ENGLISH VERSION: Letter of Metropolitan Pavlos of America (GOC) to Hieromonk Akakios in Serbia
Beloved Brother in Christ Fr. Akakios,
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
It was with much joy that we yet again greeted in Christ and received during Holy and Great Lent the Very Reverend Abbess Euphrosyni of the Holy Monastery of St. John the Forerunner (Novi Stjenik), whom we blessed once more to travel freely throughout our divinely protected Metropolis blessing, edifying, and spiritually quickening our rational flock in Christ with her simplicity of spirit, inspiring presence, and enlightened counsel. The fruits of her labors were many as youth and elders alike were moved to take up the higher calling. For this we are grateful to our Lord and Savior.
I write to you today concerning rumors that recently reached us regarding your intentions to abandon your ruling hierarch and our common spiritual father in Christ, His Beatitude Archbishop Kallinikos, without a canonical release and to join the jurisdiction of the True Orthodox Church of Russia. I would rather believe that these rumors are false—the slander of malicious men—considering that your pure and genuine Orthodox consciousness would never allow you to contravene the Sacred Canons and Tradition of the Holy Orthodox Church.
Allow me, nonetheless, to outline my thoughts for your benefit on this matter in a spirit of charity and honesty, having in mind the counsel of St. Gregory Palamas that candid reproof wins the prize of peace.
1. Let me firstly state that the authority of the Church of Greece in the historical territories of the autocephalous Church of Serbia is based on the ancient tradition of the Church that provisionally extends the pastoral jurisdiction of a bishop over the canonical territory of a widowed neighboring see until such a time when a new bishop is canonically elected. Our God is a God of order and this inspired prescription aims at the orderly and peaceful restoration of a local episcopate, avoiding the blameworthy extremes of disorder, strife, and schism. It was in this spirit that our Church, looking forward to the eventual restoration of the Serbian episcopate, took up the provisional administration of the Church of Serbia after its hierarchy abandoned its calling and joined itself to the apostasy of the panheresy of ecumenism.
2. It is forbidden by the canons for a clergyman to transfer from one bishop to another without a release from his own bishop. As long as the Church of Greece is charged with the provisional administration of the Church of Serbia, the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece is the effective locum tenens of the Serbian primacy and therefore the ruling hierarch throughout the historical territories of the Serbian Church. It is therefore forbidden for Serbian clergy to abandon their ruling hierarch and join themselves to other ecclesiastical jurisdictions.
3. While I am strongly in favor of our Church establishing full communion with the True Orthodox Church of Russia presided by Archbishop Tikhon of Omsk, it would be foolish for Serbian clergy to join them without a canonical release. It would immediately destroy the dialogue of our church with the Tikhonites, which is progressing surely. Such a move would ruin the hopes of many people, including most of our clergy and laity here in America, and its perpetrators would bear the grave responsibility before God and His Church for perpetuating the division of the Churches of God.
4. You would stand to lose all your friends here in America, who would feel utterly betrayed. Our Church in America has given tens of thousands of dollars in assistance, as well as forming close bonds of friendship with Abbess Euphrosyni and her monastery. We love the Serbian Church and support it with all our heart, and we do not want to see those bonds of friendship severed.
5. I fear such a move would prove correct the claim that the Serbian clergy lacks the maturity to be an independent church with its own bishops, regrettably setting back the restoration of the Serbian episcopate many years.
6. If these rumors are true and you act upon them, you, Fr. Akakios, would look like an ambitious priest who is seeking to be made a bishop. While I know that this is not true, it would be impossible to avoid creating that impression for others.
7. Whatever advantages gained by having your own bishop would be offset and likely negated by the stigma of being uncanonical. Moreover, not all of the Serbian Church would follow. The perpetrators would be guilty of splitting the True Orthodox in Serbia. The remaining clergy and flock in Serbia would preach against them as being schismatic and uncanonical—and they would be right. In the end, such a move will only have accomplished a schism in the Church of Serbia and the creation of yet another faction with dubious canonicity.
8. In spite of claims of unfair and neglectful treatment from our Archbishop (claims that I consider unfair and unjust), your church is nonetheless growing and prospering and receiving God's blessing--all while under the temporary protection of the Greek Church. Moreover, there is no guarantee that things will be better under Archbishop Tikhon. The Church of Serbia should be grateful to Christ in that, before it was captive to pan-heresy, whereas now in the very least it may commemorate in the divine services a bishop with an Orthodox confession.
Finally, I perceive this to be a temptation from the evil one intended to undermine your good struggle. I love the Serbs dearly and I do not want to see you fall prey to the devil, thus losing the hard-won fruits of your labors. I am speaking out thus not because I desire the subordination of the Church of Serbia to the Greek Church, but because I desire the Serbian Church to grow and mature naturally and canonically. As one may learn from studying Church history, canonical independence and the episcopacy must be granted from above—they cannot be seized from below. This is the same temptation which faced Adam and Eve in Eden.
Let us take heed of St. Paul’s plea: "I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1 Corinthians); this, in order that through His grace the waves may be calmed that trouble our Church today.
Fr. Akakios, remember always that precious deposit which was committed to you at your ordination by your bishop—the Lamb of God, the unity of the Body of the Christ—and keep it as you received it until your very last breath.
May the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be with you always. Amen.
+ Pavlos, Metropolitan of America
Fervent supplicant before the Lord
2/15 June 2011
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