Was St. John (Maximovitch) a Schismatic?

(Concerning the Statements of Metropolitan Emmanuel of Gaul)

The following article was written, as the title indicates, in response to recent remarks from Metropolitan Emmanuel of Gaul of the Patriarchate of Constantinople about St. John (Maximovitch), great among the saints. While the Metropolitan refers to the Holy Hierarch as a schismatic, he at least acknowledges his sanctity. On the other hand, in the past few weeks, a very public member of the Archons (the Order of St. Andrew the Apostle)—a group of laymen who act as defenders of the Patriarchate of Constantinople—who uses memes rather than reasoned dialogue to attack anyone who does not wholly follow the Constantinople party line on Ukraine or any other issue, has taken to blaspheming Christ through His saints, attacking the person of St. John and denying his sainthood with language and a spirit inappropriate for any Orthodox Christian. Thus, the present article is doubly relevant.

St. John (Maximovitch) St. John (Maximovitch)     

Much has already been said about the unfortunate events in the Church life of the much-suffering Orthodox people in Ukraine, and it seemed that the Patriarchate of Constantinople had already exhausted all its arguments to justify the unjustifiable. However, the representatives of Constantinople are now trying to prove that the “Russians” did the same thing in the past, they say, as they, Constantinople, are doing now.

What are we referring to? On the occasion of the patronal feast of the Greek cathedral in Paris, the representative of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in the French capital, Metropolitan Emmanuel of Gaul, stated:

The blessed union of ROCOR with the Moscow Patriarchate led to the restoration of this Church and its many souls in the bosom of the canonical Church. For almost a century, this Church was in schism. Schismatic bishops consecrated other bishops over the course of three or four generations. But the time came when the Moscow Patriarchate entered into full communion with them without hesitation in 2007, not questioning the Apostolic Succession of these hierarchs. Indeed, such a holy person as John (Maximovitch), who was born a schismatic, was consecrated to the episcopacy by schismatics, and died a schismatic, was recognized as a saint by the Moscow Patriarchate and is venerated by all of us today.

Having compiled, with God’s help, the biography of St. John, and moreover, having participated in the IV All-Diaspora Council in 2006, which laid the foundation for Eucharistic communion between ROCOR and the MP, I consider it my duty to tell the truth about the saint and about the restoration of Eucharistic communion between the Russian Church Abroad and the Russian Orthodox Church in 2007.

Signing of the Act of Reunification of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad with the Russian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate, May 17, 2007. Photo: S. Vlasov, V. Khodakov / patriarchia.ru Signing of the Act of Reunification of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad with the Russian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate, May 17, 2007. Photo: S. Vlasov, V. Khodakov / patriarchia.ru     

1. Above all, the statement that a schismatic can be numbered among the saints is at least strange, because, according to the Holy Fathers, the sin of schism is not washed away even by martyr’s blood.

2. As for St. John (Maximovitch), the future hierarch was born in Adamovka, in the Kharkov Governorate of the Russian Empire, on the territory of modern Ukraine. At that time, there existed only one all-Russian Church: There was no ROCOR, nor even the Patriarchate of Moscow, which was restored, as we know, in 1917. To claim that St. John “was born in schism” is simply absurd.

3. But if St. John was not “born in schism,” then was he “consecrated to the episcopacy by schismatics?” As we know, Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), formerly of Kiev and Galicia, the First Hierarch of ROCOR, led the consecration of St. John in Belgrade. Therefore, we need to clarify whether ROCOR was an organization like the “Kiev Patriarchate” or the “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church,” now united, or rather—half-united in the “OCU.”

  • ROCOR was founded in 1920 on the basis of Decree No. 362 of His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon, the Holy Synod, and the Supreme Church Council of the Russian Orthodox Church—that is, the highest authority of the Russian Orthodox Church. This is the first difference between ROCOR and the Ukrainian schism: All of the ROCOR hierarchs had canonical consecrations and created their ecclesiastical body with the blessing of the Church authorities, while Philaret Denisenko and Makary Maletich did not obey the Church hierarchy and created a schism. Moreover, Makary and those with him have their “succession” from the impostor Vincent Chekalin, so they, and not the bishops of ROCOR, do not have Apostolic Succession. This is the first and most important difference.

  • However, later, in 1934, the Locum Tenens of the Moscow Patriarchal Throne Sergius (Stragorodsky), under enormous pressure from the godless authorities, suspended Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) and seven hierarchs abroad, although, as the famous canonist S. V. Troitsky wrote at the time, “not a single Orthodox Church paid attention to his (Metropolitan Sergius’) prohibition and did not interrupt communion with the Russian hierarchs abroad,” based on the view that this prohibition was not an expression of the free will of Metropolitan Sergius.

    It is also interesting how the Moscow Patriarchate itself and the Constantinople Patriarchate treated this suspension. Regarding the MP, it is enough to recall that Patriarch Alexei I himself served a panikhida at the grave of Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) in Belgrade in 1957. Would the Patriarch have served a panikhida for a “schismatic?”

    And what was Constantinople’s attitude to the foreign “schismatics” until recently? Here are just two examples, although there are many more:

    In 1964, Bishop Dionysius (Psiahas) of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Australia took part in the nomination of Archimandrite Philaret (Voznesensky), the future First Hierarch of ROCOR, as Bishop of Brisbane. And in the 1960s, the future Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, then a young deacon and student of the Pontifical Oriental Institute, concelebrated with a ROCOR hierarch in the ROCOR parish in Rome.

    And most importantly: From the beginning of the Synod Abroad’s stay in Yugoslavia in 1921 until the canonical act, ROCOR was in Eucharistic communion with the Serbian Orthodox Church, as evidenced by the fact that Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro, with the blessing of Patriarch Alexei II, participated in the IV All-Diaspora Council and concelebrated with the ever-memorable Metropolitan Laurus in San Francisco, a year before the canonical act of 2007. This means ROCOR was always in communion with the Universal Church. Was there anything similar with the Ukrainian schismatics? This is the second difference.

  • And the third difference: Even if the suspension was canonical, the hierarch remains a hierarch; with a defrocking—as in the case of the former Metropolitan Philaret Denisenko—the hierarch is deprived of Divine grace, as are all his “ordinations.”

  • There is a fourth difference, no less significant. Metropolitan Emmanuel, as well as the Ecumenical Patriarch, endlessly repeat that their intention was to return the Ukrainian schismatics to communion with the Universal Church, and this would have been laudable. But the question is this: According to the Holy Fathers, even something good done in a not good way is not good. To this St. Justin (Popovic) added: “Not like the Jesuits, for whom the ends justify the means.” In this respect, it is interesting to consider how, on the one hand, the reunion of the MP and ROCOR in 2007 happened, and how, on the other, the so-called “unification council” in Kiev in 2018 happened.

    The first important step towards the reunification of the MP and ROCOR was the convocation of the IV All-Diaspora Council in San Francisco in 2006. At the insistence of the ever-memorable First Hierarch of ROCOR Metropolitan Laurus, all “parties” were to be represented at it, including those opposed to reunion, of which there were not a few. Therefore, after a long discussion at the Council, the sides could not come to an agreed-upon decision. Then suddenly the priests who were members of the editorial board of the Council’s appeal, recalled the miracle of the holy Great Martyr Euphemia, when the Orthodox holy hierarchs and their opponents wrote their confessions of faith on separate scrolls and placed them in the tomb of the holy Great Martyr Euphemia. Three days later, the Patriarch opened the reliquary: St. Euphemia was holding the scroll with the Orthodox confession in her right hand, and the heretical scroll lay at her feet… It was the same at the All-Diaspora Council: The priests laid the draft of the Council’s appeal with a request to the hierarchy of ROCOR to enter into Eucharistic communion with the MP on the holy relics of St. John and served a moleben before his relics with the commemoration by name of every participant in the Council. The next day, to everyone’s surprise, the appeal was unanimously adopted by all.

    It is not by human efforts and ideas, but by the grace of God, that the unity of the Church is achieved when it is destroyed by the primordial enemy of the salvation of mankind. The Holy Spirit Himself accomplishes unity, not us. The fruit of the canonical act of 2007 was not just the reunification of the Russian Orthodox Church, but the joy of the entire Orthodox world and the unanimity of holy Churches of God on this occasion.

    In contrast to the All-Diaspora Council, the “unification council” in Kiev gathered only two canonical hierarchs and all the schismatics, and its final result was simply a fiasco: The situation continues until today in Ukraine. Moreover, the “honorary Patriarch” Philaret restored his “Kiev Patriarchate” with several “hierarchs.” It is clear that the Holy Spirit is absent in all this history, for He “welds together,” not dispersing “the whole institution of the Church.” Unlike the canonical act of 2007, the “tomos” sowed confusion, discord, and schism in the entire Orthodox world, including within the Greek and Alexandrian Churches, which—non-synodally—recognized the “OCU.” Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? (Mt. 7:16).

  • One more difference: ROCOR didn’t pursue “with fire and sword” those few communities that didn’t accept the canonical act, although it could have filed civil suits to have the churches taken from it returned. But in Ukraine, everyone knows the nearly daily seizures of churches of the canonical Church (with the complete silence of Constantinople and the Western “democracies”). Thus, their methods are different.

4. Let us return now to St. John, “venerated by all of us,” in the words of Metropolitan Emmanuel. What was his view on the policy of the Ecumenical Throne? In his report at the II All-Diaspora Council in 1938, St. John decisively protested against the neo-papist actions of Constantinople, including in Russia, and said the following as if prophetic words:

The vicar of Metropolitan Evlogy in Paris, who was consecrated with the permission of the Ecumenical Patriarch, has assumed the title of Chersonese, as if Chersonese, which is now in the territory of Russia, is subject to the Ecumenical Patriarch. The next logical step for the Ecumenical Patriarchate would be to declare the whole of Russia as being under the jurisdiction of Constantinople.

To the deep chagrin of all who love the Church, these words came true.

5. From the above, it is clear that the Moscow Patriarchate entered into communion with the hierarchs of ROCOR in 2007 with the consciousness that the latter were canonically consecrated and were not schismatics, and not “with a simple signature,” as, unfortunately, Constantinople acted in regard to the self-consecrated—that is, without Apostolic Succession—and canonically defrocked “hierarchs” in Ukraine.

Instead of all kinds of justifications, “the foremost of the Orthodox Churches,” in the words of St. John (Maximovitch), headed by its Patriarch, “whose belittling can in no way be allowed,” as Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) said about it, could have heard the voice of the numerous archpastors, pastors, and laity of nearly every Local Church and called a true Ecumenical Council with all the canonical hierarchs of the Church of Christ. This Council, as the hierarch of the Church of Constantinople Archbishop George (Wagner) of Evdokias expressed it at one time, could have become a second Council of Trullo, which standardized and supplemented Church norms. In this case, such a Council could not only have resolved the Ukrainian issue in the Holy Spirit, but also synodally clarified the disputed meaning of the 28th canon of the Fourth Ecumenical Council and thus determined what rights the See of Constantinople holds and what it does not. Then, as St. John said, “Such an outward abasement [by the Turks] of the hierarch of the city of St. Constantine, which was once the capital of the ecumene, [would] not [have] caused reverence toward him to be shaken among Orthodox Christians, who revere the See of Sts. Chrysostom and Gregory the Theologian.” Otherwise, if the present situation continues, we will fall under the condemnation of the words of the holy apostle Paul: The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you (Rom. 2:24).

Bernard Le Caro
Translated by Jesse Dominick



Panayotis2/12/2020 7:18 am
Thank you for your kindness and thoughtful comments. About the claim that I was deflecting and dodging; Metropolitan Emmanuel was just repeating the position of the author’s own hierarchs (I already gave one example and here is another: http://www.jmp.ru/ymarh4354y.php?ys=54&my=01&rm=PRAK&sr=A_Alesin_Lojnay_poziciy_v_vajnom_voprose) so it is not fair that he would be faulted for that. What I was getting at is that not everybody who condemns an impiety is doing so out of pure motive and love for the Truth. If that were so, then we would be doing so with more frequency instead of leaping into action only when there is an opportunity to attack our enemies. This was a tactic of the Pharisees who accused the Lord of things that they were guilty of. This kind of behaviour plagues our Church, is not Christian and drives away the grace of God, which is why I brought it up. Another plague on the opposite end of the spectrum is the heresy of Ecumenism which has troubled the Church for around 120 years and has left open wounds across most of the Orthodox world. The ecumenical movement is now promoting “ecumenical saints” like the “Nestorian” St. Isaac in order to erode the boundaries of the Church and it is a sign of the times that it is of little concern. But even if blaspeming the saints were of lesser importance, it is no small thing to have our divinely inspired doctrines assailed because according to St. John of Damascus: “If we begin to lay down the Law of the Church even in the smallest things, the whole edifice will fall to the ground in no short time”.
Matfey2/6/2020 7:01 pm
Dear Panayotis, may God bless you. I am afraid your first argument here is an exercise tu quoque, a logical fallacy oh so loved by the godless Soviet regime. Essentially, whenever someone would try to point out something evil done by Soviets, the Communists would reply, "Ah, but look at what America did when [insert American war crimes]". Yes, the Americans were not by any means the land of justice and democracy, but neither did that excuse the Soviets for their atrocities against God and Holy Russia. Two wrongs do not make a right. In this case here, I think we are missing a key amount of context. Saint Issac the Syrian, who is particularly beloved in South-Western Rus' (Ukraine and Belarus) is a complex figure from an even more complex time, and I do not believe our Venerable Father was a Nestorian heretic. I am not familiar with what His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion said, as I have not read the original text however its really neither here nor there, in this greatest conflict within Orthodoxy. You can't honestly tell me you don't see the massive Istan-Bull in the China shop if you'll forgive the pun. There is not currently a schism in Orthodoxy over the works of Saint Issac, its a strawman or red herring argument at best. There is however a massive wound in Orthodoxy caused by the anti-canonical actions of the Patriarch of Constantinople. He without a doubt upset the traditional status quo in a church that lives and breaths on tradition, and more importantly, did so in a totally unilateral conciliar way. He also did so claiming he is the beginning of Orthodoxy, and his hierarchs make statements such as "first without equals". All was going (relatively) well in the Orthodox world and then out of nowhere, after not long ago affirming his constant stance of support for Ukraine's martyric Church and against defrocked schismatics, Pat. Bartholomew makes a 180, starts talking about his primacy, and speaking as if for centuries he was watching as his beloved spiritual children were opressed, when anyone who lives in Ukraine can tell you literally the OCU/KP/Uniate Clowns are the only "clerics" oppressing anyone. In the UOC a priest would get suspended within a week if he stood up and said the Ukrainian church should only speak Russian and all Ukraine should fight in armed conflict against Kiev...he would probably be defrocked. Yet the OCU can make casual services honoring literal nazi members, declaring them saints, and the gentle liberal orthodox turn a blind eye to it because it's all about freedom and love. Give me a break...they consider Old Calendarist to be schismatics (which ok...they are) but the warmly received people who think Hitler was a nice chap. You know them by their fruits. The article clearly points out the difference between the ROCOR and the OCU clowns. ROCOR was group of highly esteemed hierarchs such as Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), Metropolitan of Kiev and Galicia, the spiritual father of Saint John of Shanghai. As a side note, many do not realize, but the ROCOR and the Russian abroad in general actually has a powerful Ukrainian and Carpatho-Russian influence in both local traditions and the ethnicity of its hierarchs and members. Epiphany, however, was a young clown, ordained in schism by Philaret, a man with enough skeletons in his closet, who serves together with Nazis, and people such as Meletei "of Lviv", who of course traces his ordination to the infamous convicted pedophile Chekalin for crying out loud! The false claim that St. John was born in schism also speaks to the general lack of knowledge about Ukraine which distinguishes many western OCU apologists. These people don't even speak a word of Ukrainian, what do they know about Dnipro, having Vatra in Beskydi, or what is the best way to talk from Uspenska Tservka to Vysoki zamok? This all shows how they dishonor Saint John, Ukraine, and the norms and canons of the Church. Forgive me the sinner!
Panayotis2/6/2020 5:13 am
In the interest of fairness and accuracy I’ll quickly comment on the author’s 3 points: 1. That Metropolitan Emmanuel’s statement about St. John is impious: To speak of schismatic saints is offensive to pious ears but it is just an echo of the logic of the Moscow Patriarchate which has even proclaimed the existence of non-orthodox saints. Right on the very website of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate one finds a piece falsely claiming that the great hesychast saint Isaac the Syrian was a “Nestorian”. Thanks to the efforts of Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, it has become routine for misguided Orthodox Christians to use the “Neatorian St. Isaac” in order to blur the canonical boundaries of the Church. Are these not impieties? It is not right for Mr. Le Caro to see the speck in Metropolitan Emmanuel’s eye while overlooking the plank in Metropolitan Hilarion’s eye.. 2. That St. John was born in schism: Clearly, Metropolitan Emmanuel misspoke here and in the context of the rest of his remarks that mistake is not such a critical error that needs to be denounced as “absurd”. Since we all make mistakes it is not necessary to jump on every mistake that somebody makes when speaking in front of a crowd. 3. That ROCOR was schismatic: Metropolitan Emmanuel is not wrong here. It is a plain fact that on June 22, 1934, the Synod of the Russian Church condemned the Karlovsky Synod (later ROCOR), denouncing it as schismatic, ordering its hierarchy removed from their positions and declaring that all who enter into communion with and receive its sacraments are subject to the same condemnation. While all the local churches were notified, only the Serbian Church protested this action. Of course one can point out that this condemnation was wrong and without substance but then again that is how many feel about Moscow’s latest round of condemnation of the Ukrainians this time. For readers who don’t know what to make of all this, I can offer the consoling thought that our good God will heal the schism when the fervency of our prayer outweighs our sinfulness. Then, the strife and bitterness of today will pass as it did before. For example, some OCA readers will remember how their own jurisdiction was perceived not too long ago by even those in ROCOR who strove to walk to royal path of moderation: “Now, of course, the Metropolia’s [later OCA] schism is complete, and no further communion is possible...the Metropolia does not have principle or truth on her side, nor can she be considered any longer as within the Church.” - Fr. Seraphim Rose Does this sound familiar?
Guillaume 2/5/2020 3:21 pm
Tout d'abord, toutes mes excuses de m'exprimer en français, mais les subtilités de la langue ne permettent pas un simple transfert en anglais. Encore une fois cet archevêque a perdu une occasion de se taire et de garder le silence pour oser asséner de tels mensonges. L'Eglise Orthodoxe Russe hors frontière n'a jamais été schismatique, un tel argument ne peux venir que d'une tentative désespérée de schismatiques pour se justifier. Que Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ leur pardonne.
Ron Melxicedek Bingham2/5/2020 12:02 pm
I have seen a videotape of his canonization. When they came to the point in the service where he was canonized, he started glowing brightly in his coffin.
Johb2/4/2020 6:13 pm
Where are memes?
Alexios2/4/2020 5:27 pm
Bravo! Excellent article!
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