead departed into schism, where he has remained to this day, despite being given canonical protection by Constantinople last year.
Offended at not being chosen as a bishop, Belya has also departed from the Russian Church, to Constantinople.
Belya begins his “pastoral word” with a seeming apology for the pain and suffering that the parish has undergone in recent weeks. “I am sorry that for the sake of me, a sinner, you had to go through a humiliating unjust interrogation,” he writes. However, it quickly becomes apparent that his “apology” is a sarcastic attack against the hierarchs of ROCOR who he attempts to paint as his persecutors.
He writes that he was in Moscow “in search of the protection of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, who blessed me this summer to become the bishop of Miami,” “But now in a situation of persecution, our second meeting did not take place,” he writes.
The cathedral and monastery websites now feature several articles about clergy being persecuted by ROCOR authorities.
All the clerics of the cathedral, where Belya was rector, and of the monastery, where he was abbot, have remained faithful to the Russian Church and refuse to participate in Belya’s services. Archimandrites Stefan (Khilchuk) and Siluan (Lembai) were forcibly removed from the monastery by the brothers Belya. Mitred Archpriest Serge Prisacaru was not allowed to bid farewell to his flock as he was ejected from the cathedral.
The Eastern American Diocese thus warns its flock of the spiritual danger Belya is placing himself in, along with any who follow him.
“All the devoted children of the Russian Church Abroad are given blessing to depart from the Cathedral of Blessed Matrona and St. Nicholas Monastery, and cease prayerful communion with the suspended Archimandrite Alexander and those with him. From the point of view of the Russian Church Abroad, the Sacraments and prayers performed there do not lead to salvation into Eternal Life,” the statement reads.