Munich, July 29, 2022
On July 25-26, the first-ever session of the European Bishops’ Conference of the Russian Church Abroad was held at the Monastery of St. Job of Pochaev.
The Conference was established by decision of the ROCOR Holy Synod last year, and currently consists of His Eminence Metropolitan Mark of Berlin and Germany, locum tenens of the First Hierarch of the ROCOR and President of the Conference; His Grace Bishop Irenei of London and Western Europe, Vice-President of the Conference; His Grace Bishop Alexander of Vevey, Vicar of the Diocese of Great Britain and Western Europe; and His Grace Bishop Job of Stuttgart, Vicar of the German Diocese.
The hierarchs discussed issues relating to the life of ROCOR in Europe, including “their shared responses to the terrible war in Ukraine, including the extensive support, across the whole of the Church Abroad's presence in Europe, for refugees from that conflict,” reports the Diocese of Great Britain.
As a result of the discussion, the hierarchs issued a joint pastoral epistle:
To the Very Reverend and Reverend Fathers, Pious Monastics and God-Fearing Faithful of the Church Abroad in Europe:
We, the Archpastors of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, entrusted with the care of her two dioceses in Europe, greet you, our faithful flock, with the blessings of Almighty God and the host of saints of these lands and islands in which we serve. We are grateful to God for the opportunity to have assembled in the holy monastery of Saint Job in Munich on 25th-26th July 2022 for the first meeting of the European Bishops’ Conference of our Church Abroad, established last year by the Holy Synod, and thus continuing a tradition from the era of St John the Wonderworker.
Calling to mind the words of the Holy Apostle, who reminds us that ‘now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed,’ and therefore ‘now it is high time to awake out of our slumber’ (Romans 13.11), we stand together with you as witnesses of the Lord Who has brought us all to the saving belief in the True Faith of His Church, and Who provides us the means of rising up from the darkness of the world into a newness of life. As the bloodshed of war stains the ground in the lands of our fathers, we are affected by the agonies of our brothers and sisters, whose suffering must be our suffering and whose aid and salvation must be our deeply-willed desire. We express our profound gratitude for the response of our clergy and faithful to our appeals to aid refugees from Ukraine, and in many other ways to be of help and support. Yet we continue to see the terrible costs of war; we feel the sorrowful transformation of cultures as hatred becomes more commonplace and suspicion and fear replace love and compassion; we behold governments seeking political interests rather than the peace and benefit of their peoples; and we observe moral and ethical degradation becoming more prevalent all around us.
We therefore exhort all you, our faithful flock, to hear the admonition of the Holy Apostle: ‘let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light’ (Romans 13.12). It is only in casting away our sin that we come to rest in Christ, and however great may be the turmoils in the world surrounding us, we must respond as Christians: knowing that the source of all darkness is the sin that lives within us, and that therefore the healing of the world — including its most terrible conflicts — will come only from lives committed to repentance and the ascetic struggle for holiness.
In these difficult times, our fervent prayer is that every Orthodox Christian in the embrace of our archpastoral labours will respond to the calling of God, to conform our lives ever more closely to those of His saints. The Church is our steadfast bulwark in this world: her truth never changes, her heart never wanes, and her life is never modified to conform to the whims of the world. The more than fifteen European nations that comprise our dioceses have known many conflicts over their history, but the unity of the Church is greater than any conflict and must never be abandoned in times of trial. Despite our unworthiness, we will never falter from this task, maintaining the full gift of this unity within the autonomy of the Church Abroad. We call upon the faithful to cherish and preserve this unity in all our lands, and strengthen it in their hearts. Stand fast in the truth! Stand fast and forever upon the rock of the Church! And may the Lord thus bring healing to the world and salvation to our souls.
Assuring you of our prayers, we bestow upon you the blessings of God.